In a country where people think a Mexican restaurant is the same thing as a Spanish restaurant, it’s not surprising that there is confusion about what being Hispanic means. The other day some twit on a newspaper site questioned George Zimmerman’s identification as a white Hispanic. “I’ve never heard of that sub-grouping before,” quoth the twit. I think an entire branch of my family tree just fell into the ocean.
The fact is, the majority of Hispanic Americans identify as white (53% in the 2010 Census). This is not some new thing, nor is it a nefarious trick. Hispanic means you speak Spanish or are from a Spanish-speaking background. People from Spain and the former Spanish colonies are Hispanic. The race of these folks varies, just as the race of people from England and the former English colonies varies. Most people from Spain are white, and a large percentage of people in the former Spanish colonies are white. Some people in the former Spanish colonies are Indian, a great many are mestizo, and some are black. But as long as they are from a Spanish-speaking culture, they’re Hispanic.
The problem is that the U.S. Census does not treat “Hispanic” as a race. That means that all Hispanics must choose one of the following:
1. American Indian or Alaska Native
3. Black or African American
4. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Here is how the Census defines “white”:
A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
I live in the Central Valley of California. We have a large Mexican-American population. In my experience, when given the option most Mexican-Americans will self-identify as “Hispanic,” “Latino” or “Brown” (as in “Brown Pride.”) One of the prominent Hispanic advocacy groups here in the United States is an organization called The National Council of La Raza. “La Raza” means “The Race.”
“Hispanic” is a fairly new term and designates a broad category that includes Spaniards, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans, Columbians, Dominicans and sometimes Portuguese and Brazilians. It all depends on who is doing the grouping. Genetically Hispanics range from pure white/European to Native American to African. Many Hispanics are either biracial or multi-racial.
Culturally they are very diverse as well. Most Hispanics are Catholic and speak Spanish, but they don’t all eat burritos and tacos. They don’t all like each other either. Florida has a large Cuban-American population. New York has a large Puerto Rican community and the Southwest has lots of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.
George Zimmerman self-identified as “Hispanic” on his voter registration card. (He also registered as a Democrat.) His father was white/caucasian and his mother was Peruvian. I’m unaware of any large Peruvian-American communities in the United States.
When the Trayvon Martin killing first became national news the media depicted Zimmerman as “white” without any mention of his ethnicity. But the first picture published of him showed clearly that he has Hispanic heritage. That is when the media began using the new term “White Hispanic.” They did this for a specific reason – to maintain the narrative that Trayvon was the victim of white racism.
Here’s a question: If Hispanics are considered to be white, why is it racist for a white person to oppose illegal immigration?