Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bruce Lee vs Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I found this article at Professor Raquel Rivera's website. It is from the Puerto Rican rapero and reguetónero on the topic of race in Latin America and Puerto Rico in particular. While I do not support all of his views in this article, I think it sheds light on how race is viewed from AfroBoricuas.


Tego says skin color's still a major issue for Latinos.

New York Post
February 15, 2007

Just this morning, I was listening to radio host Luisito Vigeroux talking about a movie project that I am working on which co-stars Mayra Santos Febres and he was saying, "Her? She's starring in it?"

Questioning her Black beauty.

I remember, too, when Celia Cruz died, a newscaster, thinking she was being smart, said Celia Cruz wasn't black, she was Cuban. She was pretty even though she's black.

As if there is something wrong with being black, like the two things can't exist simultaneously and be a majestic thing. There is ignorance and stupidity in Puerto Rico and Latin America when it comes to blackness.

In Puerto Rico, Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" was only shown in one theater and unlike all the other movies shown here, there were no subtitles. It's as if they don't want the masses to learn.

But it's not just here - in Puerto Rico - where I experience racism. When I lived in Miami, I was often treated like a second class Boricua. I felt like I was in the middle - Latino kids did not embrace me and African American kids were confused because here I was a black boy who spoke Spanish. But after a while, I felt more embraced by black Americans - as a brother who happens to speak Spanish - than other Latino kids did.

Because I am well known, sometimes I forget the racist ways of the world. But then I travel to places where no one knows Tego Calderón I am reminded.

For instance, when I travel first class, the stewardess will say, "Sir, this is first class," and ask to see ticket. I take my time, put my bags in the overhead, sit, and gingerly give them my ticket, smiling at them. I try not to get stressed anymore, let them stress themselves.

And the thing is that many white Puerto Ricans and Latinos don't get it. They are immune to the subtle ways in which we are demeaned, disrespected. They have white privilege. And I've heard it said that we are on the defensive about race.

Those things happen and it's not because of color, Tego, but because of how you look, how you walk, what you wear, what credit card you have. Then, they spend a couple of days with me, sort of walk in my shoes, and say "Damn negro, you are right."

When I check into hotels and use my American Express they call the credit card company in front of me saying the machine is broken. This happens a lot in U.S. cities but it's not because there is more racism there, it's because they don't know me. When I'm in Latin America, I am known, so it's different. That is not to say that there is less racism. The reality for blacks in Latin America is severe, in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Honduras ...

Puerto Rican (and Latin American) blacks are confused because we grow up side by side with non-blacks and we are lulled into believing that things are the same. But we are treated differently.

My parents always celebrated our history. My dad always pointed things out to me. He even left the PIP (Pro-Independence Party) because he always said that los negros and our struggle was never acknowledged.

Maelo (Ismael Rivera) and Tite Curet did their part in educating and calling out the issues. Today, I do my part but I attack the subject of racism directly.

It makes me so happy to see Don Omar call himself el negro and La Sister celebrate her blackness. Now it's in fashion to be black and to be from Loiza. And that is awesome, it makes me so happy. Even if they don't give me credit for starting the pride movement, I know what I did to get it out there.

Young black Latinos have to learn their story. We also need to start our own media, and forums and universities. We are treated like second class citizens. They tell blacks in Latin America that we are better off than U.S. blacks or Africans and that we have it better here, but it's a false sense of being. Because here, it's worse.

We are definitely treated like second class citizens and we are not part of the government or institutions. Take for instance, Jamaica - whites control a Black country.

They have raised us to be ashamed of our blackness. It's in the language too. Take the word denigrate - denigrar - which is to be less than a negro.

In Puerto Rico you get used it and don't see it everyday. It takes a visitor to point out that all the dark skin sisters and brothers are in the service industry.

It's hard in Puerto Rico. There was this Spaniard woman in the elevator of the building where I lived who asked me if I lived there. And poor thing - not only is there one black brother living in the penthouse, but also in the other, lives Tito Trinidad. It gets interesting when we both have our tribes over.

Black Latinos are not respected in Latin America and we will have to get it by defending our rights, much like African Americans struggled in the U.S.

It's hard to find information about our people and history but just like kids research the newest Nintendo game or CD they have to take interest in their story. Be hungry for it.

We need to educate people close to us. I do it one person at a time when language is used and I am offended by it. Sometimes you educate with tenderness, as in the case of my wife, who is not black.

She's learned a lot and is offended when she sees injustices. She gets it. Our children are mixed, but they understand that they are black and what that means. My wife has taught her parents, and siblings, and they, in turn, educate the nephews and nieces. That is how everyone learns.

This is not about rejecting whiteness rather; it's about learning to love our blackness - to love ourselves. We have to say basta ya, it's enough, and find a way to love our blackness. They have confused us - and taught us to hate each other - to self-hate and create divisions on shades and features.

Remember that during slavery, they took the light blacks to work the home, and left the dark ones to work the fields. There is a lot residue of self-hatred.

And each of us has to put a grain in the sand to make it into a movement where we get respect, where we can celebrate our blackness without shame.

It will be difficult but not impossible.
As told to Sandra Guzman

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Puerto Rican Race: A Reply to Ibrahim Abdullah Al-Boriqee
By, Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani


I would like to answer your question as to my position on Puerto Ricans and race. It has been long overdue that I reply to you on Puerto Ricans and race. If you do not agree with me, then at least you can see the sources from where I am coming. At the very least, these article may help you strengthen your position. Simply stated I would say an emphatic “no” to your question regarding whether or not I see the Puerto Ricans as a “rainbow people.” Before I engage this topic, I will say from the outset that there are several positions out there regarding the topic of race and Puerto Ricans. Therefore, there is no ijma (consensus) on this topic among those scholars who have studied this topic or among the common Puerto Rican people (al-‘amm) themselves. Perhaps the first proponent for the “rainbow people” position was a New York Puerto Rican Felipe Luciano, the former chairman of the Young Lords and an original Last Poet. Interestingly enough, he also held a position of being a black Boricua (see Palante: Young Lords Party, by the Young Lords Party and Michael Abramson). There are many in Puerto Rico, Latin America, and the continental United States that reject the fact that there is a Puerto Rican race.

Race has many different meanings depending upon whom you ask. From the outset, I must say that my understanding of race is based more so upon a sociologist point of view. I hold that race is a social concept that is not based upon biology. Race itself is a topic that is an ever-evolving topic. Where does one demarcate the “us” from the “them” differs in time and place? A search at Wikipedia can give you a good introduction as to the various positions of race that has developed in time and place.

The position that there is a “Hispanic race” is a similar position to the “Puerto Rican race” concept. This concept I also do not believe in. Also, regarding that there is only one race (i.e., the human race), definitely, there is only one race in one sense of the word. However, the fact is that there is this other meaning of race out there that cannot be denied or ignored. I do not think that Blacks had been lynched in the past for anything other than being from a different race than White people. While some of my thoughts on race and Puerto Ricans are influenced by my experience as a non-White person (at least in this society I am) in the continental United States, many of my ideas are based upon a growing movement of Boricuas on the island that are challenging old concepts of Boricuas being a “Puerto Rican race,” “a rainbow race,” or a “Hispanic race.” It is also part of a Latin American movement to recognize African and indígenas cultures in Latin America. The whole concept of hispanism or latinidad is a Eurocentric concept. As far as hispanism/latinidad recognizing the non-European part of our past, it sometimes, at the very least, recognizes the so-called brown (i.e., indígenas) roots of our people. It may also extend to be inclusive of some Black African roots, but this is always conceived as something far, distant, and in the past.

One of the leading academics that put forth the position that we Puerto Rican are a “rainbow” people was the New York Puerto Rican sociologist Clara Rodriguez. She says that she did not coin the phrase, but that it came from Felipe Luciano, as mentioned earlier. Her main work on race and Puerto Ricans is her book Puerto Ricans Between Black and White. See pages 25-35. Her book is available at the following website: .

Also see:,M1 .

You can read an article from her where she defends her “rainbow people” thesis in an article entitled, “Rejoiner to Robert Rodríguez-Morazzani’s "Beyond the Rainbow: Mapping the Discourse on Puerto Ricans and ‘Race’,” by Clara E. Rodriguez, Centro Journal, Volume IX -Number 1 (Winter 1996-97). It is on the internet at: . This is article was in reply to Rodríguez-Morazzani’s “Beyond the Rainbow” thesis found in his article “Beyond the Rainbow: Discourse on Puerto Ricans and “Race,” Centro Journal, Volume VIII, Number 1 & 2 (Spring 1996). It is online at .

20th Century Black Puerto Rican Intellectual on Race

While Rodiguez does not deny blackness in the Puerto Rican community, one thing we cannot deny is that the whole concept of the Puerto Rican race was a concept that, for the most part, upper class, land owning, white Puerto Ricans and light-skinned mulattos conceptualized. Even upper class Afro-Boricuas like Don Pedro Albizu Campos had exposed the concept of a “Hispanic race” (not a Puerto Rican one). His reasoning for accepting such a concept was more grounded in politics then fact. He was organizing in Puerto Rico at a time when he was trying to unite Puerto Ricans of many different racial backgrounds around the concept of nationalism. We can make a comparison of him as a nationalist and President Barack H. Obama who were both trying to see their particular nation as a post-racial society. The recent controversy over Professor Henry Louis Gates shows from many angles how the United States is still no longer a post-racial. Even his mentioning that the Cambridge Police Department “acted stupidly” has raised White Americans anxieties about race.

The question though is whether race has been resolved in Puerto Rico. I do not think it was resolved in Don Pedro’s day nor in our time. During his time, the island’s elites blamed Puerto Rico’s problems on the lower class Afro-Boricuas. In the 1970s and 1980s, the conflict between cocolos (salseros) and rockeros highlights the conflicts of race in the island. (See “Policing the ‘Whitest’ of the Antilles,” by Kelvin Santiago-Valles, Centro Journal, Volume VIII- Number 1 & 2, Spring 1996). In the 1990s and this decade, the issue of crime is seen as one of a problem originating with Black Puerto Ricans and Dominicans (another Black Hispanic peoples) of the island’s ghetto.

Many good articles shed light upon some of the intellectual Black Puerto Ricans of the early twentieth century on the issue of race. One particular article that compares two Black Caribbean men’s (i.e., Marcus Garvey and Don Pedro Albizu Campos) positions on race is the following article: “Two variants of Caribbean nationalism: Marcus Garvey and Pedro Albizu Campos,” by Juan Manuel Carrión, Centro Journal, Volume XVII - Number 1 (Spring 2005). It can retrieved at .

Another good article that compares and contrasts the concept of race between Arturo Shomburg and Jesús Colón is Winston James’ James’ “AfroPuerto Rican Radicalism i nthe US: Reflections on the Political Trajectories of Arturo Shomburg and Jesús Colón” in Centro Journal, Volume VIII - Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring 1996), . Arturo Shomburg is well-known in New York’s African-American community since there is the Arthur Shomburg Library dedicate to him on 135th Street in Harlem. His story is interesting since he was born and raised on the island, and when he asked a teacher in school as to Blacks contribution to Puerto Rican society, his teacher told him that there was no contribution. He then set out to research the contribution of Blacks to Puerto Rico. Again, this story shows how Puerto Rican history has been whitewashed.

One last article that I will mention is “Un Hombre (Negro) del Pueblo José Celso Barbosa and the Puerto Rican “Race” Toward Whiteness,” by Miriam J. Román, Centro Journal, Volume VIII, Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring 1996), .

There are many articles discussing and examining the issue of race and Puerto Ricans. I know this can be a very controversial topic. Many Boricuas do not share the position that I have taken in this regard. My position is simply this – Puerto Ricans are a nation of people that are made up of three main racial and cultural backgrounds – Black African, Iberian Europeans, and Native Americans. All of these races and their cultures have contributed to Puerto Rican culture and society. The African element has contributed more than any other culture, and this contribution is ignored or marginalized. American culture has also contributed to Puerto Rican culture since 1898. Puerto Ricans are not one race. They range from the whitest of white to the blackest of black. Most Puerto Ricans are a mulatto people. That means that most are mixed somewhere between the White race and the Black race. Puerto Ricans that are mixed with the Black race may reach up to seventy percent. I do not like the way that Blackness is suppressed in Puerto Rican society. It is what it is. It is not something to be ashamed of, ignored, or explained away.


To sum it all up, I can say much about this topic. I hope that you will read these articles and develop your own view. You will have to establish membership at Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños before you can access most of these articles. I am not saying that I am necessarily right or wrong. Might I suggest that you start off reading the Centro Journal’s Spring 1996 issue on race and identity. You may want to first read Kelvin Santiago-Valles’ and Rodríguez-Morazzani’s articles. Another scholar that influenced my ideas the most is Raquel Rivera. You can find her book at It is entitled New York Puerto Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). You may access her homepage at :
Her MySpace blog is located at the following: .
By the way, she was raised on the island. I mention that she is from the island you made a distinction between Puerto Ricans (and other Latin Americans) from the island and their concept of race and Stateside Puerto Ricans’ concept in your comment to my last blog entry. While I think there may be some difference on these two Puerto Rican groups’ concept of race, the position I am exposing has its roots on the island among intellectual from the island.

So what does all this have to do with us as Muslims? I think that my position is more pluralistic than the “rainbow people” thesis, even though the “rainbow people” thesis is more pluralistic than many other theses out there, including some that see Puerto Ricans as a white population. I say that because the concept I hold is accepting of various aspects of Puerto Ricans culture, both African and otherwise. There is no one Puerto Rican culture or background, such as there is no one American culture or background. If Puerto Ricans can accept this, I think that they can, at the very least, accept Muslims that are Puerto Ricans. Right now there are those that think that if you are not a Christian that you cannot be a Puerto Rican. On an even higher level, perhaps my perspective on Puerto Ricans can help Boricuas to exam the religion of some of their ancestors, whether it be by way of Spain or Africa. The Muslim contribution to Puerto Rico is great and deep. We just need to scratch the surface and then we can open to topic to the most important topic of tawheed. It does not matter what path one may comes to Islam. I hope that Allah guide all the misguided Puerto Ricans (and all non-Muslims) to accept Al-Islam, Amin.