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In the last few weeks I've seen a flurry of articles in the major news media proclaiming loudly that more Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. opted to check "white Hispanic" in the 2010 census survey. For example, see the New York Times bleat: More Hispanics Declaring Themselves White.

My response—Yawn. Um. So what?

Why all this sudden interest?

Pundits, observers and researchers keep trying to shift the reality of the creeping demographic population shift in this country. The time when U.S. citizens of Spanish-speaking ethnic backgrounds and heritage will become the largest "minority" segment looms on the horizon. So the solution to nativist fears and Republican hopes is the magical statistical mantle of "whiteness."

From the New York Times piece:

The data also call into question whether America is destined to become a so-called minority-majority nation, where whites represent a minority of the nation’s population. Those projections assume that Hispanics aren’t white, but if Hispanics ultimately identify as white Americans, then whites will remain the majority for the foreseeable future.
Now isn't that special? There will be a love fest of white brotherhood and sisterhood with Hispanics and suddenly anti-Latino racism in this country will melt away and Hispanic communities will develop collective amnesia. There never was a racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. No loud chants of "USA" at Republican conventions when a Puerto Rican delegate attempted to give a report. No vicious anti-immigrant campaigns like the one that took place in Prince William County, Virginia, or the ones taking place now in states across the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics show a rise in anti-Hispanic crime. There will be no more Republican elected officials like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) spewing hate, unchecked and uncensured by his party.

Los latinos no son estúpidos

News flash: Checking "white" on the census isn't going to stop haters. Nor is it going to change how Latinos see themselves as Chicanos, or Tejanos, or Boricuas, or any of the other numerous identities that make up the box marked "Hispanic."

Follow me below the fold for more.

I read a great response to the New York Times piece, 1.2 Million Latinos Tell Census They’re Now White, and NYTimes Thinks It’s Awesome, which pointed out numerous flaws including:

The crux of Cohn’s piece is this paragraph, which refers to this Pew study:

The researchers found that 2.5 million Americans of Hispanic origin, or approximately 7 percent of the 35 million Americans of Hispanic origin in 2000, changed their race from “some other race” in 2000 to “white” in 2010. An additional 1.3 million people switched in the other direction. A noteworthy but unspecified share of the change came from children who weren’t old enough to fill out a form in 2000, but chose for themselves in 2010.

Let’s stop for a moment and do some math. First, in 2000, according to Cohn and the census, there were 35 million Americans of Hispanic origin. Of those 35 million, 2.5 million went from “some other race” to “white” in 2010. However, in 2010, according to the census, there were 50.5 million Hispanics in the U.S. What race did the additional 15.5 million people who identified as Hispanic in 2010 mark? And what about the 1.3 million who switched in the other direction? That would be just a net of 1.2 million people who changed back to “white,” and given the fact that there was a 43 percent increase in the U.S. Hispanic population from 2000 to 2010, wouldn’t Cohn’s definitive conclusion suggest a lesser percentage if you took into account the 2010 total numbers instead of basing it on the 2000 ones?

I had to chuckle. In 2000 my husband—a Puerto Rican—who is "white" on his birth certificate and Afro-Boricua in his identity, choose "other." In 2010 he choose Hispanic-black. His sisters choose Hispanic—white. Neither set of choices has changed the fact that they identify in the real world as Puerto Ricans, and hasn't made any difference in their Democratic Party voting preferences.

It's not just the New York Times—Slate had an article, Will Today’s Hispanics Be Tomorrow’s Whites? by Jamelle Bouie, which many writers on Latinidad took issue with. The Slate article has a photo of four brown people at an immigration reform rally.

Here's part of the response from Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela at Latino Rebels:

A piece about how Hispanics will become the country’s future whites, and the first thing you see is that of four brown-skinned people at an immigration rally? I don’t know if the people in this picture are Latino or not (maybe that “white” lady on the left is Latina too), but these are “tomorrow’s whites?”

Tell that to people who have been racially profiled in Arizona or have been deported from their families. “Tomorrow’s whites” wouldn’t be fighting to fix an immigration system that disproportionately targets those from Central American and Latin American countries. For example, a enforcement-heavy system that removed in 2013 alone over 240,000 Mexicans, more than 47,000 Guatemalans, a little over 37,000 Hondurans and about 21,500 Salvadorans. And we now know that a majority of those removals weren’t even necessary. Juan Crow is alive and well in 21st century America.

Blanca E. Vega explores the issue in Latinidad Without Latinos: In Response to the Question: “Will Hispanics be The New White?" and states:
In his response to Bouie, Julio Varela suggests that part of the problem with Bouie’s piece is that Latinos are forced to choose between White and Black and that Latinos are only imagined in this racial binary. His last sentence so poignantly makes us further consider Latinidad outside of that binary – “That’s why ‘tomorrow’s whites’ will never be ‘tomorrow’s whites.’ They will be tomorrow’s Latinos.”

Indeed, what Bouie’s piece reminds me is that Latinos continue to be discussed, theorized, feared, and politicized, without Latinos. This is what I call “Latinidad without Latinos” – akin to ‘Racism without Racists” in the sense that had Bouie just done a Google search on Latinos and race he would have realized that Eduardo Bonilla Silva and others already thought about the question “Will Latinos be a different type of White?” In fact, Bonilla Silva calls this “Honorary White”. Bouie also would have found work by Dr. Clara Rodriguez and Dr. Hector Cordero or Dr. Marta Moreno Vega who wrote extensively about this very subject...

But y’all don’t want to hear me, though.

By no means am I suggesting that non-Latinos shouldn’t be a part of this ongoing discussion. What I am suggesting here is that we must ask better questions and we must begin by including Latino voices who are already engaged in these conversations and research to help us ask better questions about Latinos and race. What I am suggesting, most forcibly, is that when asking “What race will Latinos choose” it is necessary to stop thinking about Latinos as “Sleeping Giants”. Instead we MUST start thinking about Latinos as thinking, theorizing, writing, and active people. We have been studying the question about race and Latinidad for many, many years. The Latin American discourse on race is long and well-researched. Yet, think pieces from media outlets such as Slate continue to perpetuate the myth of Latinos as the Sleeping Giants and as a people whose voices are not necessary to include on all topics and even more ridiculously – about who we are, about our own Latinidad.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this "news" is also related to some idea that the "whiteness" of Latinos will break up the people of color coalitions forged by Democrats, that a shift into marking a different check box might be a hopeful sign for the Republican agenda. Frankly, as far as I can tell, nothing has changed for Republican hopes to snare Hispanics since Markos wrote Why the current GOP can't win Latinos back in 2012.

This Latino whiteness discussion certainly contains echoes of wrong-headed media memes about Hispanics and the Latino vote we've heard before. Remember how the Latino vote in Florida was going to sweep Romney to victory in that state because of arch-conservative, white-identified Miami Cubans?

It didn't happen, according to exit polls:

President Obama didn’t just win the state of Florida. New exit polls show that the President narrowly won the state’s typically conservative Cuban voters.

NBC News’ exit polls show that President Obama won 60 percent of Florida’s Latino vote compared to Mitt Romney’s 39 percent. The polls also show that Obama won 49 percent of the state’s Cuban votes and Romney won 47 percent. Though Obama barely inched past Romney for the Cuban vote, the fact that he garnered more Cuban Americans’ votes notes a shift in ideology and a challenge for the Republican party.

Florida Puerto Ricans, who are mostly Democrats, were a big chunk of that solid Latino win (by the way...have you ever seen their birth certificates?). Most say "white" pero no importa. They voted for the black guy.

Mid-term elections are coming, but methinks this has to do more with 2016 presidential projections and Republican fantasies that if they can just find a way to move Hispanic/Latinos over into the "R" column, thinking "whitely," they have a path to victory. Or if they can just dangle a candidate for president with a Hispanic surname (Rubio, Cruz), or perhaps with an Hispanic spouse and a fluency with the language (Jeb Bush), or tack on a vice-presidential pick, perhaps Susana Martinez (aka Susana Barracuda) who is also a woman, then these newly self-categorized "white" Hispanic people from the census check-boxes will swing elections miraculously in their favor. They obviously have bought the oft-repeated (and false) meme that black people voted for Obama because he's black, so maybe picking a Latino to put on the ticket will boost Republican marketability.

Lord knows they should give up on "the blah people" who have this irritating tendency to vote for Democrats (never mind Abe Lincoln) and have been doing so in massive numbers since 94 percent voted for LBJ (higher than the percentage garnered by Barack Obama in the last election). Not that they don't try.

Surely the TeaPublicans aren't racists? Why they have Herman Cain and Allen West, doancha know? And those stellar examples of Latino love like Cruz and Rubio who vote against education, food stamps, school lunches, jobs, raising the minimum wage and health care—but none of that is important. Because Latinos in the U.S. aren't gonna pay attention to what Teapubs actually do, and they will fall for the okie-doke of Hola, ¿cómo estás?

Sure. Believe that and I'll sell you a couple of bridges—from Brooklyn and the San Francisco Bay. Just like women in droves, swarmed the polling stations to elect McCain because Palin had a uterus (not).

I have another suspicion that the "Latinos choose white" articles are also related to the advent of 2016 and the strong probability of Hillary Clinton becoming the Democratic Party nominee. Perhaps if Republicans can convince their fellow bigots that Latinos are really white people, it will tone down the racism and xenophobia and somehow pry Hispanics away from Hillary's strong support in many Latino communities—especially in Texas. Texas will loom large on the political agenda and there are Democratic strategists who are already predicting that Hillary on the ticket will make a big difference there.

Eva Longoria: Hillary Clinton and Latinos Can Flip Texas for Democrats:

On Friday morning, former Desperate Housewives star and Barack Obama campaign co-chair Eva Longoria announced that there’s only one presidential candidate for whom she’d be willing to volunteer in 2016: Hillary Clinton.

“I was so exhausted after 2012,” Longoria said during the Latina Power panel at Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s 2013 Women in the World Summit, shortly after Clinton herself left the stage. “I was thinking I would never volunteer for another campaign, and then someone said, ‘How about Hillary?’ And right away I was like, ‘Unless Hillary runs.’”

Longoria’s admission came near the end of a conversation about the power and potential of America’s fast-growing Latino community—a population that’s set to double by 2050. Chambers, who created Latino-focused television spots for Obama’s reelection campaign and is considered, Campbell said, to be “the most powerful woman in political advertising,” argued that “if we”—meaning Democrats—“turn the vote in Texas, then we will absolutely turn the [2016] election.” (Many analysts believe that Texas, a majority-minority state, could become a battleground if low-voting groups like Latinos and African-Americans register and organize.)
Well, it won't be majority-minority (I hate that term) if the magic census turns Texas Mexican-Americans into white people. Heh.

Racist Republicans and their Frankenstein's monster of a tea party wing are in trouble in the decades ahead. Flawed census data, which conflates "race" with "ethnicity" isn't going to change political voting patterns. Nor is dangling token Blacks or Latinos in front of the electorate going to shift votes their way, and selecting a Latina won't erase the devastation of their war on women. As long as people are systemically discriminated against, by skin color or national origin and/or gender, the party that works to counter that oppression will gain in strength.    

I don't think it's gonna be the Republicans.

Do you?

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jun 08, 2014 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by LatinoKos, Barriers and Bridges, White Privilege Working Group, and Black Kos community.

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