The Census Can’t Fit Latinos Into A Race Box And It’s Causing More Confusion

The Census Can’t Fit Latinos Into A Race Box And It’s Causing More Confusion

The Huffington Post

Roque Planas, Editor

Pew revealed the findings of a study this month that shows some 2.5 million U.S. Latinos changed their race category from “some other race” to “white” between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.

The news prompted The New York Times and Slate to speculate that perhaps the United States isn’t headed toward a majority-minority status as many envision, given that, in the words of Slate, “a surprising number of Hispanics opted to identify themselves as ‘white’ in the last census.” Both articles say that the tendency toward identifying as white may mark an evolving pattern of assimilation into whiteness on the part of light-skinned Hispanics—an idea disputed by Latino Rebels, who questioned the non-Hispanic authors’ understanding of Latinidad.

The idea that Latinos will swell the ranks of the whites is an interesting theory, and perhaps even accurate, but the statistics released by Pew hardly support such a sweeping statement. What’s equally if not more likely is that the study reveals less about an evolving Latino identity or pattern of assimilation and more about the Census’s admittedly faulty system for classifying Hispanics.

The words “Latino” and “Hispanic” do not refer to a race—they refer to a multiracial ethnicity composed primarily of indigenous, European and African peoples and, most commonly, people of mixed race. In Latin America, there’s lots of different ways to describe people of mixed race—mestizo (mixed European and indigenous heritage) and mulato (mixed European and African heritage) being the most common.

The study reported by Pew this month isn’t the first indicator that more Latinos are identifying as white on the Census. The total share of Latinos self-identifying in the Census rose from 47.9 percent in 2000 to 53 percent in 2010.

But before jumping to the conclusion that Latinos are selecting “white” because of shifting racial ideas or assimilation, let’s consider a few characteristics of the Latino community…

Read the entire article here.

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