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Colorism is an active problem in the Chicanx/Latinx community

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JUNE 26, 2017

Colorism is very real in the Chicanx/Latinx community.

The amount of stigmatization, erasure and institutional oppression Black and brown folks within the community face is why I had a major problem when seeing Kali Uchis suddenly take on a “brown girl” narrative at her convenience.

See, I’ve been a fan of Kali for a while and know of her and her aesthetic. For her first album, Por Vida, she definitely tried to portray a pale, soft, pastel aesthetic both in her looks and music. Seeing her sudden transition to a new aesthetic that highlights her culture and “brownness” to me seemed like a ploy for her to capitalize off something Black and brown Chicanxs/Latinxs get shamed, harassed and punished for throughout the whole year (as opposed to summer tans).

And so, I used a meme to call Kali Uchis out for what seemed to be the capitalization of her supposed “brownness” and how her positionality in whiteness allowed her to reap the benefits. The response? Peak white fragility with a dash of weaponization of “allyship.”

After Kali Uchis saw my tweets, she posted old (low quality) pictures of herself when she was younger showcasing how “brown” she was back then. I made note of it and decided to include that tweet in my thread and then publicly explained to Kali Uchis that if she wanted to have a discussion on how her sudden changes read problematic, my DMs were open and she’s free to engage.

What happened next was surprising. She entered my DMs with a certain attitude and agenda, though I did my best with calling her in. For the next several hours — yes, hours — I had a continuous conversation with her that included topics about white fragility, positionality of white Latinxs, sun-tanning discourse, distinctions between race and ethnicity and accountability. I am not going to lie, I was trying my best to coddle her white feelings because I felt that if I had been more blunt and honest, she would have blocked me and the conversation would have ceased. Despite my coddling, she was perpetually defensive.

Then came in performative allyship.

Throughout the conversation, Kali Uchis would mention just “how much” she does for BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) to somehow avoid accountability or make it seem as though her mistake was less severe than it really was. This is an issue because she in turn creates some belief that she can do no wrong and that she’s “on our side.” This is why many people have completely stopped using the term “ally” because it tends to create more problems than it fixes.

The usage of the term “ally” is supposed to be a sort of identification, a noun. This is problematic, considering that “allies” do not need the label to do the work, and therefore they center their experiences when calling themselves allies. This also is a way for allies of marginalized groups to separate themselves from the oppressors, in this case Kali Uchis claiming allyship to move herself away from her whiteness.

I’m here to remind you that the word “ally” is a verb, not a noun.

This whole experience has taught me how white Latinxs play a role in the oppression and erasure of Black, brown and Indigenous Latinxs. The silencing tactics Kali Uchis used upon me — along with emotionally manipulating me into deleting the thread that called out her performativity — goes further to show how easy it is to invalidate non-white Latinxs. Power play was definitely used here.

Considering her following and social capital, I immediately felt pressured to abide by her wishes. On top of that, Ione must really problematize the victimization of white women, which includes white Latinas. I genuinely felt bad for being “rude” to Kali Uchis, but then I realized: why was I upset for possibly making a white Latina upset for being critical and honest?

And to throw in a little zodiac discourse, it makes sense that she’s a Cancer. Cancers are infamous for using their emotions to manipulate situations to center their feelings, even if they’re in the wrong. I love Cancers, but let’s just say I am not surprised.

In the end, despite giving her hours of emotional and educational labor, she still hasn’t held herself accountable nor has she released a public apology of any sort. It’s disappointing when people who you looked up to fail to acknowledge their faults. Never hold high hopes for your faves, and never place them on any sort of pedestal, because that mess could come crashing down. Acknowledge talent, but don’t reinforce hierarchies in doing so.

Esperanz is a second-year transfer student studying Chicana/o Studies emphasizing in rural Latinidad at UC Davis. You can follow her up on Twitter and Instagram (@SoyEsperanz)

JUNE 26, 2017