“I would never tell people that my grandfather was Haitian because they would look down on me. So, I just say I’m Dominican.”
Last year, during our restorative justice circle on race and society one of my students expressed that her lovely, melanated skin was embarrassing. She wasn’t comfortable using the word Black as a descriptor for herself and other students echoed her words. It was this conversation and others that helped open my mind to the issues of colorism and prejudice that exist within the Latinx community.
This year, the conversation has gone mainstream because 2018 started with a BANG! The January 1st premiere of Love & Hip Hop: Miami.
Now, I don’t know if I’ve revealed this but I definitely have a few shows I love to watch. One of course, is Love & Hip Hop. Since 2011, I’ve made sure to watch episodes from each series. Atlanta is hot, Hollywood keeps leaving me a bit disappointed, New York is cool, especially since I have mad love for Remy Ma & Cardi B but they done went and made Miami?
I grew up on Trick Daddy n Trina like “you don’t know nann nann,” plus they added Gunplay like “Wuzzhannindoe” & Pretty Ricky …. I just might watch every episode this season.
However, despite my love for the show, music & ratchetness, I must deconstruct the messages the franchise sends to youth who are a high percentage of its viewership. I’ve used it as an instrument in the classroom to discuss a variety of topics including sexism (thanks to the Creep Squad), the “angry Black woman’ stereotype (champagne glasses got wings y’all) and thanks to Hazel E’s Instagram posts, the issue of homophobia and colorism.
This show has become a tool for me to build discussion around the importance of media representation and breaking down stereotypes that are visible on the show and happen daily across social media. One of the topics which arose through these discussions was featured on one of my previous posts, HHM: The Bloody Massacre & Dominicans Who “Aren’t” Black.
To keep it short … to be Black in the eyes of many of my students (who are mostly Dominican) isn’t just a negative but at times laughable and made a mockery of.
According to them, they laugh, so its okay but this season of Love & Hip Hop Miami looks like it’s going to bless me with tons of resources for my Bad + Boujee unit and even though the unit is almost done for this year, the show could help to reinforce the importance of conversations that students have isolated in my classroom.
So, Amara La Negra is unapologetically Black & Dominican. Within the first few minutes of the initial episode, she had two key interactions: one with friends and the second with producer Young Hollywood in which she made it outstandingly clear that she is not only Latina, she’s also Black & proud.
La Negra expresses it by saying, “ I embrace my Latina and my Blackness…..” to two of her friends in an opening scene but the questions surrounding her skin color and Blackness were brought to the forefront in a scene with producer Young Hollywood.
The scene which has now been re-tweeted and shared on The Shaderoom and hundreds of social media accounts garnering well over 1 million views, is a confused Hollywood asking questions and making statements like:
“Are you African because you have an Afro?”
“You are just so intense about this African thing”
“The music industry wants cookie cutter poster childs”
all while saying that Amara’s “look” needs to be more Beyonce and less Macy Gray.
At this point, my resting bitch face kicked in. I was done with dude, then I remembered, he wasn’t alone and I wasn’t either. Not only were there individuals who didn’t recognize Afro-Latinx as an ethnicity or understand African + Latinx heritage but they had passed this ignorance down to our students, my students.
Despite this, I knew I had company, there were people who understood Afro- Latinxs and were willing to defend her honor. I strolled on over to Love & Hip Hop’s creator Mona Scott’s Instagram to find dozens of people going in on the comment section requesting that Young Hollywood be removed for his statements on the show.
That’s probably not going to happen but a woman can dream. The rest of the episode isn’t as relevant as this moment. It skyrocketed. Within 6 days since the airing of the show @AmaraLaNegra’s Instagram account is verified, she is now signed to Atlantic records and for over 72 hours has defended herself and whether or not she’s in blackface.
For some, she’s unbelievable. There’s so much discussion that should be had around why her existence is difficult for many to process. She will blow up, there’s no doubt. Love & Hip Hop is a platform to stardom. However, as her career launches, her music won’t be the main focus. Her skin color will. Although I am 100% here for the conversation to occur across multiple platforms, I struggle with the consistent and oftentimes overwhelming need to explain Blackness.
Not just her Blackness but all of ours. The issue of colorism seems to consistently fall on the oppressed, instead of the oppressor. The true root to the internalized forms of hatred carried within us is often left for us to discover, discuss and eradicate. The systemic and generational effects of colonization aren’t outwardly discussed or built into the NYS Regents examination standards.
Like this shit isn’t important.
Never fool yaself, it is THE discussion to have. Dr. Joy’s theory of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome is as real as the sun rises. As a system, education can produce, functioning members of society who are oblivious to their TRUE history and have them siding with not only the glorification of the founding fathers but the ideologies which allow structural racism to operate and grow.
The goal of culturally relevant pedagogy is to end that.
The comment sections of these posts are filled with people who think like Young Hollywood and serve as a reminder of how Latinxs often times ostracize their own and favor fairer skinned children, relatives and actors. We know they aren’t the only ones. People of color across the world have internalized these as well.
It is a discussion that needs to be had and there was no way I would have known when I initially began my lessons inspired by my experience in Woke Cypha and the classroom that it would happen this soon.
This conversation is about to be had OUT LOUD on TV and in my classroom. This week students will begin the discussion on media representation. Day 1 includes a Do Now which ask students to brainstorm which character careers like: lawyer, doctor, maid, drug dealer etc are predominately cast for Black, Latinxs and White actors. The remaining lesson is an exploration of the representation of Blacks & Latinx using various YouTube sources for students to engage in discussion.
This week I’ll add the video of Young Hollywood and Amara’s studio discussion to provide a platform for students to discuss colorism, branding/image and Afro-Latinx heritage.
Unfortunately, there’s never enough time in a unit or a class period to go further in depth into topics I feel are worthy of students exploring. After this week, students will discuss code-switching/code-meshing, cultural appropriation and then their formative/summative assessments. After this unit is over the class will shift into resumes, SAT Prep and senior year planning.
Over the years Love & Hip Hop has become a guilty pleasure of mine in which I tune out the world but LHH Miami might be the first season that I will have to consciously tune into.
A Few Other Videos | If Ya Curious
Check out The Shaderoom founder speaking with Amara La Negra, Trina & Trick Daddy. Amara provides an explanation of her name, tells where she’s from and answers some critical and crucial questions.
The Baddest B Trina sittin’ pretty too. 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WFnTCx-kg4
Love & Hip Hop: Amara La Negra in Black Face https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCYHNM1BzwM
Amara La Negra & Young Hollywood | Studio Scene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zETQsdJ9F58
Let’s get it y’all.