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."
...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.