By Roberta Nin Feliz
With Amara La Negra’s rise to stardom, conversations about Dominican anti-Blackness have resurfaced within the Black community. What it means to be Black and who gets to be Black have come to the forefront of Black twitter. Particularly, some Twitter users questioned Amara’s Blackness with someone even citing that she looked like she had Black face on. (Bitch, what?). And recently, Amara had an interview with the Breakfast Club where Charlamagne gaslighted Amara about the colorism she faced in the Latinx community. What these conversations about Amara’s blackness provide is the opportunity to better understand Dominican anti-Blackness and why Amara’s presence in popular culture is such a big deal.
Many of us in the Black community are familiar with the Dominican Republic’s super racist dictator, Rafael Trujillo, who was obsessed with lightening the Dominican race and even killed thousands of Haitians in an effort to do so, in a massacre now called the Parsley Massacre. While it is easy to identify that as the single source of Dominican anti-Blackness, it’s important to think about what Dominicans even consider “Blackness.” In America, all it takes for you to be considered Black is to have one Black ancestor somewhere along the line. More commonly known as the one-drop rule, this rule defined Blackness as having ANY Black blood in your family. However, in the Dominican Republic having Black family or a Black grandmother or whatever, didn’t make you Black. Being Black in the Dominican Republic meant looking like what we would consider in America to be “brown-skinned” and any shade darker than that. Blackness in the Dominican Republic meant having very obvious “Black features.” So for a lot of Dominican immigrants and children of immigrants, navigating the way Blackness is defined in America was a challenging task that today, the younger generation is more aware of.
That being said, trying to invalidate Amara La Negra’s or any other Afro-Latinx’s Blackness because of anti-Blackness isn’t cool either. Amara La Negra faced a lot of criticism from both the Latinx and American community for either being too Black or not Black enough. And lately, people have been debating about whether or not Cardi B is Black and um, news flash, that isn’t up for anyone to decide. Clearly. Cardi B is Black and whether or not she identifies as it does not take away from her Blackness. (Did we forget about the 30 million times Bow Wow said he wasn’t Black? Oh okay.) We also have to be cautious of the xenophobic undertones that “determining” someone’s Blackness carries. If Trace Ellis, Zendaya Alicia Keys and [insert ambiguous light-skinned Black woman here] are considered Black, then why is a Black woman from a Spanish-speaking country suddenly up for debate about her Blackness? If Cardi B was from any other country that wasn’t Spanish speaking, her Blackness would not be up for debate (And, that’s the tea on that.) Even the way people discuss Dominican anti-Blackness is xenophobic. Dominicans aren’t the only self-hating Black people. Countries like Jamaica and Nigeria are into skin-bleaching, there’s a serious fetishization of light-skinned Black women in America and many other Caribbean countries remain stratified across color lines.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think that we should call out and address anti-Blackness in the Latinx community. I also think the conversation surrounding Amara La Negra and Afro-Latinidad should and can be had without xenophobic undertones and without the witch hunt culture that exists nowadays about who can and can’t be Black. Perhaps, it’s time for us to realize that Blackness is a complicated and nuanced term and that Black people exist outside of the American context. Doing this will allow us to have more productive conversations about race in America while also giving us a more intersectional view on Blackness.