So let me tell y’all about my wide breadth of knowledge when it comes to Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM).
My breadth of knowledge around this subject isn’t as expansive as I’d hope.
Well at least it wasn’t, until discovering CREAD last Fall.
ONCE AGAIN, I’m pissed at my public school and collegiate education, because I never heard of this month and therefore never honored Hispanic culture.
What makes matters worse is that I went to school with Hispanic students all my formative years.
Where I grew up, if you weren’t BLACK, you were SPANISH.
NOW WAIT. HOLD ON. HOLD ON. I know y’all out there like, “Vito, you too damn smart to say some stupid ishhhhh like that. Spanish is a language bruh and not a (nationality/ethnicity), unless you actually from Spain.”
But how many off us incorrectly label Hispanic people this way all the damn time?
I know. It’s tricky and as divisive as when Wypipo say they are Caucasian. LOL! Y’all ain’t Caucasian, y’all WHITE.
(Disclaimer: Now I know that I just explained how calling Hispanic people Spanish isn’t the correct way to address people of the diaspora. I don’t even know if I am I supposed to say Latino? I done told y’all that the DOE short changed me on parts of my edumacation, and so for the purpose of this article I’m g’on continue on using the term Spanish. Maybe if the DOE taught me better I wouldn’t have to do this. Because it feels hella pretentious saying Hispanic or Latino knowing I ain’t never use that in my life.
I’m sure some of you, like myself, are guilty of lumping all Spanish people into the same boat. Growing up in the housing projects, like I did, if you happened to “speaka de Spanish, then you were Spanish, my friend.”
Regardless of if you were Dominican, Mexican, or Puerto Rican; continuing later on with the Ecuadorians and Guatemalans. In short, to me THEY WERE ALL JUST SPANISH.
I mean inherently, I guess I knew that there were differences. But I was conditioned to think of them as all the same, figuring that their differences couldn’t be bigger than similar cultural norms that seemed, at least to me, to unite them.
Also, while there were Spanish people in my neighborhood, I can’t honestly remember us intermingling that much. I mean, we usually kept one or two sharpshooter papis around for the 5 on 5 basketball games in the local tournaments. And I can most definitely remember linking with my brother from another mother, Jo-Cito when it was time to cop new Jordan’s and other fly gear from Knickerbocker Avenue, in Bushwick Brooklyn. Hell, going to Knickerbocker to shop was probably the only time I was around mass amounts of Spanish people. But aside from a handful that I knew personally, it seemed, in my neighborhood that Black and Spanish people linked only when we needed to.
My schooling did not teach me anything about Spanish people or culture, besides stories of Wypipo in conflict with them.
That time or two I would hear about the “savage” Mexicans in the Mexican American war, or the “lesson” you get on Castro, Cuba, and Communism; that continues the narrative that Hispanic people were bad.
I did learn about the Panama Canal for a day or two. Although I’m sure it was through a White colonial capitalist lens.
I didn’t learn much at home about Spanish people and I know only a few personally, so I was never able to learn about the diasporic connections shared between Hispanics and Blacks. I knew a few darkly complected Panamanians and Hondurans, but I never thought of them in a Afro-Latino light mainly because I was never taught to.
As a Black student, I realized later on in my life that I never learned much about myself or Black people as a whole in any of my formative years of education. If I did, it was slave stories and other narratives that highlighted the oppression of the African in America, while never shining a light on all the positive aspects that make Black people so beautiful.
Thinking of how little I was educated on my history and how that affected me, makes me think of my Spanish counterparts and how they never learned much of anything about their history in school.
How are they affected by not having their history and culture highlighted in positive ways? How does that affect the way they associated with Black Americans and Americans as a whole?
I’ve been wondering a lot lately about what it would be like if we taught our kids from a diasporic lens? If we teach them early on that to be Puerto Rican, African American, or Jamaican, means that we are all apart of the African diaspora; and that that means we can all trace our lineage back to the motherland. Teach them that being Spanish gives them cultural ties to Africans and other indigenous peoples. Imagine how the division and the differences would fade away.
If we make these connections in school for our students and ourselves, then we lessen the chance that they will be united in the fight against White supremacy and White oppression.
(I know y’all like “he killing me with this Spanish ishh.” Honestly it’s annoying the hell out of me as I look over the piece but it honestly reflects, at least in my opinion, a common error that many of us, and our students make daily. AGAIN, if the public schools did not withhold parts of my education from me I might be better able to articulate myself. LOL!)
I think this lack of education and miseducation, helped to create the mindset I used to have. It knowingly and unknowingly helped to create the imagined separation, between me and Spanish people.
Honestly, I grew up thinking most people of Spanish origin where White, or at least they could be perceived as White. And therefore, I wasn’t jumping to make no diasporic connections with them. Hell, I didn’t know enough about the diaspora to even make those connections if I wanted to.
The nearly White skin and a language that I’d never seen spoken by people that looked like me, affirmed in my mind, that I didn’t have to care about Spanish people or their lot in this life.
So why did I tell you all of that?
What does it mean for us and our students?
When we don’t honor the cultures of ethnically diverse people, and create space for our stories and heritage to be shared with others, we do ourselves and our students a disservice.
In this way we create spaces where Black and Spanish students don’t see the larger connections that they have with each other. When this happens we become further divided and less likely to effectively dismantle White supremacist institutions and systems, that in the end oppress us all.
In the end, I was ignorant to the fact that these cultural groups were all apart of the African Diaspora. That lack of knowledge further added to my individualist notions that worked to uphold White Supremacy.
As I interact with more schools in areas where the population is largely Spanish, I wonder if they are having these same diasporic associations omitted from their formal education, and the way that affects how they affiliate with Black people.
(Who am I kidding? I know these associations are not being made.)
It is our duty to be continual learners, and that means that we must be out here with our feet to the pavement surveying all we think we know.
- If we teach and learn about the diaspora and the rich beauty of the history of our people, then we will make stronger connections earlier for our Black and Brown students.
- If we help make these connections between our Black and Brown students earlier, then we can build their cultural competency.
- This cultural competency and ability to respond to other cultures, helps to develop students who can go forth with a greater sense of sociopolitical consciousness.
Like Nas said:
When we empower Black and Brown kids with proper knowledge of self, we position them to be the intellectual and social leaders that we need to dismantle White supremacy.
All month CREAD has been digging into Hispanic Heritage Month, with our bomb ass collective of contributors. We understand that serving ethnically diverse students, especially Black and Brown ones, requires that we go beyond our current curriculum that centers Whiteness, and get to the heart of our students’ identities and histories. We must speak to the positivity of our cultures’ past, while making connections between all of our diasporic students present, so that collectively they work towards all of our liberation.