For Many Latinos, Race Is More Culture Than Color

Via Scoop.itMixed American Life

Quotes of interest:   More than 18 million Latinos checked this “other” box in the 2010 census, up from 14.9 million in 2000. It was an indicator of the sharp disconnect between how Latinos view themselves and how the government wants to count them. Many Latinos argue that the country’s race categories — indeed, the government’s very conception of identity — do not fit them.   Census Bureau officials have acknowledged that the questionnaire has a problem, and say they are wrestling with how to get more Latinos to pick a race.   When respondents do not choose a race, the Census Bureau assigns them one, based on factors like the racial makeup of their neighborhood, inevitably leading to a less accurate count.   Some of the latest research, however, shows that many Latinos — like Irish and Italian immigrants before them — drop the Latino label to call themselves simply “white.” A study published last year in the Journal of Labor Economics found that the parents of more than a quarter of third-generation children with Mexican ancestry do not identify their children as Latino on census forms.   “If the question is ‘What’s your heritage?’ I’d say Irish-Mexican,” he said. “But the question is ‘What are you?’ and the answer is I’m white.” -James Paine   Over the decades, the Census Bureau has repeatedly altered how it asks the race question, and on the 2010 form, it added a sentence spelling out that “Hispanic origins are not races.” The change helped steer 5 percent more Latinos away from “some other race,” with the vast majority of those choosing the white category.   Still, critics of the census questionnaire say the government must move on from racial distinctions based on 18th-century binary thinking and adapt to Americans’ sense of self.   But Latino political leaders say the risk in changing the questions could create confusion and lead some Latinos not to mark their ethnicity, shrinking the overall Hispanic numbers.   Ultimately, said Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy and chairman of the Census Advisory Committee on the Hispanic Population, this is not just a tussle over identity, it is a political battle, too.   “It comes down to what yields the largest numbers for which group,” he said.
Via www.nytimes.com

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