We're having trouble counting Hispanics. Should we be trying?
We’re having trouble counting Hispanics. Should we be trying?
The Economist (“Some other race“):
According to guidelines laid down by the federal Office of Management and Budget in 1977, “Hispanic” is an ethnicity, not a race. Someone of Hispanic origin may belong to any of the five officially recognised races: white, black, Asian, American Indian or Pacific Islander (or any combination of these). The census form reflects this distinction.
This, however, is not how many American Hispanics have come to see themselves. In 2010, the last time a count was carried out, many were puzzled by a form that asked them first to declare whether or not they were of Hispanic origin, and then to say what race they belonged to. Half identified themselves as white. But over a third ticked a box marked “Some other race”. As a result, “some other” emerged as America’s third-largest racial grouping.
This frustrates the head-counters. So for the next count, in 2020, the Census Bureau is considering collapsing the two ethnicity and race questions into a single “race or origin” inquiry (it may also drop the anachronistic term “Negro”). This will allow people who identify themselves solely as Hispanic to declare themselves as such (though they may tick extra boxes, such as “black” or “white”, if they like).
Such a change, say officials, would not mean that “Hispanic” is now to be considered a new racial category. Still, the widespread reporting of Hispanic-specific data, acknowledges Roberto Ramirez at the Census Bureau, means that in some respects “Hispanic” has become a de facto race.
Some are sceptical about the proposal. Rubén Rumbaut, a sociologist at the University of California, Irvine, accepts the need for good data but says the bureau is thinking about race in 18th-century terms. Hispanic identity in America, he adds, is a “Frankenstein’s monster” that has taken on a life of its own.
To some degree, race and ethnicity are outmoded constructs. Still, they tell us some useful things about our politics, economics, and culture.
In many ways, “Hispanic” really isn’t a meaningful construct. People of various Latin American origins don’t necessarily see themselves as having a common culture. The only real commonality is language—all Hispanic countries have either Spanish or Portuguese are their primary tongue—but even that doesn’t necessarily have anything to with Hispanic Americans, many of whom speak only English. At the same time, the fact that those people who self-identify as Hispanic constitute an ever-increasing segment of the population, vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and have various statistically meaningful differences from the majority white population is worth understanding.
Contrary to the Emerging Democratic Majority thesis, though, the fact that these differences exist now doesn’t mean they will permanently.
The ethnic origins of some previous waves of immigrants have evaporated over time: Italians, Germans and Russians, dismissed by Benjamin Franklin in 1751 as of “swarthy Complexion”, are now, for the most part, just white. Similar forces may be at play today: last year the Pew Hispanic Centre found that among Hispanics of the third generation or above, almost half preferred to call themselves “American”.
It’s just bizarre to think of Germans as somehow of a different race than Brits or Frenchmen; once upon a time, it seemed obvious. Within living memory, the Irish were considered as some distinct “other” by most Americans; again, that’s inconceivable now.
Only slightly related but amusing:
More recently officials were (briefly) alarmed when data appeared to show a sudden leap in the Hispanic populations of Kansas and Missouri. Residents of those states had decided a box marked “Central American” on the 1970 census form must have been intended for them.
Well, they are right there in the center of America.
Counting them is foolish. Rubio himself may be from Cuba but all or most of his gene pool comes from Spain. When Verizon was installing their fiber optic cable most of the workers were “Hispanic” but they were all Native Americans and some of them were actually speaking Mayan not Spanish.
The main thing they tell us is that we can’t quite quit the racial constructs. It varies though. Some regions are more post-racial than others.
Black American born in Georgia to naturalized citizens who themselves were born in Panama and whose ancestors hale from Jamaica, Barbados and Ethiopia, yet I still identify as Hispanic. I am as proud of my Panamanian heritage as those who claim Ireland as home every St. Patrick’s Day.
I wish much luck to the Census Bureau.
It matters as long as it matters. As long as Hispanics and other minorities are discriminated against, yes, we should collect basic data so we can understand the issues. Otherwise we’re like conservatives arguing against affirmative action, ‘Let’s pretend race doesn’t matter anymore.’
And yes, the data is ambiguous, but an approximation is always better than just guessing.
Ron, from Merriam-Webster
Definition of HISPANIC
: of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain or of Spain and Portugal
: of, relating to, or being a person of Latin American descent living in the United States; especially : one of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin
That said, my wife is from Spain and is as white as the driven snow. My family hails from Slovenia. Good strong mountain stock. Probably some gypsy in there somewhere as, believe it or not, I have been pulled over for DWB. Even stranger considering I am blond and blue eyed, but my hair is very kinky so from behind…?
As to whether we should count them or not, of course we should. How else are we going to gerrymander most efficiently?
My personal experience with Hispanics living in Central Texas is that they certainly do the follow the typical immigrant pattern. Generation 1: fluent in Spanish with zero to some English fluency (degree of English fluency being *very* class/educational level-based), more culturally Latino than mainstream American. Generation 2: the generation most likely to be fully bilingual / bicultural. Generation 3+: can talk to their abuela in Spanish, but couldn’t read a novel or a technical manual in Spanish. Level of bicultural awareness and involvement is highly variable.
Of course it is also important to remember that if you draw a line from El Paso to San Antonio to somewhere below Corpus Christi, everywhere from that point southward has a Hispanic-majority population. I lived in San Antonio for about five years and Tejano culture is very much alive and well, and has been the native culture since the 1600s. It is people like superdestroyer are as much ignorant as racist – it isn’t Hispanics who are the immigrants in South and South-Central Texas, it is the Anglos.
The flip side is that – as I said – from generation 3 and on, most people can only speak conversational Spanish. I did tech support for a couple of years when I was living in San Antonio and we had a decent number of Central and South American customers. Probably half of our employees had Spanish surnames, but finding someone who was conversant in technical Spanish was all but impossible. We would end up asking them most of the time to submit a support ticket rather than provide immediate phone tech support – Google translate for the win.
My jaw dropped when I read that graf. Especially in light of the fact the blog post then blithely went on for a few more grafs, whistling past a few dozen screaming neon elephants in the room.
Yeah, race and ethnicity are outmoded constructs. Agreed. So why, then, are we still saddled with: Title VII and its state law counterparts, “affirmative action,” i.e., race preferences in education and hiring, EEO reports, the EEOC and its state and local counterparts, minority-owned business preferences for federal, state and local government contracts, the Fair Housing Act and its state law counterparts, HUD, etc.?
Employers spend many tens of billions of dollars each year dealing with the racial grievance cottage industries. Every one of those dollars is one less dollar with which to hire people and to pay fringe benefits. In the abstract that’s a calamity. When you’re dealing with unemployment and underemployment on massive scales, along with flat wage growth, shrinking benefits packages, reduced hours and stagnant income growth, it’s a national tragedy.
In any case, regarding the “Hispanic” question, the road to regulatory and governmental hell is paved with egalitarian intentions. And the other giant elephant in the room, somehow missed by this blog post, is that of illegal immigration. It’s tough to count a group of people when many millions of them live in the shadows. All the more reason of course to have some form of a blanket amnesty.
@Tsar Nicholas: When DWB isn’t a problem anymore then I’ll believe that race is an outmoded concept….
@grumpy realist: When left-wing politicos and policies cease fomenting urban underclasses I’ll then believe that “DWB” is something other than a bait-and-switch device for the for-profit racial grievance industries. Until then, however, color me unimpressed. And the issue is not whether racism still exists, most certainly it does, it’s how much public money and how many jobs do you want to cost us in your and your liberal brethren’s Quixotic endeavor to make rainbows fall from the clear blue skies.
Even that’s not necessarily true. Outside of the US, most people think of “Hispanic” as relating only to Spanish and not Portuguese language, culture and ethnicity. The Portuguese in Portugal, for example, do not think of themselves as Hispanic.
That´s the problem. Here in Brazil there was a wide discussion about racial quotas because no one was managing to define what a Black person is(Blacks with dark skins are something like 5% of the population).They created committees in universities to analyse photos and make sure that the person applying for racial quotas was what should be considered a Black person.
With Hispanics that´s more complicated because of the diversity of Latin America. There are Hispanics of all racial backgrounds. Most white Hispanics never faces discrimination, while the problem goes with poor Hispanics, most of them coming from poor areas of Mexico and Central America. In the US, even people like Pat Buchanan or Tom Tancredo do not have problems with Middle Class people from Latin America like me. In fact, with the exception of my heavy accent I would be probably confused with an American Born Asian, with the exception of my heavy accent.
The problem is that most Hispanics that goes to the US have an American-Indian Heritage and they have a poor background.
Um…because racism is still a mighty force in our socirty. Don’t believe me? Superdope will be along any minute to prove it.
With regard to your use of “white” to differentiate non-Hispanics: my girlfriend, as I’ve mentioned before, has pale white skin, is blonde and blue-eyed, and has a German last name. She’s also Argentinian, born in Argentina to Argentinean parents, and Spanish is of course her native language. (Her coloring derives from the fact that her family on both sides descends from German and northern Italian immigrants to Argentina). I have another Mexican friend — pale white skin, red hair, freckles, green eyes — grandparents were Irish immigrants to Mexico. Or look at Louis C.K. — he’s Mexican, and yet is the palest person around.
You can be completely white and Hispanic, just as you can be Indian, black, East Asian, etc. and Hispanic.
@Gromitt Gunn: You raise an important point: All Hispanics are not alike. In San Antonio (and south), there are many Americans of Hispanic origin that have been in this country (as well as the ante-Texas country) a lot longer than my Scots-German family. Many are indistinguishable (except by the ethnic surname) by income, education, and physical characteristics from me.
Also, there are many Native American folks who are indistinguishable from the Tejanos.
I’m also not sure what the true value of grouping together people although I am aware of the the many govt programs that depend on such classifications.
@Tsar Nicholas: Aren’t you the one that repeatedly points out that unemployment rates for blacks and Hispanics is much higher than the rate for white people?
@scott: Interesting that you mentioned German ancestry. In the Hill Country in Central Texas there are a lot of towns (Fredericksberg, Gruene, New Braunfels, to give you an idea) that have enclaves that have kept their German language and cultural heritage alive since arrival in the 1800s. And yet I have never heard anyone complain that this is America and they should speak English, dammit.
your liberal brethren’s Quixotic endeavor to make rainbows fall from the clear blue skies.
F*cking rainbows, how do they work?
@Gromitt Gunn: Yes, you can still hear the accents in some of the older folks. A German school in San Antonio was in operation well into the 60s. we still occasionally go 9 pin bowling.
@Gromitt Gunn: This is why I don’t understand the rejection of immigrants. Of course the first generation is going to have issues, but by the third they’ve been assimilated into the melting pot as Americans sharing our American values (having been indoctrinated in our schools and immersed in society). Look at how most W European countries with their own clubbed feet have failed to Europeanize their immigrants. I’ll bet on the immigrant’s kids – so long as they’re coming here. I found your post reassuring.
I especially find it amusing when paleo-conservatives like Pat Buchanan go all librarian (thank you, Terry Pratchett) about Dem Ebil Furriners. One hundred years ago the exact same stuff would have been raised against people like Pat Buchanan. (“no Irish need apply.”)
Just exactly how sheltered an existence do you live? Because the real world would not stand for such stupidity.
“enclaves that have kept their German language and cultural heritage alive since arrival in the 1800s. And yet I have never heard anyone complain that this is America and they should speak English, dammit.”
I recall years ago coming across a (long since repealed) Pennsylvania law which required that if more than 10% of the population of a municipality spoke German or Italian as their native language, public notices were required to be in those languages as well. Likely it was a descendant of those Italian immigrants who put up the “This is America — Speak English” sign on his cheesesteak shop a few years ago.
“Pat Buchanan. (“no Irish need apply.”)”
I thought Buchanan was a Scottish name.
I would like to ask the big question;
Why do we count race at all? Isn’t government supposed to be color blind? Obviously there are so many examples that show that the state isn’t color blind. I see no purpose in knowing how many blacks, whites, asians or hispanics are in given area. All it does is provide fuel for idiots with race based agendas for example;
Paleocons like Pat Buchanan and Frosty Wooldridge who love to push the panic button in regards to anything that related to minority groups. I can only imagine how ape shit paleocon blogs go whenever some story comes out that says whites will be the minority in X year. For them immigration is the gift that keeps on giving.
Liberals such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who continue to push their agenda that the US is still like the pre-civil rights era. A minority is denied a job in their minds is automatic 1950s racism which on it’s face is absurd. Like the paleocon they have no interested in promoting an actual color blind society because racial politics are a cash cow.
Now I’m not saying that hatred because of what a person is, is automatically going to disappear because such a belief is absurd. There will be always the Buchanan’s, the Sharptons, the Wooldrige’s, the Jacksons, the Dukes, the Farrakhans and others.
@C. Clavin: @C. Clavin:
Telling that you would think giving a black woman a fair shot at a job is punishing to a white man.
Right, but when you are proud of your Panamanian heritage, “Hispanic” is a pretty rude approximation.
I think heritage is at once finer grained and caries less negatives than “race or ethnicity”
(Says the guy who distinguishes between his Icelandic part and his Danish part.)
@Cynical in New York:
I think at some point we must do a great leap forward, it’s just a question of when.
(I’d hate to think that 100 years from now black comedians are still doing race humor.)
@Cynical in New York:
Because…. how do I say this politely?…. Dumbsh!t, we all count race. It is a part of the human condition. Look at a black man and tell me you don’t see a black man. Go ahead, do it…. I (and every one else) will know you for the lying sack of shit that you are. We ALL see race. Some of us admit it. The rest?
Pretend it doesn’t matter.
It shouldn’t. But it does. And the first step is admitting that it does.
Here in MO we have our own German enclaves along the MO river. What is less well known is that up until the late sixties we had French speaking populations in the lead belt. They were even more isolated.
(We might be to the point, for instance, where income based affirmative action has more positives than race-based. Racists say “oh no, it still goes to the minorities!” But those are the racists. The rest say “only as long as they are the underclass.”)
There’s an entertaining section in the novel Caramello, in which the young Latina is told, “You don’t look Mexican.” She muses about which sort of Mexican she doesn’t look like… the Jews who immigrated from Europe, the “left-over French,” the green eyed Mexicans, the Mexicans whose grandparents came from Lebanon, the Mennonites, and so forth.
Any attempt at counting people from a particular geographical area because of underlying racial or cultural reasons is going to run into trouble. Do you count people from Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan as Asian, for example? Do you count Afghanis as Middle Easterners, how about Egyptians? Turks as Europeans? And that’s not even considering any of the infinite permutations of mixed nationalities/races/backgrounds who then move to other places. So, we must understand that by definition counting is an inexact science. And that goes for other types of things like capturing someone like Mitt Romney as a person living in Massachusetts. Nevertheless, the census is valuable for all sorts of things not the least of which includes social science and as long as Americans racialize Hispanics, whatever their background, education, or income, we should continue counting them. To stop would be a serious mistake.
Uh huh…tell that to someone who is stopped and asked for ID in Arizona simply because he looks like he is from Mexico…or tell that to someone who is pulled over in Georgia because his skin’s melanin content is significantly higher than yours…
(yawn) Was that those conservative debate skills I keep hearing about so much? If so bravo sir, calling me neutral insults so much better than debating with liberals who regularlly accuse me of being a fascist. Sorry if advocating for the individual instead of the collective gets you in a twist.
i thought of this a few years ago when major league baseball said they had a “crisis” because they didn’t have many “black” players. by “black” they mean “African American” as there’s tons of players from south & central America who look “black’ to most of us. it shouldn’t matter anyway, aside from those who need to feel divided.
In Brazil there were also German enclaves where people only spoke German. Getúlio Vargas then forced then to speak Portuguese.
How interesting that the same people who have probably never been discriminated against for the color of their skin or their ethnic background speak from on high about how terrible it is that others would dare to talk about race or to make some kind of issue out of that subject…
@Moosebreath: Who cares? They all look alike anyway.. 🙂
One of the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action is women–especially white women. I’d imagine that might chap “Conservative” thighs being that the women aren’t home cooking supper or waiting for them in bed for their weekly 2 minutes of glory.
In case no one noticed, colleges aren’t bursting from the seams with black men waiting to enter the workforce for jobs where Affirmative action is trying to increase diversity. So you can rest easy cons and retire at least one black boogie man to the closet.
@Gromitt Gunn: \
You are mistaken if you believe that Latinos in the U.S. can read and write in Spanish. Most illegal immigrants to the U.S. are not literate in Spanish and there is probably no books or magazines in their homes that are in Spanish. That is why bilingual education was so stupid. The parents could not help their chilldren learn in Spanish anymore than helping them learn in English.
Also, employers should never let someone who claims to speak Spanish translate unless they have been certified. Many hospitals have found out the hard way that their “Spanish Speaking” employees only knew the slang/vulgar names for body parts and functions.
Not that you don’t usually show it, SD, but this one really strikes me as showing your true colors. “Most illegal immigrants to the US are not literate in Spanish” (yeah, if they are not from Latin America, sure). This is an absolutely ridiculous claim for Spanish speakers. Mexico has over 90% literacy rate, (over 80% for El Salvador and Honduras) and those who are illiterate tend to be indigenous or extremely poor. If you know anything about immigration you’d know that these are not the people that usually migrate, because they simply do not have the resources to do so.
I’d ask you to provide evidence but it’s futile. Proceed to live in this paranoid fantasy of yours where Latinos take over and destroy your precious white America? Republican party? 1950s America? Maybe they really are after you.
You don’t get out much, do you?
Vince Lombardi felt that his Italian heritage was a large factor in keeping him from becoming an NFL head coach until he was well into middle age, and in keeping him from serious consideration as a head coach with the elite teams in the NFL. The job he did get was with Green Bay, then the worst team in the league in a microscopic market. When I was a kid, “WOP” was still a fighting word.
Was Coach Lombardi a whiner who was afraid to work hard and pull himself up by his own bootstraps? I think not.
Yes, things have gotten better – quite a bit better. But discrimination is baked into our society on a myriad of levels. It remains a very serious problem. That so many seem desperate to deny it is revealing all by itself.
Indeed…the colors of bedsheets…