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TikTok star, actor talks racism and learning to love his roots

At five years old, I stood in the kitchen at my parents’ friend’s house, pouring sugar into my tea. When my parents’ friends spotted me, they made rude comments. “Don’t pour so much sugar into your tea,” one said. “It won’t make you white anyway!”

  • 10 months ago
  • August 7, 2023
6 min read
David grew up wishing he was someone else due to the constant discrimination he faced over his skin color. As he turned to acting, he slowly realized the beauty of his origins and reconnected with his roots. David grew up wishing he was someone else due to the constant discrimination he faced over his skin color. As he turned to acting, he slowly realized the beauty of his origins and reconnected with his roots. | Photo courtesy of David Ángel Gudiño
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
David Ángel Gudiño, 36, was born in Tartagal in the province of Salta, Argentina. At the age of six, he moved with his family to the south of the country, to the province of Tierra del Fuego, where he grew up. He is a biology teacher, art therapist, actor, and playwright. He studied at the Universidad Nacional de las Artes. David uses his Tiktok channel to talk about his experiences with racism, and recently published a manifesto called Argentina is not white, which reached the Encuentro channel, the Media and Public Communication System of Argentina. In September 2023, he will release a new show, called The David Brown.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The Brown Identity is a collective, founded at the end of 2019 by people of color who wanted to bring to light the racism they experienced and give a voice to their stories. The group’s objective is to debate structural racism in Latin America and seek solutions.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — As a brown person, I spent years denying my identity and struggling to accept the color of my skin. Facing constant discrimination, my childhood and teenage years brimmed with bullying and prejudice. I wished I was someone else. Today, I see the richness of my roots and feel immense pride in my history. It saddens me to think of the time I spent hiding away when the real problem radiated out from others.

In time, I stopped focusing on the obstacles and turned my attention to my origins. Looking in the mirror, I saw glimpses of my parents and grandparents in my facial features. It appeared this tapestry of rich history was sewn onto me, yet I had not yet fully embraced it. When I found TikTok, I discovered a space to talk about these experiences openly and empower others in similar situations through humor.

Read more stories about race and racism from people around the globe at Orato World Media.

Racist comments planted seeds of inferiority in me at a tender young age

As a child, I associated my skin color with my family’s economic standing. We were brown and poor, and it felt like everyone around me wanted to remind me of that fact. My mom worked cleaning houses, and she implored me not to tell anyone. I learned to be ashamed of our poverty, my mom’s profession, and not having enough money to buy clothes. Whenever I visited other friends’ houses, I became more embarrassed of my own.

At five years old, I stood in the kitchen at my parents’ friend’s house, pouring sugar into my tea. When my parents’ friends spotted me, they made rude comments. “Don’t pour so much sugar into your tea,” one said. “It won’t make you white anyway!”

Their comments planted negative feelings about myself into that five-year-old little child. It appeared to me that I was supposed to want to be someone different than who I was. The weight of their words hung over me all day long.  

That feeling remained for years to come. Without even thinking of it consciously, I began developing strategies to disguise my identity. I avoided the sun, hoping to stay as pale as possible. I used creams to lighten my skin and avoided mentioning my indigenous roots. 

Finding theatre gave me refuge, but discrimination soon followed 

I found it increasingly difficult to enjoy my life. For years, I ignored the racist remarks that reached my ears, keeping my head down in the hopes I would disappear. I know now, making myself invisible was not my fault. It came as a consequence of social oppression.

At the same time, I crafted a parallel world for myself where I focused on acting and dancing. I made up stories in my bedroom with different, interesting characters. When I turned 15, I enrolled in a theatre group at school. It soon served as an escape from my everyday life. 

A group photograph of the Brown Identity Collective, which David is a part of. | Photo courtesy of David Gudiño

From that moment forward, in every moment of crisis and difficulty, my soul moved to that place; to the theater where I experienced profound connections and felt closest to my most authentic self. Two years later, I wrote my own play called Pieles. In one of the scenes, my character removes his own skin.

At the time, I possessed no awareness of the feelings deep down inside of me. I never truly spoke those feelings out loud. Theater gave me space to do that, but the discrimination would wander in anyway.

When I began to attend castings, I often felt typecast into roles reducing me to racist stereotypes. I played sad, poor characters, always in the background. In time, I started to understand myself and come to terms with my life.

Creating safe spaces so the next generation doesn’t have to

When I encountered the Brown Identity Collective as a teenager, I got involved, wanting to hear their stories and share mine. For the first time in ages, I instantly felt seen. The members all went through similar experiences, and we connected deeply. It opened my eyes to discrimination, and I came to know it was never my fault. Being around them instilled a sense of pride for my culture. I began to love my own features again. 

I am still in the process of loving myself. This is never an easy road to travel. As a brown person, I feel constantly watched, like a permanent suspect. One night, I found myself lost in a town square. I approached a policeman to ask him to point me to the exit. He called a colleague over and they aggressively asked for my documents.

An old photo of David as a child, with his dog. | Photo courtesy of David Gudiño

They made me feel like a criminal simply for being outside alone. I carry these experiences with me. They pile up on top of one another, weighing me down until I can choose to let them go. Acting and writing allows me to exercise a freedom I have never had in my everyday life.

Today, when I write my own material, I make sure to include people of color in my projects. There needs to be more representation so generations coming up can benefit from safe spaces, rather than struggling to create them.

When I visit my father in his home, watching as he makes empanadas and shares funny stories, I see so much beauty in the way we are. I tell him about my new projects and excitement fills the space, like two kids playing in a schoolyard. I feel immensely grateful for the person I am today and the wonderful people I call family.

Translation Disclaimer

Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

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