I was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and then migrated to Miami. I have always been surrounded by Latinx communities. Whenever I met gringxs I was enthralled and intrigued. They were exotic to me. I could not understand how I could possibly be the “exotic” one until I finally found myself inundated with gringxs in graduate school.
I didn't hear the term coconut until I was in my late 20s. "Coconut" is used when describing a brown person, specifically a Latinx, who "acts like a gringx." If this definition feels vague to you and sort of confusing, it is because it IS vague and confusing. The part of me that is from the 'hood can readily tell you that organic food, juicing, and yoga all feel like "gringxs" things. The part of me that has learned class analysis says that my categorization of “acting gringx” is closely tied to socioeconomic status and the general understanding that the majority of the nations wealth is concentrated in gringx communities. So I guess that is what it means to be a coconut: to enjoy having access to things not meant for people of my race, ethnicity and class.
The first time I heard coconut used to describe someone, it was as a self-identifier by a Latina at a theological institution. She took pride in saying that the bulk of her work was translating Latinx customs and traditions for gringxs. One day she said, “I get called 'coconut' all the time,” and proceeded to laugh. I wasn't sure what to say. The second time I heard this term, I was in a car with some white friends and they were talking about their TexiCan friend and said: “He is such a coconut,” and they, too, began to laugh. Then I thought: I do not like this word.
I leave situations and they stick with me for days as I chew through all the implications and sort my own feelings about it all. And I have decided:
- I do not like this term
- It is dehumanizing
- It glamorizes whiteness
This is an insult based on race and it needs to be banned. By comparing our assumed communal brownness not to the golden rays of the sun but to a fruit you have managed to single-handedly pigeonhole an entire raza and dismiss others from that same community.
By comparing us to a fruit you have taken our humanity away. A fruit does not bleed when you stab it, a fruit cannot feel pain, and a fruit cannot talk back. A fruit is something meant for consumption and serves no purpose but to nourish those whose humanity is still intact.
whiteness superior and desirable, you have perpetuated the idea that everyone else is inferior and should aspire for this level of
assimilation. We cannot get rid of our
skin tone, but we can get rid of our social markers for your comfort.
To be called a coconut is insulting. I do not think it is meant to be funny. I do not think it is a story you tell anyone in passing without some indignation in your tone. So maybe lets create a rule of thumb about the term coconut, and lets NOT tolerate this micro-aggression anymore.