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Latino Politics in the U.S.

Latino Politics in the U.S.
Kendall-Hunt, 2012 (2005)

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Honorary Whites: Where are Latinos in a Future Multiracial Society?

Where are Latinos in a Future Multiracial Society?
Raúl March 13, 2010 Race Culture & Power No Comments

“Yet, if we remember that Latinos are already no longer considered a “racial” group, but an “ethnic” one: Would Latinos even be counted, as a group, AT ALL?”

Full article here:

My good friend and colega, Dr. Raul Quiñones-Rosado clarifies the complexities of what I call the third racializing process, this occurs when racial groups, either by contesting or adapting (coerced) are positioned (or attempt to position themselves) in a higher racial status than the one this society’s racial architecture traditionally assigns to them. The Irish for example, in order to gain the status of “white” stepped over (in a myriad ways) African Americans in order to distance themselves from them so as not to remain in a lower racial status. They initially, in Virginia had coalesced with Africans in the struggle against the plantocracy, but decided to opt for whiteness (with help from the legal systems). The colonized Irish, changed their green politics of contestation for the white politics of acquiescence and in their efforts solidified and helped perpetuate the racial construct in the U.S.

But Latinos also participated in this process too (Puerto Rico is a separate and distinct and more complex process which I will not describe now). One of the first advocacy groups in the Mexican American community, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) sought from its inception, not to challenge the inequality of the system of racial stratification, but instead tried to position itself inside the white social group. It promoted Americanization, it engaged in mimicking whites in order to gain acceptance as members of white society. It also challenged racializing discrimination, when Mexican schools were created, and they legally resisted, not by resisting the notion of “separate but equal” but by arguing that Mexican Americans were white. Puerto Ricans in the Northeast also followed different but similar “racial positioning” strategies. At times, just like with Cubans in 19th century and 20th century Florida, it led to the division of the Cuban community between “white” Cubans and “non-white” Cubans. Today, the Black Cuban experience and “white’ Cuban experience walks along two different paths.

However, I have followed the debates about the Census and where do Latinos (again, Puerto Rico is a more complex process) fit in this new racializing process by society’s institutional arrangements. My major disagreement is that the reality is that Latinos/Hispanics have never been considered formally a separate “racial” group (as defined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census). In fact, Mexicans were considered “white” in the 1930s, Puerto Ricans have also been on the see saw of racial politics in the United States. However, in the U.S. popular culture Latinos/Hispanics are thought of as a pseudo race, or to use a better concept, as a “racialized ethnicity.” For me the issue is that: whether Latinos self-identify as “white” the overwhelming majority will still be considered “suspect whites” and in the best of all cases “honorary whites” (to use my colega Eduardo Bonilla’s term) in their experiences.

But worst of all it will divide Latinos because if one self-identifies as white it indicates a lack of political consciousness of the role of white supremacy in the U.S. In Texas, in the 19th and early century self-identified as “Spanish,” in order to distance themselves from poor working class Mexicans. Some of the elite even joined the Ku Klux Klan. Was there any political capital gained? Maybe at the individual level, but collectively it led to the retrenchment of racism in Texas. In fact, Texas has the highest number of lynchings of Mexicans than any state in the Southwest (Webb and Carrigan, 2009). More recently, during the racist Proposition 187 (1994) in California, those who self-identify as “whites” were more likely to vote in favor of this draconian law that expelled children from schools, made teachers into spies and excluded undocumented immigrants from receiving medical care (Garcia Bedolla, 2003).

In the end, it is important that Latinos be counted in a complete and accurate fashion. As for me I always choose “other” even despite the possibility of imputation (Census assigning you a race). I do not want to negate my multi-racial ancestors Tainos, African and Spanish, and until the census reveals that, I will be “none of the above.” Will that change why racial experience in the U.S? No, but I raise the question about the irrationality of race.

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