Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ask "Mixed Race America" -- #2

Here's the second question submitted to the semi-regular feature "Ask Mixed Race America" (which I'm going to abbreviate to "Ask MRA" since I'm feeling lazy).

[Note: I have been doing very light editing of these queries--mostly in terms of mis-spellings and/or adding certain punctuation for clarity of reading. But by and large, I copy and paste directly from my email message to this blog. If people would like me to edit their messages for clarity or brevity or NOT edit them, at all, please indicate in your letters and I will follow your wishes.]

Dear MRA,

I have many people who are from Mexico and other Spanish countries who consider themselves brown as a race. I have someone else telling me no there is no brown race they are considered white as a race and then Mexican or Cuban but the race is white. Please advise which is correct. Thank-you.


So dear readers, can you please advise "L"?

As I stated in my first installment of Ask MRA, I'd like YOU, the members of the blogosphere to weigh in on "L"'s question--to give this question the consideration of the collective rather than the one.

And if anyone out there has a question they'd like to ask MRA, please email


Unknown said...

I'm unsure what definitions of 'race' and 'ethnicity' are currently in vogue - and depending upon whether one is a lumper or splitter - most peoples in C. & S. America (and the Islands) are genetic admixtures of invading Asians and invading Europeans, and in the islands, there is a Negro component. Three bean soup - pick'em.

Jennifer said...

I know I said I wouldn't chime in, but I think that since the only other comment on this thread may not have directly gotten to what I think is the heart of your question, let me take a stab.

Technically speaking (and I mean really officially according to the U.S. census) people of Latin American background are not a racial group.

As Bob noted, people from the Caribbean and Latin American countries (from both north and south American) are really an amalgam of various "races" -- indigenous populations (Mayans, Incans, many, many others), European colonizers (Portuguese, Spanish) and enslaved (African) and indentured (Asian) people all mixing together (lots of interracial sex, some coercive, some consensual) over hundreds of years.

So according to the census, and in general, many scholars who work on issues of race/ethnicity, anyone of "Hispanic" origin (this largely refers to Spanish but also Portuguese ancestry in the Americas) is an "ethnic group" labeled as "White--hispanic" or "Hispanic, non-white."

However, within the "logic" of what I like to call the "racial pentagram" (see the sidebar--I have a whole post on this topic), "Latinos" are treated like a separate "racial" group in this country. They operate socially and culturally, in other words, like a "race" because they don't have access to white privilege and have been lumped into a "darker" minority group that is neither African American, American Indian, or Asian American.

The short answer to your question is that they are technically an ethnic group and not a racial group. But I hope that the longer answer, above, helps to understand why there is confusion.