On Latino Anti-Black Bias
with Tanya Katerí Hernández, author of 'Racial Innocence: On Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality
#NuevasPaginasconLupita is a space that is both an archive and resource aimed to "spotlight" Hispanic/Latinx/e authors with newly published books. The goal is to connect readers to new and/or old favorite Hispanic/Latinx/e authors and their books! So give this & every post a share to help us reach more readers!
How does it work?!
Here’s the deal, I came up with a set of casual/random/funny questions to ask each Hispanic/Latinx/e author, I interview. For now, the questions will all be the same but maybe in the future I’ll launch this into more specific questions to the author or maybe I’ll turn this series into a mini-podcast, or maybe……well, you get it! The possibilities are endless.
If you are new here don’t forget to check out all the other amazing interviews! We also have a great line-up of guest authors coming up so make sure you don’t miss an issue by subscribing now!
A friendly reminder that I am an affiliate with Bookshop.org and I may earn a commission if you click through any book links and make a purchase.
Hey Heyyy Book Franz!
I cannot believe it is already September. Wow. I know it’s been a while since I last slid into your inbox but I’ve been busy doing all the things and gearing up to bring you all more interviews! One of those things that have kept me busy is a new project which I know a few of you who just joined the newsletter (WELCOME!) might be here for…….
A BOOK CLUB!
Yes, you heard that correctly, TikTok has talked me into starting a virtual book club. If you haven’t noticed yet, the newsletter landing page now includes a tab for the book club because I’ll be sharing discussion questions/threads once a month, for those that want to join the read-along/discussion. The invitation is open to all and I’ll be linking to videos I record discussing the ‘book of the month’ from TikTok in the discussion threads so don’t actually have to create a TikTok account to participate! But you can if you’d rather join that community discussion. It’s a go-at-your-own place type of book club so if you can’t join us right away and read the book immediately - you can go back to the discussion threads and participate when you are ready. Now that I have shared that news and because I really appreciate you all being here AND to celebrate our community hitting 1,000 subscribers (OMG!!!), I’ll be sharing this month’s book pick with you all first! *Drum roll please*
This month for Book Club we will be reading and discussing SOLITO: A Memoir by Javier Zamora, which is Zamora’s story about his 3,000-mile journey from his hometown in El Salvador across the U.S. border, to be reunited with his parents, at the age of nine. This book has been on my radar for a while now for many reasons but the main reason I was interested and decided to pick it as the first book club pick is that I want to see more stories by Central American writers amplified. Another reason I picked it is a little more personal.
I was two years old when I sat on a stranger’s lap on a bus after my Mamá crossed a river with my 8-month-old brother and me. That is only a small part of the story she has told me about how she got us into this country across the Mexico-U.S. border. There is so much of the story I don’t actually know and though I’ve asked my Mamá to tell me the story a million times- I still can’t seem to remember it. What I do remember is growing up with cousins who were born in the U.S. and who would visit Mexico often. I remember knowing I couldn’t and being sad about it. I remember my Mamá crying and holding herself when she received the call that her mother had passed away and later contemplating returning to Mexico only to realize the journey back undocumented would be too risky. I remember being sad my Abuelita was no longer with us but it’s not until recently that I’ve allowed myself to mourn the fact that we never got to say goodbye.
Reading Solito is bringing those things up for me and more. It’s filling me with so many questions and thoughts and though my parents were able to access a path to residency and later citizenship all before I turned 17 - there’s a lot I haven’t unpacked. There are layers of privilege I’m unpeeling as a Mexican while reading Zamora’s journey from El Salvador at the age of nine. I know many of us have a migration story we might not know about. I hope through book club we can build a safe space and community to discuss those stories or things the book might bring up - that be privilege, classism, nationalism, etc. I really believe this book could lead us through a meaningful series of discussions because it’s a really beautiful book. I’ll be posting discussion questions on October 11th! So grab a copy of the book from wherever you like to purchase books or your local library. For those that enjoy audiobooks, Zamora is the narrator and you can listen along as well! In case you need a link for where to grab a copy - click here.
Okay, I’ve made this super long! I won’t keep you any longer from today’s interview which I know you’ll enjoy because there’s a special bonus surprise at the end. As always - thank you for being here. Thank you for supporting me and building bookish community with me <3
Without further ado, our special guest author today is….Tanya Katerí Hernández author of Racial Innocence: On Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality….
Could you tell me a bit about where this photo was taken? Is it special to your book in some way?
I am standing in front of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem. The research center is named after, Afro-Puerto Rican Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. He was a bibliophile born in 1874, whose dedication to collecting the intellectual production of the African Diaspora, made him one of the world’s premier collectors of Black literature, slave narratives, artwork, and diasporic materials. Schomburg transferred his collection to the NY Public Library in 1926. The Schomburg Center is special to me and the book, because working in a research library dedicated to this important Afro-Latino figure, felt like a way of honoring and continuing his legacy.
Tell me about your book without telling me about your book - share any literary inspirations behind your book! If there are none, the gap you wanted to fill in the literary canon with your book.
Piri Thomas’s memoir from 1967, Down These Mean Streets, was the first book I ever read with an Afro-Latino narrator discussing the complexity of Black identity and anti-Blackness within Latinidad. It was so validating to have a book make visible my lived reality. Marta Moreno Vega’s Altar of My Soul: The Living Traditions of Santeria, presents Afro-Latino spiritual practices as worthy of respect and not something to hide as shameful aspects of Latinidad. The azabache black hand symbol on the cover of my book pays tribute to both of these inspiring books.
What are two central themes in your book that you connect with the most and why?
In my interviews with AfroLatinos from all walks of life, two experiences would always be brought up – hair wars and Latino authenticity challenges. Both resonated with me greatly. “Hair wars” encapsulates the Latino battle against Afro-curly hair that families inflict on their children from an early age all the while ingraining how it is “bad hair” that must be “tamed” and transformed to be a civilized person. Latino authenticity challenges are present each time a fellow Latino looks at an Afro-Latino speaking native Spanish and reacts with surprise and the inquiry “But how do you know Spanish?” The presumption that Blackness and Latino ethnicity are mutually exclusive is something I have frequently encountered.
If a book was home, where would your home be?
Limiting myself to just one book title as my ideal home feels impossible like choosing a favorite child (a parental no no). But a very joyful place for me is the home of books where AfroLatina protagonists are realistically portrayed with racial complexity, but they are still given a romantic happy ending. Mia Sosa’s The Worst Best Man, and now Adriana Herrera’s A Caribbean in Paris, bring me that joy.
If your book was a famous musician who would it be?
Mongo Santamaria, playing the congas with heart and soul. The passion that Mongo brought to Afro-Cuban music generated such pride to be Afro-Latina and unabashed about publicly expressing that. Also that was the soundtrack to my mami’s Saturday housecleaning and a beautiful affirmation of Black joy and hard work.
And of course, el sonero mayor, Ismael ‘Maelo’ Rivera, sang so lovingly about Puerto Rico. Borinqueneando is a favorite, and served as a musical backdrop during some of my revision sessions.
What comfort food could a reader pair with your book?
An alcapurria – a Puerto Rican fritter made of green bananas and yautia (taro root) and stuffed with meat. It is dee-licious! And best of all you can eat it one-handed while turning book pages (or scrolling down) with your other hand.
In what ways has access (or little to no access) to Hispanic/Latinx/e literature defined you as a writer?
It has driven me to make Latino racial realities more visible and relevant to discussions of social justice.
Where can readers keep up with your work?
The best way for readers to keep up with my work is to follow me on Twitter @ProfessorTKH. I will be discussing the book in conversation with community members across the country at various bookstores and I hope to see you there.
Before the interview wraps up, the wonderful folks at Beacon Press agreed to co-host a FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY with me! So if you want to win a FREE copy of today’s featured book (I have FIVE copies to give away!!!) all you have to do is the following: leave a comment that you are interested and would like to be entered below (one comment/entry per person). It’s that simple :)
However, if you want to increase your chances of winning a copy - share this interview by either forwarding the email to a friend or on social media (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok - basically wherever you social media!) Once you’ve done that add a second comment below to let me know you’ve shared the interview as well.
A huge thank you to Tanya Katerí Hernández for taking the time to chat with me about her book! Please please make sure you purchase a copy (or request your local library carry a copy) of her book #SupportLatinxLit!
Tanya Katerí Hernández is the Archibald R. Murray Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law, where she is an Associate Director of the Center on Race, Law, & Justice. Hernández is a Fulbright Scholar who holds a B.A. from Brown University and a law degree from Yale University. She is the author of Racial Subordination in Latin America: The Role of the State, Customary Law and the New Civil Rights Response; Multiracials and Civil Rights: Mixed-Race Stories of Discrimination; and the recent release Racial Innocence: On Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality (Beacon Press). Find her on Twitter @ProfessorTKH.
Synopsis for Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality website:
The first comprehensive book about anti-Black bias in the Latino community that unpacks the misconception that Latinos are "exempt" from racism due to their ethnicity and multicultural background
Racial Innocence will challenge what you thought about racism and bias and demonstrate that it's possible for a historically marginalized group to experience discrimination and also be discriminatory. Racism is deeply complex, and law professor and comparative race relations expert Tanya Katerí Hernández exposes "the Latino racial innocence cloak" that often veils Latino complicity in racism. As Latinos are the second-largest ethnic group in the US, this revelation is critical to dismantling systemic racism. Basing her work on interviews, discrimination case files, and civil rights law, Hernández reveals Latino anti-Black bias in the workplace, the housing market, schools, places of recreation, the criminal justice system, and Latino families.
By focusing on racism perpetrated by communities outside those of White non-Latino people, Racial Innocence brings to light the many Afro-Latino and African American victims of anti-Blackness at the hands of other people of color. Through exploring the interwoven fabric of discrimination and examining the cause of these issues, we can begin to move toward a more egalitarian society.
I'd love the opportunity to read this book! As a Black American majoring in Latinx studies anti-blackness has been a bit of a blindspot in my major education.
Wondering if she is a soul mate... Alcapurria and Ismaelo? Si, please. Member of the Pelo Bueno club since birth. The tighter the curl the better. ;-)