My Skin Is Black, My Name Is Latino. That Shouldn’t Surprise You.

Something about my Blackness forces some Afro Latinos to face their own, even if they’re not ready to embrace it

Jose Vilson
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A younger me during one of my last visits to the Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, Dominican Republic

II love jumping into cabs in New York City’s Washington Heights. For the most part, I run into a driver who’s Dominican, and he’s almost always surprised I can speak Spanish. We most often have similar facial features, waves in our curly hair, and vibe to the same music on the radio. But this never matters in the end. The driver will usually follow up with, “Wait, you’re really Dominican? What barrio is your mom from?” I’ll tell him the barrio (neighborhood) in the DR and the cross streets, but he still seems vexed.

I’ve never questioned my Blackness. My skin, lips, and hair would never allow it. But on the flip side, the idea of me embracing my Latinx identity has always been called into question. For some reason, something about my Blackness forces some Afro Latinxs to face their own, even if they’re not ready to embrace it.

As a person with Dominican, Haitian, and American roots, I don’t speak Spanish well, I don’t speak Haitian-Creole at all, and I don’t feel much patriotism for a country that doesn’t grant me full protections under its laws. Society has mapped out expectations and harbored…

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Jose Vilson
LEVEL

The educator Gotham deserves. Architect for a better future. Speaker, activist, and author. https://thejosevilson.com. IG: @thejosevilson