In recent weeks, my heart has been touched by the pain that people of color across the country are feeling. As an Afro-descendant, as a woman, as a Latina, and as an immigrant, I can understand the fear and outrage that arose with the murder of George Floyd. I have experienced these feelings myself.
I was born in La Guaira, Venezuela, and I moved to the United States when I was 22 years old. My first language is Spanish, and I am also biracial. During my childhood, some people always let me know that I was different because of the color of my skin. It was something I had to deal with, but I never experienced the level of racism and fear that I have seen in the United States.
When I lived in Venezuela, it was common to hear people refer to me with words like
negrita (black). Although they said they were expressions of
affection, the truth is that it was a constant reminder that I was different because of the color of my skin. I never heard anyone affectionately refer to another person as
I learned to accept and celebrate those differences. I never saw them as an obstacle, a threat, or something to be ashamed of.
When I emigrated to the United States, I remember that I felt at home, as I met more black people than I did in Venezuela– that was, until I started talking to people and they realized that I was a Latina immigrant; from there, things changed.
In the United States, on many occasions, other people have noticed the color of my skin and even my accent before my own voice.
I constantly came into contact with people who made fun of me every time I mispronounced an English word. At least I am bilingual, I thought.
Even within the Latino community itself I have felt that the color of my skin is a barrier, since a black Latina does not fit the stereotype. Every time I arrive at a place with many Latinos, I feel that they look at me with a certain suspicion; but when I start to speak Spanish, I notice how they smile, relax, and drop their defensive or distant tone.
I understand that the historical context of Afro-descendants in Venezuela is different from that of the United States. In my native country, there was not the fear of interacting with police because of the issue of race. It was not part of my nature to be afraid of the police. I have been stopped by the police a few times, but the institutionalized privilege that has led to events such as the murder of Floyd has created fear that I had not felt before.
I can’t help thinking that if I get stopped by the police, the first thing they will notice will be the color of my skin, and if I open my mouth, they will recognize me as a Latina. Will I be treated fairly?
I am afraid for my father, who is Venezuelan and physically resembles Floyd. I am afraid for my brothers, my boyfriend, and my African American friends. I can’t help thinking that we are in danger.
Venezuela has been suffering for many years from the tyranny and greed of a corrupt government that mistreats its people. I understand that what the United States is experiencing right now is different, and so it pains me that force is being used to suppress the voices of peaceful protesters.
Those who see us as inferior are obviously lacking in love. How can they call themselves Christians if Jesus said:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35
To my brothers and sisters of color, I want to say that we are loved, chosen, and accepted by God and by those who truly know him. I want you to know that I am inspired by your resilience and strength. I look forward to the day when we can live without fear and worship God together in spirit and truth.