Tag: New York Times

Full Count

We’re at the All-Star break, and my team is currently in first place. This is a major deal to me.

Yes, like a lot of Gen X Latinos, I’m a huge baseball fan. In fact, I recently achieved a fatherhood milestone when I took my 4-year-old son to see his first big-league game (he enjoyed it, even if he kept yelling, “safe!” and “out!” — usually at random).

I’m also a fan of science, which is one reason I’m not a Republican. Ha, just having fun there, my GOP friends… anyway…

Among my favorite science writers was the late Stephen Jay Gould. He wrote an intriguing essay titled, Why No One Hits .400 Anymore, in which he argued that while .400 hitters were fairly common in the early days of baseball, it’s become nearly impossible to reach that milestone today.

 

 

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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.

 


Winners and Losers

Recently, everybody’s favorite crazy uncle of old media, the New York Times, asked the loaded question, “What Drives Success?” The article pointed out that some ethnic groups are more economically successful than others, and it pinpointed three reasons for this. The first is “a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.”

It’s an interesting thesis. But lost in the analysis and point-by-point explanation was this side note: “Most fundamentally, groups rise and fall over time. The fortunes of WASP elites have been declining for decades.”

In other words, nobody stays at the top or the bottom forever. And as the article points out, “The fact that groups rise and fall this way punctures the whole idea of ‘model minorities’ or that groups succeed because of innate, biological differences.”

dna strands

So for all the people who think Latinos are innately inferior, keep in mind that there are some “Hispanic groups in America that far outperform some white and Asian groups,” and that this trend is likely to accelerate.

The fortunes of groups twist and turn in a perpetual cycle. And one can choose to find that either comforting or terrifying.

 


The Slow Fade

The New York Times recently reported on a small rural town where longtime residents complain about “young Mexican men working construction and driving down wages, the children of laborers flooding crowded schools…and strip clubs springing up on roads that used to be dark and quiet.”

Is the town in Wisconsin, Kansas, Alabama, or even (shudder) Arizona? No, it is “a precolonial Mexican village outside Oaxaca City, filling up with fellow Mexicans.”

It seems that the urge to hate immigrants — even of the same nationality — is universal.

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Suburban Sprawl

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the Brown Invasion. No, I’m not talking about all those Latinos stealing our jobs, selling our kids drugs, and hooting at our wives.

Hey, that’s old news. Even right-wingers are tired of peddling such fictions.

I’m referring to the recent study that showed ethnic minorities are no longer content to live in barrios and inner cities. For example, “metropolitan New York is being rapidly reshaped as blacks, Latinos, Asians and immigrants surge into the suburbs.”

Yes, my friends, it’s a damn surge out there. Watch out, suburbia.

I used to live in NYC, and my neighborhood, although primarily white, was decently mixed. The same is true of the LA area in which I live now. It’s one reason that I’ve loved both neighborhoods.

However, I have never lived in a suburb, nor do I have any desire to do so. Every time I visit a friend who has bought a house on a cul-de-sac, I get a little jittery, like the 1950s are going to suddenly explode all over me. I expect to look over a manicured lawn and there, in the distance, see a nuclear family in black and white, playing croquet and drinking lemonade.

But that’s just my hang-up. As much as I love living in cities, it would be a sad commentary if every Hispanic thought exactly as I do. By all means, if the Rodriguez family wants to take the commuter rail, I say enjoy the ride.

Still, it’s not like Latinos are blending in effortlessly with their suburban compatriots. That old barrier — segregation — exists even when Hispanics leave the big bad city behind. Latinos tend to be “typically clustered in ethnically or racially monolithic communities,” even in suburbia. So Wally and the Beaver won’t necessarily be hanging with Juan and Maria.

But perhaps that’s in the future, and maybe there are other positive developments yet to come. For example, suburbanites may have more diversity at their key parties someday.

And perhaps the whole concept of suburban angst will have to be redefined. Maybe a couple named Hernandez will feel ennui for once.

This opens up exciting possibilities. Perhaps a Hispanic director will remake “American Beauty” or “The Ice Storm,” but with Latinos in the lead. And of course, maybe someone can take another shot at “Revolutionary Road.”

If so, can we talk Kate Winslet into playing a Latina?

Yes, I still have a monster crush on the woman; sue me.


It’s Not Really a Mosque, You Know…

Now that we’re past the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, one hopes that we can look at the so-called Ground Zero mosque in a clear and logical manner…  Actually, who are we kidding? People are still freaking out about this imaginary threat, even as the headlines have died down. In any case, I can assure you that the planned building will look nothing like this:

Recently, the New York Times released a poll showing that about half the city’s residents opposed building the community center, while a little over a third supported it. But the Times poll went a little further than most questionnaires on this topic, as it broke out the respondents by race or ethnicity.

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