News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Friday, April 6, 2012

New Pew study shows few Hispanics/Latinos like the label

Pew Research Center study – April 4, 2012:

51% of people labeled Hispanic or Latino say they most often identify themselves by their family’s country of origin; just 24% say they prefer a pan-ethnic label.

A new Pew study reveals what most of the 50 million people with origins in a Spanish-speaking country in the U.S. already know: we are not a cookie cutter group.

Is everyone from an English-speaking country alike? What would a study find in common among people from English speaking countries like the United States, Canada (English and French speaking), Jamaica, Australia (including the indigenous population), and South Africa (including those with origins in Europe and those who are indigenous to Africa)? Are they a single race? Do they share the same customs? As absurd as this question seems, this is in essence what the Hispanic/Latino label attempts to do. 

That said, bonds among Latinos in the U.S. do exist—and have grown. These bonds have been forged primarily out of the solidarity generated by a common sense of exclusion. It is an alliance formed mostly by prejudice. We lock arms because we are misunderstood.

In the minds of many mainstream Americans (and even among some Latinos), we are a monolithic group. Headlines that say the U.S. will be a “non-white” nation by the middle of the 21st century terrify a lot of people. These headlines, along with the election of an African-American president, have fueled the surge of reactionary groups like the Tea Party and armed right wing militias.

But I predict that as the understanding of the real nature of Latinos increases, those fears will diminish. A younger generation of non-Hispanic Americans will grow up without the fears of their elders. Ultimately, the need to ally ourselves will diminish and, sadly, the same differences that exist among non-Hispanics will prevail among Latinos. Some demographers predict the Hispanic/Latino label will fade away by the end of this century or sooner as intermarriage and assimilation blur the already fuzzy distinctions that define the label. Perhaps that process has already begun.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez