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Posted under: Opinion

Heres the Problem with Univision Buying The Root

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As an Afro-Latina, I am often forced to choose just one identity, Black or Latina. The two are seen as mutually exclusive. Even though I refuse to choose one (as I wrote here), it's still hard to explain to people that someone can be both. As a result, the unique voices of Afro-Latinos are oftentimes lost and buried. The union of The Root and Univision has a lot of potential to bring these voices to the forefront, it truly does. But there is a part of me that doubts that this will happen.

Univision, or Univision Communications, is the largest Spanish-speaking media company in the United States.

It reaches about 97 percent of Hispanic homes and owns a vast number of shows from Nuestra Belleza Latina, a beauty pageant, to Despierta America, a morning television show. Basically, Univision is very powerful and reaches a huge audience. The Root, on the other hand, is a popular online presence dedicated to Black culture. With Univision's vast audience, The Root can only increase in popularity and reach a broader audience, which would be a great thing. I think it's important that these two communities come together, obviously, but I still fear their union.   The fact of the matter is that Univision is not known for its diversity. Just look at the majority of Univision actors — they are very European-looking. Rarely will you see an Afro-Latino. Racism within the Latino community is often swept under the rug even though it is pretty prevalent. Just recently, one of Univision's reporters, Rodner Figueroa, compared Michelle Obama to an ape. This racial incident may seem like an isolated occurrence, or that Figueroa is just a bad apple, but the reality is that it's not. In fact, there has been blatant racism in other shows, such as Nuestra Belleza Latina, where the women are often judged based on White standards of beauty.   I recently read an article from The Huffington Post  about the winner of Nuestra Belleza Latina who happened to be an Afro-Latina, and I was so confused because the picture of the winner, Francisca Lachapel, didn't look Black to me at all. I thought the publication had made a mistake with the picture and proceeded to google Francisca. As I read the rest of the article, I was further confused to read that Francisca was made fun of for "her clear Afro roots," which I could barely see. It caused me to wonder what would be said about me if I was on this show. With natural hair and dark skin there is no denying I'm Black.
belleza latina
belleza latina

Francisca Lachapel, the Dominican winner of Nuestra Belleza Latina

Now, I want to say that I have no problem with Francisca identifying as Afro-Latina. In fact, I think it is very important that more people chose to identify as Afro-Latinos. However, I do have a problem that she was made fun of by her peers for her supposedly "clear Afro roots." If someone who has fairly light skin and long straightened hair is being made fun of for being Black, imagine what would happen to someone who has darker skin and natural hair.

There is work to be done

Even though Univision fired Figueroa after his racist comments toward the First Lady, that does not absolve the fact that their programming is led by majority European looking characters and showcases plots with racist undertones.   As it relates to theRoot,  I will have more faith in Univision once it eliminates racist jokes and there is real diversity among its actors. Until then, I hope the leadership of the Root will push for change and remain true to their mission of providing a voice for all Black experiences -only time will tell.

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