Asserting African-ness in a post-slavery and postcolonial space. The Afro-Latin trauma and Princess Nokia.

Spanish Harlem, by Joseph Rodriguez (1980s)

The Caribbean, just like Latin America and other places such as Cape Verde in West Africa enchant the eyes of the tourists. Many of them, whether Black or White, often rely on the surface of their exploration and gush over the multiracial heritage of the population. Reduced to color boxes they can never get out of, these citizens are the product of a horrific past which definitely changed the course of time: colonial rape. The variety of colors and phenotypes within one’s family should not be celebrated nor be objectified. It is the testimony of the unspeakable.

Not more than two months ago, Nuyorican rapper Princess Nokia was accused of black-fishing and lying about her racial background. The artist, though from the underground scene, had always used her platform to express her pride in her lineage and background. She always acknowledged her whiteness- rooted in Spain and Ireland as she said- and took great joy in representing her African Yoruba and Native Taino heritages. Yet, the depth of such quest is being questioned and belittled by accusations of black-fishing.

The recent cases of Rachel Dolezal and Jessica A. Krug have given rise to a wave of anger within the hearts of Black people- when the same Black people refuse to recognize their responsability in such foreign infiltration. Now, the rule for a Blackness validation of one’s individual is reduced to such rhetoric: if the person does not have one visible Black parent they “ain’t Black”. In reality, in a multicultural postcolonial space like Puerto Rico or any other Caribbean or Latin American country, one such idea remains invalid. Even in some parts of Africa. Blackness as a color does not reflect the real degree of one’s actual African ancestry. Singer Claudette Ortiz received some backlash ten years ago for claiming her family was mostly of Taino ancestry.

The viewers, shocked by such statement, accused the lady of attempting to belittle her African ancestry. Yet, not all brown skin/dark skin Caribbeans have their color from West Africa as Native Americans were already varied in terms of color. Some were White and others, in the Caribbean and Latin America were black and brown. Some Native Venezuelans are actually black in skin tone yet not West Africans.

Forcing any form of blackness or taking it away from an individual who tries to reconnect with their ancestry is another form of agression. Except for racist White Latinos such as Veronica Vega who pretends to be one hundred per cent black when not true -her great grandma was from Africa-, many “white skin” Boricuas who are longing for the discovery of their ancestry were deprived of the basic knowledge of their sense of self. Yet, out of anger or hidden self-hatred and envy for lighter populations, many black people act as the regulators and quantifiers of blackness taking out their frustration onto those who do not look a certain way al 100 por 100 (cien por ciento).

These white-looking, or mixed-race Caribbean are the product of intergenerational rape and stand suspended in the course of time. The native populations almost wiped out, the Africans enslaved having their memories brainwashed, what could be left to those trying to reconnect with a lost past? By rejecting a person’s narrative, we directly perpetuate genocide against the self and the ancestors. Before being general, history has also inserted itself in our own personal histories. Often, the “blackness police” takes a certain pleasure in attacking a mixed-race Caribbean as if they were responsible for the color of their skin. Being the daughter or son of deported, assassinated populations who were forced to forget their heritage, history and past is already traumatizing but how are you supposed to react when this colonial rape runs through your blood and shows up on your face?

Claiming African roots which already exist within the lineage is not black-fishing. It is another way to reconnect with the lost, so as to surpass the lingering trauma we have all been going through as black and mixed race/racially raped populations. Princess Nokia is probably one of the very few Boricua artists from the new generation to fight colonialism through art by encouraging her listeners to understand their lineage, the brutality of history so as to figure out where to go in the future.

The invisible Afro-Latinos who are still pushed behind

A white-skin mixed individual always has to surpass many obstacles when trying to go back to their African-ness. The opinions of other black people play a role in it and the regulation of Blackness is another form of shaming. Unless you are a direct White European or White Middle Eastern descendant of immigrants and colonizers, the intergenerational rape your family had to endure is not your fault. It is not your fault if your ancestors were wiped out. MGM Caribbean and Latinos who are longing for a return to their African ancestry -if present- do not owe you any apology. The rape and racial white-washing do not take away the LINEAGE. It may alter the color but NOT THE LINEAGE. White Europeans never try to preserve their color but their LINEAGE FIRST. That’s how many refer to themselves as Germans, Spaniards, British, Dutch for they protect their LINEAGE. Yet, we, Black from the diaspora were deprived of our ancestry, knowledge, but also LINEAGE to become a COLOR when Africans from Africa, though exploited, remained attached to their LINEAGE and not the color.

A modern day Mexican -except for the racist criollos- is still a son or a daughter of Native Americans, despite the rape. A Boricua -except for the racist criollos- is still the son and daughter of a Native and of West Africans, Kongos. The rape and manipulation can no longer take away the lineage.

Latin America and the Caribbean were the true legacy of the West Africa/Kongo diaspora. They gave us salsa, merengue, cumbia and many other genres and yet, the African-ness of this essense is still denied by other Blacks who use the mixed-race Latins/Caribbeans as scapegoats for their own anger. If Afrolatinidad ALWAYS has to give visibility to the PURE FORGOTTEN BLACKS -yes, even darker than Amara La Negra, Mixed-race Latinos SHOULD NOT be excluded. They are still apart of the same lineage though victims of ancestral rape. The same issue is applied to north African populations. Originally Black Tuaregs, many of them were the victims of invasions, panarabism, forced Islam and became lost, self-hating individuals who do not waste an occasion to deny their Tuareg blackness. Though already present in the South of Maghreb and North Africa, the indigenous Blacks unfortunately have been suffering from exclusion and disdain since 1492.

Because of the violence of slavery and the brutality of racial classes and casts, mixed-race individuals are automatically deemed the enemy and their skin tone seems like an invitation to attack or questioning. In reality, the importance of creating a mixed-race category could help heal the trauma faced by both the black and mixed side and help them evolve with one another.

Princess Nokia is not black-fishing. Just like millions of exploited Boricuas, she’s just apart of a generation trying to reconnect, to understand, to create a space to heal. And this fight is personal. While many judge, the question is, why would so many Blacks be so angry at her for claiming her lineages and ancestry? Especially if the angry claim to be proud and confident in their Blackness?

All Rights Reserved,

VKY

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