To Hell With “Latina-Only” Spaces

by Latina Fatale on 02/16/2011 · 7 comments

in Life, Racism

keep-out_no-entre

The other day I saw a question on twitter, asking Latina followers if a certain facebook page should be a “Latina-only” page. I honestly can’t remember where I originally read the question or which facebook page was being discussed, but for a moment I honestly couldn’t believe that in this day and age this question is being asked.

I had a few interactions and twitter exchanges with a few people over the initial question. I commented that I sure as hell wouldn’t appreciate a “whites-only” type of space and so I personally would never participate in a similar type of exclusion. I posed the question as to whether such divisive practices were productive. A few Latinas tweeted that they thought that Latinas need a space where people can “get us”.

Really?

I understand this perspective. All of my life I have felt that Latinas are silenced and invisible. I know that Latinas and other women of color have been marginalized in the mainstream feminist community. I walk through life with frustration and bitterness from a constant assault of full-frontal racism and sexism. But all of my life I have also known far to many Latinas or Latinos who I don’t connect with, and who possess an ideology that is completely inconsistent with everything that I stand for. These people will certainly never “get me”, nor I will them.

One of my non-Latina bestfriends once told me: “It’s not the color of our skin, but the color of our ideology that counts”. She first uttered these words during the Prop 187 anti-immigrant proposition that was passed in California in the early 1990s. During the political battle that ensued, we noticed Latina/os turning against other Latina/os, while at the same time watched many Whites and African Americans band together and side with Latina/o and immigrant communities.

Although most of my female friends tend to be Latina or African American, I’ve also had one very close White friend with who I have had a stronger connection than I have had with any other woman in my life. Over the years I have observed her fight battles that I have yet to see many Latina/os dare to fight. She has never silenced my perspective, even when what I said may have been critical of the White community. She is a partner and mentor, and graciously even provided Latina Fatale with free space from her internet hosting account as well as technical assistance. Sometimes it’s hard for me even to believe that she isn’t Latina herself, and while in her presence all sense of ethnicity and “differentness” seems to be in limbo.

I can’t imagine ever feeling okay with her being excluded from somewhere because she is not Latina.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t acknowledge that there are far too many implicit (and often explicit) “whites-only” types of spaces out there. It just means that I’m not going to stoop to their level and play a similar game. Instead I’ll try to spend my time cultivating hybrid spaces of unity.

What do you think about “Latina-only” spaces? Do we need them?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy February 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Though provoking. I completely see your perspective on this and agree to a point. I think that in an ideal world, any group that discriminates or chooses members based on race/religion, etc. wouldn’t exist.

The truth is, we all want to feel as if we belong – we want to find people who understand us – and I think that the Latina groups I run in online are not racially exclusive, (since Latinos are not really a race anyway.) It has to do with shared culture and usually shared language (most of my friends speak Spanish, even if not fully bilingual.) … The fact that I’m an Anglo who married into the culture and language yet I’m included and embraced by these groups, is proof of that, I think.

Most of my friends are Latina – usually that is just who I connect best with. That being said, there are plenty of Latinas who don’t “get” me – and I don’t “get” them. We can’t select friends based on such categories when there is so much diversity within the label of “Latina”… It just so happens that my best friend is Pakistani-American, speaks English, Urdu and Punjabi and is Muslim. (I’m Anglo-American as I said, raised Protestant, attend Catholic mass now, but identify mostly as agnostic. I speak English and Spanish.) Despite these major differences in “labels” – no one will ever understand me like her. We’re completely on the same wave length. Like your Anglo best friend, “in her presence all sense of ethnicity and differentness” vanish. Such is friendship.

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Carrie at TikiTikiBlog! February 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm

What Tracy said. And so beautifully.

I appreciate what you are saying and indeed, we would not celebrate a “whites-only.”…but as Tracy said, we as Latinos are not a race.

Reflecting on where I hang out, I have mom friends, college friends, work friends, social media friends — and I hang out with them in public and in private online message boards and groups.

My mostly non-Latina mom friends can’t answer questions for me about raising a bi-cultural daughter like my Latina friends, so I go to that message board, gathering or website for that.

My neighbors can’t talk to me about the latest in the demise of newspapers, so I got to my journalists group in Facebook or Linked In…

We have tribes. Different ones that meet different needs we have…

And that is OK.

I am grateful for the private spaces I share with particular tribes.

Pleasure to meet you…

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Jennifer February 24, 2011 at 7:04 pm

I absolutly agree – although I think it’s great with places for Latinas to come together, this shouldn’t mean that ther groups should be excluded. Being mixed myself (argentine/swedish), growing up with people with different cultural backgrounds, I feel I can move freely within several contexts and I think everyone should be allowed that opportunity, Like Tracy said – in a perfect world no one would be excluded, and this is what we should work towards. But as long as we’re not in that world, we do need places where our culture can be discussed by us and people who are interested in it.

I really njoyed this blog and hope to connect with you soon again

abrazos desde el país de los vikingos

//Jennifer

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Latina Fatale February 28, 2011 at 6:01 am

Thanks for all of your perspectives. I definitely agree that there are spaces that “like” people need to get together, like Latinas. However, I just want to make sure that although they are organized like that, that nonLatina like minded people or allies aren’t excluded from the spaces if that is their interest

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Chantilly Patiño March 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm

This is something that I think about a lot. On one hand I don’t want Latinas to feel “put-out” by non-Latinas, but on the other I feel a strong desire to connect with women who relate to the issues that I also face. Like Tracy said…it comes down to having culture in common. <3

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Latina Fatale March 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

@chantilly definitely, a common culture. The “latina only” thing makes me very uncomfortable because just because people are latina doesn’t mean that they all hold the same ideology. Just like all white people aren’t the same, ya know?

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