I don’t know what it’s like to be black.
BUT, I had a gun to my head at age fourteen simply because I was in love with another girl. Before I ever even made love with a girl, I was hated, ostracized, thought of as subhuman, sinful, and morally degraded by Catholic school girlfriends, neighbors, nuns, and boys, because of my sexuality. Part of racism and homophobia is first thinking others are inferior and inhuman based on skin color or sexuality, then verbally or physically abusing them because you feel they are less than you. Racism and homophobia are two different animals, but they’re both about ignorance and HATE.
Some Latinos who’ve been oppressed take on the role of the oppressor as they climb the ladder of success. Many kill their accents and change their names to American names. Passing as blancos makes some Latinos feel privileged. Several (not all) Latinos blancos in power of European dissent (no African heritage) look down upon folks with the slightest dark features, such as thick lips and curly hair.
After my Afro Cuban/bilingual/biracial/multicultural picture books were published, a “white” racist Latina librarian was aghast. She called to tell me, “Are you crazy? Most Cubans in Miami are white, educated and wealthy professionals with outstanding careers (NOT true, some are, though). People will think we’re just a bunch of barefooted negros raising chickens in our backyard.” This, of course, fueled the fire in me not only to have two main characters in my YA novel, Down to the Bone, be Afro Cuban, but to make sure two of Laura’s girlfriends were dark-skinned mulatas and that my beloved agent was African American!
How do we get rid of Racism and Homophobia if it’s so ingrained within humans because it’s been passed down from generation to generation?
One way is to write books with diversity, with POC and LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, questioning, and intersexed) characters who move kids to love and respect all human beings regardless of color or sexuality. Could Lawrence King (black homosexual fifteen-year-old boy) and other kids’ lives have been spared if their killers were exposed to POC and LGBTQI literature in school depicting black and gay kids in a positive light? Could 1.6 million homeless Latino and Black kids (1/3 are homosexuals) not have been kicked out of their houses if intolerant parents had been required to read books with diversity to plant the seeds of love, acceptance, and tolerance?
As a kid, I was called “Spick” and in my twenties, living in Boston, I was referred to as, “The Ethnic Girl” and “The Minority Girl,” but that’s nothing compared to what African Americans have suffered due to racism or what I, and many LGBTQI’s, have endured as young kids coming into our sexuality. As a person who’s experienced homophobia to an extreme, and could have been a statistic due to a hate crime, I feel fired-up to use literature as an empowering tool to seamlessly fight racism and homophobia and promote tolerance.
Mayra Lazara Dole is an author who has also been a drummer, dancer, landscape designer, Cuban “chef,” hairdresser, and library assistant. She was born in Cuba and now lives in Miami with her partner, Damarys. (Bio comes via Harper Collins)
I am not a dark skinned Latina, thus I have never experienced the type of racism African American’s and dark-skinned immigrants have.