Race

Everybody Does It

Think about the many times a celebrity has been caught muttering — or in some cases, shouting — racist comments.

mad_gibson

Or ponder how often somebody in the public eye has issued a bigoted tweet or did something else that made his or her fans say, “Give them a break. They didn’t mean it. They’re not really prejudiced.”

The list of excuses always the following accusation: People who object to such behavior are hypocrites because, after all, “everybody has used those words.”

But is this even remotely true?

 

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We’re Number One! Oh… Wait

For as long as I’ve been writing about Latino culture, I’ve referred to us as the nation’s fastest growing minority. It’s a handy little phrase when one doesn’t want to use the more cumbersome descriptor for Hispanics, which is “sexiest people on the face of the planet.”

Well, you can imagine my surprise — nay, my disappointment — when I ran into this item online:

“Contrary to perception in some parts, Hispanics were not the fastest-growing race or ethnic group in the US last year.”

What? This is madness! We’ve been number one for so long that it is our collective birthright. So who are these usurpers to the throne?

It turns out that Asians are now the nation’s fastest-growing race or ethnic group. Their population rose by almost 2.9 percent to 19.4 million, an increase of about 554,000.

Of course, Hispanics still are the second-largest ethnic group in the United States, making up 17.1 percent of the total population. And we grew at a very respectable rate of 2.1 percent, to more than 54 million.

But somehow, this comes as small consolation.

second-place-ribbon

What’s most intriguing about these numbers is that “more than 60 percent of this growth in the Asian population came from international migration.”

In contrast, Latino population growth “was fueled primarily by natural increase (births minus deaths), which accounted for 76 percent of Hispanic population change.”

In essence, Latino immigration is way down, no matter what you’ve heard. So the immigrants who do get in are more likely than before to be Asian.

So congratulations to our Asian brothers and sisters. If you keep growing at this pace, it won’t be long before you have your own equivalent of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC, when you turn the nation’s largest city into a swirling party that engulfs everyone nearby whether they want to be part of it or not.

It’s something to shoot for.

 


Hard Times

The recession has been over for some time now, and the economy is booming… wait. You say, it’s not booming unless you’re rich?

Well, if you’re still feeling pinched, maybe it’s the fault of individuals heavy on the melanin. The odds are pretty good that you blame them anyway.

pointing

You see, a new study has shown that Americans “become subconsciously more prejudiced against dark-skinned people when times are tight.”

That’s right. On top of devastating the country, wiping out many people’s savings, and increasing the obscene gap between the wealthy and the rest of us, the Great Recession may have had the side effect of increasing racial tension.

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Black is the New Black

In my previous two posts, I wrote about Latinos who view themselves as white. Well, it may be coincidental, but I recently ran into a disturbing news item that illustrates how some Hispanics have adopted a traditionally white viewpoint about one topic.

And that viewpoint is a hatred of black people.

Now of course, the vast majority of white people in this country do not hate black people. Nor is bigotry toward black people an unknown concept in Latino society (just look at George Zimmerman for proof of this).

zimm

Still, as we all know, only white people can be truly racist (ha, let’s start that debate again).

But some Latinos in Florida are doing their best to prove that, damn it, we can be racist too if we just try hard enough.

You see, the owners of a Miami apartment complex allegedly turned away prospective tenants who were black, saying that there were no units available. However, when Latino prospective tenants showed up (in some cases, mere hours later), they were quickly shown apartments.

It doesn’t get much more blatant, and the owners, who are Hispanic, are now being sued.

So why would Hispanics, no strangers to prejudice and racial animosity, be so overt about discriminating against black people?

Perhaps it is because ever since the colonization of Latin America, white skin has been portrayed as more desirable in Hispanic culture. Even today, there are Hispanics who, subconsciously or intentionally, see it as their duty to “mejorar la raza,” which means, “to improve the race.” This means “marrying whites only (including white Latinos) — and specifically staying away from indigenous, black, Asian, or mixed potential mates.”

By the way, I’m not saying that Hispanics who marry white people are self-loathing or bigoted against black people.

But it is clear that in some quarters, the message that Hispanics “are expected to internalize is that Latinos should literally become as white as possible over time.”

Such a goal is not only morally repugnant, it is foolhardy. After all, in the future, everybody is going to be so ethnically mixed that we’ll all be a pleasing shade of brown.

It will be enough to give a 22nd-century racist a conniption fit.

 


More on That White Thing

Recently, I wrote about the Pew Research Center’s finding that, over the last decade, 2.5 million Latinos changed their racial classification to white. Now this development has caused consternation, rejoicing, or befuddlement, depending upon your perspective.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the whole concept of race “is a construct. Its meaning throughout history has had no basis in biological reality but rather in social domination and political contention.”

As we all know, racial classifications have no anthropological basis. So the people who say there is only one race (the human race) are correct, strictly speaking.

one finger

However, for something so arbitrary and minor, race sure causes a lot of controversy. Exacerbating this issue is the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau has always perplexed people with its separation of race and ethnicity, particularly when it comes to Hispanics.

As such, many commentators have argued that a lot of those 2.5 Latinos who changed their race “may not consider themselves white. Many or even most might identify their race as ‘Hispanic’ if it were an explicit option.”

Indeed, we have to consider that “the confusion on the U.S. Census has little to do with evolving ideas about race among Latinos and a lot to do with the limited options available to Latinos.” As such, this is just “more evidence of Americans’ puzzlement about how the census asks separately about race and ethnicity.”

In essence, when it comes to the census, “Hispanics can be at once a race and not a race.”

It’s all very metaphysical, and possibly even a cool discussion if you’re high enough. But it also might say something very real about self-identity and cultural legacies.

You see, there is some debate over whether modern-day Hispanics are the sociological decedents of those huddled masses yearning to be free back in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Keep in mind that when Ellis Island was an immigration hotspot, “all sorts of immigrants, including Irish, Jews, and Italians, were once considered irredeemably alien, even racially inferior to ‘white’ Americans.”

This sounds intensely similar to how Latinos are described today in many sections of the country. And yet, the longer a Latino family has been in America, the more likely its members are “to check the ‘white’ box.”

Yes, those Latinos who identify as white are more likely “to be second- and third-generation Hispanics than foreign-born and noncitizen Hispanics.”

This lines up with the experience of earlier immigrants. After all, when it comes to the Irish, Italians, and Jews, their fifth-generation descendants don’t hesitate “over how to fill out the census. They check ‘white’ — because that is how the rest of America now sees them.”

Again, that may say something very uplifting or truly disturbing about the direction in which Latino culture is headed. Or maybe it’s both — or neither.

See how tricky this gets?

But to end on an optimistic note, note that the recent census data has also supplied another “strong sign that fears of a unique ‘Hispanic challenge,’ where Hispanics immigrants might remain as a permanent Spanish-speaking underclass, are overblown.”

In fact, there is mounting evidence that “Hispanics are succeeding in American society at a pace similar to that of prior waves of European immigrants.”

And that will continue to be true — whether Latinos are white or not.

 


The Unbearable Whiteness

You may be surprised to know that Latinos can change their race at will. Oh sure, for most people, race is a fixed attribute that was determined at the moment of conception. But Hispanics, unlike mere normal humans, can just go snap, and presto we’ve changed our race.

It’s kind of like Mystique, except we’re not naked all the time.

mystique

The proof of this superpower is in a recent New York Times article, which stated that between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, 2.5 million Americans who said they were Hispanic and “some other race” changed their minds and declared themselves to be Hispanic and white.

This was the largest shift in racial classification among Americans, and it provides, according to the Times, “new evidence consistent with the theory that Hispanics may assimilate as white Americans, like the Italians or Irish, who were not universally considered to be white.”

The data, supplied by the Pew Research Center, is “particularly significant” because “the shift toward white identification withstood a decade of debate over immigration and the country’s exploding Hispanic population, which might have been expected to inculcate or reinforce a sense of Hispanic identity, or draw attention to divisions that remain between Hispanics and non-Hispanic white Americans.”

Basically, it implies that many Latinos are saying, “Enough with the la raza talk. Consider me white.”

Now, some commentators have called shenanigans on this whole story. Indeed, it is quite a leap to glance at some raw numbers and make the sociopolitical conclusion that America may not be “destined to become a so-called minority-majority nation, where whites represent a minority of the nation’s population.” That’s because those predictions “assume that Hispanics aren’t white, but if Hispanics ultimately identify as white Americans, then whites will remain the majority for the foreseeable future.”

Let’s assume for the sake of argument, however, that the numbers reveal something profound about American culture and its future. Namely, that Latinos face “pressure — and the growing opportunity — to blend into society and to identify with the majority.”

Of course, this is a familiar phenomenon. Since this country’s founding, white people have held the vast majority of the political, economic, and cultural power. As such, it makes sense that Americans today “go on unthinkingly treating whiteness as the ideal and social baseline of American life.”

Indeed, there are very real advantages to being white — even if you’re not traditionally white. For example, Hispanics who see themselves as white tend to have higher levels of education and income, and they are less likely to have experienced discrimination.

Now, as we all know, Latinos can be of any race. There are your traditional brown-skinned Hispanics, black Brazilians, blue-eyed blond Argentineans, and just about every hue and texture in between.

As such, it’s no surprise that Hispanics have forged “a cross-cutting identity that can feel like a racial category (shorthanded as ‘brown’) that is sometimes set beside the other major blocs of America’s racial color grid.”

With our place on this mystical grid so amorphous, Latinos are often free to move outside the boundaries, which other ethnicities have trouble doing. Of course, this “fluidity may suggest a lot of things, including a pattern of Hispanic assimilation into whiteness.” And, according to the Times, “white identification may be an indicator of assimilation,” which is a potentially alarming statement.

After all, doesn’t that imply that real Americans are white?

I’ll have more on this in a subsequent post, but I will leave you to ponder that inflammatory question for now.

 


The Big D

I once took a diversity assessment, which sought to gauge how I related to people of different ethnicities and creeds.

The assessment’s feedback stated that I had spent very little time with people who didn’t share my racial background. I found that hilarious, because by virtue of growing up Latino in the Midwest, and then working professional jobs around America, I’ve spent more time with white people than I have with my fellow Hispanics. The assessment, therefore, was very, very wrong.

And that is a big problem with measuring diversity. In essence, how do you do it?

statistics

The problem has stumped social scientists, educators, and government officials. Everybody wants more diversity, but as a recent study concluded, “no matter how you look at the numbers, it’s difficult to get a full picture of diversity.” In fact, we can’t even agree what diversity means, much less how to measure it.

After all, is diversity “a measure of equal representation among racial and ethnic groups? Is it a measure of how closely … racial makeup represents society writ large? Or is it something else entirely?”

Perhaps most intriguingly, there is a movement to use “qualitative research methods to try to measure diversity—or the level of inclusion or exclusion of minority groups.”

In other words, maybe we shouldn’t just count how many Latinos are in the city, or at the company, or enrolled on the campus. We should look at how well they fit into that given community. Are they really part of the culture? Or are they just window dressing that allows people to say, “Look at how damn diverse we are!”?

We will most likely never have a perfect level of diversity, but it is even less likely that we will ever have a perfect measurement of it.

But that doesn’t mean the concept isn’t worth chasing.

 


On the Road

When I was in college, my roomies and I road tripped to New Orleans, where we had the standard debauched adventures that young men are required to have. It was a great time.

open-road

But now that I’m older, I’m gunning to be the object of the road trip. Specifically, I see that Al Madrigal (otherwise known as the senior Latino correspondent on the Daily Show) is travelling across America to “capture a unique portrait of the many facets of Hispanic culture and life in the U.S.” for an hour-long TV special. Madrigal “will be joined by special guests along the way.”

And that’s where I come in. I’m willing to be one these cryptic “special guests” who comment on Latino culture. I mean, why not? At the very least, I can take Madrigal to a bitchin’ pupuseria right here in my neighborhood. What other qualifications do I need?

I’ll let you know if Al returns my phone call.

 


X Marks the Bigot

I’ve never taken Ecstasy. My understanding is that it makes you breathe heavily and feel like having sex with whoever is dancing next to you.

ravers_baby

However, according to a recent study, “there might be a darker side” to the so-called cuddling chemical. Researchers have found that taking the oxytocin hormone “motivates in-group favoritism” and the “derogation of outsiders.” Scientists say that oxytocin has “a role in the emergence of intergroup conflict and violence.”

Basically, dropping E makes it more likely that you will behave like a racist jerk.

The researchers’ study had Dutch males choose imaginary people to join them in a lifeboat. Guys on Ecstasy discriminated against those “with Muslim or German-sounding names,” but “the men who were given a placebo didn’t pay attention to the origin of the names.”

Apparently, Dutch guys have some issues with both Muslims and Germans.

Now, I doubt that Ecstasy suddenly made these guys more racist, in the same way that alcohol does not inexplicably turn people into raging bigots. All these drugs do is lower inhibitions.

Drunk or stoned or otherwise altered individuals lack the capacity to think, “I better say or do what is socially acceptable.” As a result, they go with their gut instinct or true emotions, which are often prejudicial as hell.

Still, if I ever had a desire to go clubbing and pop pills with teenagers, this study has killed that flickering drive. I don’t want some woman dressed in neon colors and sporting day-glo bracelets to start shouting epithets at me over the drone of house music.

That would be the ultimate buzz kill.

 


Salute

Whenever I write about some subtle act of bigotry, I get comments that I am indulging in race-baiting, and that racism is more or less dead (except to agitators like me who keep bringing these issues up).

It’s much harder to make that claim when the act is overtly racist, especially if it occurred in the distant past. As such, I expect no slapdowns over the recent news that President Barack Obama gave the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans, who “if not for the hue of their skin or their ethnicity…would have received the prestigious medals for their valor long ago.”

moh

Yes, it seems that back in the day, the US Army was riddled with bigots who didn’t take kindly to handing out the nation’s highest military honor to anybody but white guys. As such, these men — who displayed “gallantry above and beyond the call of duty for their combat actions in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II” —were denied proper recognition.

The Obama administration ordered a review of the records, which is how the US Army found that two dozen of its bravest soldiers were dissed. So the men are now receiving their medals, decades later.

Sadly, “only three of the soldiers are alive to receive the recognition.

The rest—soldiers with last names including Garcia and Weinstein and Negron—are dead.”

 


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