“Being Latinx Is Not About Color”… It’s About Being Latinx

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The header of the article “Being Latinx Is Not About Color” in The Mary Sue.

The folx over at @latinxgeeks wrote a short but very concise reply to this article already, and one would think that @desiree-rodriguez’s amazing article for The Nerds Of Color would have cleared any doubts regarding this issue, but it seems that, with this bullshit “article” that @TheMarySue published yesterday, la montaña de mierda won’t stop growing. So, here I come, your favorite Angry Latina Stereotype™, looking for a fight.


Before I start, I want to say this: The Mary Sue has had a long history of being the most White Feminist™ Geeky media, but they usually keep their racism just lowkey enough that most people might miss it. I think the publishing of this article justifying a blatant act of whitewashing should be the final nail on the coffin, and convince y’all to cancel your subscriptions to this publication.

Instead, consider collaborating to Desiree Rodriguez’s Patreon, subscribing to Geeks of Color or Black Nerd Problems, or using your time and money to support and uplift any of the latinxs of color in fandom who are doing great things for our nerdy community. Now…


I’m gonna address Teresa, from The Mary Sue, who decided to write this giant pile of shit and publish it. Dear Teresa, from one biracial Latina to another: ¿Qué te pasa?

I’ll admit that, when I realized she wasn’t a “homegirl,” I was a little disappointed. It’s always nice when professionals with whom you have ethnicity in common are out there doing their thing! Especially when there are so few in comparison to other groups. But, as disappointed as I was about that, I wasn’t upset.

Oh, Teresa, you weren’t upset! That’s so great, I’m so glad that your particular feelings weren’t hurt by the knowledge that, once more, a role that was meant for or advertised as latinx was instead played by a white non-latinx actor. I’m so happy that you didn’t experience the feeling of disappointment, of being robbed, of being cheated that washed over so many fans of color. The fact that you, the sole spokesperson for all latinxs of color everywhere, approve of this casting truly solves anti-latinx racism worldwide.

Because the character of Maggie Sawyer is still Latina.

No, she is not.

That’s how she’s being played and written and advertised. They took a character that was originally white and blonde in the comics, gave the role to a brown woman with dark hair and said “We are making the conscious decision to have this character be a woman of color now”. That’s huge.

She cannot be a woman of color because she is played by a white woman. She cannot be latina because she is not played by a latina. That’s like saying that Scarlett Johansson is representation for Japanese women and that Tilda Swinton is representation for Tibetan people. Was Robert Downey Jr’s super realist blackface representation for Black people? That’s what I thought.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again now, Maggie is canonically white in the comics, and they could have just left her that way. But they chose to explicitly change her into a brown latina, and then went and cast a white non-latina for the role. Desiree Rodriguez, who is infinitely smarter, more educated and, most of all, way more gracious than I am, and wouldn’t step so low as to respond to this flaming fire of an “article”, also said:

“Maggie Sawyer doesn’t represent what being Latina means, or the struggles many Latinas face in America. When Maggie told Alex she struggled being both non-white and queer, it feels like a trick. Lima is able to adopt the identity for various roles but does not have to live with the reality of being Latina in America. Or the struggle of being a Latina actress in Hollywood.”

Like Desiree very clearly puts it, a white non-latina cannot, ever, represent the struggle and experiences of being latina because, get this… she is not latina. I know this sounds wild, really, pero escuchá esto: only latinas can represent the latina experience. Hard to believe, right? That not any random white person with an Hispanic sounding name and a tan can truly reflect the latinx experience… Shocking!

Teresa, who doesn’t have the maturity and grace that Desiree has displayed when discussing this issue with such intelligence and respect, happily linked to Desiree’s article accusing her of “acting as though this [the fact that Floriana Lima is white and not latina] was some huge state secret that’s just been busted wide open”. This is, of course, not at all what Desiree wrote, nor what any latinx fans have been saying. I’m guessing the train of thought of most latinx fans was actually the same as yours, Teresa:

I knew, because I was interested in the actress and I looked her up. You know how hard it was to find out this information? Not hard at all. You know why? Because it wasn’t this huge secret!

The point about the questions, the “snooping”, the mentions to Floriana on twitter, was that we wanted to believe otherwise. I, like many other sapphic latinas of color, thought “damn, maybe she’s just a white passing latina who is… really proud of her Italian ancestry?” I myself respectfully tagged her on Twitter a couple times, with questions along the lines of “hey, Flo, I love your work on Supergirl, and I was curious as to what part of Latin America are you from?” because I really, really wanted to believe that this one time, this only one time out of dozens of times where we’ve been sorely disappointed, the actor cast for the role of a latina was… actually latina.

Of course, Floriana did not reply to any of the many polite inquiries about whether she was in any way latina or not, and instead proceeded to start liking tweets about how she had a right to play a latina because she’s tan, and blocking people calling her out on what is, very much, a blatant act of whitewashing. This is when the anger started, and it’s very much justified anger.

Now, Teresa proceeds in her “article” to clarify that she herself is biracial, and one of her parents is a white latina while the other is a brown latino. Incredibly, Teresa and I have something in common! Just like her, one of my parents is a white latino (third generation Italian-Argentinian) and the other is a brown latina (Indigenous).

Unlike Teresa, who says she is easily recognized as non-white, I am very much a white passing latina, and I acknowledge all the privileges that come with it. Yet, somehow, though my light complexion actually puts me in the group of people who would be more prone to ignore these kind of issues (and I know many white and white-passing latinxs do, because Latin America is a boiling pit of racism, but that is an issue for another day), somehow I am willing to see how the erasure of actual latinxs of color from media affects the latinx community as a whole.

My biggest issue with this article comes into play here: Teresa is, by stating the fact that she is latina and biracial, saying something I am tired of hearing: “I, as a person of this marginalized minority, say this [negative thing] is unimportant and so people outside of this marginalized minority can use my word to defend their bigoted views.

We see this shit every day, with a myriad of issues: women who don’t mind being catcalled, members of racial minorities giving others a free pass to use racial slurs, whatever other example you can think of. And now, Teresa is giving a free pass to white and/or non-latinx folx to excuse the blatant whitewashing of latinxs in media. Just great!

Now Teresa, instead of criticizing the fact that Floriana Lima, the Henrie brothers, Theo Rossi and many other Italian and Spanish actors specifically go to auditions for latinx characters and get the role because they fit the idea of what “A Good Latinx” should look like, goes on to defend Floriana and other actors who do the same shit by reminding us that casting directors can’t ask for an actor’s race.

So all you have to go by is appearance, a name, and whatever the actor chooses to tell you. This actress’ name is Floriana Lima. Based on her name, she could be Latina. She’s brown (darker than I am, in fact!) with dark hair, and so she could look Latina.

Well, Teresa, maybe then we should hold white non-latinx actors and their agents accountable, and demand that they stop fucking auditioning for casting calls that ask for “latinx actors”. Maybe. Just maybe. Maybe we should find a way to stop white non-latinx actors and their agents from taking roles that are already incredibly rare:

Latinos in Hollywood: Few Roles, Frequent Stereotypes, New Study Finds

Latinos in Mainstream Media Are a Disappearing Act: The Latino Media Gap Crisis

Study: Latinos Mostly Ignored Or Stereotyped In English-Language Films & TV

Latino Representation in Hollywood Not Growing, Report Finds

Maybe, just maybe, if white non-latinx actors weren’t auditioning for latinx roles and getting the part instead of actual latinxs of color, Oscar Isaac and Tyler Posey wouldn’t have had to change their names to start getting roles, and Gina Torres would actually be cast as Latina instead of being told that she “doesn’t look” latina. Maybe, just maybe, we should fucking hold white non-latinxs accountable.

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Oscar Isaac, Gina Torres, Lorenzo Henrie and Floriana Lima.

Quoting from my old tumblr:

White Italians like Floriana Lima and Lorenzo Henrie audition for Latinx roles and get them without an issue. Both Lima and Henrie have played around a dozen latinxs each, and Lorenzo himself admits that he auditions mostly for roles a Latino (x / Edit: article is just source for the quote, the rest is a mess).

Meanwhile, Oscar Isaac had to change his name to start getting roles and avoid being typecast in “gangster” and other stereotypical racist roles (x). Gina Torres has spent her career being denied roles as Latina because people “want Latinas to look Italian, not like [her]” (x).  

So no, it’s not okay that these white non-Latinxs are playing Latinxs of color. They are directly complicit in the lack of opportunities that actual Latinxs of color have to face constantly, and they are guilty of spreading a white-washed image of “the good Latinxs” as vaguely tan white people with an Hispanic-sounding name instead of the incredible variety of people we actually are.

But Teresa doesn’t have any intention of holding Floriana nor, apparently, any other “olive skinned” Italian actor accountable for their blatant anti-latinx racism. Instead, she quotes a thread by a non-latinx black person that absolutely derails the conversation.

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The tweets are (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

(This person, by the way, who is not latinx, specifically went after the article Desiree, an Afro-Boricua writer, wrote about the issues of latinx representation. Classy.)

Funnily enough, this person isn’t the only non-latinx wanting to label a white woman as non-white to defend the inherent racism and anti-latinx sentiment in a white non-latina playing this role. Here we have the creator of Carmilla (known to be a very white feminist show, but that’s, again, an issue for another day) talking out of their ass:

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The tweets are (1) (2) (3)

Now, for a quick history lesson, I’m first of all gonna teach y’all something that should be common knowledge by now:

White, “olive skinned” Mediterraneans (Portuguese, Italians, Spaniards) have Arab ancestry, because the Mediterranean was invaded by Arabs seven/eight centuries ago. Some descendants from these Arabs still actively identify as Arab, but most do not. What race are they, then? They are white.

They have assimilated into whiteness long ago and are, in the Western context, white. Race is a social construct, and it’s a social construct built to benefit these specific people. They are white, they have white privilege, they benefit from white supremacy and enforce it. They are even considered “Caucasian” by race anthropology.

Italians colonized, among other countries, Libya, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Portugal colonized Guinea, Brazil, Morocco, Cape Verde and Angola. Spain colonized the Philippines, most of Latin America and part of the Sahara. They participated in slave trade. They enforced white supremacy worldwide.

They are white.

The argument that these people use is that Italians were discriminated in America, and that is true! Absolutely. They were, and they bought their way into white privilege in the span of the last century by aligning with white supremacy via anti-blackness and anti-latinx racism. And, since what I mentioned previously can be easily found of freaking Wikipedia but this might be a bit trickier, here y’all have some academic sources:

Working towards whiteness

Whiteness of a different color

[images: screencaps from the following tweets

  1. @FilmFatale_NYC 1 hour ago: There’s been some really interesting convos around the reveal that the actress who plays Maggie Sawyer on #Supergirl is not  Latina…
  2. ‏@FilmFatale_NYC 1 hour ago@TheNerdsofColor’s essay on Hollywood’s awful track record of casting non-Latin performers in Latinx roles
  3. [Quoted tweet]: @TheNerdsofColor: We were promised a WOC Maggie Sawyer on Supergirl. That’s not what we got. @BoricuaDesiree explains. (link)
  4. @FilmFatale_NYC 59 minutes ago: …and that’s total b.s. The showrunner of #TheExpanse on casting the role of Bobbie Draper, a character of Samoan descent:
  5. [Quoted article]:
    ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Fans of the Expanse books are really excited to see Bobbie Draper onscreen. Tell me about how you found actress Frankie Adams to help bring Bobbie to life.
    NAREN SHANKAR: When you ask a casting director to find a 6-foot half-Polynesian, the response is usually one of stunned silence, like, ‘Really?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah, really.’ We’ve been very conscious about maintaining the ethnic identity of the characters in the book as much as humanly possible. And we were really intent on doing that with Bobbie.We actually looked in the U.K., Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Hawaii, and New Zealand. And when [co-author] Ty Franck saw the first casting tape on her, he said, “That’s her, that’s her,” right away. She’s a professional boxer, as well as being a model and so she had the physicality and a very interesting, unusual kind of face you rarely see on television. She’s awesome and we couldn’t be more delighted to have her on the show.
  6. @FilmFatale_NYC 57 minutes ago:  …the producers of #TheExpanse did a world-wide casting search to find a 6 ft half Samoan woman to play the character of Bobbie Draper…
  7. @FilmFatale_NYC 54 minutes ago:  …yet the people on #Supergirl couldn’t find a Latina actress for Maggie Sawyer – IN HOLLYWOOD? IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA??? Stop it.
  8. ‏@FilmFatale_NYC 1 hour ago: …listen, ya’ll gonna have to try harder than that to try to get over on people with this nonsense. Olive skin does not a Latina make ok?]

Like I said when I was explaining the privilege that white latinx hold, white people can’t experience racism. They might experience xenophobia, and they absolutely might get some misdirected racism, but they… aren’t racially oppressed. Saying a white person with a tan is racially oppressed is like saying a straight woman with short hair who gets called a “d***” suffers lesbophobia. Absolute, complete, total headassery.

By the way, yes, there are white latinx. I guess that Teresa already knows this, but here is a handy link for anyone who wants to learn what latinx actually means.

Now that we’ve cleared this up, and we all understand that white people are white and they do not experience racism in a white supremacist society (right?), let’s move on to the rest of Teresa’s dumbass “article”.

By the way…she’s also not really a lesbian! *gasp* I don’t know that she’s not queer, but I do know that she’s currently dating a dude.

Yes, Teresa, she’s dating a rapist and also, straight women should really stop playing sapphics. We are also an underrepresented minority and have a hard time getting jobs in acting, because, get this, most of them go to straight women. But that’s, again, not the issue of this reply.

Now, Teresa, I really wanted to drag you for writing “and probably no yellow Latinx playing Asians, because Asians are always getting whitewashed anyway. (HEY-oooooo!)“, but apparently someone caught the fact that calling Asian people “yellow” is disgustingly racist and called you out on it before I could get a screencap. Such a pity. But anyways…

I have a lot of trouble with people dealing in the false idea that brown=ethnic and white=non-ethnic, because then, whenever people want to cast a Latinx role, they immediately go brown. When it comes to casting, this sucks for many reasons. It sucks for the non-brown Latinx (we come in literally all shades) who never get cast in roles where they get to explore their lived experiences. You often have white Latinx playing white (or default, nondescript) characters, black Latinx playing African-American, and probably no Latinx of Asian descent playing Asians, because Asians are always getting whitewashed anyway. (HEY-oooooo!)
And this sucks for the brown Latinx because, while they’re always getting cast in roles that are specifically Latinx, there are so few of those to go around. Meanwhile, the brown Latinx are rarely getting cast as anything else.

Maybe latinxs of all races would get roles if, get this… White non-latinxs stopped auditioning for latinx roles? I know that this sounds wild, expecting white people to stop being garbage, but I truly believe it could be possible if we, as audiences, I don’t know… Held white actors accountable instead of defending their racism? Maybe?

Listen, I know I already said all of this before but, since your arguments are all equally nonsensical…

Lima is a brown woman who grew up in the Midwest. She might not be Latina, but just as she “fooled” so many Supergirl fans, her skin color likely shaped how she was received among her lighter neighbors, and so she shares a certain lived experience with certain Latinas. That’s the element that needed to exist in this live-action version of Maggie Sawyer. That’s likely what they saw in her, and ultimately it’s likely why she was cast. I don’t disagree with that, and I’m not offended by her casting.

1) You are not offended by her casting, but many other latinxs are. What part of that you don’t get?

2) She doesn’t share any experience with any latinas because… She. Is. Not. Latina. She cannot experience anti-latinx xenophobia nor anti-latinx racism because she is white and she is not latina.

3) I don’t even want to mention the fact that Floriana literally looks paler than I do when she isn’t tanned, but… She literally looks paler than I do when she isn’t tanned.

If we care about Latinx representation in media, it all starts with the writing. It starts with characters that are specifically Latinx being written, and with stories that aren’t limited to the immigrant narrative.

Maybe… It also starts with Latinxs getting these parts? What the fuck.

You know what? After reading this giant amount of bullshit you wrote, Teresa, I truly don’t think you can be convinced that what you wrote is… well, bullshit. But, in any case, I want to say this to any non-latinx and/or white people who want to take Teresa’s “article” as the word of all latinxs of color everywhere and use it to excuse Floriana’s casting and any similar situations:

Don’t.

  • Casting white and/or non-latinx actors for roles meant for latinxs of color is racist.

  • White non-latinx actors who audition for and accept latinx roles should be held accountable.

  • Maggie Sawyer is not, can never be, good representation for latinas of color because she is not latina nor a woman of color. Period.

  • And yes, Italians are white. Por dios.


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6 thoughts on ““Being Latinx Is Not About Color”… It’s About Being Latinx

  1. The person who wrote that article for the MarySue is a brown Latinx women. We should be allowed to disagree with each other in our own community without being called shitty things for disagreeing. Also, labeling all Italian people as white is very US-centric. The rest of the world views race/ethnicity a little more nuanced than we do here, because it IS a little more nuanced than we make it out to be.

    Like

    • And I’m not saying that there isn’t a problem with casting not Latinx people as Latinx characters, because there is. But maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to attack an actress that is clearly, by looking at her IMDB, only being offered those role because of her appearance. Hollywood needs to get better about casting roles correctly, but othering a brown woman to do so is kind of awful.

      Like

      • 1) If a brown Latina is giving a free pass to white non-latinx to the racist I’m gonna fight her, period. There is no polite disagreement on condoning white supremacy.
        2) I don’t live in the US, I have never lived in the US, I don’t plan on it either.
        3) White europeans are…. white. White Italians are…. white.
        4) Looking at her IMBD, it’s obvious she knows she has a good chance of getting latinx roles over actual latinxs of color and she takes advantage of it. She’s actively complicit in the disenfranchisement of brown latinxs in Hollywood and she should be held accountable. Goodbye.

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  3. Pingback: It’s Not Me, It’s You: My Break-Up Letter to The CW’s Supergirl | you want a revolution?

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