Tag: Spanish-speaking

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 Best of Intentions

President Obama recently held a town-hall meeting to pitch the finer points of the Affordable Care Act to Latinos. And when I say, “the finer points,” I mean that he basically said, “This is driving me nuts. You should be signing up in droves.”

But Hispanics are doing no such thing, and despite the fact that “the Latino population is disproportionately uninsured and relatively young… enrollment hasn’t been going well.” This is because, like all things related to the Obamacare rollout, things were botched and fumbled.

Fumble

For example, “instead of starting with what would resonate with Latinos, outreach campaigns were developed in English for English-speaking audiences,” with the result that Obamacare details and benefits were not “directed particularly at the Latino population.”

Even more alarming, many Hispanics are under the mistaken impression “that signing up for the Affordable Care Act could get family members deported.”

So now some of Obama’s biggest supporters — who also stand to benefit greatly from the ACA, and who are also more likely than most Americans to be uninsured, and who are more at risk for some particularly vexing diseases – are cowering in fear rather than bum rushing the registration desks and swamping the ACA website.

It’s a cruel irony, and one that could have been easily avoided, if the Obama administration had put as much effort into proper outreach as they do in fending off right-wing attacks.

But a quick and easy solution isn’t coming. Indeed, at Obama’s town hall, “as the questions came, some of the challenges the president and his administration face in selling the health care law were brought into focus.”

Hopefully, they got the message.

 


Imm & Imm

My mother came to America from El Salvador. My paternal grandparents came from Europe. All emigrated legally, which is the essence of the American experience – huddled masses yearning to be free, and all that.

However, in the eyes of many Americans, my mother and grandparents were selfish and immoral. After all, whenever a debate starts up about immigration, it’s just a matter of time before someone says, “They need to stay and fix their own countries instead of coming here.”

The implication is that people have an ethical obligation to remain in their homelands rather than try to improve their own lives. Of course, none of the Americans saying this have ancestors who took that advice. As soon as Ireland ran a little low on potatoes, for example, lots of people said, “See ya,” rather than stick around for the sake of rescuing Belfast.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


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