2011-05-06 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

They Say ‘Hispanic’ … I See Black
By Timothy Aaron Styles Community Activist

According to all indicators, the “Hispanic” population grew by 43 percent over the last 10 years pushing the actual numbers to over 50 million. Now, according to sources such as the Census Bureau, one out of every six North American (United States) citizens is “Hispanic.”

I keep hearing this statistical, numerical and quantitative fact reported; however, there is one historical and cultural truth that I am not hearing, except in my own head and out my own mouth: many, if not most, of the people classified as “Hispanic” are actually of African descent and “Black.”

With this in mind, my logic says, if the Afro-Hispanic population is increasing in numbers, so are the number of regular ole “Black” folks which means – Black folks, overall, are becoming the “new” majority.

Then why don’t they just say that?

For the record, there is really no such thing as an Hispanic “race.” As an aside, I must say that I am one of those reluctant to use the term “race” to distinguish (between) various peoples. If one believes that there is only One Human Race, then how could there be other races? How could you have sub-races? Wouldn’t a “sub-race” mean that there are “sub-humans”?

Personally, I prefer using either of the following terms to classify and differentiate human beings: ethnicity, culture or nationality. But, that’s another narrative deserving more exploration and discussion at a later date.

Hispanic (or Latino) peoples are people comprised of indigenous Native North, Central and South American nations including the Caribbean (e.g. Taino, Arawak, Carib, Aztec, Mayan, Calusa, etc.); Africans; and Europeans (Spaniards and Portuguese). Their ethnic and cultural origins are traceable to either or all of these groups.

As it is well documented, the Spanish and Portuguese presence in the Americas is primarily due to colonialism – what some euphemistically refer to as, “exploration” and “discovery.” Later.

It is the Spanish and Portuguese presence that put the “Latin” in Latin America. While there are remnants of indigenous/ Native and African culture throughout the “Hispanic Diaspora,” primarily, it is the Spanish language that defines, connects and “unites” Hispanic people.

Put another way, the major commonality and criterion used to classify “Hispanic” peoples is the Spanish language. The term “Hispanic,” then, is primarily based on linguistics and secondarily on culture.

Again – ethnically, there is no such thing as “Hispanic.”

Interestingly enough, Spain owes so much to Hannibal the African for the development of its civilization and culture. Oh, the complexities of history, culture and identity. Another topic for another time.

In nations like Panama, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Cuba, Peru, Mexico and Columbia – you will find many Black people, as well as clear African cultural influence in and through food, music, religion/spirituality, architecture, art and language. In some cases, probably rare, I will admit, you will find that the African culture is the dominant culture such as in Brazil, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. So I find it interesting and sad when I hear of African-Americans taking anti- Hispanic positions as they are apparently unaware of the ethnic, cultural and historical commonalities between them and African-Hispanics.

Case in point, in an NPR story about “New NAACP Leaders Broaden Group’s Missions,” an AME ZION Minister in Waterbury, Connecticut, by the name of Leroy Perry, stating his opposition to a Hispanic person serving as chapter president based on the fact that the NAACP was started for “Black people in particular.” I shook my head as I listened to this leader of an African Methodist Episcopal church. Emphasis on “African.”

Oh, this Queens, New York-born and raised person is not naive. I know that many, if not most, Hispanic folks are just as unaware, or in denial, about both their Africaness/Blackness and their ethnic and cultural ties to African- Americans as are African-Americans about theirs to their Hispanic cousins. Yet another topic to discuss at another time. Neither African-American ignorance or self-denial nor Afro-Hispanic ignorance or self-denial can change the historical truths.

Black people are not just African- American. Nor can “Black” continue to merely be defined by skin color and locality.

Being “Black” is just as global as globalization. And no longer can narrative and discourse about being “Black” and “what is Black?” be intelligently and honestly engaged in without mentioning a simple six letter word: “A-F-R-I-C-A.”

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