Cristina Gonzalez/Staff Writer
Being of dual ethnic heritage or “mixed-race” often means reflecting on what identity truly means. While many feel forced to identify with one ethnicity, others acknowledge that they come from distinct backgrounds and can proudly identify as both.
This is the case for Tranae Robinson, vice president of the Black Student Union at FIU.
“I do understand that some people may not identify as both Black and Latinx; it may just be one or the other, but for me I’m not one without the other, it’s very synonymous for me.” said Robinson.
As a woman who identifies as an Afro-Latina, Robinson understands that there is an intersection between her two backgrounds.
“To me being Afro-Latina means I identify first as a black woman, but I also have that Cuban side,” she said. “Yes, I am Cuban, I have family in Cuba; it means having this little extra spice that adds to your black experience.”
While reflecting on her experiences growing up as an Afro-Latina, Robinson shared the challenges she faced early on.
“I went to private school for a while. The Spanish kids there were very affluent; I wasn’t fluent, so I couldn’t rock with them or build a relationship with them,” she said.
This was the first experience Robinson had with racism.
“I was also this black girl with an afro in a Catholic school,” she said. ” So, I had a girl tell me that she couldn’t be friends with me because she was allergic to the color of my skin. It was my first experience with that. It felt like a double-edged sword.”
Despite the adversity she faced, Robinson said that being Afro-Latina has allowed her to see the world from two different perspectives, that of a black American and a Latina.
“I can bring something different because of those perspectives. I don’t think everyone sees the intersectionality of being black and also being Hispanic. It pushed me to bring a little bit of everyone to the table and not just focus on one or the other,” says Robinson.
According to Robinson, the biggest issue society faces when it comes to racial or ethnic identities is that people are quick to make assumptions.
“I realize what people think when I go out in the street or when people see me first glance; I know I may look black, and I am black but people shouldn’t assume anything,” said Robinson.
In order to alter this type of behavior, Robinson feels that people shouldn’t be afraid to educate themselves and have an open conversation.
“Have those conversations. Ask “Where are you from?” “Where are your parents from?” You can ask these simple questions, but also make sure you don’t discredit someone because they don’t fit your perception of what you view someone that is Afro-Latinx or what your perception of what a Cuban or black person is supposed to look like,” said Robinson.
As vice president of the Black Student Union, Robinson uses her own experiences as an Afro-Latina to push herself to do better.
Robinson acknowledges that she may not identify with every struggle people in her community face, but that doesn’t stop her from working to help and educate others.
“For my work here, I understand that there is something better, in that there is a generational curse that we can break,” she said. “Although I may not necessarily identify first hand, it doesn’t mean that I can’t see your struggle and try to give you hand up and not a hand out. There’s a difference.”
Using her experiences, Robinson wants to continue to challenge people’s perspectives on cultural identity and get them to start an open dialogue.
“We need to have these conversations and this dialogue because it is important,” she said. “That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to do strategy and diversity and inclusion, because it can never happen if there’s no one at the table to talk about it.”