Tag: Jews

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.

 


Onward to 2014

This year, I became a father. I can assure you that nothing that monumental and awesome is going to happen in 2014.

But among the few downsides to parenthood is the fact that one has less time to update blogs. So I’ve written less this year. In fact, I’ve missed out on a few stories that I normally would have been all over.

For example, there was this little tidbit from the fine state of Texas, where a Latina politician tweeted her hatred of immigrants, her support for apartheid, her belief that the Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks, and her opinion that Muslims are “vermin.” Why yes, she is a member of the Republican Party. Why do you ask?

Now, I would usually get a lot of mileage out of a self-loathing Hispanic with strong anti-Semitic and Islamaphobic tendencies who also appears to be a paranoid lunatic. But what new parent has the time?

time-travel2-photo-courtesy-of-junussyndicate-on-deviantART

So here’s hoping that in the new year, the little guy will give me a breather now and then to write about such characters. I can’t wait.

 


Hail Britannia

In a recent post, I expressed my admiration for the British accent. I said that it was pretty damn sexy, at least on women. I can’t judge if it’s sexy on guys (one of you ladies or gay men will have to inform me). But I will admit that British men sound more sophisticated and intelligent than we who have been afflicted with the flat American way of speaking.

And of course, anything witty sounds twice as funny with a crisp English accent.

I presume that many Americans share my belief in the inherent coolness of these island dwellers. But for a Latino, this fascination is an extra burden. It comes across as self-loathing or pathetic.

For the record, I’ve never been ashamed of being Hispanic. Nor have I ever wished that I could magically turn white or become black or pass for Asian (although many people assume that I’m Japanese, as I wrote here).

But I have to admit, part of me would like to do life all over as a British guy. Those cheeky bastards have a hold on me.

The chief cultural influence on my sense of humor is Monty Python. My favorite band is Led Zeppelin. I think the Union Jack is the greatest flag design ever.

My god, Great Britain is everywhere in my head.

Perhaps this explains my running jokes about having an unhealthy obsession with Kate Winslet (my sympathies on her recent divorce, but I can’t understand why she is still not returning my phone calls). And maybe this is why I’ve spent my professional life focusing on the English language. Hell, maybe this is why I’ve had so many problems with my teeth (I’m not at British level in that regard, however).

I’ve written before about feeling a kinship with Jews. That’s true. But if I were not a proud American Latino, I would adopt an English persona. And I’m sure that many of you – whether white, black, Asian, or a fellow Hispanic – agree that it would be most cool to issue snide asides with flair and take the tube to Piccadilly Circus and complain about the bloody weather and keep a stiff upper lip and all of that.

My wife and I travelled to London once. We still talk about ditching it all and moving there someday. This is usually after a few drinks and/or a Republican political victory. In any case, don’t hold your breath, because we both agree that we would miss America too much to adopt the expatriate life (by the way, would I be considered an expat or an immigrant?).

Still, before I glamorize the British even more than I have, I will bring these smart, sexy, clever people back down to earth:

Their food really sucks.

There, I said it. It’s a cheap shot, I know, but at the moment, it’s all I’ve got.


Mazel Tov!

A few years ago, I took one of those internet quizzes that pinpoints your real religion, based on your actual beliefs and not the lip service that you espouse. Like all internet quizzes, I’m sure it was of dubious validity and reliability, and it probably had a questionable theological basis on top of that.

Still, I couldn’t argue with the result, which said that I was, in reality, a Reform Jew. By the way, the religion of my childhood, Roman Catholicism, ranked around twenty-eighth or so on my personal scale, which sounded about right (but I’ll refrain from picking on Catholicism just now).

These days, I consider myself more of secular Buddhist agnostic. But the Jewish angle isn’t that far off.

I’m not sure why I relate to Judaism. It’s not like I had a lot of Jewish friends growing up. My neighborhood was primarily Hispanic (and therefore, incredibly Catholic) while my home state is overwhelmingly Midwestern white (mostly Protestant). So not a lot of Goldbergs and Silvermans appeared on the scene.

Perhaps I picked it up when I lived in New York City, where Jewish culture is everywhere. Within just a few years of arriving in NYC, I was ordering bagels with lox and talking about people’s chutzpah and obsessing about death. So maybe that’s why I came up Jewish on the test.

But I think there’s a larger issue. It seems that Hispanics and Jews have always gotten along pretty well. Perhaps both groups know what it’s like to pass for white, but not really. Maybe our mutual focus on family lines up nicely. Or perhaps we just admire each culture’s long history of suffering.

Regardless, I was intrigued to read about a group of Hasidim Jews in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. A small but thriving population traces its ancestry to Spain and Latin America, and as such, members of this group consider themselves Hispanics.

Spare me your jokes about Juan Epstein, the NYC Puerto Rican Jew from “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

There’s a man in Crown Heights with a real-life cross-cultural headspinner of a name, Moshe Nunez, and he says that “There are a lot of Latin American Jews here…. Many non-Jewish Latinos are surprised to see Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn who speak Spanish and carry on their Hispanic traditions.”

I suppose that would be an attention-getting sight. But still, I’m not really shocked that some people would adopt both cultures. The overlap goes back decades.

For example, when my mother moved to America, back in the 1960s, her first job was helping out an old Jewish woman on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The woman was a Holocaust survivor, and she brought that horrific period to life for my mother by rolling up her sleeve and showing the number branded into her arm. This simple display provided quite the education for a young woman from Latin America.

The old woman was very kind to my mother, and she introduced her to the opera and nice restaurants and the finer things in life. According to my mother, the old woman was adamant that bigotry against any group was evil. She said that anyone who would discriminate against a Latino would bash Jews as well.

In the old woman’s mind, we’re all one and the same.


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