Not long ago I wrote on PopSugar’s (now redacted) article that suggested our social media queen Kylie Jenner held all the best characteristics of various successful Latin women. The article itself was not received well by PopSugar’s readers despite multiple updates to its headline. Instead, after a flood of angry tweets, PopSugar took down the article and issued an official apology explaining the intentions of the article itself.
Of course, by this point, the damage had been done and many were upset with PopSugar’s audacity to suggest a white woman could even remotely be some kind of Latina rag doll mismatched with the best qualities of various women like Selena.
But all was said and done and we moved on – until a couple days ago.
For many this might seem like something insignificant to be upset about; they didn’t say Beyoncé was Latina, just that she was an honorary one, right? Unfortunately, this is only where the trouble begins.
First off, I have nothing against Queen Bey and her awesomeness. She is, by far, a marketing mogul and a great artist; I listen to her frequently. But LM’s declaration as her becoming Latina does away with her identity, which is wrong. As Vibe points out in their response article, by declaring Beyonce an honorary Latina, they are erasing her identity as a Black female. Vibe states it very clearly:
“There’s this thing called erasure. The black woman has long been the most neglected and undervalued person in America. Dubbing Beyoncé “Latina” strips her of her very identity when she is raising her voice against white supremacy and unapologetically owning her blackness.”
Besides this obvious ignorance to who Beyoncé is, LM steps on toes by deciding that they have the right to declare who is what in their identity. We can’t have honorary Latinas just like we can’t have honorary Black women or honorary Arab women. That doesn’t make any sense and actually hurts all the women who are of that ethnicity and/or race.
This brings me to my second point that hits the nail on the head as to why LM’s “honorary” idea is wrong. For decades there has been a stigma against Black or Afro Latin@s in the Latin Community. They have ended up shuffled in the mix and brushed aside for not fitting in either the Black community or the Latin community. Aleichia Williams from the Huffington Post touches on her personal experience with this struggle that still goes on today where people are shunned for being too this or too that. LM could have used this time to speak up on the spectrum that makes up Latin@s because – frankly – we are all over the place.
Rather than declaring Beyoncé an honorary Latina, LM could have honored one of the many black Latinas that are usually missing from mainstream media. Take, for example:
- Gina Torres: actress in shows like Firefly and Suits as well as of multiracial Cuban decent.
- Zoe Saldana: a dancer and actress who is also Puerto Rican and Dominican.
- Rosario Dawson: a strong female who has won a number of awards and is also Puerto Rican and Cuban.
They could have also reflected on past influential Black Latinas like Celia Cruz who shattered glass ceilings and is christened the Queen of Salsa for obvious reasons (if you don’t know, go listen to her right now).
As my fellow friend and Latina writer, Alex Herrera, points out in her Open Letter to Latina Magazine:
“I watch the struggles, I grew up with girls looking for representation while I, a white Latina girl had so many to pick from and so many who represented me.”
Being of paler complexion, I can too attest to fitting the media’s Latina mold much more easily than my friends and, more importantly, my family. My lighter skin and curly black hair was often the only representation of who Latinas were in pop culture.
But this should still not be the case.
Articles like LM’s or PopSugar’s make it seem like being Latina isn’t good enough. In order to qualify as a good Latina, you have to actually not be Latina – and that really is a mindfuck. What is worse about this situation is not simply the honorary aspect, but the fact that Latina Magazine is supposed to be a literary place dedicated to Latinas, and they seem to not be keeping their word. How does that make us feel?
Mad, for one.
This is not okay. Take the time to honor our strong, Afro-Latinas. Don’t declare other people honorary Latin@s simply because they traveled to Cuba, have Latin@ friends, listen to Latin music, or “wish to be Latin@.” That’s not how it works.
Latina Magazine, shame on you.
Images: Death to the Stock Photo; Beyonce/Instagram; Molly Belle/Unsplash