When I was younger, I used to love the song It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green by Sesame Street character Kermit the Frog. Kermit begins its song by lamenting his green coloration. He was sad and disappointed about his color because the color green blends in with so many ordinary things. Out of despair he ended up wishing to be some other color. He was trying to fit in with the rest of the world. By trying to be more like the others around him, Kermit ended up questioning his own right to be, to live and to exist. By the end of the song, Kermit begins to recall positive associations with the color green. He begins to see himself as valuable and pretty. The song concludes by Kermit accepting and embracing his “greenness”.
In our current society, the White Supremacy Culture has convinced all of us of that the only way to live in the United States of America is by adopting and accepting a binary system of living. All our thinking, actions and reactions are dictated and filtered through this binary way. It is black vs. white, good vs. evil, poor vs. rich. There is no other options nor choices for others to fit in.
As a Puerto Rican I have been denied my “mestizaje”. I am a product of three races: Black, Taino and White European. The blood of my ancestors runs through my veins. The rhythm of “La Bomba” makes me dance of joy and reminds me where I came from! The United States was founded under the White Supremacy Culture and perpetuated thru laws and traditions the oppression of the African American community for more than 200 yrs. A common practice in the United States (specially in the southern states) is the so call one drop rule. According to the one drop rule, any individual with at least one drop of blood was considered to be s person of color (black).
After the murder of George Floyd, thousands of people have joined to protest white supremacy and demand justice and a fair treatment of African Americans by the police force. Under the Black Lives Matter movement thousands of people join the marches all across the country to protest against police brutality and the gross mistreatment and murder of black peoples. As a minister I also joined in some of those demonstrations in the city of Orlando, Florida. As I marched with my brothers and sisters, I did feel disconnected from the collective. I was not allowed to be part of the crowd, instead I was treated as an ally and or a representative of the “brown people”.
Recently, I heard of a young Latin-X sister showed up to a Juneteenth rally with her own homemade sign reminding people that “Afrolatinx Lives Matter”. This young woman is light skinned and probably in the minds of many the “poster child’ for a white All-American young woman. She was later questioned for having a sign that wanted to lift a group often forgotten Black Latinxs . The reality is that regardless of our skin tone for some of us, specially Puerto Rican, Dominicans and Cubans the fusion of three races is what makes us who we are. It is no way to deny our DNA. We are the product of White Europeans, Taino Indigenous peoples and African (from many different countries). Our current thinking of white and black cultures denies us our divine right to exists!
We all have been living in this White Supremacy Culture for generations. Our common culture stands for whiteness and fosters the division in pigmentation among the African American community. This white culture encouraged the division between people with dark skin and light skin. In the Latino/Hispanic community such division also exist and its have been perpetuated in this society that is constantly trying to whitewashed our names, our customs and our native language.
In the United States the white supremacy culture named us “brown people”. This label has been widely accepted by the majority of the population, the media, political system and our own churches as a way to be inclusive of us. To me, it is not the right way to refer about any of us. Calling us brown people is part of excluding us out of the race conversation. Calling us brown people denies our ancestry and our blackness.
According to sensationalcolor.com this is the symbolism and meaning of Gray: “Gray is the color if intellect and of compromise. It is a diplomatic color, negotiating all the distance between black and white. We typically consider gray to be conservative, elegant, and cool.”
Dear brothers and sisters, Latinos/Hispanics people are here to stay. We are part of God’s creation. As people of God, be inclusive and affirming. Open your hearts and your ears to learn about us, to listen to our stories. Open your arms to give us that infamous UCC extravagant welcoming. Stop trying to define us and to white wash our identifiers and cultural customs. Allow us the space to contribute and to be part of the life of the church. Just remember that for most us of, it is not easy to be gray… in a White and Black World!