The Problem Of Being Racially White And Ethnically Hispanic
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Politics and Activism

The Problem Of Being Racially White And Ethnically Hispanic

When the U.S. Census doesn't even recognize you, how can you recognize yourself?

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The Problem Of Being Racially White And Ethnically Hispanic
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Racial identity and ethnic heritage are prominent topics that are now opening a dialogue in modern society. This is something that needs to be discussed because it wasn't until now that I have truly put some thought into it.

This might not seem like a major issue to certain individuals, but I can't help but notice the confusion that surrounds it. It is a question that Latinos have been asking themselves as a result of the United States Census, which does not grant us a race of our own. In other words, we have to fall under the spectrum between white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American/Alaska Native.

The race and Hispanic origin categories used by the Census Bureau are mandated by Office of Management and Budget Directive No. 15, which requires all federal record keeping and data presentation to use four race categories (White, Black, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander) and two ethnicity categories (Hispanic, non-Hispanic). These classifications are not intended to be scientific in nature, but are designed to promote consistency in federal record keeping and data presentation.

This brings our self-identity into question. While we might adopt our Latino roots as our ethnicity, what remains of our race?

In my opinion, it seems unjust that I, as a Latina born in the United States, am categorized as white when I never have, nor will I ever, receive the privileges and benefits of being white.

I have always considered myself to be of Mexican descent with Papago traces embedded within my flesh and bone. It had been quite a while before I realized I was categorically white, but I have never felt even remotely close to that. From Chicano to Latino, Hispanic to Mexican and Mestizo to Salvadoran and Puerto Rican, none of these can identify a race, rather ethnicity or nationality.

U.S. Population by Race and Hispanic Origin, July 1, 1997
                              (in thousands)
                White      Black   American Indian   Asian & Pacific 
                                   & Alaska Native      Islander
non-Hispanic   194,571    32,324       1,977             9,532
Hispanic        26,746     1,649         347               598

Ultimately, a majority of the population that identifies as Hispanic on the United States Census fall under the racially-white category because they have no other choice.

To me, it doesn't entirely make sense and while most can argue from an anthropologist's point-of-view, it still does not satisfy these questions that young people are experiencing.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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