The Racial Experience of Black People in Puerto Rico and the United States
The author of the article has examined the intersections of what she describes as sexualized, racialized, and gendered people living in Puerto Rico through her experiences both in the United States and Puerto Rico. The author tells the story of her denigration, hostility, and cynicism of being a Black woman both in Puerto Rico and the United States. The main argument in this response paper is that the racial experience for black people is more similar than different both in the United States and Puerto Rico. The writer explains that she grew up in a complex racial system in Puerto Rico where the skin, phenotype, hair texture, social status, skin pigmentation, and heritage are what define race. The people of Puerto Rico do not allow public acknowledgment of racial differences because it threatens the island's class. Furthermore, for her, living on the island meant a culture of racial silence and the contrary would be a taboo. The author also suffered the negative perceptions of inferiority, indecency, and lack of social and cultural status while in Puerto Rico.
Racial Classification in the United States Mainland
On the other hand, the experiences in the United States mainland society proved that the racial classification had severe and distinct ethnic borders which she was familiar with. However, the history of slavery, discrimination, and isolation make the modern racial categories of Black or White qualitatively different from other ethnic groups.
Racial Identity in Puerto Rico and the United States
The first theme the author discusses to illustrate the similarities is racial identity, where racial differences are subdued in the island. The writer explains that in Puerto Rico, the people use imaginary nationalist discourses such as race mixing where African ethnicity is omitted and blackness denied (Rivera, 163). Identifying black people as the other is historically significant concerning race, culture, language, and social class. Similarly, the mainland also has elements of identity issues where their blackness is either misrepresented or erased through local programs. The image of black people transmitted in the airwaves is all negative as the African culture is portrayed as slaves and mammies (Rivera, 166).
The Experience of Female Blackness
Secondly, there is the theme of female blackness, which narrows down to the experience of female blacks. Their experiences in Puerto Rico seem similar to those on the mainland. The black women are described through euphemisms such as high yellow, black, wheat-hued, and medium-brown in Puerto Rico. The people there seem to look at color gradation while expressing their differences in the race, as evident in the euphemisms. The author suggests that the majority of black women on the island do not refer to themselves as blacks regardless of their heavy African ancestral makeup. The women are described with language that is insensitive and indecisive, and the author feels that it is objectifying the black body. The indecisiveness in identifying black women in the mainland is also evident because of the racial fusion where people do not align themselves according to their color. However, the indecisiveness has come with a category of the other which many blacks are associated with, hence leading to oppression and forced grouping in mainland society.
The writer has managed to outline the racial experiences faced by blacks in Puerto Rico and the US mainland. For the two areas, it does not matter your ancestral origin for you to belong to a certain race. They consider people of Afro-Puerto Rican heritage and African Americans the same when it comes to race. They suffer the similar stigmatization, racism, and prejudice which light-skinned Latinos who are not whites do not experience. Even though they are not white, the light-skinned Latinos only suffer discrimination of color. Despite the light-skinned Puerto Ricans suffering discrimination, they are better privileged more than the black-Puerto Ricans. Just as argued by the author, she was considered black first before her Puerto Rican heritage.
Reflection on Racial Identity and Black Women's Experiences
In my view, racial identity is a social construct because no cluster of genes is associated with all whites or all blacks. If race were not a social construct, an individual categorized as light-skinned Latino in the United States would be white in Brazil, Jamaica, or South Africa, and racial categorization would have been constant across the boundaries. Indeed, racial identity can be biased because of the way a person perceives his or her identity can change with experience. An example comes from the author when she says, "I no longer suppress my Blackness, I no longer struggle with the question, 'Are you Black?'" (Rivera, 172). Moreover, it is important for people of mixed races to acknowledge their real identity rather than abandoning blackness. Concerning the experiences of black women, I agree that women are the most victimized when it comes to racial discrimination. Black women are described with more discriminative language and heavily sexualized. The experiences of the author are enough evidence in that regard.
Summary of the Response
In conclusion, the response has identified the thesis, which is the similarity of racial experiences in both Puerto Rico and US mainland society. These similarities revolve around racial identity, which forms the first theme to support the thesis, while the second theme of female blackness is a breakdown of the author's experiences in the island and mainland.
Rivera, Maritza Quiñones. "From Triguenita to Afro-Puerto Rican: Intersections of the racialized, gendered, and sexualized body in Puerto Rico and the US mainland." Meridians 7.1 (2006): 162-182.