Latinos a Race?

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary The U.S. Census is busy experimenting with the term “Latino.” They are now considering listing Latinos as a race—separate from all the other races such as white, black, Asian, Native American/Native Alaskan (can’t figure this one out myself as many Asians and Native Americans are of the same race), and Pacific Islander. Instead of Latinos checking the other boxes for being of one or more races, they can check “Latino.” The logic going with this category is that people who identify themselves as more Latino than anything can simply check a box that identifies them as “Latino.” In my view there are a whole lot of problems with going on this over-arching generalization.

Latino, in a very, very general definition is someone whose ancestry came from Latin America or parts of the Caribbean ruled by the Spanish (or in the case of Brazil, by the Portuguese). But even this is not true. There are native Amerindian groups throughout Latin America that have no Spanish, no Portuguese, no Italian or French blood in them. These peoples are the same as the day before Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas. Latino refers usually to someone who may have an ancestor(s) who came originally from Spain, Portugal, Italy or France and went to what is now Latin America. There are of course other European nationalities such as German, Dutch, Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, and even English, Scottish and Irish who went to Latin America. One classic example of this is Vicente Fox—his ancestry came from Ireland. Let us not forget that there are many Latin Americans whose ancestry came from Africa. In addition, there are many Latin Americans whose ancestry came from Asia. One example of this is former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. His parents came from Japan.

So Latinos can be either one race or a combination of two or more races. In that sense it is no difference from Americans in the United States. All non-Hispanic Americans can identify themselves as white, black, Asian, Native American/Native Alaskan, and Pacific Islander. If the generic term “Latino” is anything it is closer to being a kind of ethnic group, although this is not entirely true either. My only advice for those trying to create new census forms is to come up with a far better definition of what Latino means.

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