By Claire Halloran
Poet. Artist. Performer. Daughter.
Natasha Carrizosa has notebooks filled with stories of her past, and on March 7, she shared a selection of her work with a crowd of about 15 people in the STEM Center. Carrizosa’s work centers around her rich “meji-africana” background, and the racism and colorism she has faced because of it.
During the event, she shared personal experiences of being bullied for her racial identity and her struggle to find an identity she felt comfortable with through poetry.
“Growing up, I was always told that I wasn’t black enough,” Carrizosa said. “But I wasn’t Latino enough either.”
Experts say this is a frequently shared experience in the Afro- Latino community, especially among the youth due to a lack of representation in the media and government. Even in the Latino community, people with significant African roots deny an Afro- Latino identification to avoid discrimination, studies suggest.
According to a study conducted by PEW Research, 56 percent of nonwhite Hispanics reported having experienced racial discrimination, which is 15 percent more than white Hispanics.
The size of the Afro-Latino population in the United State is currently unclear, as they are underrepresented on the 2010 U.S. Census. Only 2.4 percent of the 54 million self identifying Hispanics also identified as black on the Census, which raised questions within the U.S. Census Bureau.
According to a press release on the official U.S. Census Bureau website, the Census Bureau is considering adding a “Hispanic/Latino/ Spanish origin” or simply an “Afro-Latino” option to the 2020 Census to give a clearer option, as it is believed that many of them are identifying as “some other race.” While it is supported by a large portion of the Latino population, this proposal has seen backlash due to colorism within the Latino community.
“A disproportionate number of Latinos will identify as white even though they are not treated as white” said Pedro Noguera, the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. “It is aspirational; they know that “white” is considered the prestige box.”
Noguera also pointed out that Afro-Latino workers tend to have more difficulty finding jobs.
“It tends to be that darker Latinos are less likely to get the better jobs, the best positions,” Noguera said. “The only profession where Afro-Latinos are really visible is athletics, like boxing and baseball.”
A group of approximately 15 people gathered to listen to poet Natasha Carrizosa, and engage in a discussion about representation and identity. Photo by Claire Hallaron
Afro-Latino people also face underrepresentation in the U.S. media, as even well known Afro-Latino actors rarely are employed to play Latino characters. For example, Tatyana Ali, famous for her role as Ashley Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bellaire, is Afro-Latina, but has only accepted roles of African American characters, never once tapping into her Latina background.
As for Carrizosa, she will continue using poetry and spoken word to speak out against prejudice and promote acceptance.
She believes that as she shares her own story through her poetry, she can help in eliminating negative preconceived notions people might have about different races and cultures, and stressed the importance of being open to listening to other’s stories.
Carrizosa discussed her own struggle with finding a comfortable identity, especially after hearing her classmates call her slurs and ridiculing her for coming from an interracial home. However, as
she has grown, she realized that self acceptance is more important than what others say about you, she told students.
“It isn’t as important what they call you,” Carrizosa said. “It is more what you answer to.”
Contact Claire Halloran at firstname.lastname@example.org. edu