Exploring the concept of ethnoracial dissonance and its impact on Afro-Latine people, Melanie Garcia ’22 delivered her Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) presentation, “Clouded Intersections: Ethnoracial Dissonance in Afro-Latine Individuals.” The presentation was held in Kemper Auditorium on February 4.
Ethnoracial dissonance is a feeling of disidentification with the rigid racial and ethnic constructs in society, according to Garcia. In her presentation, Garcia examined the concept of ethnoracial dissonance to Latine people of African descent or Afro-Latines. She explained that many Afro-Latines struggle to identify as both Black and Latine because of how race is seen and treated in the U.S. She added that educating more people about ethnoracial dissonance can help them better understand their own identities, as well as those of their peers.
Garcia said, “The problem in the United States is that the way that we’ve constructed race is very specific and also very restrictive sometimes, so it makes it difficult for people of certain identities, including Afro-Latines, to identify within those racial constructs … I think this leads to a lot of confusion, a lot of uncertainty of where you belong, who you are, and what your history is. And I think learning about it can help you understand a little bit more about this, about yourself, about the intersections of your identities, and about the privilege you do and don’t have.”
Garcia was first inspired to conduct her research by her own experience with embracing her identity as an Afro-Latine person. During her personal journey, she realized that many people were not aware of concepts like Afro-Latinidad or ethnoracial dissonance and she wanted to raise awareness of the concepts through her work.
“I wasn’t really aware of my own Afro-Latina identity, until around middle school. I knew that it wasn’t something a lot of people know about on this campus, so I wanted to bring attention to that and start a conversation. In terms of my personal interest, I think it’s the fact that I’m connected to identity and how it took me so long to realize that. I want to help people like me come to terms with it, too,” said Garcia.
Emiliano Caceres Manzano ’22, an attendee at Garcia’s presentation and a fellow CAMD scholar, believes that the presentation helped to bring a new perspective to an issue that hadn’t been talked about very much before. However, Caceres Manzano added the need to influence the perspectives of race and ethnicity in our current society.
“I was super excited to see Melanie’s presentation because I think she’s educating our community about something that’s very applicable. Her presentation dives into the experience of a community that isn’t often talked about, and so, Melanie’s very much doing the work of helping us shift our ideas of race and ethnicity, just like she talks about in her presentation. As a friend, I also am just so proud of Melanie because she’s been working so hard on this and I’m so glad it paid off,” wrote Caceres Manzano in an email to The Phillipian.
Georgianna Harpole ’25, an audience member at Garcia’s presentation, said that the presentation was more in-depth than she had expected, covering topics beyond anti-Black racism. Harpole found connections between her own racial identity and Garcia’s presentation.
“Going into it, I didn’t know just how excited everyone would be. The energy in the room wasn’t incomparable to having a celebrity come on stage instead. Who knew a water break could be so riling? I’m not new to the conversations CAMD often has, but their scholars’ presentations always make me ask questions. I expected Melanie’s to elaborate on her broadcasted title with a lesson on anti-Black racism, but the presentation was much more multifaceted. As a Black American, I can now acknowledge how the idea of being ‘Black’ can be exclusionary, leaving out especially people who don’t speak English,” said Harpole.
Nicole Jeter, Director of Wellness and Prevention Education, who served as Garcia’s faculty advisor, praised Garcia for bringing attention to the experiences of Afro-Latine individuals. She urged people to make use of what they learned from Garcia.
“Melanie’s project and presentation draws attention to Afro-Latine invisibility and the impact that it has. She did an excellent job bringing this topic to our communities’ attention and expressed the need for people to utilize the knowledge they gained from her presentation,” wrote Jeter in an email to The Phillipian.
Garcia’s greatest hope for the impact of her work is for more people to become aware of ethnoracial dissonance and recognize Afro-Latine identity. By doing so, Gracia emphasizes, Afro-Latines can feel less misunderstood and invisible.
“I think [the biggest takeaway] would be that people just integrate the reality of Afro-Latinidad into their mindset. For Afro Latines specifically, I hope they were able to take away a better understanding of their identity and why it can be so difficult, so they can understand and process it a little more,” said Garcia.