Does Having African Ancestry Mean You are Black: AOC’s Take

Last weekend, I was invited to participate in a discussion on a show (you will hear which show soon enough) about the relationship between black and Latino communities. I was surrounded by black men and women, Dominican men and women, a Panamanian woman, and other women of multiple ethnicities with a wide range of opinions and thoughts on the subject. We touched on the moments we declared our Afro-Latinoism, the conversations (or lack thereof) we have been a part of, the spaces we have been fortunate enough to have to express our identities, the times we have had to hide a part of ourselves, and what other obstacles we must overcome as this subject becomes a larger discussion.

There were positive times when we all felt as though we were on the same page, and there were other times when many of us butted heads (talking about the fetishization of Latina women definitely called for some objection). However, it felt great to leave a space where I was able to talk with others who were still on their own respective journeys with trying to figure out how Afro-Latino they could be.

Coincidentally enough, this week, a video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (side note: definitely giving my future daughter the name of Alexandria some way, somehow) on MSNBC has been going around Twitter, where she expresses being a descendant of African slaves but not necessarily being black. If you do not know, AOC is a Puerto Rican from New York. The response to this comment could have gone up or down or left or right – you never know with the way today’s social media works. However, she received a lot of positive feedback, with the consensus of it being up to her to determine how she wants to be looked at and represented in this world:

” Ocasio-Cortez’s validation of her heritage and comprehension of where she falls with reference to her race is refreshing. It is perfectly fine for her to acknowledge what makes her who she is without being deceptive or manipulative when it comes to inserting herself in Black spaces” – Diversity Inc.

” She’s admitting she doesn’t experience the world as a black or native person because the world doesn’t see her that way, so she can’t co-opt those identities” – @Caitie5th

As I read other comments about her interview as well as on the subject as a whole, one question kept coming to mind: am I able to say I am Afro-Latina? Has anyone ever been offended when I have said so? When you look at me, you see features from all of my ancestors. However, is it fair of me to say I am when others may say otherwise? As the discussion about being considered Afro-Latina grows, especially for Dominicans, I know I will also need to continue asking questions and engage in those conversations as well in order to find the right answers for me.

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