Check Both! Afro-Latin@s and the Census

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-22 18:53Z by Steven

Check Both! Afro-Latin@s and the Census

NACLA: Reporting on the Americas Since 1967

Miriam Jiménez Román

Earlier in 2010 a series of public service announcements circulated on the Internet in anticipation of the U.S. Census. The three short videos, produced and disseminated by the afrolatin@ forum, a New York–based educational nonprofit, urged Latin@s to identify both racially and ethnically, to “Check Both” on the census form. Targeting Black Latin@s, the campaign sought to challenge the prevailing notion of Latin@s as uniquely exempt from standard racial categories. By claiming both national origins and Black identity, Afro-Latin@s assert the continuing significance of race, both within Latin@ communities and in the broader society. At the very least, being counted on the census as Black and Latin@ brings attention to a social group that has long been invisible and subject to ongoing social and political marginalization…

…Latin@s may well be the only social group in the world who so emphatically insist on their ethnoracial mixture. But even as mestizo, or mixed identity—expressed variably as raza, “rainbow people,” or “mutts”—is a commonplace collective designation, Latin@s are also understood to be “of any race.” This apparent contradiction can be traced to the convergence of two seemingly distinct racial formations. On the one hand, the national ideologies of our countries of origin emphasize racial mixture and equate it with racial democracy—even as whiteness continues to be privileged, and indigenous and African ancestry are viewed as something to be overcome or ignored. On the other hand, in the United States Latin@s have been allocated an ambiguous racial middle ground that invisibilizes those too dark to conform to the mestizo ideal, while simultaneously distancing them from other communities of color, particularly African Americans…

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