Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

01 April 2010

Happy Census Day! AKA Day of decision for Latinos...

I knew it was coming. I love the Census, I think it’s an amazing thing that our country takes to counting everyone every 10 years. I love that some of us, so far not my household, get to tell the government how we live by answering more than just “How many people live here.” But I was dreading this year’s form for one simple reason – Latinos are no longer a race.

This change happened in 1997 and thus was on the 2000 Census form. I was pissed about it then too, but back then I really believed that a Latino or Hispanic organization would rise up to fight to put us back in the race column. But it didn’t happen. Now the buzz in Latino & Hispanic circles is “What do I check?” I’m asking, I’m getting asked, but I haven’t a clue. You really should read that 1997 memo as it also covers the naming of all race and ethnic categories including our invisible Arab/Middle Eastern sisters & brothers.

The history seems a bit hazy to me. The government did a study about how we fill out ethnicity and race on forms in anticipation for the 2000 Census. One thing they realized is that you have to ask if someone is Hispanic or Latino as a separate question and first. But one thing that also realized is that most Latinos will check “White” if Latino isn’t an option.

Obviously I have an issue with that.

It’s not that I am offended to be considered white, I just don't consider myself white. It’s one of those “It just is,” things in life. Looking at the form, I check yes for Hispanic/Latino. But I’m not Black, I’m not Asian and I’m not White.

American Indian. I’ve considered checking this box and writing down Aztec for my tribe. I’ve also considered writing down one of the many tribes that did live in Texas. My maternal part of my family tree is Tejano, in other words, they were living in Texas when it was Mexico. If we go back far enough, we find a rebellious young woman who ran away from her family in Spain to follow her true love to Mexico. But they settled in what we now call Texas. And may I point out that those of Spanish descent are also under Hispanic/Latino? So that got us nowhere. Also, I feel that claiming American Indian is disingenuous, ya know?

Other. Someone on Twitter said to write human. I get that. I’ve heard it before. But we’re not at that stage of humanity where we can say “there’s no race except the human race…” I wish we were. I want to represent. So perhaps writing Latino/Hispanic/Mexican-American there?

Someone else on Twitter said that LA Mayor Villaregosa had marked white. Of course I can’t find a citation, but it led to ponder why. In a campaign to get more Latinos to fill out the Census – it’s money ya know – he said that Latinos were underreported in the 2000 census. Could it be because we didn’t know which freaking box to check? Maybe someone could have surveyed Latinos to find out why we didn’t fill out the census. I know, I know, immigration status plays a HUGE part in that aspect, but perhaps some of us just didn’t know how to respond and didn’t. Althou 47% of Hispanics/Latinos do consider themselves white.

Latinos have always been in this weird middle ground when it comes to race in the USA. We aren’t black, but we aren’t white. Race relations are often said to be about black versus white. Um, what about us?

 We share a lot of common history with our African-American brothers and sisters. Then again, because we’re not Black, sometimes we’ve gotten a pass. Sometimes we battle for what appears to be the same piece of pie.

I’ve decided that I’m writing in Mexican-American on the Census form. We need to straighten out this confusion before 2020. If we truly are the fastest growing ethnic community in the country, we need the numbers too.

3 comments:

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Great post Veronica! Well said. You just get the message straight forward in you professional and concise style. Brava

Hola te invito a visitarme :)

En Germinando, mi blog EcoFeminista y EcoEspiritual:

http://gherminando.blogspot.com/
Gracias,
Luciana Onofre