Belcalis Almanzar, famously known as Cardi B rose to fame in the late 2010s. A social media personality and a joker, she was discovered on the show Love And Hip-Hop around 2016.
The young lady born in 1992 was entertaining, funny and vulgar. There, she was trying hard to convince her peers and producers to believe in her. She had been a former stripper in her hood, and wished to make it out through music. Though she was initially mocked, she released a few mixtapes, signed commercial parternships with brands such as Fashion Nova and was heavily supported by her original fanbase through social media. In 2017-8, she released the single Bodak Yellow which proved to be a number one hit. Though still young, Cardi B was a part of a new wave of young and degenerate female rappers, either Latin Caribbean or Black American, who departed from the previous ladies who came before them. Lil Kim, it is true, set the standards regarding female sexuality in rap, Foxy Brown and Trina would also become the mothers of these modern-day female rappers. If Foxy Brown was mostly relying on street/gang matters, Trina, originally from Miami, was the one who greatly shaped the formula for the Cardi Bs.
What made people support Cardi B even more was her apparent authenticity, and her attachment to the “hood” she came from.
The ladies who came after her followed after the young black male rappers who promoted their music right through the Internet.
The generation of Cardi B is spontaneous and the members share their own codes. They are not submitted to the pressure of elitism like a Beyoncé would be, and are just being themselves, hence hoodrats who want to share their music.
Their way of broadcasting it actually takes us back to the early days of the music industry, a time when real artists performed in front of their own audience who followed them and bought their music without the arrogance of calling themselves Kings or Queens while preparing elaborate shows with no substance.
Yet, as Cardi B became more and more famous, she, somehow posted a few photos of her parents. The audience members who had supported her for years were actually surprised. Indeed, if the rapper had claimed to be Dominican and Trinidadian, most individuals, judging by her kinky African hair, nose, skin color and appearance thought she was black, and they were expecting her parents to be visibly black.
Family photos of Cardi B showing her family members. None of them appear to be unambiguously black. They either display faces of mixed-race individuals of rather African and Native fusion who intermarried.
Cardi B’s father Carlos Almanzar is a Dominican man, with no African features at all. His parents often showed by Cardi B are white Dominicans. The mother of the rapper who claims Trinidadian heritage was not more black than the father at all, but rather looked ambiguous. She had no visible and appearent black African features at all, and could either pass for an Indian woman mixed with white Spaniard, a white Dominican mixed with other, but certainly not for a black woman. Her own family members were shown by Cardi B, but there was not one single unambiguous black individual on the photo.
The audience was rather shocked and triggered by these images.
Later, during an interview for culture vulture Vlad TV media, Cardi B was questioned regarding her constant use of the N-word. Though she recognised it was wrong to use it, she claimed not to be able to stop using it, referring to it as a “lingo”. When elaborating, she rapper never called herself black at all, not even Afro-Latina but rather spoke about the racial influences of the Caribbean with a certain distance, without claiming openly that she considered herself to be Afro-Latina.
This unapologetic interview regarding her use of the N-word rubbed the black American community the wrong way. They thought Cardi had lied or had pretended to be what she was not in order to be accepted within the black American clan.
Since then, thousands of black people took to social media to attack her use of the N-word, refusing to believe she was black.
After having been teased for years, the rapper decided to respond by showing various pictures of her family members, on both her paternal and maternal lineages. Once again, the photos did not convince. Her paternal family looked more Native and White, while her mother’s looked also ambiguously Native and black-ish. This confused the American minds even more as they kept asking this question: What is Cardi B’s race?
1 The African-American Hypocrisy Regarding Race: Acknowledging Robyn Dixon, Tina Knowles and Lena Horne and Rejecting Cardi B
The rejection of Cardi B’s blackness has nothing to do with what her parents look like at all. It is both a personal feeling of negativity stemming from unambiguous black American women (mostly) and a disdain for the understanding of colonialism, slavery and racial constructions which are specific to the Southern sphere, either the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, English-speaking Caribbeans or else.
The constant denying of Cardi B’s blackness has to do with the contempt black Americans have towards other people’s history, especially when they come from the Third World. They refuse to recognise that their vision of the world based upon the silliness of the One Drop Rule is not valid in other parts of the world where, despite the racism, individuals can be recognised for who they are. In France, despite the disdain of the institutions, a biracial woman born to a French mother and African-French father will be recognised as being mixed-race and not necessarily black. If we are talking about a man, his whiteness can be denied in times of failures or if the white police officers consider him to be a threat. Yet, in the great majority, French, Spaniards, Italians recognise the mixed-race category for what it is.
If the Brits also recognise the mixed-race category, both the United Kingdom and the US will still consider the mixed-race group as being black, seeing it as something foreign to them. Indeed, to their eyes, if the people were mixed with black, then the latter would become something other, foreign to their original whiteness.
Though it is clear Cardi B is a heavy user of the N-word, hence a word she should not say at all, black Americans still pretend not to understand the history of the Caribbean.
In their strict racist organized society where any individual having a drop of black blood is considered purely black, they still manage to be hypocritical regarding the status of Cardi B.
First of all, the Black Americans who reject Cardi B’s blackness, are the first to attack the dark skin mixed black women who want to claim and represent their non-black heritage.
A woman like Justine Skye, who is a quarter Indian from Indian, has been forced to remained blocked in the unambiguous unmixed black category for being dark-skin.
The supposed black pride of modern Black Americans actually hide some real issues of low self-esteem and self-hatred, especially when it comes to unambiguous black women who have issues with their mixed counterparts.
In this dynamic, the unmixed black women either want to force a real blackness upon mixed and multiracial women who do not consider themselves black ( example Meghan Markle), or they will firmly police other group of people’s blackness, like they do for the likes of Cardi Bs.
Throughout their history, especially in times of rebellion, black Americans were always fascinated by light and mixed-race people in their ranks. Rosa Parks was not the first woman to have refused to give up her seat, but her appearance suited the black male polticians better for she was light skin.
Lala Vasquez considers herself an Afro-Latina with pride but like Cardi B, none of her parents are visibly black. She is still a multiracial woman who presents black features her parents do not have. They are racially mixed through generations.
Many heroes of anti-racism were actually white people with small percentage of African ancestry created by the One Drop Rule. The male Black Panthers always promoted the faces of mixed-race black women such as Angela Davis, Kathy Cleaver or Elaine Brown, while the unambiguous black majority of black fighters such as Afeni Shakur remained in the back, for too Negroid.
Despite what the black American community claims, its members are still lusting after the white, mixed-race and light prototype. But their inner self hatred prevents them from recognising this reality they want to hide behind a cosplay of pro-blackness.
In Louisiana, groups of multiracial people such as the Creoles exist. Though they can appear to be white or extremely unambiguously black, the Creoles share the same culture they are proud of and have never denied their blackness and African ancestry at all. In that sense, the other non-Creole black Americans are totally aware of the racial makeup in the Caribbean since the same dynamic operates in Louisiana.
Black women have no issue claiming Tina Knowles, Robyn Dixon, Lena Horne, Meghan Markle as being the equivalent of pure black women (when they are surely not), but they will be the first to reject the ambiguous blackness of Cardi B, since none of her parents appear to be black in looks. Yet, Lena Horne was not black, Tina Knowles does not have one single black ancestor in her lineage throughout the past six generations, as she descends from quadroons and biracials who intermarried, Robyn Dixon has white parents and Meghan Markle is a white woman with some African ancestry from her mother. Yet, despite the false claim that “blackness comes in all shades”, the case of Cardi B, which is similar to that of Tina Knowles, is deemed to be opposed to the pure concept of blackness.
2 Multi-generational Racial Makeup
Spaces such as the Caribbean, North Africa, the Swahili Coast or Cape-Verde were colonial experiments. There, the propaganda of submission also took place through racial admixture.
This reality means that generations of individuals can no longer be classified as either black or white, for having become the fusion of the two races.
Due to this constant racial admixture, individuals have developed new genes and phenotypes which depart from the initial races.
In the Caribbean, millions of individuals have been the product of it. Due to this constant admixture, the racial appellations also change. The concept of whiteness is no longer similar to that of Europe. Indeed, in the Caribbean and Brazil, a person born to a mixed-race and a white parent of Euro descent, can be called white, despite the recent African ancestry. Other white Cubans and Dominicans such as Veronica Vega, Malu Trevejo and Danileigh are white with non-visible African ancestry.
As a consequence, whiteness in the Caribbean is already mixed with distant African, and these individuals mixed with Africans, and Natives for generations, either through rape or consensual marriage based upon colonialism.
For this reason, men and women who appear to have black features such as Negroid noses and kinky African hair, can be born to two white-looking parents. Families who display Afro-Latinidad may not have one single unambiguous recent black ancestor in their family for descending from lineages of mixed-race people who intermarried.
This is the case of Cardi B. The rapper is Afro descendant, but is surely not a black woman.
Though her parents are not black at all, they both possess African genes and ancestry which developed in the rapper who descends from multiracial lineages. At the same time, her sister Hennessy Carolina looks more Native than her older sister.
This same dynamic can happen in the Maghreb, North Africa. Though the original population is black Berber, the centuries of white invasions gave light to a multiracial population.
Two white-looking Algerian parents who are mixed to a certain extent, can give birth to white children who possess African features, though not being black African themselves.
The “in between” category which is no longer black or white, is composed of multi-generationally mixed individuals who can either present as black (Cardi B, Lala Vasquez) or white (Veronica Vega), while not being black or white, but the constant fusion of the two.
Cardi B stated to be the granddaughter of a dark Trinidadian woman and a Spanish grandfather, and the daughter of a Dominican man. She thus has African, Native, European and surely Arab due to her last name, making her thus a multiracial woman who presents as black, while not being black.
3 Afro-Latinidad vs Blackness
The issue of Cardi B brings us to our next point. Is Afro-Latinidad and Blackness the same? Especially when the modern faces of Afro-latinidad are nothing but multiracial people who present as black.
Lala Vasquez-Anthony, Cardi B, Amara La Negra, Julissa Bermudez, Aida Rodriguez, Joseline Hernandez, Zoe Saldana, Gina Torres, Christina Millian, Evelyn Lozada all have presented or called themselves Afro-Latinas, while being, in reality, mixed-race.
More than fifteen years ago, the faces of Afro-Latinos which were presented in documentaries and TV shows were that of unambiguous black men and women.
They looked like they had just arrived from the Congo, Angola or West Africa the day before.
These Afro-Latinos had little to no admixture in them. Yet, as the issue of Afro-Latinidad became a trending topic in the late 2010s, the majority of the people chosen to speak on it were mixed-race Afro-Latinos but not the unambiguous black people shown in the late 2000s documentaries.
Black Latinos were simply replaced by Afro-Latinos. If this sentence seems not to make any sense, it does. In other words, the movement of Black Latinos was hijacked for that of the Afro-Latinos.
Black Latinos can not be mixed-race, for they are unambiguously black African with little to no admixture. But Afro-Latinos can be mixed-race.
When speaking about Black Latinos, one refers to the unambiguous ones, to the pure African race, while the concept of Afro-Latinidad refers to one’s ancestry being partially or totally African.
In that sense, the two concepts should be totally separated as they do not set the limit for what is a real Afro-Latino.
During the debate regarding Afro-Dominican singer Amara La Negra, Veronica Vega a white Cuban with African ancestry used the excuse of her African great-grandmother to claim blackness and justify the N-word. She has not had a career ever since.
If the rhetoric used by Vega makes no sense, it encourages us to question ourselves despite it all.
If Afro-Latinos is about representing Black Latinos, where does the limit stop regarding blackness?
Is blackness, as a color and pure race, an authentic guarantee to the cultural protection of African heritage?
Everyday, thousands of Afro-Boricuas identify as white, though being black.
Veronica Vega (right) and Malu Trevejo (right) both have Cuban and African ancestry. They present as white, and are also multiracial.
In the 18th century, La Regla Del Sacar allowed enslaved Black Boricuas to be legally recognised as white if they could prove to descend from a white ancestor. Since many black Cubans, Dominicans and Boricuas wrongly call themselves “white” in the Census, this proves that the latter who make this choice of identification despise their blackness and Africa. They thus contribute to the erasure of African culture in the Caribbean and in Latinized America.
Yet, if millions of Black Latinos still practice Afro spirituality, many white Caribbeans with invisible African ancestry, truly feel connected to Africa and help protect the legacy of the black African heritage.
Though the white santeros are not black at all, they are still Afro descendants though white. If it would be normal for them to manifest and represent their African ancestry, these groups are not Black Latinos, and their African ancestry and connection make them a part of the Afro-Latin experience through lineages, but it does not make them black Latinos at all.
So, the Afro-Latin movement can be a source of erasure towards the Black Latinos as the whitest and most whitewashed form of blackness will be presented to the detriment of the pure black African Latinos living in Colombia, Boriken or Cuba.
At the same time, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador are Native countries which count a black community.
Often, the black Peruvians are not black but are rather Native Incas with a percentage of African ancestry. They can present as purely Native with kinky African hair. If this group is proud of their African ancestry, they are not Black but rather Afro-Latin through lineage and culture.
By Victoria “VKY” Kabeya. All Rights Reserved. 2023