I fully embrace being Afro-Latina despite having to deal with being misunderstood. I find it (and being different) to be gift. Let me explain.
To be Afro-Latina is two find yourself living in two worlds. Right at the intersection of the Black and Latinx communities. It an opportunity to experience life through two distinct lenses. At the same time, both communities see me as being a bit different. Despite the challenges, I think being different and “othered” can be your greatest asset. Here are the reasons why.
Listen to the podcast episode:
Being Afro-Latina, Being Different, Means the Social Norms Don’t Apply
Not belonging with the rest of the crowd used to be something that bothered me. As a kid, I can remember looking at my classmates and noticing how the image I saw in the mirror look so different. There were definitely no other kids with immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic. Therefore, I was so fixated on the idea of having someone look like me that it even showed up in my art. It was around 5th grade when I drew a series of comic books that were based on twin sisters. Having a twin, in my head, would have solved all of my “being different” problems. This all shifted as I got into high school. That is when I realized being an outsider had its benefits!
When Things Changed
High school was when I started to lean into being different. I embraced being Afro-Latina and being a party of one. Having some independence is helpful when cliques and friendship groups rule the world . Let me explain. I didn’t have to subscribe to any norms since I wasn’t part of a clear and distinct racial and ethnic group. More specifically, I could do what I wanted. There were no group expectations or barriers attached to me. Therefore, it was open season socially. For example, I could hang out with my friends who were despised school during nutrition and then debate club one day at lunch. I was free to do as I pleased!
“The term Afro-Latina—or Afro-Latinx, a more recent adaptation of the phrase Latino for anyone who chooses to remove gender binaries from their identity—is used to describe descendants of Latin America with African roots. Simply put: Black Latinos.”Source: Oprah Daily
My sister and I talked about our experiences regarding being Afro-Latina in the Los Angeles area with immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic in another podcast here. Also, my Afro-Latinidad has led to some cool experiences! Check out my featured in a docuseries for Hulu and appear on CNN Español. I thought this was the perfect post for Hispanic Heritage Month!
Being Underestimated and Setting my Own Expectations
Also, I often felt underestimated growing up as an Afro-Latina. However, being dismissed can have its advantages. For example, you can set your own bar. This is similar to not having to conform to a clique’s norms in high school. Also, I can relate to others who have been constantly underestimated and dismissed. I get how it feels. For instance, being underestimated has helped me become a more effective educational psychologist. I have greater compassion for marginalized students and families.
Understanding of Two Communities
Lastly, since I am both Black and Latina, I get both communities. I identify with the challenges, racism, and stereotypes that both groups face. This has provided me with a unique opportunity to be a bridge between the two communities. For example, I understand the how collectivism influences the norms of the Latinx community. Likewise, I have first hand experience with code switching that the Black community often refers to. Additionally, I have experience with colorism which affects both communities. I get it all and can articulate these experiences to both communities and others.
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An Appreciation of Being Different
Why did I create this post you ask? Although most of my readers are not Afro-Latina, a majority of my readers have the experience of being “othered” or different. You may have experienced being “othered” this due to your size, age, temperament, or appearance. I am here to tell you that you can spin being different to be your superpower.
Being Unique Can Be Your Secret Sauce
Your uniqueness can be a positive force in your life! Let’s summarize why:
First, you have the freedom to follow your own path vs. group norms. Second, they won’t see you coming since they underestimated you (Ha! the joke is on them!). Third, you can be more relatable and can have a greater understanding of others. Good stuff, right?
So, when you are having a moment that you feel the barriers of being different, try to spin it. Remember, you can chart your own route because… you are different.