Posted in personal
January 30, 2019

Being better about Latinx advocacy

In recent months Gina Rodriguez has come under fire for repeatedly putting her foot in her mouth when it comes to advocating for better wages for Hispanics, as well as more roles for Hispanics in media.

And I’m sure there are some advocates who don’t know what you’re supposed to do in order not to offend people.

So Gina tweeted something like ‘where’s our Black Panther?’ when Black Panther came out and that was a huge mistake. First, it was stepping on what is a huge achievement for the African American community. No matter where their lineages hailed from, the story itself (the anger that Killmonger felt, the joy of seeing Black exceptionalism/ Afrofuturism being shared to improve African American communities) is something that is a common experience – as well as something that’s completely unheard of. As a POC, you can wonder that, but at least let the community rejoice and celebrate before you start asking where your piece of the pie is.

And to be honest, it’s difficult to find anything similar as Black Panther for the Latinx community, for a variety of reasons. There are very few Latinx superheroes, much less one with the history of Black Panther. And frankly, the difficulty in trying to find something all encompassing is that Latinx peoples come from a very different cultural background – most African American people were separated from their past, so they came together to build something new. Most Latinx people in the US bring their culture with them. So Caribbean based Latinxs might not revel in a movie like Coco the same way that I did – because the culture is different.

But importantly: Gina’s comment ignored that there was an Afro Latinx actress IN Black Panther. Lupita Nyong’o was raised in Mexico and identifies as Afro Latinx. (And beyond this: the MCU has more Afro Latinx actresses, even if they aren’t playing explicitly Latina characters – Zoe Saldana, Rosario Dawson) Can they do better? Of course. But you do have to be smart about the timing and phrasing of criticism so that you aren’t trying to tear down someone else’s moment by making it about you. Or, that you aren’t ignoring a portion of the group you’re trying to advocate for.

Gina also tried to speak to the wage gap – which outside of Hollywood, is where Hispanic women suffer the most. In Hollywood, that’s a different story entirely. (And she shouldn’t have joined the conversation unless she knew she could speak to it clearly and concisely, because it’s a huge and weighty issue that demands clarity) She’s also said she isn’t biased against Afro Latinos because her dad is, which, well… I can’t speak to his background. But that’s still trying to handwave a mistake by saying you have a black friend, and is deeply cringy.

So what’s the answer?

If you’re a creator, write/produce projects with more Latinx leads. Start campaigns for projects that would include Latinx leads (like, say, Young Avengers). But don’t piggyback on other people’s campaigns or other group’s successes.  (As a producer, Rodriguez can keep highlighting Latinx talent and keep making projects that make us as a community more visible – and keep talking about the gap in representation)

Example? Crazy Rich Asians was a huge success for Asian American actors. But it wouldn’t have happened if the book hadn’t been written.

If you have stories, put them out there. Whether it’s a script or a novel or a comic book – without stories that include Latinx characters, we aren’t going to see ourselves out there. And if you’re someone involved with casting, make characters that aren’t explicitly a minority be one. Whether it is Latinx or not. The worlds on screen don’t reflect the world we live in – do your part to change it.

If you aren’t a creator?  Boost projects of others, and don’t play the “what about me” game.  Black advocates have worked hard to get their projects the light of day, and we need to put in the work, too – not ride of someone’s coattails… and certainly not disrespect where there are overlaps between ethnic groups.  (Because I don’t even have words to start with how frustrating it is to see Afro Latinx people left out of the conversation – since colorism is a huge problem within the Latinx community)

Just don’t be a jerk about it. (It really isn’t that hard)

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