It’s Black History 365 over here! We’re back for Part II of the first season of the podcast keeping it “spicy” talking about racialization, DaniLeigh’s problematic song “Yellow Bone,” and the intersection of Latinidad with anti-blackness. Alyssa and Brendane explain Louis Althusser and interpellation, Frantz Fanon’s “Lived Experience of the Black Man,” and discuss an article about “Puerto Rican” youth in New Jersey “appropriating” “blackness” to demonstrate “urban competency,” and its contribution to the erasure of actual factual Black people. Here’s the kicker: it’s the first text in the “What We’re Reading” segment not written by a Black person. In our final segment, we chat with PhD candidate Daisy E. Guzman, one of the few Garifuna-Guatemalan women in academia, to dig deep into Latinidad, thinking blackness as indigenous, and proclaim that folks are not “white passing” they are white!
Zora’s Daughters Podcast: Episode Eleven
Co-hosts: Brendane Tynes and Alyssa A.L. James
Guest: Daisy E. Guzman
Title: Not My Latinidad
Total Length: 01:09:20
[00:00] Daisy Guzman: So it’s just like, “So are you coming to terms with the fact that you’re white?”
[00:05] Alyssa A.L. James: Locate yourself there. Sit with that.
[00:08] Daisy: Sit with it.
[00:09] Brendane Tynes: Sit with it and like—I have lots of feelings about that on a spiritual level, about why it’s difficult for people to sit with being white. But that’s—I think that’s a whole ‘nother podcast.
[00:20] Daisy: It’s a whole ‘nother podcast.
[00:36] Alyssa: Hello, hello. Welcome to another episode of Zora’s Daughters, the podcast where we discuss popular culture and issues that concern Black woman through the lens of Black feminist anthropology. My name’s Alyssa, and my pronouns are she, her, and hers.
[00:50] Brendane: Hi, I’m Brendane, and I use she and her pronouns as well. We’re back for our second semester. And today we’re keeping it real topical. And we’ll be discussing DaniLeigh, what’s going on with Latinidad, and also maybe just a little bit of racialization, maybe just a little sprinkle of it, with a guest. And before we get started, we want to wish a very big thank you to Mayyadda, my aunt LaShelle, Bethany, Olivia, Leo, Zakiya—hey girl!—Jennifer, Sophie—heeey!—Tina—heeeey [laughs]—Melissa—heeeey, we’ll see you later—Akshay, Cindy, and Pasama for donating to the podcast. We really appreciate y’all engaging with and supporting us during our winter break. And your support helps us recognize how valuable our voices are.
[01:41] Alyssa: And another thank you to everyone who attended our end-of-the-semester discussion section in December. I hope it was as fun for you all as it was for us. It was just such a great energy, and I think I speak for both of us when I say that we left feeling inspired and excited to keep doing this.
[01:58] Brendane Tynes: Yes, it was lit, y’all. If you missed out, you missed out, but there’ll be some more events this semester. We produced a playlist from that discussion section, which we did on Spotify, and it’s called ZD 2020 in case you want to listen with us. And to keep up with our events and other episodes, you can follow us at zorasdaughters on Instagram and zoras_daughters on Twitter. You can also support the podcast through direct donations via PayPal or by buying some of our fire T-shirts and hoodies available on our website zorasdaughters.com
[02:34] Alyssa A.L. James: Speaking of merch, if there’s something that you all want, just let us know. The hoodie was actually a special request because, and I quote, “A bitch don’t wear T-shirts.” [Laughter] In any case, Brendane, how is it going? What’s new, it’s been a while. Also, happy Black History Month [laughs].
[02:55] Brendane Tynes: Well, you know, you say that and it makes me think of that saying that’s like “It’s Black 365 over here!” or something, I don’t know. I heard that somewhere. I think it was on a McDonald’s commercial. But—[Laughter] it’s going good. I really can’t complain. I rested over the break and took time to mind my own business, which is the motto for 2021 and beyond. And I’m so excited to be on the mic again. I really miss this. I miss talking to you, talking to y’all. I didn’t see my family over the break at all. But the many calls that I get from my grandmother twice a week—almost daily—indicates that they really miss me. So I gotta make a trip to see them soon. Alyssa, girl, you were up to some big things over the break, though. How are you doing and how are things going?
[03:46] Alyssa: Yeah, a lot went down. But I—you know, I’m excited to be on the mic again with you. I definitely miss this as well. I’m sure you’ll get to see your fam jam soon. I went home to Toronto. I hadn’t been home, hadn’t seen my family and friends, in over a year. And I managed to smuggle bae in on a little—on just like a little Gilead run [laughter]. So he got to visit Canada for the first time. And y’all, don’t worry, we did our quarantine—our full quarantine—on both sides. I was tested on both sides of the border. And so I just know that people have been separated from their family and partners for a long time. So I felt just incredibly fortunate that it all came together and that I was able to do that. I also moved into a new apartment. And so we have no furniture in the living room pretty much. But it’s [a] very exciting development.
[04:41] Brendane: Yes, this new apartment—from the pictures I saw, it’s very cute. I love it. Can’t wait to see the living room when everything’s all said and done and when things are all said and done. But let’s get into it. Girl, what’s the word for today?
[04:56] Alyssa: The word for today is racialization. So, I would say that in the social sciences, it’s pretty well accepted that race is a “discourse.” What that means is even though race has real effects on people, it is something that has been created through centuries of scientific and social ideologies. But the literature has kind of looked away from looking at race as a static category of identity, i.e., identity politics and membership and belonging, and kind of more theorizes the process by which certain groups of people come to be designated as race or as Other. And so, to put it simply, racialization is the process of manufacturing a racial category or giving someone or something a racial character.
[05:46] Brendane: Right. So the foundation of racialization is ascription, which is essentially the “imposition of difference.” You think about it happening upon bodies, so the imposition of difference upon the body of another person or another being. And it’s made possible by inequalities of power and position. So one common misconception is that only people of color are racialized, but actually, all bodies are, right? So like how else do you know who’s white and who’s not? Racialization allows for the inequitable distribution of power and resources by saying people with a certain set of characteristics can have power, while other categories of people cannot. These characteristics then become essentialized, which I understand to mean they become assumed to be the essence of a particular person or group of people. And usually this happens through biological processes. So, because these people’s genes say that they are x, y, and z, they have these characteristics. And anthropologists played and continue to play an integral role into how people are racialized. This discipline invented the racial categories that we use today.
[06:54] Alyssa: Right, I think there was a new book that came out—it’s called Gods of the Upper Air—and they discussed that. And then there was an episode of a podcast called Throughline, and they talked about this as well, and I was like, “There’s”—they talked about how anthropologists were involved in the creation of race—in the production of race—in the United States, and there were definitely some absences. And I was like, “Ugh, okay, I think Brendane and I might have to pick up on, you know, where they missed out, where they left off and really go deeper into that.” I think it’d be an interesting episode.
[07:25] Brendane: Yes.
[07:26] Alyssa: But in any case, I found that scholars, they tend to turn to Frantz Fanon’s chapter, “The Lived Experience of the Black Man,” which is also translated as “The Fact of Blackness” in his text, Black Skin, White Masks. And they use that text to make sense of how one is racialized. So in the opening lines of that chapter, he’s interpolated by a white child who says, “Look! A Negro!” But before I keep going, what is interpolation?
[07:52] Brendane: Ooh girl. [Laughter]
[07:55] Alyssa A.L. James: Oh, I’m gonna try. I’m gonna try, I’m gonna do that as quickly as I can. So interpolation is associated with the work of French philosopher, Louis Althusser. And he talks about the way that individuals are “hailed” or “called into” an identity. So if I yell out, “Hey, you!” and a person turns around, they’re recognizing themselves as the subject of that phrase, the “you.” So for Althusser, ideologies, they do the same thing. They hail or call to people and offer a particular identity, which is then accepted by that person—by the subject—as natural or obvious. So interpolation is the process by which our roles and identities are encountered and then internalized through social interactions.
[08:40] Brendane Tynes: Right. So gender is also another example of the way that we’re interpolated before we’re even born. Parents will say, “Oh, I’m having a girl,” refer to the baby as “she,” and we are called to embody these expectations of what we’re being held as. And as a brief aside, right, these gender reveal parties that some of y’all have seen—or maybe, you know, attended—are actually literally destroying the Earth, right? But they’re also a part of a conservative response to the increased visibility of trans people by reinforcing gender binaries and patriarchy. So this mode of interpolation, which calls your fetus either a boy or girl, reinforces anti-Blackness, misogynoir, aquaphobia, and transphobia by inscribing societal norms onto a fetus. But imma say that and then imma gonna get off my soapbox, right? Racialization tends to impact other forms of interpolations, such as gender, right? So what does it mean to be called a Black woman or a Black man? And if you’re interested to learn more about that specific interaction between racialization, Blackness, and gender, Hortense Spillers, Saidiya Hartman, Christina Sharpe, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, C. Riley Snorton, and Patrice Douglass are just a few of the Black theorists who think explicitly about racialization, Blackness, and gender.
[10:02] Alyssa A.L. James: Thank you, that’s a mini syllabus right there [laughter]. But okay, so back to Fanon [pronounced fan-ÕN] —or Fanon [pronounced fa-NAHN], some people say.
[10:09] Brendane Tynes: I heard somebody call him Fanon [pronounced FAN-in] the other day and I—
[10:11] Alyssa A.L. James: Fanon, not Fanon [both pronounced FAN-in]! No, it’s fun—so I say, Fanon [pronounced fan-ÕN], because I like to be extra [laughs]. So when this child says, “Look! A Negro!” Fanon is called into inhabiting the stories, the histories, the anecdotes of Blackness. And so racialization is always about these social relations, and particularly, a relation of power. So one party is always in the position to ascribe racial characteristics and then create a hierarchy of those characteristics. And so what’s important to note—and Brendane kind of alluded to this already—is that in the process of hailing, two subjects are produced. As Fanon writes, he becomes Black in relation to the white man. So two subjects are produced, one is the Black, one is the white. And so in this analytic, white people are racialized, too. But that racialization is made invisible or given less meaning or pretty much no meaning at all, right? Whiteness has pretty much remained unmarked, until recently, where white people are now being pushed to recognize the qualities that cohere them as a group. You know, like colonialism, settlerism, privilege, fragility, not using a washcloth in the shower [laughs].
[10:27] Brendane Tynes: They seem to do—look, I did not know that 2020 was going to produce that as one of the characteristics of whiteness, to be real. But racialization, as you’ve hinted at, Alyssa, is also fluid and mutable. So one group of people might be racialized in a particular time, or even a particular space—like the city, or the country—but then are absorbed into whiteness and also in other categories.
[12:02] Alyssa A.L. James: Let’s put a little asterisk on that. Just remember that, okay? In a particular space, people can be absorbed into whiteness or they can try to refuse whiteness. In some spaces, they might be white, in other spaces, they might not be white. Let’s just remember that for when we’re talking later.
[12:17] Brendane Tynes: Yes, put a bookmark on it. And it also—if you want to learn more about it, we talked about it last season, actually, when we talked about the Irish and the Jews who were not always read as white. But as whiteness evolved throughout the 19th and 20th century as a result of the worldwide emancipation of enslaved Black people, right, they began to be incorporated into whiteness. And in the early 20th century, the racial categories used in the US were much more diverse than they are today. So I was looking at ancestral records, because I was trying to find out more about my family’s past, and my grandmother on my father’s side was actually entered into the Louisiana census as a mulatto. Whereas now—if we think about racial categories now, she would be entered as Black. A more recent example of the process of racialization can also be seen through the U.S. response to September 11. The post-9/11 racialization of Muslims was used so that people could “identify” who was Muslim and then vilify them. And because of that many people were attacked.
[13:23] Alyssa A.L. James: Mm, that’s such a good example. So it’s, of course, important to note that racialization isn’t just an ideological process in the same way that racism for racialized people isn’t just an abstraction that we have to read about to understand. Racialization is material. So a group can be racialized through media coverage, which is pretty much what we saw post-9/11.
[13:46] Brendane Tynes: Period.
[13:47] Alyssa A.L. James: And it can also be through the way that people interact with them or don’t interact with them. So through the lens of racialization, the work is making these relations explicit. So breaking apart these ideas and practices from their assumed biological or essential nature. But if you forget everything that we just said, just remember that racialization is the process through which a group is designated as Other, which is a nice little segue into what we’re reading today. So Brendane, what are we reading?
[14:18] Brendane Tynes: We are reading “Becoming American, becoming black? Urban competency, racialized spaces, and the politics of citizenship among Brazilian and Puerto Rican youth in Newark” by Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas.
[14:32] Alyssa A.L. James: Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas is a professor of ethnicity, race and migration and professor of American studies and anthropology at Yale University. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia, and her work aims to understand and disentangle systems of power and privilege at a variety of scales. Her most recent book published in 2020 by Duke University Press, Parenting Empires: Class, Whiteness, and the Moral Economy of Privilege in Latin America, examines the parenting practices of the Brazilian and Puerto Rican upper classes as these altered urban landscapes provide moral justifications for segregation, surveillance, and foreign interventions, and recast idioms of crisis, corruption, and austerity according to the dictums of U.S. empire.
[15:17] Brendane Tynes: I guess we should begin with the obvious elephant in the room. For the first time on ZDP, we are discussing work that is not by a Black person. But we felt like it was important for us to discuss racialization through her lens because of what’s going on in the world.
[15:36] Alyssa A.L. James: Absolutely. So this episode is very current event-driven. So much so that we switched up what we were planning on talking about today at the last minute. But it’s a topic that we’ve been wanting to discuss for some time, and the conversations that blew up around DaniLeigh offered the perfect entry point. So that topic is the interplay of Blackness and Latinx identity. And so we chose this article to help us and you all understand the slippage, obfuscation, and even erasure that happens when Blackness is analyzed as an identity that can be appropriated and performed rather than understood as a lived experience and embodied reality.
[16:12] Brendane Tynes: So Ramos-Zayas bases her article, which was published in 2007, on her fieldwork in North Newark, New Jersey. She observes two high schools in two different neighborhoods in Newark and interviews Latin American migrants and U.S.-born Latinos—and that’s her word—and analyzes how they understand belongingness, which at times seems to mean citizenship, and at other times, it fits into this particular “urban environment” that she describes. These young people move in and out of Blackness in order to create what she terms as an “alternative mode of citizenship,” but they often do not support the civil rights struggles of Black people. So these students “act Black” in the hallways and around their friends as a form of “urban competency,” which she defines as “the always shifting implicit social knowledge and cultural capital associated with being ‘urban’ and cosmopolitan.” In these particular schools, “Blackness” circulates as an easily accessible Americanness through “Puerto Ricanness.” And this might sound confusing, but we’re gonna unpack it. So these students who were not Black, or Puerto Rican—and honey, you can be both, but we’ll get to that later as well—could access urban competency by “becoming” Puerto Rican, which was actually “becoming Black” without actually being Black.
[17:37] Alyssa A.L. James: What?! [Laughs]
[17:38] Brendane Tynes: It’s—again, it’s—and we’ll get to that as we unpack this—the framework kind of escapes logic. But yeah, so you have this Blackness, this urban competency and social capital that circulated among these non-Black students along with anti-Black sentiments about Black people. So the actual Black students would still be criminalized and read as the “bad” kind of ghetto, which is a type of affect and a set of behaviors that existed in excess of this fabulated “Puerto Ricanness.” In contrast to the Puerto Ricans, there were Brazilian students who lived in the Ironbound neighborhood, which was mostly Portuguese, and who were often read as urban but a different type of urban—not a Black type of urban—and racially ambiguous. So Ramos-Zayas uses this milieu, right, to ask if the embodiment of “urban competency” and a type of mediated Blackness helps us to upend this black-white binary, these racial hierarchies, and allows for immigrants to lay claims to citizenship outside of nativist logics that ascribe them as “illegal.”
[19:00] Alyssa A.L. James: It was interesting. So just wanted to explain social capital—social and cultural capital—quickly. And so, in this context, it comes from Pierre Bourdieu. He’s a white French sociologist and anthropologist, and he defines three types of capital—economic capital, aka money and financial assets. And then there’s cultural capital, which are social assets—I know that’s confusing. Social assets like education, style of speech, knowledge of particular subjects, like art, we’ll say. So for example, knowing the right forks to use was something that was said about VP [Vice President] Kamala Harris and that is a form of cultural capital. And then there’s social capital, aka your human resources and your standing in society. So that can be things like networks of friends, the old boys’ network, or your social class. And so all of these contribute to the reproduction of inequality in society because while economic capital can be gained—and maybe not to the level of wealth, but you can gain economic capital. I mean, we can think about a celebrity, for example—but cultural and social capital, they’re harder to come by without being conditioned into it over a lifetime. So, I’ve always found it really interesting. As an example, Brendane and I, our university degrees might give us cultural, and even some social, capital. I could even go to a Swiss finishing school.
[20:21] Brendane Tynes: And I don’t even know what that is, so. [Laughter]
[20:23] Alyssa A.L. James: There’s a finishing school in Switzerland for people who weren’t raised in wealth. And they basically learn how to develop the mannerisms and conversation styles and style of dress of wealthy people so that they can mix in these circles. I read about it in, I think, The New Yorker or something. So name-dropping The New Yorker, is an example of cultural capital. So regardless of those things, I would always be recognized as an outsider or an imposter. And not just because I’m visibly Black. I’m Black, I’m Black—do you remember that meme? [Laughter] And not just because of that, but it might be because of a mannerism or because of the way I dress or the way that I speak. And so it would take a lot of work for me to be accepted or recognized as legible in the upper echelons of our very stratified society. It’s fascinating. And it’s bullshit, but anyways [laughter]. One of the things I noted in the essay was the heavy use of scare quotes. You know, those quotation marks that demonstrate that a word isn’t being used in its most standard way. So everything—it was “race,” “urban competency,” “the citizen,” “the urban,” “acting Black.” And I just found it really frustrating because it was almost as though she was refusing to be definitive. And what I think the use of those scare quotes tells me is that her analytical framework was inadequate for the kind of work she was trying to do.
[22:03] Brendane Tynes: Yeah, and especially if we think about what she says this article is supposed to be thinking through, right, which is how these young people access alternative modes of citizenship. It’s like all the things she was saying, because of the square quotes, was slipping away from her. And I know that this article was written in 2007, so maybe she didn’t have access to certain writings and Black studies to help her flesh out this performance of Blackness that she was scare-quoting around.
[22:30] Alyssa A.L. James: You’re being generous.
[22:32] Brendane Tynes: I’m trying to be very [crosstalk]—
[22:33] Alyssa A.L. James: —[crosstalk] Because Scenes of Subjection came out in 1997 [laughs].
[22:37] Brendane Tynes: And this is the anthropological problem, right? Anthropology likes to pretend like Black studies, or any other type of studies, don’t exist, that would actually help you streamline these arguments and make sense of things. And so what I was also—was puzzling to me was just like, “Girl, did you even talk to any Black students while you wrote this?” And her deliberate refusal to refer to people by skin color. So she chooses to mobilize either national or ethnic identity as race to refer to students. So she would refer to students as Puerto Rican, or El Salvadoran, or Brazilian, or U.S.-born Latino. But why this also made me confused is because in all of these places, in each of these countries that she’s referring to, there are actual factual Black people.
[23:28] Alyssa A.L. James: Actual factual.
[23:29] Brendane Tynes: Actual factual Black people. And “the Black,” though, in this article remains as a referent—almost like a ghost, almost haunts this article. And she grounds Newark as this city that has been abandoned by white people during the 80s. And so then they they bring in all these Puerto Ricans to help replace some of the workforce. But what that means is that these Puerto Ricans are coming to a place where there’re already Black people, but she doesn’t really say that, right? That kinda elides that. So when we’re thinking about urban competency in a place that is essentially full of Black people, that’s really just appropriated Blackness, right? How do you move through a Black space? You gotta—apparently you gotta appropriate Blackness. And also, it’s clear that the students that she interviews are not Black because then they wouldn’t have to do the work of trying to become Black. And so, for the students who are already Blacks—maybe they’re Puerto Rican, but also a Black Puerto Rican, right?—their embodied Blackness precludes them from this kind of urban competency, even though Blackness is what constitutes it.
[24:37] Alyssa A.L. James: Mm, yes. That is a read between the lines right there. So there’s a phrase she writes: “For many young Latin American migrants and United States-born Latinos, ‘becoming American’ was not equated with becoming white, as has been the case for other”—mainly European—”migrants, but rather with ‘becoming Black.’ This appreciation”—and appropriation—”of Blackness generally failed to engage discussions of civil rights, segregation, and inequality, or lead to enduring coalitions with African Americans in Newark.” So in this essay, Puerto Ricans, as a group, are considered closest to Black. But what does that even mean when there are Black Puerto Rican, as you just said?
[25:22] Brendane Tynes: What does that mean? [Laughs]
[25:23] Alyssa A.L. James: Right? So this question, it just remained for me because she’s treating the categories of Brazilian and Puerto Rican as racial formations. And she writes, you know, it’s not because of physical characteristics we typically associate with race, but because of social relations. So remember, groups can be racialized. But—so it’s these social relations of subordination, imperialism, and inequality in the context of white supremacy that produce Brazilians and Puerto Ricans as racialized. And so I think that you are pointing to one of these slippages between “urban competency” and “acting Black” or “ghetto”—and all of those also in scare quotes. There may very well be Black immigrant students who don’t “act Black” or “ghetto” or don’t have “urban competency,” who are then outside of her analytic. So they’re Black, but they don’t become her stereotyped ideas of what encompasses Blackness, which indicates to me that there’s a problem with her definition and analytic of Blackness itself.
[25:25] Brendane Tynes: And, in fact, she kind of mentions, briefly, there was a Black Brazilian student who was not seen as Black by his peers because he dressed “well” and he worked hard in class. And so we come back to this kind of anti-Black trope that niggas can’t be nerds.
[26:39] Alyssa A.L. James: Blerds!
[26:41] Brendane Tynes: Can’t be blerds, can’t be nerds. And she kind of slides past that. She meant to say it keeps them moving. And so another thing that I thought was confusing about this analytic and mobilization of “Blackness,” right, is that I’m thinking about these Black studies works that at the time were really questioning whether citizenship was even a way you could describe how Black people live in the United States. And so she talks about students mobilizing performances of Blackness to articulate modes of belonging and citizenship. And this appropriation—I know she calls it appreciation, but I did not see that there—this appropriation, it’s rooted in anti-Blackness. And the mode of citizenship and belonging was the use of Black style-talk, Black idioms, Black dress, in a way that was not appreciation because these students still wanted to be seen as separate from Black people, hence, even labeling themselves as Puerto Rican—like the label and the use and the mobilization of this label Puerto Rican to distinguish themselves from Black.
[27:48] Alyssa A.L. James: And keep in mind that that was not Puerto Ricans saying, “I’m Puerto Rican.” Of course, Puerto Ricans are Puerto Ricans. But there—I think there was an Iranian student—and where’s the other student and what her origins? I can’t remember—but there was an Iranian student who was like, “Oh yeah, I have Puerto Rican friends. And I’m happy when people mistake me for Puerto Rican.”
[28:09] Brendane Tynes: I’m not speaking about people who are Puerto Rican who identify as Puerto Rican. I’m talking about people who identify as Puerto Rican alongside people who are not Puerto Rican who also identify as Puerto Rico. And, for me, that whole dynamic rings of the same ole, same ole shit where Blackness becomes fungible. But Ramos-Zayas does not name Blackness as such, right? She says it’s fungible, but doesn’t really name it as such, and actually give a name to what’s happening here. And so, for me, I don’t think it’s the “becoming Black” that enabled alternative modes of citizenship because, you know, what is national citizenship to the Black, who’s always consistently denied rights and protections? And, for me, I’m also thinking about that Haitian young man—I don’t know if you saw it in the news—who—he and his brother were detained. And they both had citizenship papers, they were both—but he was deported. And he was deported to Mexico. He wasn’t even deported to Haiti. Yeah. Yeah. So, thinking about that, right, so what is citizenship to a Black person in the U.S.? But actually, what is the alternative mode of citizenship for non-Black people who use this “urban competency,” right, as the act of instrumentalizing elements of Blackness? So I don’t read it necessarily as “becoming Black,” but actually practicing whiteness and a reinforcement of white supremacist logic that allowed them to have alternative modes of citizenship.
[29:50] Alyssa A.L. James: 100%. I wrote that in my notes. So Ramos-Zayas has a quote from a white Cuban teacher who says that for students whiteness is associated with being Portuguese, and Portuguese—it means backwards, according to these students. [Crosstalk] And so in order to access social capital and belonging, they appropriate this Blackness. And I was like, “That’s an incredibly white move.” I mean, we see it all the time on the internets now with all of the digital blackface. And so I was like, “If you have to appropriate or perform it, then you’re not it.” So this line was key for me from the article: “Puerto Ricans embodied a racial flexibility that provided a broader ground for inclusion into an urban culture imagined to be the domain of African Americans in the United States. Likewise, many Latin American migrant students viewed Puerto Ricans as ‘ambiguously Black,’ and they appropriated that ambiguity to claim a space in an otherwise imporous Blackness projected onto the bodies of African Americans.” This is key. This is key to the erasure of Black people from Latinidad. This is key to people like Jessica Krug claiming Afro-Latinx identity and then taking up space in rooms that were not for her.
[31:08] Brendane Tynes: Woo chile!
[31:09] Alyssa A.L. James: By making Blackness something that—and this is a quote from the article—that can be “detached from Black bodies,” we allow people to move in and out of Blackness as it suits them. And it just strikes me as something that is—it just strikes me as incredibly privileged to be able to perform Blackness and then have it be considered an “aberration”—and that’s a quote from the article as well—which is the opposite of what it’s seen as for Black people for whom Blackness is essentialized and criminalized.
[31:40] Brendane Tynes: Right. And you know—part of me was like, “I know these kids not going home around they parents and acting like this.”
[31:46] Alyssa A.L. James: Mm hm [laughs].
[31:49] Brendane Tynes: And since I taught high school, I know that to be the case. Y’all not going home acting like that around your parents. So it’s really this site of the school, and maybe possibly the streets, depending on what these kids were doing, where they get to embody—”embody” “Blackness.” [Laughs] You know, just to put quotes around everything, and it doesn’t really mean what it means. But I also was reading between the lines that there is a certain type of pleasure that comes from the appropriation that gets sifted out of the conversation. So, a lot of people talk about power and, you know, there’s power in cosplaying Black, there’s power in digital blackface, there’s power in, you know, performing Blackness. But it’s not just about the power, and for me, playing white through playing Black. There’s a pleasure in actually putting Blackness on. And I won’t say much more about this until we get to the Afropessimism episode, wink wink.
[32:55] Alyssa A.L. James: Wink wink, nod nod.
[32:56] Brendane Tynes: Wink wink, nod nod, we heard you [laughs]. But I did want to flag that here, quote, “acting Black” allows these students—and really, honestly, I would say society at-large—to express certain emotions and sometimes inhabit freer ways of being. So “acting white” is seen as boring and not cool or studious or whatever, but also allows for you to exercise power over Black people.
[33:25] Alyssa A.L. James: So overall, I just really hope that we—and “we” meaning scholars—have moved away from this language of “acting Black” and just call it what it is: digital blackface, appropriation, all of that. So I think this is a really nice transition to our next segment, What in the World!?
[33:45] Brendane Tynes: Like, what in the world?!
[33:50] Alyssa A.L. James: So our “What in the World!?” segment is where we discuss current events that we hopefully have set up and contextualized with our previous conversations. And it’s basically where we get messy but with a critical eye. So in order to help us with our discussion today, we’re joined by Daisy E. Guzman. Daisy is a Ph.D. student in African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas – Austin. She was born in the Bronx, New York, and is one of the few Garifuna Guatemalan women in academia. Her current work and dissertation analyzes the performativity of Garifuna indigeneity in the South Bronx and its relationship to Garifuna women’s memory-keeping, storytelling, and embodied practices. Her work suggests that displacement and migration, rather than fixity and rootedness, define Garifuna people as Indigenous and Black within the discourse of Black diaspora and geography. Welcome to the Zoom studio today, Daisy! Thank you so much for being here with us.
[34:46] Daisy Guzman: Thank you for having me. I’m very excited.
[34:48] Brendane Tynes: Yes. So y’all, Daisy—y’all can’t see Daisy, but she is looking real resplendent, got the hair out, beautiful smile, and so we’re just so happy that you were able to bear with all of our last-minuteness and be with us today. But before we get into the mess, I just wanted to ask you a few questions about your work. And you examine memory-keeping practices among Garifuna women in the South Bronx, and so I was wondering what are some of the ways that these women keep memory, right? What are these ways that they keep memories of displacement or violence or love and family? Could you explain a little bit more?
[35:31] Daisy Guzman: So the way I engage Garifuna women is through my family ties, as my entire family moved from Guatemala to the South Bronx in the 70s during the Guatemalan Civil War. So when we hear about the civil wars in Central America and the banana plantations in Central America, from Nicaragua to Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize, it sounds like the civil war was very Indigenous and a banana plantation was very Black, but they were happening simultaneously. So when we think about Garifuna people migrating to the United States, it becomes a discourse of hemispheric Blackness. So we have to see how Black is navigated in Central America and then in the United States. So then you get the discourse of anti-Blackness, but two different types of political approaches to it. So when I discuss Black women migrating, then we add that layer of gender, and we add that layer of gender geographies, right? Because when Black women migrate, we get into the Katherine [McKittrick?] conversation of women marking land and we get into a conversation of flesh memory, and how do we keep the familial ties going across lands, and what does then become a Garifuna-American culture? So the women in the South Bronx, the way they navigate through parties, through social gatherings, through food, dancing, music, cultural events that mirrors what they used to do, and what they still do in Central America. So now we have Settlement Day, we have Guatemalan or Central American Independence Day. And we have all the known Garifuna holidays celebrated in New York as it is celebrated in Guatemala, but in different context because of the different geographies, and because of the difference between the small town in the coast of Central America and the urban space in New York City.
[37:41] Brendane Tynes: Hm. Yeah, that sounds really—it sounds really interesting. I think about memory, and I think what is interesting about—if we’re thinking along the lines of gender, right?—people who are positioned as women or who claim that gender are typically the memory keepers, right? We are usually the ones who carry in the same ways that—if you are able, right?—you carry children, typically women carry these memories. And so, I think what you’re saying, laying it out for us as a geographical, in addition to a racial, and also a gendered way or lens of thinking about these things, I think was really, really cool to see and impactful. And leads me to my next question in thinking about because you have these different lenses that you’re using, what are the implications of your work, particularly for Black and Indigenous studies?
[38:34] Daisy Guzman: It used to confuse people when I was in the Spanish department, and I was doing a real Black project. And it’s not until you read more in grad school that you realize how Black the project really is, right? Because we can’t just say it’s an Indigenous project, it’s a Black project, it’s a Central American project; it’s a very interdisciplinary project. Because I am talking about geography, I am talking about race, I am talking about culture. And all of these things are not separate from one another, it’s happening simultaneously, right? So when we think about Afro-Indigeneity, Afro-Latinidad, Central American, and then we get what happens when the Central American then gets a US passport, right? And we have to be all these things at one time. It then becomes a very Black, interdisciplinary project, because we can’t talk about Black women without citing Black women. It doesn’t make sense.
[39:38] Brendane Tynes: Well, I mean, there’s plenty people who do it, but it don’t—you right about it not making sense.
[39:42] Daisy Guzman: There are plenty people who do it but then they project don’t have the seasoning that it needs.
[39:46] Alyssa A.L. James: And that is what we learned today with [laughs] what we read. [Laughter]
[39:51] Brendane Tynes: I was like, “Oh, this does not—I see what you’re doing here but it doesn’t really hold or make sense.” And reading your bio, I was like, “Wow,” like, yes thinking about Blackness, thinking about displacement and migration rather than this idea of fixity and rootedness. And Blackness being about this violent—in a lot of ways, violent displacement, right? And so how can we draw these connections? And also another just realm of thinking about your work and— right, you’re saying your call to your work—which is about you, which is about your family—is also a call to kinda deconstruct what we think about these different types of studies?
[40:32] Daisy Guzman: Because one question that I think gets left out is what happens when we think of Blackness as already Indigenous. Not Blackness, not Black and Indigenous or Black or Indigenous, but Black as Indigenous, right? Because Garifuna people, Taino people, we were all here before the colonization happened, right? Although we do live in the afterlife of slavery, we do have a culture and a history that predates the impact of European colonization. So when we think of Blackness as indigenous, and we think of the movement of Africans before the violence of colonization, there’s a certain history that’s being left out in order to highlight and unpack another type of history.
[41:27] Alyssa A.L. James: All right. Well, thank you for that. We are now going to get into the mess. [Laughter] So this episode was prompted by the 26-year-old singer, DaniLeigh, who identifies as Dominican. So she recorded a song called “Yellow Bone.” And so for those of you who might not be familiar with this term, it’s generally like a Southern term, right?
[41:48] Brendane Tynes: Yeah, so, I’m from South Carolina, for those of you who don’t know, and when we talk about yellow bone versus red bone—and sometimes people use these terms interchangeably, but they’re actually not interchangeable—usually, it refers to lighter skinned women who have different undertones. And it’s thought that people who are red bones, right, might have Indigenous ancestry, hence the red. And I was wondering if—I know there’re different racial categories in Latin America, Central America. But are there equivalent kind of terms for people who might be the same race but have different tones?
[42:23] Daisy Guzman: That’s a whole ‘nother podcast, to be quite honest. Because there’s a whole [caste?] system, even though they want to eliminate it. They want to say we are all out here, there’s still mestizaje, there’s still people that try to sugarcoat, or rather “reclaim,” la raza cosmica or “the cosmic race,” right? And we have the “we are all the same” and the multiculturalism. But it doesn’t change that the underbelly of mestizaje and Latinidad is anti-Blackness. So the more they try to be semi-inclusive, the more they try to eliminate the Blackness that constructed the foundation of their country, right? So it then looks like, “Oh, we arrived because of slavery,” “We arrived because the Panama Canal,” “We arrived because of the banana plantation.” But most of us were here before y’all even became a country.
[43:22] Brendane Tynes: Y’all arrived.
[43:25] Daisy Guzman: Basically. So when we say race in Central America, race in Latin America is literally how race is constructed in each section, because we have to get into [las Leyes de las Indias?] on how race was broken down into 16-plus categories from Mexico down all the way to South America. So is there a yellow bone, is there a red bone? There could be but it’s just like, “You are more morena. You are mulata,” and then it becomes layered, and then it just becomes, like, a racial science, right? That’s very particular.
[44:03] Brendane Tynes: Yeah, I remember studying in Spanish class in high school—because we learned morena and mulata, and then you learn—you know, Spanish class, they put the pictures up and they put the words next to it, and you’re just kinda like—
[44:14] Alyssa A.L. James: No, they don’t.
[44:15] Brendane Tynes: Girl, I grew up in South Carolina!
[44:17] Daisy Guzman: Yes, they do. We have the creole—well, criollo— the mulata, the mestizo, mestiza. And then you have the morena and then you have negro and then you have la blanca, and you have all of these layers, and that’s just a few out of all the different combinations you can make. And I don’t want to cite this man, but imma cite him: Henry Louis Gates and his documentary about Latin America, when he goes to Mexico and they show you that the museum still has that whole breakdown of the [caste?] system. So if people ever want to see what that means, it does exist, still around. But it has just become subtle under multiculturalism. But it’s blatantly practiced.
[45:06] Alyssa A.L. James: Yeah, I think in the French colonies it was literally codified. So all of the—it was also kind of a racial mathematics, some of which are still in use today, particularly in Martinique and in Haiti. But yes, I knew we were going to do this. I knew we were gonna start going all the way around. But let’s just explain to folks what happened with DaniLeigh. She’s a singer. So she released a song, “Yellow Bone,” which now you guys know what the background of that term is, but it’s reportedly a diss track to DaBaby’s ex, who is darker skinned. And the lyrics are essentially “Yellow bone is what he wants.” And since I’m not up on The Shade Room stuff, I actually only found out about it through MayowasWorld. They’re an Instagram, like, educator, I want to say. That’s probably not how they refer to themselves, but that’s what I’m gonna say. And so Mayowa shows us DaniLeigh’s very white parents superimposed with her lyrics from her song “Cravin’,” in which she says nigga. And Mayowa points out that this isn’t new. Fat Joe, who is white, he says nigga in all of his songs, too. And he defends it because he’s Latino. Jennifer Lopez has called herself a “negrita del Bronx.”
[46:22] Brendane Tynes: Oh my god.
[46:23] Alyssa A.L. James: I imagine that word has a very different connotation and translation than just a Black girl from the Bronx. I think it has a different connotation. Rita Ora and Camilla Cabello—they be blackfishing, too. So I just wanna ask the question: does being Latinx—which is now a contested term—does it in and of itself make you Black?
[46:50] Daisy Guzman: No. [Laughter] Period.
[46:52] Brendane Tynes: No, no [laughter].
[46:56] Daisy Guzman: It doesn’t. I was like, “I don’t—” I remember that interview with JLo and I don’t know where she got that from, because I was like—even early JLo, I was like, “No one. No one thought of you as Black, ma’am.” You’re very talented. We not gon knock that, you are a talented Puerto Rican woman, but you are not Black, right?
[47:16] Brendane Tynes: And like, even if she were—let’s say JLo had a Black parent. Looking at her, no one would even—because of her hair because of her skin, right? Because of the shape of her body, negrita is not the word you would use for her. So even if you did have a Black parent, you’re not negrita. So it’s—yeah, it’s obvious that—I don’t know what type of world she was trying to call herself into. Maybe she’s a negrita because she’s constantly stealing Black woman’s voices and using them on her tracks. But it’s not that like—no.
[47:52] Alyssa A.L. James: I feel like what you’ve opened up there is a space to really question “What is Black?” as one of our professors might ask, right? So Cardi B posted all of these pictures of her family because she’s also Dominican and she was getting dragged into this conversation with DaniLeigh. “You’re not ready to have this conversation about Cardi B not actually being black”—this is what people were saying on the internets. And so it’s like, does having a Black grandmother make you Black? Do we need to be policing the boundaries of Blackness? And, in my opinion, I’m gonna say yes, because the glorification of light skin as ideal Black beauty, it’s harming us when literal white people like DaniLeigh, JLo, Jessica Krug, Rachel Dolezal can move in and out of Blackness as they please with box braids and laid bangs and a spray tan. So I think it’s interesting. We’re seeing, you know, people move towards saying Blackness is a phenotype, but it’s not biological. So it’s not necessarily based on your ancestry, but it’s literally how you walk through the world. And DaniLeigh doesn’t walk through the world as a Black woman. And so, too many times—and I hope you’re able to speak on this Daisy—but, you know, a lot of the times we hear folks saying, “I’m not white, I’m white-passing.” Black people are racialized as Black everywhere, targeted with violence and surveillance everywhere, subject to genocide in Latin America, historically through the Blanqueamiento, and currently through state-sanctioned violence. So how can you with your blonde hair and blue eyes move to the U.S. and suddenly start calling yourself white-passing? Like, I’m crying. I’m crying, you’re white!
[49:37] Daisy Guzman: I honestly cannot speak to that because the white-passing is just—I don’t know what to say to that besides “Were you white-passing where you came from? Or were you just white where you were and you’re still white when you get here?” And it’s usually those people that become “people of color.” And that’s where things get fickle, right? So in thinking of this girl’s song, “Yellow Bone,” I was like, “That’s not even your history. That’s not even your language. You not a yellow bone because that’s not your culture. That’s not who you are. And that’s not how you was even raised.”
[50:22] Brendane Tynes: Right. Megan Thee Stallion has a lyric where she calls herself—I think she says, “Real bad bitch with a little red bone” or something. And it’s like, Megan’s from Texas. She has been called a red bone.
[50:35] Daisy Guzman: And then it’s just like, when you think of Megan—even Megan Thee Stallion, where the “stallion” come from. It’s her build, it’s her height, right? There’s a whole deep history in these names that homegirl is not a part of, right? To be calling herself a yellow bone, that in itself is already insulting before we even get to the context of why she made the song in the first place, which is not even colorism, it’s just pure anti-Blackness. You made the song because his ex is a dark-skinned woman, and now you stepped into the picture, and now you have your chocolate man.
[51:11] Brendane Tynes: And you feelin’ insecure.
[51:12] Alyssa A.L. James: Insecurr.
[51:15] Daisy Guzman: And you need to prove something, right? So it’s just—when people say like, “Oh, this person’s Dominican,” there are Black people in the Dominican Republic. Dominican, Haiti—it’s one island, right? They can try to say the majority of the Black people are Haitian, but no, no. It flows. There is no real “border.” Borders are a figment of colonizers’ imagination. It is one island, right? They are simultaneous Blackness across the board. So when we think of Dominican, we have to then separate. There is race there, right? There are Black Dominicans, there are white Dominicans. There are mestizo Dominicans as well.
[51:57] Alyssa A.L. James
I think what this speaks to is the way in which, in the U.S., Latinx is becoming a race in and of itself or an ethnicity in and of itself.
[52:08] Daisy Guzman: It could be an ethnicity, it’s not a race. They can try it, but it’s just—I am, by the census definition, Black and Hispanic because I can’t check anything else. But 10 years ago, I couldn’t even check Black. It was Black or Hispanic, I could not be both simultaneously, right? So now—previously in 2020, when we were able to do the census again, we can now check Black and Hispanic but it has gotten to the point that people are checking Black and other and writing the culture they are in said country. So I didn’t even check Hispanic, I put Black Garifuna. Because Hispanic in and of itself is a racist term. So we not even doing that one.
[52:52] Brendane Tynes: Right. And a recognition of a colonized category, which makes me think about like—when we’re talking about Latino/a/x identity and how Spaniards, right, have taken up the term Latinx and said, “Oh, I’m Latinx, too.” And it’s like, “No, y’all are actually the original colonizers,” y’all can’t sit there and be like, but—what’s her name? She’s a “rapper,” and I’m using scare quotes. Rosalia? One of them, she’s actually a Spaniard.
[53:26] Alyssa A.L. James: [Crosstalk] Oh she was the one in the WAP video?
[53:28] Brendane Tynes: Yeah.
[53:29] Daisy Guzman: She’s a Spaniard.
[53:30] Brendane Tynes: But she’s like, “I’m Latina, a euro-Latina.” [Laughs]
[53:35] Alyssa A.L. James: No! No!
[53:38] Daisy Guzman: That doesn’t exist, right? But after she said that I had to Google it, right? Actually they’re taking up the mantle of Hispanic. And Hispanic is people descended of Spanish speaking countries, mainly Latin America, and in extension to Spain. That is a new definition that I have seen, like, in the last month that did not exist 10 years ago when I was looking it up, right? But now to say you’re Latinx, but you’re not from Latin America and have no history nor ties there and your parents didn’t migrate from there, just doesn’t make sense to me.
[54:20] Alyssa A.L. James: Hopefully we can do this because it’s very complicated. But hopefully we can kind of clarify race, ethnicity, nationality, which Cardi B has had trouble with apparently. I still have trouble with it. So recognizing that it’s quite complex. Could you maybe could you help us clear this up? What are the differences and the overlap among an ethnicity, a race, and a nationality?
[54:44] Daisy Guzman: I am going to try my best because it can get real, real messy. So in terms of my parents: my parents nationality are both Guatemalan. They are Guatemaltecos, born and raised, birth certificate. Their ethnicity is Garifuna, right? Their race is Black, right? So when we say we are Garifuna from Guatemala, it encompasses all of that. We don’t have to do a breakdown. But your nationality is the country that you were born in and what is on your birth certificate, right? Your ethnicity—if you want, it could go with the culture. Some people decide to use the country as ethnicity simultaneously. It’s very weird. Your race doesn’t fluctuate. You are the race wherever you go. I can’t say I’m a white woman when I go to Spain. I’m Black. I am Black in Spain, I’m Black in the United States, I’m Black in Guatemala. Anywhere I go, I am a Black woman. Now, how people see Black in these certain spaces, I can be, you know, una negrita, una morena. What was it when I lived in Texas? A red bone or slim thick—whatever! But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m Black, right? But it’s a lot of people that aren’t visibly Black that tend to fluctuate in between that that has to be unpacked. And they have to unpack that for themselves. I can’t unpack that for you, cuz I am Black wherever I go. There is no possibility or privilege to fluctuate, right? So then you have people from Central America that just say, “Oh, I’m just from Guatemala.” I was like, “Okay, so when you’re there, are you Indigenous? Is your grandma, your mom, your dad, somebody Indigenous cuz you’re not Black? I’ll tell you that one right now.” So it’s just like, “So, are you coming to terms with the fact that you’re white?”
[57:05] Alyssa A.L. James: Locate yourself there. In whiteness, if you are white, you are white. Locate yourself there. Sit with that.
[57:13] Daisy Guzman: Sit with it.
[57:13] Brendane Tynes: Sit with it and, like—you know, I have lots of feelings about that on a spiritual level about why it’s difficult for people to sit with being white. But that’s—I think that’s a whole ‘nother podcast.
[57:20] Daisy Guzman: It’s a whole ‘nother podcast. [Laughter]
[57:29] Brendane Tynes: But what you’re saying makes me think about, at least at our school, we have the Student of Color Association that I’ve never been a part of, because on the first day that I came to school and saw them at the orientation, it was two white people sitting at a table talking about Student of Color Association. And so I’m like, oh—you know, I’m from South Carolina, so I’m like where I’m from it’s really—it’s real clear. Either you Black or you’re not, and you could be not Black and be a few other things. So I asked them, I was like, “Where are you from?” And you know, some South American country. And I was like, “Oh, like, there you are white because your family”— the way it reads is like, “Your family probably came straight from Spain and went down there.” And you know, they had strict codes about miscegenation. So it’s like, “You’re just—you’re probably just European, but from a different country.” But here, in this space, you’re allowed to be a student of color, you’re allowed to claim a certain type of oppression because of your nationality. And I think that’s really what the ethnic category of Latino/a/x allows is this slippage, right? And so—
[58:40] Daisy Guzman: It’s a slippery slope.
[58:41] Brendane Tynes: It’s a slippery slope and it’s something that I know a lot of Afro-Latina scholars are really thinking about and thinking with and what does it really mean. And then, also, I know some people who are Haitian who are also trying to push back against this label.
[58:57] Daisy Guzman: Oh I push back against the label every time. I used to irritate my Spanish class. Because it’s just like, if we’re talking about Afro-Latinos, Haitians are Afro-Latinos, too, if we really want to go there. Because the definition of Latin America is the geography of Latin-based languages in these countries. Is French not a Latin-based language? Therefore, Haiti is as much Latin America as everyone else. It’s just that it’s the Blackest country there, so you gotta eliminate them because you want to remove Blackness from the construction of Latin America. So Haitians are and can be considered Afro-Latino, if not more than anyone else.
[59:45] Brendane Tynes: I don’t disagree with you. I say I absolutely agree. I think that that is what needs to be interrogated, right, is the move away from Blackness and how these different categories can be mobilized to distinguish oneself from Black people. Yeah, I’m like, how do I—I’m tryna think about how to say this—but it makes—yeah, I just think about the people that I’ve encountered at the university that we attend, who are—it’s mostly white women—who identify as Latina. And, like, Cuban. And it’s like, there’s a very specific history here. And for you to say, “My parents immigrated when Castro became leader of Cuba”—which also says something, right? Your family had enough money to leave. So that says something—to Florida. And we were talking about white Floridians [laughs] earlier—”And that’s when I had to realize that I was—I had to come to reckoning that I was white.” And I was just like, “But there are Black Cubans. So I don’t understand.” But let’s not—I don’t want to belabor this, because I feel like I could talk about this all day. But I also wanted to ask if any of you have listened to Heaux Tales by Jazmine Sullivan.
[01:01:05] Alyssa A.L. James: No.
[01:01:05] Daisy Guzman: Yes, I live for that album.
[01:01:08] Brendane Tynes: I listen to it every day. And I always skip over [laughs] Anderson.Paak’s verse in “Price Tags” where—and that’s another thing that I think will help us also get back to DaniLeigh, right?—Anderson.Paak is a light-skinned Black man who is featured on this song with Jazmine Sullivan who is one of the greatest singers alive. And he says, “Forget it, momma told me put the kid in/So I did it, but that baby came out black as Samuel in Pulp Fiction/I’m light skinneded, my granddaddy Indian/You fuckin’ with my lineage and my dividends,” which says a lot. [Crosstalk] But—besides the fact that he doesn’t really understand like how genetics works—but one of the things that I highlighted from that was it’s obvious that the woman that he’s rapping about is light-skinned, because if she weren’t, he wouldn’t be shocked at that the baby came back brown. In addition to that, the fact that a brown baby fucks with his lineage speaks to how he seems to think about racial purity and how that works. But this verse and what we’ve been talking about in regards to colorism, which I think is the ideal Black woman is actually not Black at all, and the media and images that we encounter reinforce that idea. So, in regards to DaniLeigh, right, she’s the “ideal” Black woman. She’s not Black at all.
[01:02:37] Daisy Guzman: But she has certain features.
[01:02:38] Brendane Tynes: She has certain features. Maybe she has a little crinkle in her hair, and she can—
[01:02:43] Alyssa A.L. James: Them lil’ 2C curls.
[01:02:45] Brendane Tynes: You know, she can—
[01:02:46] Daisy Guzman: She got a little crinkle—
[01:02:48] Brendane Tynes: A crinkle, a little darker make-up.
[01:02:50] Daisy Guzman: A shape. I think.
[01:02:51] Brendane Tynes: Mm hm. And then have a Black man cosign her. Which is like, you know—so it’s like—there’s a responsibility that, you know, Black men have to admit that they have in the way they are complicit in this and how it works.
[01:03:07] Daisy Guzman: But it goes back to your previous episode—if people remember—the spicy Latina comment of there’s a desire to still have the energy of a Black woman, but a myth of submission that is not seen for Black women, right? So it’s like, “You can yell at me, you can do all this, but you still gonna cook, you still gonna clean.” With a spicy Latina, there was, like, you still going to cater to your man because that’s what they see on TV, right? And it’s weird. It’s very weird.
[01:03:51] Brendane Tynes: It is weird. I think it’s—I mean, for me, it’s weird, but it’s also troubling, because it’s—and part of where it connects to my research is these ideas of not necessarily respectability, but this idea that Black men are owed a respect and a certain type of patriarchy that Black women constantly, consistently take from them. And so by being with someone who’s not Black, you’re allowed to not just ascend socially, but you’re allowed to get back some of that male power that Black women—because of our existence, right?—we constantly take from you. So this idea that you’re allowed—that you’re still able to be the dominant person in the household—even if you are abusive, horrible, boring, not smart, horrible to talk to, don’t really bring nothing to the table, don’t pay no bills—but you can still be powerful in your domain and still be a “man,” a “real man,” whatever that means. I think it’s the main driver behind it, in addition to all of the other anti-Black shit that people say about Black woman so.
[01:04:53] Alyssa A.L. James: I think one of my questions I wanted to ask is because—I mean, we said it throughout the episode—Latinx is contested. There’s issues with Latinidad. So, to what extent is anti-Blackness tied up in the idea of Latinidad and Latinx identity?
[01:05:12] Daisy Guzman: Okay, that’s a question. Let’s got down to it. First of all, I don’t identify as Afro-Latina, to be quite honest. Cuz Afro-Latina, for me, is a top-down type of definition, meaning that it didn’t come from people that actually live in Latin America. It came from the United States and then was theorized and put into a methodology to explain Blackness in Latin America, not that the Black people in Latin America were actually using Afro-Latino to explain their own lives, right? So you have [afrodescendente?] and then you have people that are just saying, “I am Black from this country,” not “I am Afro-Latina,” right? So, for me, I say I’m Garifuna. Period. Like there’s—I don’t need to say Afro-Latina, because once I say I’m Garifuna, you know my culture, you know one of the three countries I’m possibly from, right? You know the language, you know the history with that one term. So, in order for me to use Afro-Latina, I feel like I am then imposing an erasure on myself, right? Because Afro-Latinidad is a recuperation of the visibility, a recuperation from genocide and from erasure, right? So when we think of Latinidad and its good sister-friend mestizaje, it exists because it’s grounded in anti-Blackness. It’s grounded in oppression of Black people and their Black citizens. It’s grounded in power against Black and Indigenous people.
[01:06:55] Brendane Tynes: And yeah, thank you so much for clarifying. As someone who has no claims or no stakes in Latinx/Latino/Latina identity, it was difficult for me to understand it outside of a project of being grounded in anti-Blackness. Personally, I think it was just difficult for me to understand it. So I think you really explained it very well. And like—
[01:07:19] Daisy Guzman: Geographically, I could be considered Afro-Latina, like, I’m not going to deny I am Black from a Latin American country. That’s not a lie. But when you go to that country, my people have a name. Because there’s the [Giyol?] people, which are the Caribbean descendants that came during the building of the canals and the building of the different banana plantations there. There’s the Garifuna people that are the Black-Indigenous people. And then there are the Creole people that were also at some point there for a labor service. So there are different types of Black people in Guatemala. So to say Afro-Latino, you can literally be a range of different communities. And we’re not all one community, so to think it’s just one thing is really a disservice to what Afro-Latinidad is really trying to do.
[01:08:15] Alyssa A.L. James: That’s great. I think that’s a really great place to end. Thank you so much for coming today, Daisy, and enlightening us and our listeners. This was fantastic.
[01:08:26] Daisy Guzman: You’re welcome!
[01:08:27] Brendane Tynes: Oh, yes, thank you all for listening. This episode was generously supported by Columbia University Life, the Office for Academic Diversity and Inclusion, the Arts & Science Graduate Council, and listeners just like you, honey. So Zora’s Daughters is also being distributed in partnership with the American Anthropological Association. And finally, we want to say a huge thank you to Daisy Guzman for joining us today.
[01:08:54] Alyssa A.L. James: And we love hearing from you. We’ve really appreciated the conversations we’ve been having with you all in the DMs, over email. So head to zorasdaughters.com to find transcripts for the episodes, our bios, contact info, and ways to support the podcast.
[01:09:09] Brendane Tynes: And until next time, remember, we must take care of ourselves and each other. Bye!
[01:09:16] Daisy Guzman: Bye!
[01:09:16] Alyssa A.L. James: Bye!
[END OF RECORDING]