Category Archives: latin@

What I’ve Learned from Living with HIV

By Christopher MacDonald-Dennis , reprinted with permission from his Twitter timeline

AIDS RibbonMy name is Chris, and I live with HIV.

I know some were here last year [on my Twitter timeline], so I’ll try not to bore you. I just want to remind us that we are here among you, living, thriving, sometimes barely surviving w HIV/AIDS. I’d like to tell my story: why I made choices I did and what I’ve learned–because I have learned a great deal about myself from this disease.

To start: I have been positive for 15 years. March 10, 2010 was  my anniversary. I am 41 yrs old. In fact, I was born exactly 1 week before Stonewall rebellion in NYC. I was born and raised in Boston in a working-class neighborhood. I grew up in uber-dysfunctional family: brother diagnosed as sociopath in teens, dad an alcoholic, mom mentally ill. It was hell in that family, I was a little “sissy” who knew at early age he was gay. I was OK with it but knew others wouldn’t be. I was terrorized as kid–ass kicked a lot. My city didn’t like femme boys. Also, I am mixed: dad was white, mom Latina….looong before mixed folks were cool.  :) We just were odd. So I grew up alone…and lonely. Went to college and  didn’t just come out of closet..

I blew the doors off hinges! I became popular…and, most importantly, saw that men were attracted to me. So I became BHOC–Big Homo On Campus–who also partied hard at clubs. I felt what I thought was acceptance for the first time. I was an activist, a feminist, just thinking I had to it together…but I was promiscuous. It filled a need. Men wanted me; I was desirable. Because of my background I mistook it for love. At 22 I was in my first relationship with an AIDS activist [and] always used condoms. Broke up after 3 years and saw a man I had dated briefly in college.

I still remember the night we met. His smile shut off every thinking part of my brain. I know you know those fine types–your brain disappears. He asked me home. I accepted after he asked my friends (we had a rule–we come together, we leave together.) They agreed–he was that fine. We went to my place & began to have sex. I noticed he wasn’t going to use condom. I thought about it but was afraid he would leave me. Yes, I was more afraid a man would leave than protecting myself.  We never talked about status until 3 months in…he said he was too scared. That made me pause…

Continue reading

New Study begs the question: Brown Like Who?

by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

A recently-released study by the American Sociological Association reveals something a bit disturbing: 79 percent of Latinos who took part in a specially-designed survey identified themselves as “white,” no matter their skin color.

Of course, the key words there are “specially-designed.” The New Immigrant Survey, as the study was called, specifically denied participants the chance to identify themselves as “Some Other Race,” as they can on the U.S. Census. According to the study’s co-author, Reanne Frank, this demonstrates a willingness by Latinos to recognize white privilege.

“Most are attempting to push the boundaries of whiteness to include them, even if their skin color is darker,” said Frank, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

Frank also said the ASA has received feedback saying the race question “doesn’t fit” many Latino respondents: 50 percent of Latinos who took the 2000 Census identified themselves as “Some Other Race.”

Full disclosure: I have done this in both the 2000 and 2010 Census. But it wasn’t because I wanted to attempt to assert “an alternative Latino racial identity,” as Frank suggests; “Race,” as defined in both the Census and the NIS, is more closely related to phenotype, whereas I always interpret it as something more closely related to nationality.

Of course, that aspect is also covered specifically in Question 8 of the Census: Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin? Among the answers:

  • Yes, Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano
  • Yes, Puerto Rican
  • Yes, Cuban
  • Yes, another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish Origin

However, it’s interesting to note that Question 9, while covering phenotype (White, Black/African American/Negro), also addresses nationality for other ethnic groups: American Indian and Alaskan Native, while grouped together, are listed apart from other groups, and various Asian nationalities (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc.) are listed as racial options. The ASA study doesn’t ask why Latinos don’t get that same treatment.

“La Mission” and Latino Masculinities

by Guest Contributor Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, originally published at Hairspray and Fideo and Blabbeando

[For a summary of the film, see here.]

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see a screening of Peter Bratt’s La Mission. The screening, which was part of a limited release, was at San Francisco’s Metreon Theaters. My compañero and I, joined by two of our queer sisters of color, were lucky enough to find seats in relative proximity to each other in the sold-out space.

It was a late night screening and the vast majority of folks in the theater were people of color. In fact, I’d say most of the people there were Latina/o, with a nice mix of generations representing. The experience was unforgettable as all four of us, none of which were born and raised in San Francisco, were sitting in what seemed to be an intimate living room screening of La Mission.

We all smiled and were occasionally misty-eyed as people in the crowd, youth and adults, loudly expressed their pride in the various shots of San Francisco portrayed in the film. During the movie, I realized that this was the first time I had ever witnessed the screening of a film that embodied the geographic and cultural identities of the audience. People not only saw themselves on the big screen, they also saw the places that have shaped and witnessed them.
Continue reading

On SB 1070 And What Happens When “Brown” Means “Illegal”

by Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian

What does an illegal immigrant look like?

From the Young Conservatives of Texas’ “Capture an Illegal Immigrant Day” in 2005

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who just signed SB 1070 into law last Friday–which allows law enforcement to stop and demand ID of anyone they have “reasonable suspicion” is illegal–has no idea.

And yet, isn’t that the premise of this law? That you have to know what “illegal” looks like? Provision 1 of SB 1070 requires:

…a reasonable attempt to be made to determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate contact made by an official or agency of the state or a county, city, town or political subdivision (political subdivision) if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.

Now, “reasonable suspicion” is a legal standard that’s been around for over 40 years. In 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that a stop by law enforcement on the grounds of reasonable suspicion was legal if it met the following criteria:

…when a person possesses many unusual items which would be useful in a crime like a wire hanger and is looking into car windows at 2am, when a person matches a description of a suspect given by another police officer over department radio, or when a person runs away at the sight of police officers who are at common law right of inquiry (founded suspicion). However, reasonable suspicion may not apply merely because a person refuses to answer questions, declines to allow a voluntary search, or is of a suspected race or ethnicity. (Wikipedia)

But unless Arizona law enforcement actually catches someone in the act of crossing the border illegally, there’s no way to really establish reasonable suspicion except by race or ethnicity, which is why SB 1070 is being referred to by some as the “Breathing While Brown” law.

What I find myself wondering though is: How Brown? SB 1070 is racism, to be sure, but is it colorism, too? I can’t help thinking that the browner you are in Arizona, the more “suspicious” you’ll seem. Already, lighter-skinned Latinos in the U.S. make $5,000 more on average than darker-skinned Latinos. And it’s well-documented that dark-skinned African-Americans receive longer prison sentences than their light-skinned peers (not to mention whites). There are examples the world over–in Asia, the Middle East, Brazil–of color prejudice, where light skin is preferred, both interracially and intraracially, and where it equates to improved social standing, economic status, and marriage prospects.

Does this mean that more Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S. will be reaching for the Sammy Sosa-lightening cream in SB 1070’s wake? It appears it’s already happening. From the NY Times op-ed piece, “Shades of Prejudice,” published in January after Harry Reid’s comments surfaced about Obama being an ideal political candidate because he was “light-skinned”:

The Harvard neuroscientist Allen Counter has found that in Arizona, California and Texas, hundreds of Mexican-American women have suffered mercury poisoning as a result of the use of skin-whitening creams.

(Note that Dr. Counter’s findings were clustered in Arizona, California, and Texas, all border states.)

And in a 2003 story for the Boston Globe, “Whitening skin can be deadly,” Dr. Counter wrote of these same women:

Apparently, the patients reporting to clinics with mercury-induced disease believe that the health risks associated with bleaching their skins are outweighed by the rewarding sociocultural return.

With “brown” now equating to “illegal,” this may be truer than we’d like to think.

[Fact Sheet for SB 1070]
[NY Times: Shades of Prejudice]

Black responses to the Arizona immigration law

by Guest Contributor Daniel Hernandez, originally published at Intersections

The signing of SB1070 in Arizona has sparked a wave of negative reaction across the United States and across the political spectrum, from Barack Obama on down. There are numerous calls for a boycott of the state, a pledge against the law for people of faith, and a statement from the Major League Baseball players association condemning SB1070.

Some high school seniors are now deciding against going to college in Arizona. One comment on the New York Times blog post on the topic struck me as particularly intelligent, and hinting at the root of African American disdain for SB1070.

Barbara, a Duke alumnus, writes:

When I was a student at Duke there were many male African-American students who felt like they were being profiled because of the relatively high rate of crime on campus, and the fact that a disproportionate amount of it was attributable to young black men in the community. In some cases students were held even after they proved they were students. It made their college experience a lot worse than if they gone elsewhere. It’s a legitimate consideration.

It’s not that I don’t understand that border states face special challenges and find the lack of progress frustrating, or that I don’t agree that Mexico has long shown lack of inclination to face its social problems because it has a safety valve next door — I share those concerns. But there is simply no way to enforce this law without targeting Hispanics. I don’t care if that was the intent or not, it is almost certainly going to be its practical effect. Continue reading

Women of Color and Wealth – The Scope of The Problem [Part 1]

by Latoya Peterson

Yesterday, a headline in the Post-Gazette worked its way around Twitter:  Study finds median wealth for single black women at $5. Most outlets qualified the link by calling it “shocking” or mentioning the five dollar figure was not a typo.

I called up a fellow young black professional friend of mine and told her about the findings of the study.  “Is it messed up that I’m kind of glad in a way?” she asked, “I mean, all this time I’ve been wondering why I can’t get my shit together, but it turns out I’m normal.” We both laughed at her small attempt at gallows humor around a situation many of us know a little too intimately – when it comes to our white counterparts, women of color are light years behind in wealth.

The study is a new report from The Insight Center for Community Economic Development, titled “Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth, and America’s Future.”  The report is an in-depth look at the issues in wealth accumulation particular to black women, Latinas, Asian and Native American women.  However, even as this report is one of the most comprehensive I have seen on the subject, the limited data for Asian American and Native American women means that their statistics are limited from entire sections of the report, and discussed in a subsequent section about the need for better stats.  The report’s title is should be a familiar refrain to many black women, but the author of the report, Mariko Chang, kindly includes an explanation of the origin of the phrase:

More than a century ago, the National Association for Colored Women was founded by African American women leaders in response to a vicious attack on the character of African-American women. A few decades distant from the abolition of slavery, the intensification of poverty, discrimination, and segregation impelled these women to action in defense of their race. Their motto was “Lifting as We Climb,” signaling their understanding that no individual woman of color could rise, nor did they want to rise, without the improvement of the whole race. At the top of their agenda were job training, wage equity, and child care: issues that, if addressed, would lift all women, and all people of color.

The lift as we climb refrain was implanted into some of us from birth and a lot of my earliest lessons about black empowerment focused on financial empowerment.  Yet, these adages about saving money, investing in the community, and being a conscious consumer was like propping a footstool against a fifty foot high sheer rock wall.  Continue reading

Worried About Women of Color? Thanks, But No Thanks, Anti-Choicers. We’ve Got It Covered.

By Guest Contributor Miriam Pérez, originally published at RH Reality Check

This article is part of a series appearing on RH Reality Check, written by reproductive justice advocates responding to recent efforts by the anti-choice movement to use racial and ethnic myths to limit women’s rights and health. Recent articles on this topic include those by Pamela Merrit, Gloria Feldt, Kelley Robinson, and Maame-Mensima Horne.

273At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer.

Women of color within the reproductive rights and justice movement have brought light to the policies (often perpetuated by our own government, medical providers and researchers) that serve the mission of population control within our communities. We’ve fought back against the connections and alliances with those in the environmental rights movement who blame the challenges of resource scarcity on women of color and their family size.

We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.

We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.

In the Latina community, we’ve dealt with all sorts of attempts at controlling our families. In addition to welfare family caps and abusive immigration policies, we’ve also got a long history of sterilization abuse. The height of this was in the 1970s, when Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias and others discovered that doctors and residents at a Los Angeles hospital had sterilized hundreds of Mexican women, without their knowledge or full consent. We’re talking women being asked to sign consent forms in languages they did not speak, being lied to and told that the procedure was reversible, or being offered sterilization in the midst of labor.

The result of this was a major organizing push by CESA—Committee to End Sterilization Abuse–to enact federal informed consent laws for sterilization. They won, and in 1976 these laws were enacted, mandating processes for informed consent, waiting periods for sterilization consent, and forms that had to be in the patient’s language, among other things.

Continue reading

George Lopez “Races” Late Night

By Guest Contributor Tomas, originally published at Latino Like Me


Comedian George Lopez debuted “Lopez Tonight” on Monday, November 9.  A veteran of the stand-up stage, Lopez’s foray into late night does little to mess with the familiar format honed by Johnny Carson and tweaked by Leno and Letterman: it includes a monologue, video-taped comedy segment, celebrity interview, and musical guest.

The primary difference, as pushed by Lopez, is the “color” of the show.  “¡Oralé!” he exclaimed as he walked out on stage.  “The revolution begins right now!”

It’s an odd role for Lopez, the man who carved out his niche in prime time as a Mexican Bill Cosby.  His eponymous sitcom featured a middle (maybe even upper-middle) class family struggling with the same kinds of life issues faced by any family.  Its lack of depth and specificity relating to Latino life was deliberate.  It didn’t evade “race,” but it rarely let it mean more than we’re slightly different but still the same. Continue reading