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Cid Wilson had his first ugly run-in with racism as a teenager on a friday afternoon. “One kid threw something at another kid,” Wilson recalls. “The kid actually thought it was me.” One of only 11 minorities in a senior student body of 300, Wilson recalls being called the “n-word” by the white teen.
“I was so infuriated with him,” says the New York native. “The following Monday–it’s something I’m not proud of–I looked for him and got into an actual physical altercation. That whole weekend, it was just building up inside, how angry I was.”
Justifiably angry, Wilson’s father was the voice of reason. James A. Wilson, a medical doctor, counseled his young son to handle racism in a more constructive way in the future: demand more of yourself and work twice as hard as your white counterparts.
Now a 33-year-old Paramus, New Jersey, resident, Wilson took his father’s words to heart and worked hard to excel. A former market analyst at Salomon Smith Barney, he is now a senior analyst at Whitaker Securities, a boutique investment bank, where he tracks past performance and future prospects of publicly traded stocks. Politically active, the NAACP member hopes to run for office someday. But the sting of that racial slur remains to this day.
Wilson’s tale seems a familiar one to African Americans, except he’s not African American. He’s un puro (pure) Latino, whose parents immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic. Wilson, president of the Dominican American National Roundtable, is one of millions of America’s Afro-Latinos who belong to both of the United States’ largest minority groups. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 1.7 million of the 38.8 million Hispanics identified themselves as both Hispanic and of African descent, yet many believe this number to be much higher–closer to 3.9 million. (More than 42% of all Latino respondents marked a box labeled ”some other race” on the Census form.) Among the more famous Afro-Latinos: Dominican baseball superstar Sammy Sosa, retired Puerto Rican boxing champ Felix Trinidad, and the recently deceased Cuban salsa icon Celia Cruz.
And while historically attempts by Latinos and African Americans to forge economic, political, and social alliances have yielded lackluster results, it can be argued that this group–many of whom feel comfortable in both the black and Latino communities–could be the key to a much-needed business and political link between America’s largest minority groups.
It’s estimated that between 10% and 80% of Latinos who hail from countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Belize, and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico have African ancestry. As the slave trade proliferated in the Americas from the 1500s through the 1800s, Europeans used Caribbean ports as a hub to transfer African slaves throughout North, Central, and South America, as part of the African Diaspora.
And some say Afro-Latinos have as much or more in common with African Americans as their lighter-skinned countrymen. Many regularly face discrimination and battle racism, both in the United States and in their native countries. Such