Thursday, April 15, 2010

Senseless Census

I completed the 2010 Census form and mailed it back recently. This was the second time I’ve done one. Last time I was still in my parents’ house and completed the form for them, but this time I own my own home and reported the information for my wife, son and I.

Section 9 of the Census form for what “race” am I presented a conundrum. I’m Puerto Rican and like I did on the 2000 form I checked “some other race” and wrote Latino. What troubled me was the list of races on the form:

The form lists Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese as separate races which is the height of absurdity. Yet Latinos, the largest minority group in the United States are not listed as it’s own race. The argument may be concerning the diversity amongst Latino, but that argument puts a stake in the heart of the claim that Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese are a separate race.

In any event, there is no such thing as a homogeneous racial group in the United States. Some try to argue it, holding onto the antiquated notion of race based on the now scorned classifications of Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongoliod. Latinos are historical rather than present-day mestizos, a mixture. Actually, the term mestizo means mongrel which is certainly a derogatory term but it only had meaning when the Conquistadors conquered South and Central America and the islands of the Caribbean five centuries ago. From that time, the Spaniards integrated with the indigenous population (which they nearly exterminated) and the African slaves that were brought with them. There were more mixing of Spaniards with African slaves in the Caribbean than there was in Central and South America, where there was a higher rate of mixing with the indigenous population. The first few generation of mixtures were derogatorily referred to as mestizos, but then a strange thing happened: soon there was so much mixing that mestizos became the overwhelming majority throughout the Spanish colonies. The term was no longer derogatory since it referred to the people in power. Culturally, they followed Spanish ways but racially they had become their own distinct group which they differentiated from the Spanish who still traveled to the region and the Africans still brought over on slave ships.

Look at it this way. President Obama listed himself as African-American on the Census but his mother is white. If you believe that Spaniards are “white”, then Latinos haven’t had white blood in them since before British set foot on the lands to the north which eventually became the United States. Yet some how till this day Latinos are not recognized as a race on the Census form.

Yes, the form actually has its own section for Latinos (section 8) where you can list whether you are Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, etc., but is that really necessary? There is no other section for Ethnic groups such as Italian, German, Irish, etc. And Asian Indians and Middle Eastern people are included in “Other Asian” in the race section. So Latinos remain on the outskirts, relegated to their own placating section because of antiquated notions of race and ethnicity.

1 comment:

  1. It's even more perplexing for someone like me, Steve, who's mother is a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and who's father is a Dominican Catholic born in Santo Domingo. Which "race" do I belong too, then?

    I marked down "White" in the end, because even my father's rather large family can trace their lineage down to European ancestry only two generations back.