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Some of the anti-black bias among non-black Latinos is driven by the misconception that black people do not support the immigrants’ rights movement. But this erases the fact that there are black immigrants from the Americas and elsewhere, and it assumes that there are not already entire black organizations that focus on immigrant justice. But the argument also expects black people to be working on behalf of non-black Latinos as if that work is automatically owed to us. The unchecked entitlement packed into the argument that black people need to support non-black Latinos demonstrates not that non-black Latinos are aspiring toward whiteness — but that we already actively employ some of its trappings.
In the immigrant rights community in particular, non-black Latinos use the term Juan Crow to reference the systematic terror that undocumented immigrants face in the South. This is a powerful articulation of the injustice experienced by undocumented immigrants, but it is often employed without recognizing how the most recent struggle of Latino immigrant communities is distinct from the nearly century-long struggle of black people under Jim Crow. When babies born to undocumented immigrants are hatefully described as “anchor babies,” we cite birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Yet we rarely acknowledge that doing so takes advantage of a piece of legislation created to confer citizenship to formerly enslaved black people following the Civil War.
The citizenship we envision for ourselves, however, is not the limited form of citizenship that black people still experience today. Black citizens — whose very right to vote remains contested — may not be slated for deportation, but they are disproportionately targeted for stop-and-frisk, for jail and prison, for violence, and for death. Whenever non-black Latinos claim or even aspire to citizenship without also advocating for the recognition of the full humanity (and full citizenship) of black people, then we are allowing white supremacy to operate unchallenged. We may, indeed, creatively acquire a fuller citizenship through a piece of legislation that was historically intended for black people, but it is immoral to do so at the cost of preserving a racial hierarchy that maintains that those same black people are a little less than human.
[wrote a longer response but a friend x’d out of it by mistake]
Whilst I agree with you that skin bleaching poses more of a health risk than relaxing one’s hair, I also see where Dencia and others who agree with her (had a twitter convo on skin bleaching a few weeks back) are coming from in the sense that these two processes are birthed from the same anti-blackness and white supremacist standards of beauty that dominate much of the world. Both involve the use of heavy and harmful chemicals that drastically alter one’s physical appearance but, apart from the risks posed, where hair relaxing is more accepted and skin bleaching is not is probably due to the fact that racism itself was structured and built on discrimination by way of one’s skin color. Hair is more of a side-effect, despite how political it is in the black community. Also, one can easily cut off one’s relaxed or or transition back into their hair’s natural state. Skin bleaching doesn’t offer that easy reversible option.
Dencia also has a point where she says that altering one’s opinion as an adult is one’s choice, fair enough, but what she’s not acknowledging in all these interviews is that whatever the real purpose of her product is (dark spots or dark skin in whatever capacity), the way in which the advertising for Whitenicious is framed has a critical history to it. It’s really no different from these:
Her cream is just the next phase in an advertising revolution of the above series. Racism in the 21st century may not always be as blatant as it once was but subtle forms of racism do not negate its manifestation, presence and impact. Not to mention how lightening your face is a terrible way to deal with hyper-pigmentation.