I SEE U, Episode 105: Latino Sounds of Anti-Blackness with Fordham Law Professor Tanya Hernández

Legal scholar Tanya Hernández reveals how the politics of race, ethnicity and skin color can impact and influence how communities of color view themselves and discriminate against each other in surprisingly shocking ways.

Fordham Law Professor and author Dr. Tanya Katerí Hernández


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Racism is deeply complex and multifaceted, especially when a historically marginalized group can experience discrimination while simultaneously be discriminatory. Take for instance, the gunman who committed the 2023 mass shooting at an outlet mall some 25 miles north of Dallas; the arsonist who set fire to a mosque in Victoria, Texas; or the former national chairman of the right-wing extremist group, known as the Proud Boys, and his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The perpetrators who carried out these tragic events were all Latino. What do U think would draw Latinos to harbor white supremacist views and why do U think extremist groups are, in turn, embracing them? Join us as I SEE U host Eddie Robinson sits down with acclaimed author, Tanya Katerí Hernández, for a provocative conversation that examines racial beliefs in the Latino community. Her latest book, Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality, explores the challenges and complexities associated with race, skin color, stereotypes and cultural symbols that inform the interactions and prejudices of Latinos in the United States. The Fordham University Professor of Law unpacks a misconception that Latinos could be exempt from experiencing racism or discrimination because of their background or ethnicity. Plus, she shares her vulnerabilities in how colorism plays out in her own family. As a Latino, and a Black woman with a leadership role in academia, Hernández also touches on the recent controversies at major universities, where Black women accused of being ‘diversity hires' with radical race agendas are being pushed out of the workforce. Does she fear for her own job given her focus on race and the law?


Full Transcript

Eddie Robinson: [00:00:00] In twenty-twenty-three. Many were shocked to learn that the shooter at a shopping mall was a Latino with white supremacist beliefs.

News Stories on Mauricio Garcia: We’re learning disturbing details about the racist beliefs of the shooter in Allen, Texas. He had a swastika tattoo on his chest. Authorities have identified him as thirty-three year old Mauricio Garcia.

Eddie Robinson: Another Latino, the leader of the Hate Group, the Proud Boys, is now in prison for his actions on January 6th. How do we make sense of this racism in the Latino community?

Tanya Hernández: Latinos can be racist. It is a part of our own legacies of slavery and anti-blackness.

Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson. Stay tuned for a conversation with acclaimed author.

Tanya Hernández about unmasking the hidden bias of Latinos and other marginalized groups. Oh yeah. I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U.[00:01:00]

You are listening to I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson.

Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley at Town Hall: If you grow up in South Carolina, literally in second and third grade, you learn about slavery. You grow up and you have, you know, I had black friends growing up. It is a very talked about thing.

Eddie Robinson: That’s Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley Defending. A controversial response to a voter at a town hall. The voter had asked a very simple question, what was the cause of the US Civil War? Haley gave somewhat of a convoluted answer about individual liberty freedom for people to be anything they wanna be without government getting in the way. But after her remarks. That same voter gave an astute response to her answer.

In the year twenty-twenty-three. It’s astonishing

Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley and a voter at a Town Hall: to me that you answer that question without mentioning the word [00:02:00] slavery. What do you want me to say about slavery? No, um, uh, you’ve answered my question. Thank Next question.

Eddie Robinson: Nikki Haley is not the first person to say something racist, then declare they’re not racist.

By proclaiming to have black friends, I. What makes it notable is that Haley is not white. She was born Nimrata, Niki, Randhawa to a Sikh family from the Punjab region in India. So was this a simple mistake, an oversight, an overt attempt to avoid talking about race? We can’t know what’s really in our heart, but.

She wouldn’t be the first person from a historically marginalized group to socially distance themselves from terms associated with blackness. Another example of this, uh, leaked recordings of Latino city council members in Los Angeles. They’re [00:03:00] discussing redistricting with extremely racist language.

Council President Nury Martinez. Can be heard disparaging. A Latino L.A district attorney saying, F that guy, he’s with the blacks. She then called a white councilman’s, adopted black child, a changuito, a translation for a little monkey.

Council President Nury Martinez: This white guy with this little black kid who’s misbehaved. Este Niño has no, he’s. They’re not doing that. Yeah, no, they’re not doing. The kid is bouncing off the effing walls on the float, practically tipping it over. There’s nothing you can do to control him. Este changuito.

Eddie Robinson: This anti-black bias among other racial groups might seem shocking to some. After all, how can you discriminate when you yourself are often the recipient of discrimination?

For Tanya Hernández racism is complex [00:04:00] and multi-faceted, but at the end of the day. Groups like Latinos can indeed be racist and benefit from this racism I SEE U. As we welcome the Archibald R. Murray Professor of Law and the Associate Director of Fordham University’s Center on Race Law and Justice. She’s also the author of Racial Innocence Unmasking: Latino Anti-Blackness, and The Struggle for Equality, Tanya Hernández. Tanya, welcome to I SEE U.

Tanya Hernández: Oh, thank you for having me.

Eddie Robinson: Okay, so big picture, this is an issue that we see among all racialized groups in this country, but you focus on Latinos who are actually the largest minority population in the United States, and Interestingly enough.

The first line of your book is Latinos can be racist. You know, what do you mean by all of this?

Tanya Hernández: Well, I use that first line. Latinos can be racist because I wanted there to be no mistake about what the theme of the book was going to be about. I wanted to be [00:05:00] very clear. A first sentence is always very important in a book.

Eddie Robinson: That’s true.

Tanya Hernández: And I wanted also there to be clarity because whenever I use the. The words Latinos and racism or Latinos and discrimination. The presumption is always that I am there to talk about or reflect on the discrimination that Latinos experience themselves. For being Latino in the United States.

And that, of course, is a problem and certainly should be addressed. But that’s not the topic of my research, at least not for this book. And, uh, and part of the difficulty, and hence also the title of this idea about racial innocence, is the notion that Latinos perceive themselves often as not being implicated in issues of discrimination.

They can only be victims. They cannot be complicit and active agents in discrimination against others. And the racial innocence also is a way in which the, uh, perception is pushed [00:06:00] out, uh, onto, uh, the public stage, such that judges and juries and oftentimes even media, uh, representatives do not readily perceive.

The discrimination that Latinos are implicated in, they think whatever the controversy is, that it’s about something else. It’s not about race, it’s about culture. It’s not about race. It’s about language distinctions or confusion or cultural con, you know, clashes. It’s always about something else. It’s never about anti-blackness and racism.

The, hence the idea of racial innocence.

Eddie Robinson: And, you know, I wanna read a quote from your book. Um, to put it all into perspective for me, at least, at a meeting of Latino educators in Colorado, Afro-Latina Marta, Cruz Jansen was met with great hostility and was told. Some Hispanics don’t want you to be one of them because you represent everything they don’t want to be.

How dare this Black woman speak [00:07:00] Spanish and claim to be one of us? They want you to stop saying that you’re like them. I. You know, and this mindset, uh, really captures the essence and the need for a book like this, Dr. Hernández. And, and, and, you know, we really applaud the work that you’re doing with a book like this.

And while the concern should be talking about issues like, you know, lack of funding, school to prison, the pipeline, you know, these folks are concerned that someone who doesn’t look like them or have the same skin complexion is speaking for them. When her lived experience likely shares this very same reality of someone who’s Black, but yet her reaction, her response is intertwined with the very hate that’s plagued, oppressed individuals for centuries.

So, Tanya, how do you interpret? You know what’s really going on here?

Tanya Hernández: Well, you know, the, the quote that you pulled is from, uh, a portion of the book that looks at schools, because I, I look at, [00:08:00] you know, the way in which discrimination manifests itself in lots of different public spheres, the workplace.

Public accommodations like restaurants and hotels and nightclubs, the criminal justice system and the like, and that and that. And that was the, um, portion that had to do with education. And, and I have to say that, you know, even after Twenty-five plus years of lawyering and researching and issues of discrimination, I found that chapter almost the most heartbreaking because it was, uh, Latino educators, principals, teachers, etc.

Being unmasked, as I see in the book, um, for their anti-black sentiments, uh, against young children. You know, not to say that ugliness is better understood when it’s a, uh, across adults, but it just feels particularly heartbreaking when children are the targets. Um, the other thing I wanna put sort of point out about that is that the.

Context also was useful about showing how this is not simply [00:09:00] a cultural battle, right? Uh, between. Some group known as Latinos, as heterogeneous and racially varied as we are, but Latinos versus African Americans, when these issues are talked about, that’s the the limited sphere in which they are examined.

And my book is about anti-blackness writ large, meaning it’s about the way in which Latino anti-blackness harms. Afro-Latinos, African-Americans, west, Indians, Africans, you know, Africans across the diaspora. Um, and so this is more than just about, you know, a battle for resources, a battle for the spoils of whatever exists in our society, right?

You know, this is a deeply entrenched form of racial hostility that emanates from. Latin America, you know, it’s not made in the United States, not made in the USA. It is something that has long, entrenched histories of slavery within Latin America and the [00:10:00] Caribbean. Um, and that’s why when I say anti-blackness, I like to be very clear, right, that it’s much broader right, than any particular, uh, ethnic group.

Eddie Robinson: It is I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson and we’re speaking with Tanya Hernández Fordham law professor and author of the book, racial Innocence. Uh, so Tanya race is a construct. You can. You can be like 80% European, but if you look Black, then you’re Black in this country. You know? We like to think it’s science, but it’s really sociology.

And that’s not to say that it’s also, you know, very real. When you’re talking about lived experiences. What’s your view on how race is constructed in america?

Tanya Hernández: Well, and I think the way in which it’s easier to understand this idea of that race is a social construct and race is not biology. And that academics often say, um, and they presume like, oh, the rest of the, you know, society is readily on board with their, um, academic, uh, language.

But here’s a way in which I [00:11:00] think, you know, to break it down very easily, at least in my view, people tend to think that racism and the stereotypes that. Or developed are all about skin color. Right. That you know, it, it, and if we were all the same skin color, if we all mixed and we all get together and we all look kinda like one middle brownish, lightest shade, that’s always the presumption.


That, that’s what the mix is gonna look like. But anyway, then the, you know, dealing with color is gonna deal with any kind of bias. Right. And what that doesn’t readily understand is that. When you look at how people experience discrimination, the lightest skinned people can still experience racial discrimination because someone thinks that their hair is too tightly coiled, or they perceive the nose as being too broad or their lips as being too big, right?

Eddie Robinson: Mm-Hmm.

Tanya Hernández: Or they’re behind, as, you know, larger than

Eddie Robinson: Mm-Hmm.

Tanya Hernández: Uh, what society deems as appropriate. And in other words, there is a. Racialization process. This is how race is made. We [00:12:00] take an attribute and then we stick all kinds of, uh, presumptions about what it means, right? Um, less intellect, more superiority, you know, whatever stereotype we wanna put on it.

Uh, and it can be on anything. Someone’s hair, someone’s nose, someone’s behind, you know?

Eddie Robinson: Um, yeah.

Tanya Hernández: So that, that’s not about this idea of biology, it’s about the ideas that we superimpose on someone’s biology and that has no rhyme or reason. Now, that’s not to say that racism is not real. Right, just because there’s it, it’s made up in this make-believe land of, oh, I see your earlobe is a little longer than someone else’s earlobe.

And I think that means that makes you a X kind of a race. And X people of the X race are, you know, uh, much better at singing because of that long earlobe. I’ve just made all this up on the spot, is how you, hopefully everyone can tell that that itself is [00:13:00] a way in which, right, we. Operated the make-believe, but the consequences are real. Right?

You know, I, I, um, long ago, remember, uh, reading this quote in which the author talks about sort of race is a social construct as race being this unicorn, right? This like mythical non-real unicorn, but whose but whose horn still draws blood? That was Anthony Appiah actually, who said that. Uh, and so, you know, if you think of, uh, racial, social construct, you know, think about that unicorn wrecking havoc and people having people bleed and die on the street.

It comes from a make-believe, but it has some real consequences when we act as if it’s real.

Eddie Robinson: Let’s dive deep into your background. Yeah. How, how did being an Afro-Latina, you know, play a role in how you grew up?

Tanya Hernández: Well, what it enabled me, I think, to perceive I. [00:14:00] More readily perhaps, than people without that background is we put it that way.

Eddie Robinson: Um, sure.

Tanya Hernández: Eh, the benefits of diversity, um, is that I was exposed to almost like a seeming schizophrenia with regards to race. Within my family and within my community, and I say schizophrenia because you know at one side of, you know, one side of the mouth, right. You know, there would be this elevation of Latinos as superior, right?

To non-Latinos. That is am Americanos Americans, meaning North American Anglo-English speakers. Right. Uh, that we were better than them, um, because we didn’t have racism. Uh, we didn’t, you know, delve into, you know, juxtaposing people, Black versus white. We were all mixed and we were all so proud of our indigenous ancestry.

Right. So proud. But we won’t talk about the other, uh, aspects of it. But in any case, that was one side of the mouth.

Eddie Robinson: Interesting.

Tanya Hernández: Right?

Eddie Robinson: Yeah.

Tanya Hernández: Um, and at the very same [00:15:00] time, sometimes the same paragraph, the same sentence, right. I would hear. Family, friends and neighbors, community members talk about Los Morenos, the Black people, right?

Uh, and you know, depending on how some irritated somebody was, you know, the Black, the anti-blackness could be about African-Americans. It could be about Africans. It could be about other Afro-Latinos, right? So this idea about not having any form of racism at the same time that all this anti-black rhetoric would be, uh, utilized.

It was something that I was exposed to and was very confused by. Right. Um, and my mother would, uh, know, proud Afro-Latina herself. Well, you know, would simply say, well, you know, they don’t understand. Um, this is not how things are talked about, you know, within Puerto Rico, within Cuba, within Latin America, etc. And so, you know, I kind of accepted it as this odd cultural schizophrenia.

What [00:16:00] motivated me to do the research and write the book right was when as a lawyer and legal scholar, I started to see these ideas. Um, you know, Latinas aren’t racist. We can’t be racist, and then harming other people with our racism. Um, when I started to see it surfacing in law cases, I, I would see cases in which.

A Latino comes into court and says, you know, this other Latino, uh, refused to promote me. I happen to be Afro-Latino. They are white appearing Hispanic or white. Identifying Hispanic for all I know. ’cause we got ’em all, you know, within Latin America and the Caribbean. Uh, and it did it based on race very, you know, clear cut.

I was qualified. They didn’t promote me. They promoted some other Latino instead. So you would think this is sort of like, all right, sounds like straight up racism to me, unless you have some, you know, justified business reason for it, like defend yourself with, but rather than coming forward with [00:17:00] a business defense, which is, you know, acceptable for an employer, instead the Latino supervisors would come forward with, but I can’t be racist.

I’m Latino, and where I was infuriated was where I would see that there would be judges and juries that would buy into that kind of position as if it were a legal defense, which it is not. Right? That’s not part of our jurisprudence. Uh, and so I wanted to see was that a one-off? Was that just sort of one weird case?

Uh, one or two weird cases, and that’s what started me on the journey to look at this much more broadly. And hence, you know, look at it within not only the workplace, but education and public accommodations, you know, spaces of public leisure, uh, and the criminal justice system.

Eddie Robinson: If you are enjoying the show, subscribe to our podcast. Look for I-S-E-E-U. [00:18:00] The letter U with Eddie Robinson on your favorite platform. And now you can also find us on YouTube.

Coming up, we continue our conversation with Fordham law professor Tanya Hernández, author of Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias, and the Struggle for Equality.

How does this anti-black bias play out within Latino Families? Plus, can you be Latino and black in America today? It’s a question. Many Latinos like rapper Cardi B, find themselves constantly having to respond to. I’m Eddie Robinson. I SEE U returns in just a moment. We’ll be right back.[00:19:00]

You are listening to I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson. You know when most folks talk about race, they wanna put everyone into neat categories or buckets. Like, this person is Black, this person is Asian, this person is white. But in reality, it’s a bit more complex than that. We’ve been speaking about race and racism with.

A professor at Fordham University School of Law and the author of the book, Racial Innocence, she focuses on the intersection of race and the law. So, Tanya, our audience is listening to this episode, but we’re looking at each other virtually on our computers, and I can plainly see that you’re visually someone of African descent.

Your family is from Puerto, Rico. But [00:20:00] I wanna ask you, do you consider yourself to be a Black woman?

Tanya Hernández: I do.

Eddie Robinson: Huh? Are you Latino? Is it, is it different how you’re categorized in the US mainland versus Puerto Rico?

Tanya Hernández: Well, the thing is that I think that’s often overstated is this idea that Latinos who are visually. Unambiguously of African ancestry, right? Or as my children like to say, blackity Blacks unmistakably Black. That we who are Latino, who look like that, don’t want to say that we are black. Right? I think that it’s interesting, often overstated, and the reason why I say it’s overstated is because sometimes there’s this misperception if someone says, I’m not African-American.

I’m Afro-Latino, that they’re trying to say they’re not Black with that, as opposed to perceiving it as that’s an individual who’s trying to actually be culturally sensitive and appropriate. Right. Is [00:21:00] it different to say that you have a cultural, uh, background and upbringing rooted in African American culture, which of course varies geographically, right?

You know, to say what’s African American in Mobile, Alabama is different than saying what’s African American in Oakland, California, right? Uh, so nonetheless, when you’re talking over simplistically, one can say that there’s an African American right culture. An Afro-Latino who was raised in Puerto Rico, for instance, whose first language was Spanish.

Right. I, I’ll give you a quick example. I got married in, um, New York and I had a caterer that was very good at following my instructions, which were to like serve Afro-Cuban foods and also African-American foods. ’cause we are a mixed family, right? Um, and so I had some dear friends come from Puerto Rico and they were very confused.

When they saw cornbread next to the arroz con habichuela y fricasse, and the reason why they were confused was [00:22:00] because in Puerto Rico cornbread is a dessert. It is not part of a meal. Ah, you don’t put it with dessert. You eat it. You love it. It’s delicious. But the thought is that is not dinner food. That is dessert food.

So that’s a a a way of me trying to sort of articulate, right? You can believe you’re Black, but you can have different cultural attributes of what, how you perceive, what is blackness, what is Black music to you, right? It’s different in Senegal than it’s going to be Right, uh, in the deep south. Right?

They’re different versions of folks. I sell that to say this. So when a La Afro-Latino says, I’m Afro-Latino, I’m not African-American. That’s not. I’m not recognizing my blackness, that’s recognizing that I’m Black, and also that my cultural attachment to blackness is somewhat distinct. Now all of us who live within the United States and become Americanized.

Do we also come to love and be part of [00:23:00] what is African American blackness and culture, of course. Right? That’s part of the beautiful sort of interaction that happens that creates salsa, right, in the 1960s. Um, and so, um, the idea that there’s a deep entrenched desire not to recognize blackness. I, I, I somewhat, I reject somewhat some of that premise. Now are there folks who are light-skinned, who when you say, oh, you know, I noticed you tan very easily in the summertime, um, and that your hair is very, sort of very curly. Yes. Are there people who would say, oh yes, you know, that’s because of my, Taino, ancestors, or, you know,

Eddie Robinson: There you go.

Tanya Hernández: Of course. Right. But we also have that with non-Latinos, right? You mean a refusal or even an ignorance about understanding what aspects of their own culture, their own language, right, is really African descended. We see that across the United States, let alone the globe. But this [00:24:00] idea that Latinos are unique in wanting to reject Blackness, I think in my view at least, that that is somewhat overstated.

Now, does it exist? Yes it does. Right? Are there people who, no matter what they part of their upbringing within the structural rules, in our Latino societies of anti-blackness means that

Eddie Robinson: Great Description.

Tanya Hernández: It’s always about rejecting that. Yes, people struggle. It’s very, it’s hard to be growing up and love yourself when you are raised within societal structures and communities that reject blackness as the, um, embodiment of good, except in its appropriate places.

Appropriate places, meaning you shaking your behind. You’re singing, you are entertaining, you’re serving, then your blackness is viewed as appropriate. Right? And acceptable. Um, but not as part of, you know, what is, uh. An [00:25:00] intellectual source of importance for a society.

Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie robinson and you’re listening to I SEE U, and we’re speaking with law Professor Dr. Tanya Hernández, author of Racial Innocence Unmasking Latino Anti-Blackness, and the struggle for Equality. I’m still curious in terms of, it just seems like there’s this obsession in Latino families over skin color. Uh, before I get to the question, I want to play this audio clip. It’s from, uh, actor Eva Longoria on a podcast that she was recently on talking about her family.

Uh, racializing each other in pretty shocking ways.

Eva Longoria on the Not Skinny But Not Fat Podcast: All my three sisters were blonde. Yeah. And I was the only one that came out with black hair, dark skin, dark eyes. My sisters have ha these beautiful hazel eyes. My mom’s wet out, which is, uh, the white one. They call her Tia Guera ’cause she’s so light-skinned.


And so I grew up as La Prieta Faya, which means the ugly [00:26:00] dark one.

No way.

Yeah. Oh yeah.

Who called you that?

My mom.


my family.

As like a joke?

No, as like it’s an end term of endearment.

Eddie Robinson: Why this obsession? Dr. Hernández with skin color within a family? You know, you might expect someone who doesn’t know you to call you ugly, but not your mother, your own mother. Have you experienced instances where preferential treatment was given to a specific family member based on skin color?

Tanya Hernández: Well, there is a hyper vigilance. With regards to skin shade. Right. Uh, and so that’s why I always my, the fact when people say, oh, you know, Latinos are not racist. They’re all racially mixed and they have all different kinds of shades in their family.

But you know, that’s factual. Right? That we have all different shades in our family. It’s also factual that many other communities have all kinds of shades in their family as well. Right? But this

Eddie Robinson: That’s right.

Tanya Hernández: Theory that we put sort of impose on that. By saying, oh, and the, the, all those shades mean there’s no racism here.

Totally overlooks the experiences of [00:27:00] Iva Longoria and many others in the Latino community who

Eddie Robinson: Mm-Hmm.

Tanya Hernández: Have been subject to family members wanting to police their appearance. Right. Meaning it’s, there’s a hypervigilance about it. It’s noticeable. So all those phrases about. Staying out of the sun, not wearing light colors.

You, you wanna, you don’t wanna emphasize just how dark you are if you happen to be darker-ewed. So you’re not, you should not be wearing white, you know, um, wearing light, you know, light hand, uh, nail polish and what have you. And the reason why those kinds of, um, phrases immediately come to mind is because unfortunately my poor mother, who was the darkest in her family.

Also got policed in that way and was traumatized actually by it. The more and more I did, you know, the research, the more I saw that this was unfortunately part of our own legacies of slavery and anti-blackness. Right. You know, people say, oh, [00:28:00] well slavery was so long ago. Why you keep bringing that up?

Right? And the thing is, is that the logics for justifying slavery. Don’t go away when slavery ends. Right. A whole intellectual apparatus was set up to, to what we call stereotypes, right? To justify why Black people could be subject to slavery and we wouldn’t have a moral problem with it, right? Um, acro across the globe, uh, and those logics don’t go away simply because you have formally right eradicated or abolished slavery without abolishing the racial hierarchies that you thought were appropriate at the time.

Eddie Robinson: Historically speaking, you know, we think about, uh, our, you know, the images that we’ve associated with certain people and, uh, many cultures, for instance, some Dominicans, from what I’ve gathered out of a documentary, I. Uh, that I was watching, you know, with friends of the show, Henry Louis Gates Jr. In his visit to Santo Domingo, there were many Dominicans who simply did not want to identify themselves with [00:29:00] being Black.

And if you look at their skin, the complexion was similar to that of Gates, if not darker. And as they were walking down the street. They came across a shop that featured these vintage figurines, these minstrel black-faced dolls that emphasized these stereotypical depictions of Blacks from back in the day.

And it recalled, you know, the buffoonery of those times.

Juan Rodriguez and Henry Louis Gates – Black in Latin America: Look at this for Dominicans, this represent African heritage samples. Hmm. This is not nothing but sambos. So that explains why people, the way it, they portray Africans. Why a kid would not say, I am African, because that’s what they give you. That’s what they show you.

Eddie Robinson: How much do you think that Dr. Hernández plays into folk’s mental state that Blacks. Are not seen as humans that, you know, our humanity has to be disrupted somehow. And we’re constantly reminded of these [00:30:00] images that are associated with the buffoonery of back in the day.

Tanya Hernández: Most certainly, you know, uh, all the cultural symbols that we are surrounded by that we’re sort of like taking in messages of, but without actually readily appreciating that we all the stuff that we’re taking in that certainly influences us, which is sort, kind of tie this together with your earlier question, Eddie, sort of when When Eva says, oh, you know. La Prieta Faya that was a term of endearment. Um, I wanna kind of address that too. ’cause you might have Latinos in the audience and they’ll be That’s right. Hernández, you see, we say with love. So that’s not racism. Um, and here’s the thing. Lots of things can be said. So-called with love, but that doesn’t mean that it takes away the racialized aspects of what are being said.

Eddie Robinson: Mm.

Tanya Hernández: Like meaning you don’t say, oh, how precious this little white girl. I mean, we got plenty of ways of saying that. We say you’re pretty, and that that in itself is sort of attributing to the person’s whiteness. But going back to the phrases right, the thing about the phrases is that oftentimes what they are are ways to [00:31:00] tame blackness, to put blackness in a more palatable container.

And here’s what I mean by that, right? When a family member, or friend, or what have you is just like, you know, they call you my little Black person. Mi, Negrita, mi negrito, right? My, my, my, my, my. It’s all about saying you are not like the other ones. You are my little Black person, right? I notice your blackness.

Because that matters. Right? I see it and I don’t unsee it. I see it, but it’s not as bad as though and them other black people, because you are in my realm of intimate care. Now, mind you, social science studies have documented, the ways in which within a single family, siblings, twins who happen to come out different shades, get different familial investments. You know, some people get their education paid for. Some people get all the love, some people get all the presumptions of intellect, and that is a raid across a line of pigment, right? Same [00:32:00] family. Same resources, right? But they have their own form of Jim Crow segregation within the family.

So having these phrases, yeah, they exist, right? But it doesn’t mean that even if the person who, the person who’s saying them is someone who purportedly loves you and is sincere about saying they love you, it doesn’t mean that there’s not a racialized aspect. And also go, let’s go back to slavery for a minute.

A very patriarchal. Way in which the phrases are utilized. It’s sort of almost like, you know, the idea of the patriarchy and the paternalism of slavery’s class. You know, my slaves are okay, your slaves are a problem. My slaves. That’s different. They’re mine, right? So this is how you try to make some form of sense out of something that is inherently illogical.

But there’s a pattern here, right? And the pattern is, is that, you know, blackness is always problematic.[00:33:00]

Eddie Robinson: Coming up, we wrap up our chat with Fordham University Law Professor Tanya Hernández, author of Racial Innocence. Several high-profile. Black women in academia have lost their jobs as a Black academic teaching about race. Does Tanya feel pressure to avoid controversy? Is she walking on eggshells when talking about diversity and DEI, or is she nervous of even losing her job?

I’m Eddie Robinson. I SEE U all that and more on our final segment right after this. If you’re enjoying this program, be sure to subscribe to our podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment.

We love getting feedback from our listeners.[00:34:00]

This is I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. We’re speaking with Fordham University Law Professor, Tanya Hernández, author of the book, Racial innocence. I.

So is the face of white supremacy changing? Oh, recent events like a shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas.

News Story about Mauricio Garcia: Mauricio Garcia was a neo-Nazi,

or the riot on January 6th of the Capitol,

News Story About Enrique Tarrio: Miami native Enrique Tarrio convicted with three other Produc Boys members of seditious conspiracy.

Eddie Robinson: Were perpetrated by Latinos men who you wouldn’t call white per se, but who’ve clearly internalized ideas of white supremacy, Tanya. This really reminds me of a recent episode of I SEE U a few months ago where we hosted a panel of Muslim community members from the PBS documentary, a town called Victoria. We discussed the burning of their mosque by a white supremacist.[00:35:00]

Who happens to be Latino, a Mexican-American that embraced this ideology online and to his friends. What do you make of all of this as it relates to these white supremacist views and then we unmask them and then they’re Latino? What’s going on there?

Tanya Hernández: Well, you know, part of what is confusing for so many is first that they think that Latinos are people of color where there are no color distinctions and the, the truth of the matter is, right. You know, Latinos come from Latin America and the Caribbean in which we have, just like in the United States, some of us who are Black, some of us who are white, some of us who indigenous, some of us are Asian, right? We know we got all the racial diversity other United States with in Latin America and the Caribbean, right?

Um, and so. Some of us actually are white. Now, that doesn’t mean every white person is a white supremacist, but that is to say that the ideas of whiteness and white supremacy are [00:36:00] not foreign to us. They are a a two part of our culture. Now, put that into a U.S context. Imagine this, right? You know, a white Latino or someone who very, very, very much wants to be perceived as a white Latino and they’re in the United States in which they learned very quickly, right?

No, no, no, no, no. No matter how light you are, if we see that last, last name and it’s got a Z at the end, right? Um, if, if there’s a Hispanic surname or you speak Spanish, you have an accent, we don’t care.

Eddie Robinson: Right?

Tanya Hernández: If you look like you’re from Sweden, once we know that information, you. Still Right. Are not perceived as superior.

Right. Uh, and, uh, as having as much inherent value to our society, right? As those who don’t have the Latino heritage. So. Imagine yourself within that context, right? And wanting to exercise a sense of [00:37:00] self-esteem racially, right? The quick track to that, right, is to be a complicit and an active agent in white supremacy.

Now, oftentimes people say, well, why would these groups even accept them? Well. F for some of these folks. They’re not even in a group, they’re wannabes. Right. You know, Mauricio Garcia, the Allen Texas, uh, you know, shooter at the Dallas Mall, right. He was not in a group, but he had the tattoos. He had the noasa swastika on himself and what have you.

He wanted desperately to be part of a group, but he was a lone shooter. Right. Then there are those who actually are part of a group. You know, like Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys leader, right?

Eddie Robinson: Correct.

Tanya Hernández: And then it seems to me is another sort of the devilment, right? You know, of white supremacy. These white supremacist leaders within the United States, uh, have been quick to see the ways in which they wanna make themselves be viewed even more acceptable as more like a, It’s a political view, it’s not racism, it’s a political view.

What way to make it look political, to have [00:38:00] those who are non, uh, sort of white Caucasian in the Anglo sense also be part of pushing out the message of white supremacy. I. But even the Proud Boys and all these other groups have been very clear, no African American or people with African American ancestry, right?

There’s a line right in which that is drawn and there has to be police. So yes, you know, there are Latinos who want to be and are accepted within white supremacist organizations, and it’s a way in which some might say they navigate their own resistance to being viewed as non-white. Others who are inferior.

You get to feel more than by saying you have the cloak of white supremacy that you are out there enforcing.

Eddie Robinson: As a professor Dr. Hernández of critical race theory, how do you feel about this growing desire in the last few years to remove. This curriculum from [00:39:00] schools, I mean here in Texas, say the University of Houston, where we’re based, um, this diversity, equity and inclusion concept, right?

These DEI positions and policies have been removed per state law. Do critics of CRT have a point? Does it promote intolerance and divides people Well, you know, why should children, white children, uh, who didn’t themselves own slaves feel responsible for those that did?

Tanya Hernández: Well, I mean that, that’s part of the propaganda about critical race theory, that what it teaches is to, uh, you know, have white children feel bad about themselves and to feel responsible and what have you.

It conflates too much. Right. But the benefit of critical race theory, you know, one, it’s not taught in K through 12, that’s also another part of like the misrepresentation. But I actually think it should be taught in K through 12. It should be taught, I think it should be. Okay, and he, and here’s why and here’s why.

Critical race theory is a way to help children and adults for that matter, [00:40:00] understand the disparities that exist when there isn’t a Ku Klux Klan member with a noose in their hand trying to enforce segregation. Right? Meaning how do we understand the difficulties that our society seems to be still struggling with, with regards to education and the racial disparity in, uh, scores, right?

If we think it’s all about individuals and their individual cultural, you know, respect for education, right? If we take away. All the education, which critical race theory believes doing, providing, giving things a historical and social understanding by giving context, you do not see, there has long been a disinvestment in the public education of children of color.

Then you can’t understand why there’s a struggle with scores, right? If you don’t provide the same kind of investments, if you [00:41:00] do not provide the same kinds of resources, well then of course you’re setting up children for failure. But if we take away those histories of segregation, of disinvestment, all you’re left with is, well, I guess this must be because they don’t one work hard enough.

Or two, there must be something to this biology business we are taking and robbing them of a full education and being able to use their own intellect and creativity, uh, to make the world a better place. But instead of sort of literally whitewashing. Our history. These children are deprived of a very key analytical tool for one, understanding where we have been and being part of the solution to where we can go forward.

Eddie Robinson: This is I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson. We’ve been chatting with Tanya Hernández. She’s the author of Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias, and the Struggle for Equality with Black women in these [00:42:00] prominent university roles. It seems like. You know, there’s this messaging coming across with the media and the journalism of what’s happening with these women is that they’re pushing a diversity agenda.

Three prominent Black women come to mind here. There’s this fiasco of denying tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones at the University of North Carolina.

News Story About Nikole Hannah-Jones: Award-winning journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones was. Denied tenure days after being offered a position as night chair at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Eddie Robinson: While there’s Kathleen McElroy’s bungled hiring at Texas A&M to lead their journalism school.

News Story About Kathleen McElroy: Texas a&M has reached a $1 million settlement with a black journalism professor after the university changed its mind about hiring her.

Eddie Robinson: And most recently, Claudine Gay.

News Story About Claudine Gay: The Harvard president. Claudine gay has announced she is resigning from office.

Eddie Robinson: You know, the accusations of pushing radical race agendas was put forth as reasons to not hire or to fire these women. [00:43:00] As a bipoc woman in a leadership role yourself at a prominent university. Do you feel as if you’re walking on eggshells periodically? You know, constantly monitoring what you should say, what you shouldn’t say as to avoid this notion of controversy that might somehow lead to you having to write a letter of resignation or administration pushing you out, you know, do you fear for your job?

Tanya Hernández: Well, one thing that I learned very early on and, and, and here is because I had the benefit of, um, mentors, right? Uh, older African American Latina mentors who were very clear to me about sort of like what kind of a profession, both as a lawyer and as a legal scholar I was entering into and with the benefit of my mentors, I have long understood that I do not have the, the same luxury.

As some of my peers, right. That is to say, as long as you know, I’m at the top of [00:44:00] my game, the books are being published, like, you know, everything is, you know, excellent, excellent, excellent, excellent, excellent, excellent. Quadruple squared, then I’m fine. Right? The moment that there is a misstep or a perception, right, that there is a misstep I have seen, you know, with, uh, you know, colleagues in other schools and what have you, um, I’m not afford the same luxury.

Of either being able to explain myself or to defend myself. And so, you know, I would be lying if I didn’t say that. That’s not part of a little caution sign that I, uh, have in, in my mind.

Eddie Robinson: You talk about the social distance gap between Latinos and Blacks, is it possible to close this gap, Dr. Hernández, and have these two communities come together for their mutual benefit? How do we get rid of this anti-black sentiment?

Tanya Hernández: Well, I mean, first I would say that the anti-black sentiment is not just about [00:45:00] African-Americans, right? That the anti-black sentiment comes from our histories of having been the region where 90% of the transatlantic slave trade was brought. Right?

Eddie Robinson: Mm-Hmm.

Tanya Hernández: So you talk about what is the history of slavery? It is a Latin, American Spanish-speaking history, where it’s only 3.5% were, were forcibly brought to what we now call the United States. So think about those numbers, but. You know, as it affects and, uh, is manifested within these communities who often live side by side, right?

Um, African Americans and Latinos and Afro-Latinos included therein, we have always had, you know, instances of communal relation fellowship, intermarriage. It’s not that. This doesn’t already exist, that there are community groups that have long been doing this work in Los Angeles, in Boston, in New York and elsewhere.

But what we can’t, uh, no longer do is presume that simply because we are Latino, that that means we don’t have [00:46:00] work to do. When I think that the move forward is to recognize that just like any other group, we have histories and stereotypes, etc. That need to be addressed as opposed to, uh, believing that we get a pass, right?

That, oh, you know, our, our racism is not real racism. If attorney somebody else, if it’s killing a Trayvon Martin, well then it is racism, uh, and it shouldn’t be excused as less, less important, right, uh, than the Klan members. Who only speak English.

Eddie Robinson: Another moving forward question. What can Latino and other non-black people of color do to check themselves before they wreck themselves on their own racism? Do you think privilege is hard for people of color to recognize in themselves?

Tanya Hernández: Well, I think that for Latinos in particular, part of the difficulty often stems from this idea, but. I am the victim of discrimination too, or, uh, I [00:47:00] don’t have documentation. I live in fear of my life every day. I have it worse.

Right? And I think the important thing here is that this is not about an oppression Olympics, right? You know, this is not about who has it worse. This is about recognizing. Where the harm is being done. And that can be multiple sites of harm. And it doesn’t mean that they all don’t need to be addressed.

You know, I care about, you know, children in cages at the border, just as much as I care about anti-blackness. One doesn’t have to come at the cost of the other. And I think that part of the problem that we often have with sort of within communities of color is this defense mechanism of. Oh, if I acknowledge, you know, that anti-blackness is a problem, then I’m denying that, you know, my own struggles or those of my ancestors, you know, don’t have importance, uh, to be recognized.

And I think that that’s viewing this always is a zero-sum gain. You know, that recognizing and valorizing. The importance of recognition means that it can only be [00:48:00] done at the sacrifice of someone else’s recognition. I think, you know, we need to kind of broaden our horizons, you know, just like a parent has unlimited love for all the children, right?

Eddie Robinson: Mm-Hmm.

Tanya Hernández: You can also, you know, there’s not a limit on wanting to be in fellowship and recognizing the importance of not harming one another. Whatever systems and structures that that may come from.

Eddie Robinson: What lessons Dr. Hernández have you learned about yourself thus far as you’ve been doing this work, and especially as the politics of race become ever more contentious?

What lessons have you learned about yourself thus far?

Tanya Hernández: Well, I, I mean, I guess it is a lesson about myself. I, I had not anticipated when I wrote the book, right. I got myself braced for an, on an onslaught of like, ah, you’re wrong, or, ah, she’s racist. Ah, and, and that came, so, you know, so I was, it was appropriate to brace myself for that, [00:49:00] what I was not ready for, what I had not, for whatever reason, anticipated was.

The emotional, uh, response that the book would bring out for people. You know, I get folks from all corners who reach out and write me, or I see them at, they come to like bookstore events with a book they already read a long time ago. Dog-eared with marks and you know, it’s, well-loved, there’s coffee stains on it and everything, you know, in tears, right?

And I had not realized that I would be viewed as this locus of representation about the realities of anti-blackness. And I think that part of that is because, you know, I have viewed myself as for so long as like lawyer-Warrior. Activist scholar, but not necessarily as a spokesperson. Being able to lift up these voices of, for [00:50:00] folks who have been feeling harmed for so long, or who have been in fellowship with those who have been harmed, or, you know, it’s not just Afro-Latinos who come forward, um, to me, you know, Latinos of all hues, right?

But. They love and care about these issues and the people in their lives. And so I, I have to say, that was a real sort of learning process for me. ’cause you know what happened at a couple events, I was like, oh, okay, well this is interesting. All right. And it, it, the book has been out for some time now. So I have to say that has been something, a, a new view, sort of, of what my role is in the world has come to me in this journey.

Eddie Robinson: I’m just grateful that we have these kinds of conversations, Dr. Hernández, and they’re rational and we have a book I. That does a great job of speaking out against those efforts that might turn us all against each other. So for that, we thank you. Her name is Tanya Hernández, the Archibald R. Murray professor of law and the [00:51:00] Associate Director of Fordham University Center on Race, Law and Justice.

And the author of Racial Innocence: Unmasking, Latino Anti-Blackness, and the Struggle for Equality. Dr. Hernández, thank you so much for being a guest on I SEE U.

Tanya Hernández: Gracias Eddie. Thank you for having me.

Eddie Robinson: Our incredible team includes technical director, Todd Hulslander producers Laura Walker and Mincho Jacob. Special thanks to Ray Nunez and Fordham University School of Law. I SEE U is a production of Houston Public Media. Visit I SEE Ushow.org. For more information about each episode and to find links to our social media channels, subscribe to our podcast on your favorite platform.

Look for I-S-E-E-U. It’s the Letter U, with Eddie Robinson. You can also [00:52:00] now find us on YouTube. I’m your host and executive producer, Eddie Robinson, and I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time.


This article is part of the podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson

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