The 2020 Census is taking place later this year. It is going to be interesting to see the impact of the much-debated Latino representation. There has been much controversy over how Hispanics might identify themselves on census forms, as they are not identified as their own race or group, unlike Whites, Blacks (African Americans), American Indian, Asians or Pacific Islanders. Those are their only choices…
A recent Pew study of census data shows that many Hispanics are identifying as white. This could have implications in national politics and can certainly influence where parties spend millions of dollars in appealing to get people out to vote. This research suggests that the longer Hispanics have been in the U.S., the more likely they are to indicate that they are “white”.
There is however a caution in treating whiteness as ideal social baseline; America is much more than the complexion or the color of our skin. We ought to be recognizing our diversity in terms of culture, ethnicities and in the knowledge that all people were created equal and were intended to live together and treat others with respect.
Consider for instance this Pew Research Center study of census returns that showed that significantly more Hispanics are now identifying as white. The research was completed in 2019 and presented at the recent Population Association of America meeting.
Some news reports suggested that Hispanics, rather than solidifying a distinct ethnic identity and becoming the driving force of a “majority-minority” future, might instead try to be the latest group of immigrants, such as Italians or Jews, to “become white.”
If this shift is real, it could have big implications.
Take for example national politics, where the Republican Party plays to a shrinking, aging and questioning base of historically white voters. If large numbers of Hispanics were to start thinking of themselves as white, that could alter the calculations and messaging of the party and its incumbent president.
It turns out such scenarios are at best premature. What the new research really appears to reveal is just how confused we continue to be about race. Amidst this confusion, being identified as someone who is white is a label that Americans must deal with rather carefully.
Next blog will be a continuation of the Pew Research and why whiteness ought not to matter …
Until next time, I am Brent M, Executive Director of LHCC and today is February 21, 2020