#Xicana4BlackLives: Reflections by Denise Hernandez

“TWO (WO)MEN IN A BURNING HOUSE MUST NOT STOP TO ARGUE”

On the night George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, I had just left an art exhibit. I went alone, wandered around aimlessly, and spoke to artists about their visions and their inspirations. I had prepared myself all week for the verdict. I absorbed the announcement and cried on the way home and into my bed. I ranted for at least an hour to my then-boyfriend, who processed the myriad of rage, pain, hopelessness and exhaustion as a young Black man in the United States.

“What do we tell our children? What do we tell them when they’re told they can be killed for walking home with no culpability?”

I followed the case from the beginning of events. I shared updates and offered insight regularly. I engaged in often heated discussions with friends, family and strangers online. The backlash from asserting the injustice of it all left me emotionally drained most days. Still I continued.

I have been invested in the Black Lives Matter movement from nearly the beginning, after its creation by young, queer Black women in response to Trayvon’s death. It gained unsurmountable traction following the murder of young Michael Brown by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. The movement has taken me more places, both figuratively and literally, than I could’ve realized as a young Chicana with mounting anger; anger that feels like it is seeping through generations. The movement helped me discover myself and place my energy where it felt most aligned. I began protesting more actively and seeking real solutions to the gaping, rancid wounds our governmental systems have created to oppress people of color.

My visceral interest might begin in the familial and friendly relationships I have had since birth with police officers. My mom worked at the county jail, and naturally her friends were cops she encountered regularly. She met my dad there. He has recently retired after serving over 25 years with SAPD. I’m told my favorite song was the “Cops” theme, and I would dance along to it in my diaper whenever it came on TV. Although none of this may justify for many why I feel so embedded in shifting the overarching culture and in dismantling systemic racism, my connections further inwardly reaffirm why I demand to be placed in the middle.

While our histories and struggles may differ in various aspects, our similarities in marginalization, demands for equality and the fight to implement it fairly are irrevocably intertwined.

I believe it is critical for non-Black Latinxs to fight any internal semblance of anti-Blackness every day. It is especially important today to support the Black Lives Matter movement because we all face the same oppressors in White Supremacy. While our histories and struggles may differ in various aspects, our similarities in marginalization, demands for equality and the fight to implement it fairly are irrevocably intertwined. Besides the sociopolitical parameters of the cause, we must support our brothers and sisters in the struggle everyday. We must listen to each other’s stories and experiences. We must continue the work that helps us all: whether through education, conversation, community endeavors, activism, in business, through art and a multitude of various impacts.

In this process, I have unpacked the internal prejudices I inherited as a Chicana caught in the crosshairs of Brown and Black struggle. In my free time, I inhale social history in all ways I can. I attend local lectures, I speak to friends, to our parents and grandparents, and I engage with people from all over on social media. I place my experience as a true minority at a historically conservative, majority White university in the frame of how much more personal this work could become.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been a space where we can listen, absorb and center dialogue to the experience Black people must battle every day of their lives in this modern society. It is a movement that allows for a different kind of self-reflection for those of us who are outside of the Black experience.

My hope is to help create a space for our children to never have to experience the unsurmountable terror of a society that dehumanizes them and their friends. A space where the prejudices we are buried in, those that keep us in anti-Black and colorist mentalities, are non-existent. The Black Lives Matter movement has been a space where we can listen, absorb and center dialogue to the experience Black people must battle every day of their lives in this modern society. It is a movement that allows for a different kind of self-reflection for those of us who are outside of the Black experience. We must continue this awareness, this dismantling of inherent prejudices and this work. All we have is each other.

Denise Hernandez

@DeniseYLosDinos

Dia de la Virgen Lupita
No Body to Return To

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