Karamo Brown recently sat at the Red Table Talk: The Estefans to talk about colorism within the Hispanic and Latinx community, sharing the heartbreaking moment he experienced racism as an Afro-Latino.
Brown, who is of Cuban descent, told Lili, Emily, and Gloria Estefan that he feels uncomfortable referring to himself as Latino because his family members made him feel like an outsider. “Growing up, I felt very embarrassed. Even today, to be honest, talking to the producers and talking to people every time they refer to me as Afro-Latino or Latino, I get very uncomfortable. Still to this day,” he reveals.
In the episode called “Black and Latin: Racism Within,” Gloria explains that being Latino is not a race. “There are Black Latinos, white Latinos, and every shade in between,” Gloria says. “1 in 4 U.S. Hispanics identifies Afro-Latino, and two-thirds of Hispanics with darker skin colors report discrimination. One survey showed that 55% of dark-skinned individuals were viewed as less intelligent, and therefore less worthy.”
“It may not be something we want to acknowledge, but that’s exactly why we wanted to bring it to the table. We cannot know what it’s like to be in the skin of darker Latinos because we were born like this,” Gloria Estefan added.
Her daughter Emily went ahead and explained that “in Latino families, you can have someone with very dark skin, you can have someone with very light skin, and they can be brother and sister,” adding that the “dynamic within the family can cause your family to treat you different, people looking from the outside to treat you differently. Which is why we need to use this platform to amplify this issue because I don’t know what that feels like.”
“It breaks my heart to think that Afro-Latinos feel racism in their own family because you think of racism as a general thing in society, but when it happens in your own family, it’s very difficult. It’s that feeling...the trauma of being oppressed,” Lili Estefan said, referring to the experience of Queer Eye’s Karamo.
Brown’s grandmother was Cuban; however, growing up, he rejected his Latin American roots because of the racism he felt within his own family. “I don’t think they understood what they were doing, but it was this subliminal, unconscious, internalized racism that was in them,” Brown explained. “For me, playing outside as a kid was nerve-wracking because my grandmother would say, ‘Don’t go outside and don’t darken up my family’...so I would not go outside until after 5 pm,” Karamo reveals.
“And I still get emotional right now because you think - I’m a kid, and I should not have to be thinking about, not going outside and playing because I don‘t wanna get darker so that my grandmother doesn’t say a comment,” the star added. “Her intention was to protect me, to try to say things that she thought were going to help me, but the impact is that it destroyed me emotionally, but it also made me feel like I wasn’t connected to my culture.”
According to Brown, his family used to make comments about his African features. “My family used to say ‘Oh your nose…’ and my grandmother, even my mother, would squeeze my nose...it was because my nose is more African, my nose is more Black. And for many years, I kept saying to myself, ‘I need a nose job.’ I did not know where that internalized hatred I had for myself was coming from,” Karamo said. “The reason that I am the person on ‘Queer Eye’ that has the emotional and mental conversations is because I understand the trauma and damage,” he noted.
Karamo doesn’t want his kids to grow up with trauma; therefore, he speaks high about them and reminds them how beautiful they are inside and out. “I tell them their skin is gorgeous, that darker is beautiful. I want to make sure they hear it,” Karamo concluded.
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New episodes of the Daytime Emmy and GLAAD Media Awards-nominated series Red Table Talk: The Estefans will continue to highlight the three generations of women as they come together with family, celebrity guests, experts, and more. No topic is off-limits as the women bring their own opinions, life experiences, and headline-generating topics to the iconic table and to their communities.
Red Table Talk: The Estefans is produced by Westbrook Studios, with Jada Pinkett Smith, Gloria Estefan, Ellen Rakieten, and Miguel Melendez serving as executive producers.