A Race Of Hispanics

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Tim Padgett reports:


Many, if not most, Hispanics in the U.S. think of their ethnicity (also known as Latino) not just in cultural terms but in a racial context as well. It's why more than 40% of Hispanics, when asked on the Census form in 2000 to register white or black as their race, wrote in "Other" -- and they represented 95% of all the 15.3 million people in the U.S. who did so.

An even larger share of Hispanics, including my Venezuelan-American wife, is expected to report "Other," "Hispanic" or "Latino" in the race section of the 2010 census forms being mailed to U.S. homes this month. What makes it all the more confusing if not frustrating to them is that Washington continues to insist on those forms that "Hispanic origins are not races." If the Census Bureau lists Filipino and even Samoan as distinct races, Hispanics wonder why they -- the product of half a millennium of New World miscegenation -- aren't considered a race too. "It's a very big issue," says Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy in New York City and a community adviser to the Census. "A lot of Hispanics find the black-white option offensive, and they're asserting their own racial uniqueness."

We are, increasingly, running up against the limits of really bogus framework, perpetrated in this country for really bogus reasons. I'd bet that even among Hispanics (as is the case for all groups, when you have a complicated issue) there's less than universal agreement on whether "Hispanic" should be a race.

Part of this probably comes from a desire for acknowledgement of the fact that Hispanics often have to deal with racism. No one likes to have their struggle minimized. To wit:

...Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director of Voto Latino, a Hispanic civic organization based in Washington, D.C., worries because most Hispanics who do choose between white and black select white. That "risks leaving a mistaken impression that they enjoy certain socioeconomic opportunities we associate with whites in this country," says Kumar, "when in reality [Hispanics] are near the bottom in areas like education and upward mobility." As a result, groups like Voto Latino are encouraging Hispanics to write Hispanic or Latino in the "Other" space for race.

I don't know if that logic follows. The notion that "white people" occupy that top portions of our socioeconomic brackets is, I'd bet, also not quite true, since we don't really break white people out into categories

For my part, I greatly look forward to a day when "black" isn't a race, but more a marker of a certain history and culture. I love black people. I love black culture. I love the history and the stories. But to the extent that there is such a thing, I don't really love being a member of a "race."
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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