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Census Asks: Is Latino An Ethnicity Or Race?

In August, Jude Joffe-Block reported that the census is thinking of better ways to ask Americans about their race. A problem exists. If you identify as “Latino” you’re not identifying a race, but (as the government sees it) an ethnicity. If you remember, in the census these are two separate questions:

Questions eight and nine from the 2010 Census regarding Hispanic origin and race.

Photo by Nathan Gibbs


Above: Questions eight and nine from the 2010 Census regarding Hispanic origin and race.

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But the “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish” population grows, so does the confusion.
Via, NPR:

The government categorizes Hispanic as an ethnicity, while many Hispanics think of it as a race. The confusion played out in the 2010 count, as nearly 22 million people — 97 percent of whom were Hispanic — identified as "some other race." It ranked as the third-largest racial category.

What is "some other race?" This question can lead to a rabbit hole of descriptions. KPCC asked its audience: If you met someone on the street, how would you describe your ethnic or racial background to him or her?

Here are a handful of responses:


LatinoAmeriGringa, a word I came up with which describes the many people like myself.

My parents are from Puerto Rico; my siblings and I were born in Ohio.

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The census numbers surrounding race and population are a starting point for many important decisions. As Latinos gain more political clout, some leaders fear a change to the census could affect their growing influence. NPR:

Latino leaders say changing the Hispanic origin question could create confusion and lead some Latinos not to mark their ethnicity, shrinking the overall Hispanic numbers.

"We're the only group in the country that has our own question? Why give it up?" says Angelo Falcon, director of the National Institute for Latino Policy. "A lot of Latino researchers like the question the way it is now because it shows those differences. The way the Census Bureau is thinking about combining the questions, it might take away that information in terms of how we fit within the American racial hierarchy."

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | January 9, 2013 at 4:35 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

This is just another name for an American other than white. I'm of Mexican ancestry, but have always answered, "I'm an American," when asked my nationality. It's ridiculous to separate us by skin color, pronunciation of one's name, and ethnicity. Someone will always say, "It's to ensure everyone is treated fairly," but I say it's another way of reminding us our skin color and name pronunciation make us different.

I don't need to be reminded that America is a nation of immigrants because it isn't! Our founding fathers were pioneers, and the definition is very different from an immigrant. Every nation in the world accepts legal migration, with their fair share of illegal immigration, too. We are Americans, and as much so as Mexicans are Mexican, not Spanish-Mexicans (after all, where do you think their native language came from?).

Until we stop coming up with ways to identify ourselves based on ethnicity we will continue to be as divided as always.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | January 9, 2013 at 5:04 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

HarryStreet, there will always be ways to divide each other. We can't ignore the differences in skin color, language, ethnicity. There's all kinds of socio-economic classes in our society. That's the reality, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. It becomes problematic when we discriminate based on these differences.

We shouldn't be afraid to talk about race, or reject labels like "latino" altogether. But when we talk about race, we should remember it's an abstract construct of our own - just a way to classify the same species based on its DNA and culture - and remember to address discrimination at the same time.

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