Episode 3: Beyond the Bounds of Race

Dinner with our guest from Taller Puertorriqueño, Carlos Pardo


This episode presents excerpts from interviews with three North Philadelphia residents about ways in which we can preserve and recognize Black contributions to Latinx identity. In the format of a live discussion, we discuss what it means to move away from a “post-racial” theory that invisibilizes identities . The term invisibilize describes how institutionalized practices can persist in deprioritizing experiences of racial discrimination by popularizing ideas that racial mixedness and multiplicity do away with racism. Together, we explore how to shift our collective discourse towards recognizing afrolatinidad (Black Latinness) as a complete and distinct identity, rather than a category between Blackness and Latinidad. Shifting this discourse means destabilizing racist ideologies, and creating space for issues around discrimination and marginalization of groups of people who can claim AfroLatinx identity.

Questions to Keep in Mind

How do we move from away mestizaje, colorblindness, and ‘post-racial’ theory? How does the study of transnational Blackness move us forward?

How does recognizing intersectionality move us forward beyond the fixed boundaries of racial identity? How do we visibilize afrolatinidad as an experience?

Places to See

El Corazon Cultural Barrio Mozaic

Further Context

It seems that in order to escape the threshold of afrolatinidad (Black Latinness), there needs to be a reversal of racialization so that conceptions of heritage, space, or identity, will not solely hinge upon expectations of embodied phenotypes. In endeavoring to end the global perpetuation of anti-Black narratives, we cannot anticipate leadership from those who benefit most from the abjection and labor of Black bodies. Liberation from the fixity of identity for diasporic peoples will come through the acknowledgement of the Black presence in Latin America. Academia and (linguistic) ethnographic practice are already playing crucial roles in reversing erasures of the African contribution in Latin America by revitalizing historical narratives, shifting interpersonal behaviors, and empowering the self-determination of marginalized and underrepresented communities. Through our seminar, we are also turning the lens of change inward, and learning through the stories and experiences of Black Latinx people how to better understand ourselves.

Within our project team and seminar group, Brandon’s personal story illustrates the complexity of embodying and expressing multiple ethnic expressions of Blackness. As an American-born Nigerian American, Brandon expresses a Nigerian (or ‘African’, as some might suggest) identity, as well as an African American identity that he takes on living as a Black person in the United States. Brandon’s Blackness is therefore dynamic. Though he doesn’t often experience instances in which he feels particularly excluded from either identity, he chooses not between one or the other. Rather, Brandon describes himself as a dynamic mixture of Black and Nigerian and African American, and every aspect of these is essential to defining his whole identity.

Language Bank

Latinidad: This is a term to refer to a sense of Latinx identity , ones Latin-ness.

Mestizaje: “racial mixture”; a political ideology that recognizes the racial mixture between indio and blanco in Latin American countries. Built off on the colonial assumption of Spanish/white supremacy and black inferiority, claims of colorblindness and racial equality obscure the presence of racism and racial discrimination.

La Raza Cósmica: a term coined by Jose Vasconcelos in his 1920s philosophical treatise on the superiority of a new race comprised of a mixture of his conceptions of the five established races

Colorblindness: The idea that one doesn’t “see color” or that race isn’t an important factor when interacting with someone. Colorblind rhetoric can evoke the sense that you are treating someone with humanity despite someone’s race.

Liminality: The state/position of being in between two fixed and standard identities

Spanish language race terms : blanco, pardo, mestizo, indio, güera, criollo, negrita, negro , moreno, mulatto, rubia

Racialization: process of imposing racial identities/stereotypes on a person based on their perceived phenotypical race.

Blanqueamiento & mejoramiento: Translated directly as “whitening” and “improvement”, in a social and political Latin American context these terms mean whitening phenotypes through racial intermarriage and consequently achieving higher social status within the family lineage

Latinegra: identity term encompassing Latinidad, Blackness, Womxnhood, and Spanish-speaking

Arturo A. Schomburg Symposium: Premiering in 1996, an annual conference hosted at Taller Puertorriqueño is devoted to the discussion of African presence in Latinx cultural histories.

Raciolinguistics: an approach to understanding language and race as intertwined, and contributing to social behaviors. Beliefs of race manifest in language, and language is used to construct ideas of race.