A Note About Identity and The Light That Guides Us

Jose Vilson Featured, Race

Recently, I wrote on Medium about my racial identity and how my blackness shapes the way I view the world. Observe:

The idea of joy and love as expressed by marginalized cultures gets lost in America. It also stands to reason that many of us who are labeled first- or second-generation Latinx often carry a racial or cultural schema that differs from America, so it’s odd trying to explain someone’s racial understanding to someone who holds steadfast to theirs. For example, the stereotype is that Dominicans hate Black people, but that ignores the plethora of Black Dominicans who’ve offered pockets of resistance all over the island. To some, it also diminishes blackness to an imperial concept where we can only imagine this experience in the context of the United States and not in the dozens of other countries where, yes, we exist.

I didn’t understand the amazing reaction to the piece at first because I don’t often get a chance to uncover these elements of what makes me. I also feel like I dove (not tiptoed) into a discussion around ideas of antiblackness and immigration that are still too sensitive in our culture.

At the same time, if I don’t put it out there, who will?

There’s so much about this mess that came before (and after) the founding of America that’s worth unearthing. There’s a set of critical questions that may or may not get us closer to understanding freedom. Can we appreciate our differences without creating systems of captivity around them? How many “wokeness” goalposts do we create for ourselves that won’t allow us to move forward? How does the conversation between those who define themselves black go beyond the borders that were constructed politically? How much of our conversation is about positioning and less about lifting communities?

I ask these questions because, for all the strife and oppression, we ought to allow ourselves spaces for joy and celebration, to look ourselves in the mirror and love the reflection that comes back to us. Without the interference of the perceptions we believe everyone else has about us.

It’s not that I’m asking us to get rid of racial and cultural labels altogether … yet. I’m suggesting that revolutions are necessarily personal, or else we wouldn’t give our persons to them. The word “body” is in “embody.” We take these elements in at the pace our surroundings say so, and push them out with equal force. I’ve taken in titles like “Dominican,” “Haitian,” “American,” as facts, but it also means I took on the triumphs, wars, and memories that came with them.

I only disavow them when society forces me to perform in the stereotypes set forth. That’s systemic, too. Let’s free us.