An Inconvenient Truth: “Hispanic” is an ethnic origin, not a “race”

An Inconvenient Truth: “Hispanic” is an ethnic origin, not a “race”

National Institute for Latino Policy, Inc.

Nancy López, Guest Commentator and Associate Professor of Sociology
University of New Mexico

Kenneth Prewitt’s provocative August 21st New York Times commentary calls us to “fix the census archaic racial categories.” He contends that the current national statistical system is untenable because it has not kept pace with post-1965 demographic shifts. However, it is puzzling that while Dr. Prewitt chides the Census for conflating race and nationality, he proceeds to do just that.

His solution is to ask two new questions: “One based on a streamlined version of today’s ethnic and racial categories/’ and a second, separate comprehensive nationality question. This recommendation would effectively conflate race with ethnic origin as if these were one and the same thing. But the inconvenient truth is that knowing a person’s ethnicity, (for example, their cultural background, nationality or ancestry), tells you nothing about their race or their social position in society that is usually related to the meanings assigned to a conglomeration of one’s physical traits, including skin color and facial features.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Dr. Prewitt’s recommendation for a streamlined version of today’s ethnic and racial categories is his proposal to make Hispanics a “race.” He points to the fact that 37% of Hispanics marked “some other race” in the 2010 Census race question as proof that the question is flawed. But could it be that it is that many Hispanics or Latinos occupy an in-between racial status that precludes them from being readily identified as white, black, Asian or Native American in the U.S. context?…

Read the entire article here.

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