The Cleveland Black Futures Fund arrived September 1, 2020 and the reception was mixed. In a time of crisis where communities of color and under-resourced neighborhoods were getting hit, The Cleveland Foundation (TCF) and other organizations publicly stood up to say enough is enough. The current times were fostering more action and initiatives to be started to prioritize and fund underserved communities. Not everyone felt as excited as I did. Many folks in the Latinx community saw this as a fight for resources. Someone even said, “What about Hispanics?”
This should never be our first reaction.
I first noticed a gentleman posing the question on social media. A few days later, I heard the question again as I spoke to a prominent Cleveland Latina leader. Even if the question was well-intended, it also implies an ‘us versus them‘ mentality. We may be tempted to jump into this narrative of scarcity; however, it is important that we create a space of partnership and collaboration. To do this, we need to understand our own history and where we fit into the racial equity conversation.
I am a Cheeseheaded Nicarican born in the dairy state of Wisconsin to a Puerto Rican mother and a Nicaraguan father. I grew up in the Southside of Milwaukee and attended public schools. I embraced my community. Race has existed for me, but it is not until these last several months that I have dug deeper to try to understand the complexity of what it means for me, as a self-identifying light-skinned Latina—or in other words, passing. I knew since I was a little girl that mi gente ranged from a beautiful array of skin shades. Take a few minutes to watch Bellacoso and Invencible to see what I mean.
The Pew Research Center showed that “one-quarter of all U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean or of African descent with roots in Latin America.” We also know that only about 5% of the African Diaspora ended in the United States and the other 95% went to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. When we challenge Black Initiatives such as the Black Futures Fund, we also challenge our identity and treat our Afro-Latinx brothers and sisters as other; and we uphold white supremacy instead of decolonizing systems that are already succeeding at dividing us.
We cannot continue to exist in false silos and expect to advance racial equity. We cannot harbor a mentality of scarcity and anti-blackness. The Young Lords and the Black Panthers during the Civil Rights Movement modeled collaboration. The Black Lives Matter Movement serves as an example of what this looks like today. Healthcare, housing, and education are at the intersection of Black and Latinx communities. Many of us live in the same neighborhood, attend the same schools, and are often uninsured or underinsured. These are issues that affect both communities and we can surely be stronger working together.
Most recently, I listened to “How to be an anti-racist with ThirdSpace Action Lab CEO, Evelyn Burnett” and loved the way she encouraged us to step out of our comfort zones and lean into the work of justice. Inspired by Burnett, here are a few things I suggest we implement within our own Latinx communities before we ask the question, “What about Hispanics?”
- Do our homework. Read articles and books. Listen to Podcasts. Watch historical documentaries and movies.
- As Evelyn says, talk to our crazy tío! There are always those in our families during the holidays who say intolerant and problematic things. (“Tenemos que adelantar la raza,” ring a bell?)
- Listen. Open our hearts to different opinions and listen to opposing views, even if they may make us feel a little uncomfortable.
- How can we collaborate? How do we make the pot of resources bigger? How do we show up for others?
- Be kind. To ourselves and others. Understand that we are in different stages of our learning journey.
The work of racial equity begins with us and how we show up for one another matters.