By Councilor Stephanie Martins
Monday was a sad day for the cause of diversity, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) individuals, and the significant Brazilian population in Everett, especially the younger kids that represent a near-majority our of schools. We cannot talk about diversity and fighting racism when we invalidate the diaspora, the identity, and the experience of other races. Last night while discussing the importance of representation on the Council, I was dismissed by my other fellow colleague of color as a “quote unquote Latina.” The comment, which was dismissive and disrespectful, reflects a sad reality in our communities of color: the fact that color on color racism exists.
For the sake of eliminating any trace of ignorance, I first want to clarify that individuals who speak Spanish in the Americas are Hispanic and Latino, but anyone from Latin America is also Latino. Brazil is the biggest country in Latin America, and I have always been proud to embrace my “Latinidad” and educate others. I am Everett’s First Latina City Councilor, and adding this new lens to our City government has opened many doors to reach previously disenfranchised individuals.
At the end of our meeting, I rose on a point of personal privilege to briefly share my experience, which will not be erased by another Councilor as if one diverse race was more important than the other. I explained that I was particularly proud to be a first-generation immigrant who had to learn English, pass a citizenship test, and work really hard to be where I am and to dream higher as people like me aren’t exactly the type you see in office.
Every day, wherever I go, I still look and sound Latina. That isn’t something that is always received in a positive way. I have had to not take my husband’s last name because I felt it would hurt job opportunities. The world outside does not “quote unquote me,” and the struggle by the Brazilian community and all Latinos cannot be dismissed.
Latinos in America often deal with the generalization that from Mexico down, we are all considered Mexicans. Breaking through the stereotypes and “quote unquotes” to advance has been a continuous and shared struggle. When the Councilor invalidates my experience, she invalidates everyone else’s. If as a first-generation immigrant, I am being “quote unquoted,” imagine individuals who were born here. Are they less of their heritage because of that?
The Councilor abruptly left the meeting before adjournment and did not give my community the courtesy to be heard. Unfortunately, I have experienced other instances of microaggressions by the same Councilor, as have other leaders of color in the city of Everett. When asked about her fellow Councilors colleagues of color during a recent TV interview, said Councilor misrepresented, invalidated, and discredited our work. I can talk especially about my housing work and the fight against food insecurity, which has been nonstop and with a record to show. I have also been repeatedly attacked with defamatory statements during live meetings on Facebook by family members of said Councilor.
When other leaders of color in our mutual circles wonder why I do not show up to support certain political matters associated to this Councilor, this is why. I cannot support someone who promotes a platform that does not include everyone. We cannot fight for our own justice while diminishing others.
All black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are in this fight together. Social justice will never actualize while there is injustice within our own communities of color and between fellow people of color towards each other. When folks are not heard, assumptions are made, and another’s work is invalidated, we have failed our own cause.