Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Why "Latino" is Not a Race

In many respects the issue of race has defined the United States more than any other. From the founding of our nation, race has been infused into the country's consciousness as those with dark skin were not afforded the same rights as those with lighter skin. At one point African Americans were defined by our government as 3/5th of a human being and the "drop of blood" doctrine was the law of the land.

If you are not familiar with the "drop of blood" belief, it meant that anyone that had any African heritage was considered black. In other words, if someone was white for all intents and purposes but had a great-grandparent that was of African descent then that individual was also considered black.

Because of this confusing history and complicated definitions, many people today have a difficult time categorizing Latinos (or Hispanics). There are millions of Latinos in America that would be considered white or black based purely on physical appearance but are of neither culture. Since a Latino is one who is of Spanish-speaking descent, they could be white, black or brown in skin tone and in physical features. Therefore, although it is accurate to describe Latinos as a cultural group, it would be incorrect to define them as a race.

Nadra Kareem, by way of the Racialicious blog, has written a thought-provoking article on black Latinos. A highlight:
"What’s behind the confusion? Why is it difficult for people to grasp the concept that one can be both black and Hispanic? I’m sure much of it stems from the idea that all Hispanics are mestizo, or Spanish and Indian. There’s also ignorance about how slave traders brought Africans all over the Americas and not just to the United States. And because many Latin Americans don’t classify citizens by race and black heritage isn’t exactly coveted in the region, some black Latinos may not openly identify as black despite the evidence in their hair texture and skin color. (Cuban Marianne Pearl is a case in point.) Complicating matters is that in film and television, black Hispanics are often cast as African Americans rather than Afro-Latinos, adding to the group’s low-profile."
To read the whole piece click here.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

The theory of race has been debated since the 17th century when a systematic use of the term "race" was used. based on geographical and some distinguishing physical characteristics.. Ended up with Caucasian, Negroid and Mongoloid. this concept is false and is an artificially constructed theory.

So race is just a scientific construct. The child from two distinct different individuals, creates a new human phenotype. Genotype and thereby a different "race". So logically the number of "races" will be infinite. So "mixed phenotype/genotype" of whatever dominant ethnicity is probably more correct.

A good example are black Americans. Some physically resemble some black Africans. Others would fit in in a variety of countries. For instance if some were born in Puerto Rico, they would be considered Latinos...but in the USA they are just black of African ethnicity.