Of Tainos and “Tragick Mulattoes”

Last night on Twitter some people descended on my timeline to inform me of my colonialist ignorance. It’s not something I haven’t dealt with before, in person, but the Internet with its anonymity has a way of making people feel brave enough to call strangers things they’d only say during bar brawls and prison riots.

So what happened?

In response to an earlier tweet that said one million Tainos are still alive, I pointed out that the Taino died out, but their descendants are still around, mixed with African and Spanish blood.

The reaction was immediate.

She kept going.

And going.

And going.

Others joined in.  

I was shown this picture to show me the error of my ways.

Naturally, this picture was unsourced, and could easily have been a bunch of actors in costume. Attaching a Wikipedia article to my tweets to back up my claim did not go over well.

The response?

This is how you know you’re having an argument on the Internet, when a picture takes precedent over something that has actual fact. Bad Dominicana evidently wasn’t done, though.

Another young lady, who accused me of being illiterate, later tried to engage me in a conversation to get me to admit I was wrong to say I was black when I am in fact mixed.It goes with out saying ze offered no evidence to support hir claims other than to point out I was wrong. Apparently, by saying a historically true fact (descendants of Tainos are mixed) precludes me from saying I’m black. I guess it does, maybe? But who cares? According to Plessy v. Ferguson, it doesn’t matter if I’m even an eighth black (and I’m more than an eighth), I would still be subjected to “separate but equal” laws. Back in the 19th century, I still would have been a slave, bought and sold just like my darker-skinned brothers and sisters. My life would have been no different, (and is no different), except in addition to the remnants of cultural and institutional racialism I deal with, I hear things like “high yella”, “mullatto”, or my personal favorite, “she think just ’cause she light skinned she white.”

None of the earlier vitriol bothered me much, but this comment she made stung:

If you keep reading this girl’s timeline, she talks about the hardship of being mixed. Sigh. Sometimes you can’t win. Really, the argument is simple. Aren’t elephants descendants of wooly mammoths? Do wooly mammoths still exist? The same applies for populations of people who are (all but) extinct. It’s sad. I wish it weren’t the case. But there it is.

The Taino culture isn’t dead, and I never claimed it was. But 90% of Tainos did die as a result of disease and abuse of the Spanish. That’s a fact. Spaniards married Taino women and had mestizo children in an attempt to whitewash the gene pool and establish their dominance in society. Puerto Ricans and Dominicans are descended from those mestizos and African slaves. These are all facts. They can be a bit uncomfortable, but if we never confront the things that give us discomfort, we will never learn.

At the end of the day, race does not exist; people exist. I am descended from African slaves, Taino Indians, Spanish colonizers, and German immigrants. But this is not who I am in totality. I am a beautiful human. And so are you.

Peace and love to all of you.

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2 thoughts on “Of Tainos and “Tragick Mulattoes”

  1. Oh My Goodness. How do you manage to elicit that much anger from people? What’s really funny is that all those people are people whom I follow and follow me (some people follow back). Do you expect people to prove their case, as it were, over Twitter convo–complete with bibliographic sourcing? LOL! Marjorie that’s not realistic but I suppose no one ever really objectively considers another’s opinion anyways, right. We just hunker down, dig in, and fire shots at one another–like Political Crips and Bloods. Never the less, I see a recurring them in your writing…

  2. The Spaniards married indigenous women to “whitewash” the gene pool? Curious, as their own gene pool had been extensively arabacized (I made it up, okay?). It seems more logical to me that they married indigenous women because they neglected to bring “European” women with them on their teensy little conquistador boats. The average sailor would have had no idea of the “gene pool” anyway. Europe is obsessed with class, not color. The sailors would have been at the bottom of the class ladder.

    Love and sex–not something easily subjected to political ends. Just ask all the wives brought back from overseas by American GI’s after every expedition. As you note: we’re all human. Most of us don’t have long-term agendas like altering a gene pool. We just want a cuddle and a meal with someone who loves us.

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