In the wake of civil unrest over the death of George Floyd, individuals with multiracial backgrounds find themselves in a unique position on the conversation surrounding race relations and police in the U.S.
Rosa Toussaint-Ortiz is a Huntsville community pastor who says her identity as a Black Hispanic causes her to view recent events from varied perspectives.
Toussaint-Ortiz is currently writing a book on her experiences as a Black Hispanic woman, which includes one of her worst encounters with racism in the U.S. in Philadelphia in 1988. She said shortly after moving from Huntsville to Philadelphia, someone broke the windows in her new home in an all-white neighborhood and she was forced to leave.
For her, George Floyd’s death in May became a poignant reminder of her own experiences.
"When I saw George Floyd saying, 'I can't breathe' and he died in front of the camera, of course it made me angry, it made me sad, I cried. Then all the memories, what happened in Philadelphia during 1988 and 1989—all that came back," Toussaint-Ortiz said.
Understanding the current protests against police mistreatment of Blacks is difficult for Hispanics/Latinos in the community, Toussaint-Ortiz says, especially for new immigrants with a limited knowledge of U.S. history.
"They don't understand the problem with Black people and police and slavery. So, I find myself in a position to teach, of educating them, and not just me—I realized that other Black Hispanics have felt the same responsibility that we have to educate our community," she said.
There is room to grow and learn, which Toussaint-Ortiz hopes to accomplish both through her upcoming book release and through conversation.
"This is not easy, but little by little, if we do our part, we can help ourselves and be a blessing to the human race—it is who we are, the human race," she said.