“I can’t move…MAMA…MAMA”
Handcuffed, forcefully pinned down on the asphalt, backed by the heavy weight of a body, knee pressed up against the neck, slowly depriving him of life–George Floyd–gasped for air. Uttering what would become some of his last words, “I can’t move…mama…mama…I can’t breathe.” Floyd was murdered that day at the hands of a White police officer while three others watched. As a nation we witnessed the premature death of yet another Black man at the hands of police.
Dr. Nichole Margarita Garcia
His life was robbed from him at the hands of officers who pledged to “to protect and serve” just as it was from Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Abrey, Tony Mcdade, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Sandra Blanda, Tamir Rice and countless others. For centuries we have failed Black America with our silence. In the past week, amidst a global pandemic, we have witnessed the result of accumulated pain, fear, anger, and frustration of over 400 years of ongoing systemic injustice, racism, and abuse against Black people. The countless murders of Black lives at the hands of police, recently provoked a worldwide awakening of people who took to the streets during a global pandemic demanding justice: #ICantBreathe, #SayHerName #NoJusticeNoPeace #BlackLivesMatter are not just hashtags, they represent a plea for solidarity.
Like so many light skinned Latinas who have participated in anti-Blackness, we must struggle and grapple with airing out our own dirty laundry. In airing our dirty laundry, the nasty fumes of decay and the residue of our own uncomfortable selves forces us to recognize that our silence is also a tool of oppression utilized against Black bodies. We understand that if we stay silent as to not be uncomfortable, we are complicit in killing Black joy–Black hope. We must take a look into the mirror and do the dirty work, the heavy lifting. Our Black communities can no longer do it for us. To be a White Latinx does not make you White. Doing the work of White supremacists does not make you White, it makes you their puppet.
The spirit of Floyd’s inner child, that was forced to die prematurely in order to survive in a country that fears Black boys, stood beside him as he cried out for his mother. His last moments are a testament to how Black children have been systematically robbed of their innocence and are forced to learn to survive White supremacy, racism, and hatred. Dr. Bettina Love, professor of Education, through twitter reminds us educators that if you “don’t have a relationship with your students that is loving, trusting, and built on anti-racism don’t show up out of nowhere talking about #GeorgeFloydprotest #protest2020 Also, don’t just teach our pain. Make sure you teach about our resistance.”
We both have been struggling with how to responsibly engage in anti-racist work and leverage our light skin privilege. We realize that the Black children in our lives are far more powerful than we ever will be and that their brilliance is seen as a threat by weak minds.
“But mami why don’t they like my beautiful dark skin?” (Claudia’s 6-year old daughter)
“Did you hear about George? When I grow up I don’t want to die because I am Black” (Nichole’s 11-year old nephew)
How can we explain to a Black child that their civil liberties and rights are just(ice) due to the color of their skin? How do we validate their current realities? How do we equip them with the tools to survive in a society that does not want them to grow or thrive as adults? How do we explain to them that they are in fact at risk of premature death? As Love states, we teach them their resistance!
When we don’t publicly denounce and actively work against White supremacy and systemic racism, we are in fact endorsing systemic inequities. To love someone dearly necessitates for honest and tough conversations where we are uncomfortable. Anti-Blackness within the Latinx community is alive and well, a sort of caste system that serves the draconian actions of White supremacy. As Latina educators, this is how we are engaging antiracist work:
Dr. Claudia García-Louis
Make Room and Listen:
At this point, it’s not solely the responsibility of Black people to advocate for themselves as they have done so for 400 years with no avail. To be in solidarity means we must educate ourselves, speak out against injustices, hate, and racism. As Latina educators we are called to serve, honor, and respect the lives of our students. Today, our Black students need us more than ever. We are to humanize their experiences and make visible their pain by making room and listening. The work is never done as racism and anti-Blackness in this country began with colonization and is upheld by White supremacy. Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, professor at American University, states: “History is calling the future from the streets of protest. What choice will we make? What world will we create? What will we be?” He notes, “There are only two choices: racist or anti-racist.”
Words Wound, Let’s Stop Killing Black Spirits:
This is the time to reflect on what it means to do anti-racist work. Standing in solidarity with our Black communities should not (re)center you. If you post #BlackLivesMatter followed by “and x community is also oppressed,” step back and reevaluate. To center Black voices means to listen, not speak for them. We do not, and will never know, what it means/feels to be Black but it is our ethical and moral obligation to speak up, to speak out, and to reject White supremacy, and anti-Blackness. Educate yourself and don’t ask Black folx to teach you – it is not their responsibility to bridge your ignorance.
Hold Loved Ones and Family Accountable:
We must understand that #BlackLivesMatter does not mean that the life of non-Black folx doesn’t matter. Until the life of Black people is valued a much as ours, we must be in allyship and demand that “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” be extended to them as well. We must listen with our ears as well as our hearts. We must love Black children as much as we love our own and we must understand that this moment in history is not about us non-Black folx. We must have those difficult conversations with family who disguise racism, prejudice, and colorism within jokes, sayings, and commentary. Identify resources to address anti-Blackness and utilize them. Challenge your own assumptions and beliefs, for this is the work of a lifetime.
Dr. Claudia García-Louis is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. You can follow her on Twitter @cgarcialouis
Dr. Nichole Margarita Garcia is an assistant professor of Higher Education at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. You can follow her on Twitter @DrNicholeGarcia
Recursos antiracistas en español (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1DbS6Q9oSfLbShmkNrkTgaDVHGedpYrCI-Pq6RDUcYrY/mobilebasic)
Centering the Voices of AfroLatinx
The boxing of Latinx folx into an ethnic category exacerbated anti-Blackness within the Latinx community. AfroLatinx folx have long called out anti-Blackness and colorism. They have gifted us their stories, perspectives, experiences, and expertise. Let’s center their voices by elevating their work: Dras. Omaris Zamora, Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores, Yomaira Figueroa Vásquez, Nancy López, Miriam Jiménez Román, Jasmine Haywood, Amalia Dache, and many others. In addition, AfroLatinx collectives
Black Latinas Know Collective https://www.blacklatinasknow.org/ and the
AfroLatin@ Forum http://www.afrolatinoforum.org/ continue to do the important work that we need to learn from.