Jesse Lee Peterson Urging Amara La Negra to Stop Identifying as Afro-Latina Touches on a Major Issue


If you’re familiar with Amara La Negra, you know that the Love & Hip Hop: Miami star is beyond proud of her Afro-Latina heritage and has used her platform to help shine a light on the Afro-Latinx community, which is often ignored in mainstream media. In fact, she recently made an appearance on Jesse Lee Peterson’s show, The Fallen State, to discuss her Afro-Latina pride and why it’s so important. But things quickly took an awkward turn and Amara was not having it.

Everything about this interview was uncomfortable, from Peterson claiming it took forever to learn how to pronounce her name to the questions he had surrounding Amara’s Black identity.

“I know a lot of people are concerned for whatever reason about if you’re Black or not because you call yourself Afro-Latina,” he said.

Amara responded saying: “I’ve been told that you know I do Blackface and that this is really not my skin color. I actually take melanin shots and I also spray tan to get this shade of Black because I’m really not Black. You know my features don’t match my skin color,” she said sarcastically.

“It’s so weird that some Black people believe that,” Peterson added. “You just said that as a joke but some people actually believe that.”

It’s wild to me that the idea of someone being BOTH Black and Latina is so mind-boggling to some folks that they really can’t actually believe that Amara is really Black and that this is really her skin color. How are we still having this conversation in 2019?

“I’ve actually had to go on interviews where they’ve asked to touch my skin to see if it comes off,” she said. “I’ve done it but deep down inside I’ve been like this is so pathetic and actually it’s a terrible feeling to know that certain places you go you have to prove yourself constantly. But when I say that I’m an Afro-Latina, it’s not as difficult as people make it seem. It means that I come from African descent but my culture and everything else I’m Latina — I’m Dominican. A lot of people feel that you know Africans were only dropped in America, that there’s not more Black people like me in the rest of the world and there is. So you know it took a second for some people to digest that information.”

Here’s where things got real weird.

“You know now that I see you in person, you don’t look like a Black person,” Peterson said. “You look like a dark-skinned Latina or something like that, right?”

Amara at this point looked pretty disturbed and sarcastically responded asking: “Really?”

“Why would you want to call yourself Afro-Latina. Black people are so negative. There’s nothing really good about being an Afro and they pretend to be Afro-Americans when really they are American,” Peterson said.”They wouldn’t even recognize Africa if it drove down the road passed them. It’s such a negative thing. Why would you want to present yourself — if you want to present Latina — why would you want to present yourself with the Afro thing. What’s the purpose?”

Amara checked him real quick by stating the obvious.

“Culturally yes, I am very Dominican. I am very Latina. But you can obviously also tell I am very Black as well… the thing is what exactly does a Latina look like? So if I’m a dark Latina, what does a Latina look like? So what does an African American woman look like? Like me!” she says.

Peterson continues on with his ignorance saying: “There is no such thing as an African American woman, they made that up. They are American, they were born here, but they’re dumb and so they are calling themselves African American.”

The look on Amara’s face when he said that clearly read: “Why did I agree to make an appearance on this show?

He wouldn’t let it go and continued to ask Amara why she decides to identify herself as Black.

“Why would you, a woman like you, you’re so talented. You don’t even look like them. Why would you want to attach that to your name?” he asked. 

Peterson even had the nerve to tell Amara that she would do much better and would be much more successful in her career if she didn’t identify as Afro-Latina. That identifying as Black is essentially hurting her. What’s interesting to me though is that Peterson was essentially trying to encourage Amara — a Black Dominican woman — to deny her Blackness. He was essentially trying to persuade her to deny who she is and try to “pass” because it would make her life a whole lot easier. That is problematic regardless of who says it, but even more troubling coming from a Black American man. 

“No no no no, I will always be Afro-Latina and that’s why I’m an activist. I love my melanin. I love my background,” she confidently said. “I love my race and you know I feel that’s even more of the reason why my name is Amara La Negra, which means, the translation in English will be, the Black. I’m very proud of my color and I know I’ve always had to work twice as hard in order to get my work recognized but that’s fine though.”

Here’s the thing, Peterson is clearly ignorant as hell but he highlighted a ton of issues here. For starters, he proved that even in 2019, there are a ton of folks out there — Black people included — that still can’t wrap their heads around the idea that there are Latinxs who are also Black. They still see these identities as mutually exclusive, which is why so many Afro-Latinxs still don’t see themselves seen or represented in mainstream media. Secondly, he also touched on something political as well, the realities of what happens when an Afro-Latinx chooses to identify themselves as Black. In Amara’s case, she identifies as Black because she’s always acknowledged that she is and has always been perceived and treated in society as a Black woman. But for a lot of lighter skin Afro-Latinxs who maybe aren’t necessarily perceived to be Black in America, identifying as Black can come with a cost. It can be socially and politically dangerous. To be Black in America can literally cost you your life but for so many of us Afro-Latinxs, identifying this way is our way of showing the world that we are proud of our African roots and we aren’t going to allow racism or mindsets that are rooted in white supremacy to shame us from embracing our ancestry and who we are.

Peterson was trying to imply to Amara that if she didn’t identify as Afro-Latina — if she only identified as Latina — that her life would probably be a lot easier and he’s probably right. This would probably also be the case for lighter skinned Afro-Latinxs as well. Sure, we’d probably receive less backlash if we tried to “blend in” or “pass” but at what cost? At the cost of denying who we truly are?

If this interview proved anything, it’s that we still have a long way to go when it comes to not only getting America to understand that not all Latinxs look the same way, but in breaking the systems set up to keep POC oppressed, invisible, and ignored. We have a long way to go but we will never stop fighting.

If you can stomach it, check out the full interview below!

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