Tag Archives: african-american

-A Genesis of Brown- (early draft: chptr 1)


Chapter One

Sweat was as Pa as the uniform Ma needed spread a sheet over, nights when attempts to wake him off the couch would’ve done little more than rouse a snore.  You watched his sideburn bristle drip into a pour when an envelope took to his hands; beads perspiring from the nose as he went through shirts like cuchifrito does a brown paper bag.

Nobody racked up time and a half like that man; not a police officer, no fireman, nor anyone in sanitation, much less any of his co-workers in the Emergency Medical Service.  Which is probably why he received so much love, as manifested per barbecue and pool party we were invited to attend when Pa wasn’t covering someone else’s weekend.  Navy blue up, navy blue down everywhere we went; patches and the badge.  If your name wasn’t Don Mattingly, no one in this city could say they knew you to hustle more doubles than Resto!

It remained to be seen whether I inherited that same work ethic upon being offered a cut for every job I tagged along to lend a hand with.  After two decades which saw them maintain the kind of camaraderie withstanding every Giordano promotion that set hierarchy between the two, and every Giordano transfer Pa felt pressure to follow, Giordano and Pa went into business together behind his longtime partner’s lead for side-income doing home renovations.  Giordano had the van, Giordano had the plan: he provided the tools he promoted the service he secured the contracts.  Pa covered the labor, which would’ve provided me opportunity to earn money for school books while holding onto one last season of sandlot baseball; and did… until it didn’t.


I never told him why I began to resist, and eventually, ceased lacing up boots all together that summer.  Were it not for the game he saw slash and burn prospects of delinquency, to a future in his boy’s eye, my abled body would’ve had no alternative but to try my newly minted diploma from the get; believe you-me, there wasn’t a request Pa didn’t begin and end a response to with “MORTGAGE” and “CAR PAYMENT!”  So it had to be to the dismayed welling of his own defeat, that despite Pa’s faith in me, I’d eventually turn down his proposal to split earnings for the sake of sparing me some 9 to 5 that might impede on practice.  And it was in a sort of melancholy, projecting to be gracious humility, that I would sooner settle on a fulltime at The Nathan Boardwalk than seek the old man’s recourse.

Save for having to swallow a little sarcasm on my supposed golden arm’s supposed struggle to sand a wall, my decision didn’t draw the kind of reaction I had braced myself for.  Of’course news of the Nathan hiring relieved me of ‘the real world’ speech on his 70 hour work week.. and he did gave off as if convinced I’d keep my promise to continue grinding toward our dream.  Such absence of disappointment at any prior juncture would’ve shown passage for me to whistle off clean;

Stopped, whether by the stoicism contrasting such usual eccentricities as his ever-wincing forehead or how he’d normally clamp his lips curled into his teeth; …or by something more intuitive than the reading his pensive face gave off in its concentration, there was something it seemed, even he felt left to be complete between us.

At second glance I’m at a loss to explain

the space in which I found myself, between

offering up a hug and venting.

Pa had sacrificed for us too willfully to be exposed to the heart of my wallowing; the intensity of those veins and snapping tendons proving harder to detach from than I could have conceived.  To think; how the bills reflecting off the ol’ specs bridged before him bound those providing hands to so demeaning a keep, so obsequiously.  I have to believe he was uneasy as I, hearing what one the other heard, as we worked through the bigotry inundating from Giordano’s shadow the morning that would deter me from returning.  Then again he’d survived nearly half of his life smiling through the shame, absorbing a word his son was just learning the pain of.


Throughout childhood, SPIC, whizzed me by in cacophony with MAMI, TE SIRVO, GRAHAM AVE, LANI!, LET’S CUT THE SHIT, WE’RE FAMILY, THE HIPOCRACY, JACK!, DON’T INTERRUPT ME LET ME SPEAK, DIME CON QUIEN ANDAS Y TE DIRE QUIEN ERES, PHILIP!, UNBEKNOWNST TO ME,   DINKIN’,  CLARO QUE SI, SAM! and IT’S SAD IT REALLY IS…   Especially Saturday nights, when receiving a guest meant the bottle of soda erecting from a spread of Bacardi| seltzer| Tanqueray| and gin was off limits; those of us who’d long built tolerance to a drunken thumb ‘cross the gums testing the hour of company in our own irritable right, Saturday night!

For a time I couldn’t tell it different from any word that wasn’t my name, except that I can’t recall having traced it to a voice other than that of Uncle Ray’s.  When I came upon it’s implication of disdain per the darting force with which he pinned it to neighborhood names that never came up favorably, nothing of its nature notioned it could pertain to me.  Spic, was a lazy ignorant drug addict who lived off welfare, but back then it wasn’t Puerto Rican.  According to Ray it was Carmen flopping a stroller forth with her knotty headed boys straggling shirtless behind.  But it wasn’t referred to Rosa, who wore the same chancletas when she got home and out of her blazer to walk Tito; not usually at least, not unless she in some way gave him the inclination that she thought she was better, needed to be brought back down to earth.  Such ambiguity might explain why it would be years before I found myself processing those four letters relative to my own identity.  (Everyone owned a brown pair of slippers lettering the gold Puerto Rico!)

Back then people were people.  It was a time enriched by naiveté when a child’s bliss was safe.  We played until it was time to eat then were off again after we ate.  Taught it our business to keep out of grown folk’ conversations I was trained on being seen, not heard.  Thus, my listening had adapted to assume a like distance.  For if ever I, stampeding in line past a powwow of elders or swarming in and out a pile of sibling limbs, were pulled to that chat in the kitchen it was when “T O N Y!” hollered out on mother’s whim.


As a seventeen year old elbow resting a palm full of chin, or lollygagging behind, from the ride to home depot < home depot back to the ride for our sheetrock stripped destination, it was no different.  Unless I was present to a mention specific to me, nothing exchanged in Pa-and-Giordano’s discussion drew me aware to it.  The same uncompromising trust my face gave the wind trailing passing scene; that music behind my eyes facilitated from  hammer to nail I glanced between;  was the trust my red light green light 1, 2, 3’s held, uncompromised by noise screaming from the kitchen back in my young’n day.

There was however, that time and again

in which tensions flared on the drink and a counter slammed,

shouting slanted our attention still to it, and

glass broke.

You grow on to the grapple and roll of wrestle-mania from the cowboys and Indians chase.  Then you learn roughhousing earned you a spot on front of the living room television glowing Sabado Gigante when things got carried away.  Didn’t take forever to develop a rapport on how to avoid repercussions of hyperactivity, with a period in which G.I. Joe became the rave half decade before we sedated on video games.  Passivity however is another thing, especially amongst a community in which it could be viewed as weak.  After all, stores selling us Desert Storm Cards to trade during the first invasion of Iraq probably didn’t do as much to tame us as they did to engage us in war.  No doubt it pissed our parents off that a transition to figurines wouldn’t eradicate the havoc to be raised. …Makes me want to go back and lift a mirror to show them who we were the children of;  STOPPP STUPID!, INDIAN GIVER!, LEAVE ME ALONE!, and HE STUCK HIS MIDDLE FINGER AT ME!, caroming off the walls.


Soon as the day came Ma  lit up to Pa divulging Giordano’s arrangement for us to go see a home, things were bound to change.  That mammoth edifice of the old Brooklyn Army Terminal stood in the way of the harbor, across which sprawled suburban pastures to which we couldn’t imagine conforming our ways.  Not that Ma ever pictured us doing so might resemble the manner she frightenly observed children behave during yearly visits to their cul-de-sac for Giordano’s son’s birthday; but that she had us speeched to an impeccable posture, in the balance of which hung privileges and a possible whooping dare we embarrass our father.

Days went by months gone by years past, and nowhere near as long had my refined demeanor come to lasting the guidette cadence Ma adopted an awkward variation of; not nearly as wide as that of my PRAP (Puerto Rican American Princess) knighted sister, had my own Staten Island circle grown; nowhere close to as high had I ever come to imagine our becoming selves, above the selves I looked back on leaving, as brother had, on a past he looked down on being.  There must have been something resisting any like-allowance to succumb to the numbness my family seemed to embrace in overcoming our confronting transition.

Suddenly I was dealing with a heartbeat which had been chased before, but never through the terror of a plight unfamiliar as the wilderness to an urban animal.  The weight of whatever collective adaptation we generated to repress idiosyncrasies within family at home, within our peers of the Spanish congregation at church, amongst classmates pooled at the lunch table end dominated by the accent of our lips, hair and shade;  became the suppression of impulses discouraged from rising with the pride of our rooted heritage.

We had derived from a place from which I recall a scrap between biological sisters being triggered by one’s reference to the other as a “five dollar hoe”; where we arrived at school every morning prepared to fight for our sneakers; glance at the wrong person the wrong way and you could find yourself cradling your skull on the concrete.  Now we were being muscled around by eyes on the bus, stalled on by the doctor and rushed by the deli clerk; observing our parents pussyfoot around signs that our youngest siblings were being singled out and spoken at in a tone adults reserve for other adults.                      …I had never felt so low.


There I knelt, knee deep in a rising tide of rage.  Reaction to insult had always begged a practice in restraint.  Here I faced a turbulence quivering deep in my soul, battling in question as to whether I’d be able to regain cognizance of the sunlight beaming into the patio and the smell of paint overwhelmed in the tension consuming me.  I sooner became afraid I might not be able to stand up straight, than I had become of potentially confronting a man a quarter century my senior.  Thwarted to the ashen planks of my surrounding I’d be missing the mark if I characterize myself having been beside myself – I was so beneath myself.

I had been in the way of that laugh before, now I was at its opposite end; I had accompanied Giordano’s eyes in mine, this time I kept them back from forcing their way in.  Way down binaural drone-deep in double vision, a mirage of references dotting select experiences from my rearing to the moment, framed me pit between a double consciousness that summer Saturday morning…

One which set my soul into mourning while it sang to the sky.   Looking back, that’s got to be the day, I killed my master.   And the spic, began to die.


– Tone.Are  (A Genesis of Brown__ work in progress/ chapter 1)


In All Conscientiousness, Interracial Relationships


Never     have    I ever…   dated outside of my race

WAIT__  Have I ??    Nope ”’WELL, wait…

I’m brought back to a discussion I had the pleasure of taking part in, late July of 2009.  If I recall well it was I, in a circle with three Women under the sparkle of a deep black sky in Cuba.  A Dominican sister, a Mexican sister, and a sister who shared Ecuadorian and Puerto Rican roots.

“Have you ever dated white?” was the question; a prompt which to my surprise had acquired a yes from at least one, and if i am not mistaking, I believe two of the others.  My own response is one I’ve often shocked myself realizing, and in effect, was surprised to observe it not seeming to surprise them; “I have not.”

I say this because while I know each of our four to be some of the most race conscious Latino’s I (or you) will ever meet, through the work they’ve done around Pan-Afrikan history/culture/systems of belief,  those three sisters were bar-none greater engaged in our African ancestry than me.   And when you are that militantly bound to your own, love takes on a significance which speaks to preservation and cultivation of ours.   Though even Malcolm had his past.

Incidentally we’re talking about a conversation on interracial love, on an island whose culture is dominated by food, music, lingual aesthetics and genetic traits that are an infusion of Indigenous, European, and African influence  ;  the Mexicana glistening of red clay; la Dominicana, a beige favoring shade of light brown; and the Ecua-Boricua sister an almost strawberry.

I could go on and give some sensational description of my own body suit but for the sake of de-mystifying my assertion, you may poll that I fall somewhere along the more European end of the totem.

..Which is for me where the question hadn’t then, but does now, in-lie.


My first love was an Afro-Boricua (Black Puerto Rican) sister.  Actually, I stand corrected..  or,      do I ??

Her father was half Syrian, half African-American; hence, he was a Black man of African and Syrian ancestry.  I mean, there are Africans of European descent who identify as racially White (check Dave Mathews).   But he was Black on account of his skin being identifiably (by common U.S. American social accounts) BLACK (dark Brown).

And her mother was Puerto Rican, like me.  ..But, in terms of race, what does that mean?   Sure her skin was ‘lighter’ than you’d probably imagine if I told you she might be a Black woman, but it was something of my own, or darker; a hue that browns like buttered bread on a hot pan come the summertime;   her nose, distinctively high and wide.

Before I was with Indra, I had a brief romance with an east Indian and a longer yet none the less loose commitment with a woman who was Ecuadorian and Dominican.  My daughter’s mother is Dominican and Puerto Rican.  At this current time I am seeing a Black woman born in Liberia.

I have never kissed, exchanged numbers with or courted an Italian, Irish, Russian, English, Greek, German, or any other variation of a Caucasian/ White identified woman.

…But here’s the kicker:  I’m not quite sure that means I haven’t been in an interracial relationship.  Each of the African prominent woman I have been with reminded me that from their perspective (respective of them) I am a white, albeit Latino, male!   Which in essence calls me to reflect on how whether I was conscious of it at the time of our discussion under the gorgeous Cuba sky, or not, I indeed have..  been in interracial relationships?   Only, in the context of race in those relationships, the white individual, was I.


It is a question I will wrestle my whole life to digest, is race.  For a lot of Latinos it is that way.

Despite a shared historical generality in so much as the legacy of colonialism over the western world fundamentally shaped the interrelational reality between peoples;  neither the genealogical nor the social dynamics of race have evolved parallel between the respective northern and southern continental America.  Thus, to some degree  the processing of race  amongst people of the Caribbean, Central and South America  bares complexities  that are unique in contrast to how race shows up in the United States.

My biological father bares resemblance to Tom Selleck and my mother is a yellower Phylicia Rashad.  My grandfather, like my father had straight hair, white skin, a narrow nose and he married my mulatta grandmother.  Great grandma looked like an old Hungarian villager and great grandpa, a Moorish Algerian.   The fact that the three generations  who precede me (the only 3 I’ve had a visual of) in my direct lineage, comprise  what would be by U.S. standards determined mixed race couples, is telling.  Our people have been mix breeding for centuries.  And while taboo whispers do circulate about it, we really didn’t/don’t have the same (past and in some cases still, contemporary) legal and institutional barriers to domestic interracial affairs  that Blacks and whites have faced here in the U.S.

All of this to say that I’m coming from a people for whom  the interracial relationship has been relatively normalized.

If anything it is outside of the microcosm of my nation that I begin to see a more typical apprehension of Puerto Rican’s to embrace non-Puerto Ricans, and that’s a whole other conversation (one focused on the influence of nationalism as opposed to race per se).  It took my daughter being conceived to a half Dominican mother to discontinue the absolute Puerto Rican blood-line I was born into.   A conception that is ironically, although not atypically common considering there prevails for some a prejudicial rivalry of sorts.  By the by diasporic Puerto Ricans have for the most part dated within the nation because patterns of migration re-concentrated us amongst our own.  And if we weren’t dating other Ricans we’ve by an overwhelming margin dated within Latino.  But we’ve been here long enough that a couple of factors have begun to influence a change.  Boricuas in the military and those who’ve gone away for college transition to day to day lives with a more diverse demographic and tend to date outside in higher numbers.   There is also the suburbanization of the Puerto Rican family.  And with every generation born here our culture and the notion of nationhood becomes that much more alien to our youth, thereby distancing them from a notion of family that inherits, values, owns, passes forward the identity of it’s ancestry.

Now, nationality is nationality.  As a Puerto Rican, enlightened to the endangerment we already face (eventually losing our language and customs/identity/history, before being totally co-opted by mainland U.S. citizens locating there)  as a prospective 51 st state,  the Puerto Rican family for me, requires our conscious concern as a people.  Although, I honor choice as an individual right and respect all of my people the same irregardless of how you marry/date/mate.

Race is another thing.  After everything I’ve shared concerning race and nationality I must be careful not to blur the two; I must put forward that normalized relative to the U.S. or not racism remains an issue amongst Latinos in our own right, and that as an Boricua who can come here and ‘pass’ and in fact, as a Boricua who on the island would likely be classified as white, I really can’t speak for Black/Brown skinned Ricans in the context of preservation as it relates to race.   While I acknowledge that I am Afro-Boricua by descendance from a Black Rican greatgrandfather and those who came after, it would be disingenuous and perhaps even dangerous for me to totally deny my white skinned privilege.  I must respect that the struggles intricately specific to   someone like Tego Calderon whose afro ( that I don’t have)  triggers in him a consciousness that might rebuke my notion that interracial relationships amongst Puerto Ricans are somehow without resistance.   No intent of righteousness can pardon me from the reality that in doing so I threaten to co-opt and patronize the struggle of Black latinos.  His idea of preservation might provoke him to protest discovering his sister seeing someone of my complexion.

What I CAN speak to though, is how interracial relationships are informed by nationality when we (regardless of color/race) come over to the states.  And it goes the same for how in a larger scope inter-Latino relationships are emboldened when we come here.  A Puerto Rican living on the island may not imagine he/she can project to be with a Dominican, and vise-versa, but when that same Puerto Rican and that same Dominican comes and lives in New York for five years, we generally find ourselves in the same socio-economic circumstance opposite whites (stratified neighborhood and resources/ prejudices) and the same cultural circumstance opposite African-American Blacks (common language, foods, etc).  Such factors tend to bring us together so that although most second generation Latino Americans remain 100% descended of his/her mother nation, a good many ARE born to a Latino mother and father of different countries.   Then inside of that phenomenon you have the duality of cross-mixing between race unifying across nationality, as well as different races of the same nationality finding love within the nation; and so it goes that Black Puerto Ricans marry Black Dominicans and the more Spaniard leaning Puerto Ricans find love amongst Dominicans of the same phenotype…  while on the other hand a white Puerto Rican who in Puerto Rico may have had little probability of marrying an Afro-Boricua , in New York internalizes a greater probability to marry her because in New York the bottom line is that they are both Puerto Rican!

For Puerto Ricans in New York City, there is an especial history of children born to interracial union with African Americans (and to a lesser but significant degree, even, Italians).  We were really the first dominant Latino group to populate this city (40’s & 60’s), preceded by Cubans but by no comparison in measure.  And of course because we were agricultural and factory workers we settled in the low-income areas of the city Black-Americans had been relegated to in the face of discrimination.  In effect, it was us, and Blacks (with whom we share cultural commonalities per the African influence on the island, in the first place); if you dated outside of the nation the chances are you dated an African American.   It wasn’t until the 80’s that Dominicans began to come in waves, while the 90’s really began to usher in Mexicans and other South and Central Americans.


In light of the historical and cultural circumstances I’ve just presented, the question of interracial relationships takes on broad consideration for me.  Either way, love is in and of itself the determining factor for whatever union manifest between people.  Love recognizes the universal emotions which so define it, beyond any human construct.   So I do not rule out that I’d date or marry or have a child with someone outside of my race or nationality;  but I can by this point in my life assess that it doesn’t seem very likely I’d be able to bond with a white identified Caucasian.. it doesn’t seem likely I’d grow an affinity for Asian women even (although I do favor Filipinas).   But I bare that on nobody else..  that’s just me.

I do however, encourage anybody who does date outside of their nation or race, to keep firm to the things you hold sacred; and to take into consideration that such things as language/customs/history, are the right of your children to inherit.  That your sharing a life with somebody of a different background by no means should command you to drop your identity or to compromise it, and it is up to you to reinforce these things in your relationship;  have that other person respect and accept you, and vise versa.


Tone Are



Marriage has declined throughout our society, but more so for African-Americans, and in particular black women, than anyone else. The shortage of stable and successful black men is a big part of the reason. 

– Stanford Law Professor, Ralph Richard Banks

If a black woman happens to be single, it is not necessarily a commentary on black men as eligible partners or an indication that her ultimate goal is marriage in the traditional sense. Some black women are single by choice. Some are unmarried but are in relationships where they choose to cohabit or live separately. Some don’t exclusively date black men. Some are lesbian, bisexual or transgender and may not be interested in relationships with men at all. Black women are not a monolith. We are diverse, dynamic and have options.

– Angela Stanley of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity

A black woman with a postsecondary degree is more likely to be married than a white woman who dropped out of high school. A black woman with a personal annual income of more than $75,000 is more than twice as likely to be married as white women who live in poverty. White women living in New York and Los Angeles have much lower marriage rates than most black women who live in small towns.

– Associate Professor of Psychology at Howard University, Ivory A. Toldson


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