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LANGUAGE

Hispanic Brilliance and Blather

A self-identified Hispanic reveals the speciousness of today’s racial/ethnic labels but then falls into the same trap.

 

A reader of the Wall Street Journal with the surname of Flores had me cheering enthusiastically over part of what he wrote in the Reader Comments of the online edition of the newspaper. He initially showed greater insights on race and ethnicity than America’s intellectuals in academia, media, government, and departments of diversity and inclusion.

His comments, which are pasted below, were in response to a column by Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins, who had written about the political ascendancy of Latinos in Los Angeles. I will return after Flores’ comments to point out what he got right but also what he got wrong.

Obama was a big wake-up call for the Hispanic world. We identified with his multiculturalism.  We voted overwhelmingly and believed he would be loyal.  Big mistake. Obama forgot that we got him elected. 

At the end of the day, what we have in the NY Metropolitan and similar blue state regions is ethnic tribalism. We have WASPs, Jewish, Irish, Italian, Slavic, Black, and LGBT community tribalism with Hispanic and Asian tribalism emerging.

What the Hispanic world needs to bear in mind is that Hispanic Americans are demographically destined to be 25% of the US population. That is 2000% larger than Mormons, 1200% larger than Jews, 800% larger than the LGBT community, 500% larger than Italians, 400% larger than Christian Slavs, and 100% larger than blacks. We dwarf the behemoth Irish and German immigration. [Then why are Hispanics seen as minorities?]

We Hispanics need to realize that tribalism favors us because of our domestic size and the fact that we have 650,000,000 cousins in behemoth LatAm (same time zone) and Iberia who are critical allies of the US. It behooves us to mimic other groups in this country and become ethnocentric in order to secure political power and help facilitate the creation of an Anglo-Hispanic North American Confederation or Union. 

As a general rule, American WASPs can be broken down into 7 subgroups, ethnic Catholic and Orthodox Europeans into 12, Jews into 4, Blacks into 4, Mormons into 2, and Asians into 5 subgroups. America is a melting pot with strong internal tribal affiliations.”

What Flores got right is that Americans who are labeled as White are not monolithic. Nor are they homogenous in ethnicity, skin shade, income, politics, values, privilege, worldview, and a history of being oppressed or oppressors. WASPs are not the same as Italians, who are not the same as Greeks, who are not the same as Slavs, and so on, across a hundred or so unique ethnocultural groups.

Believing that so-called white people are monolithic and homogenous, as intellectuals and demographers seem to believe, is akin to believing that Big Foot lives in the Pacific Northwest and that little green Martians landed in Roswell, New Mexico. Not only that, but it is educational malpractice to teach such false history, false anthropology, false ethnography, and false sociology to impressionable and idealistic K-12 students and college students.

Why my fuss over racial/ethnic labels? Because, as with labels of yesteryear, the six labels in vogue today are used to discriminate. Specifically, the labels of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American determine who is included or excluded in diversity and inclusion initiatives, who gets extra admission points to prestigious universities, who is seen as bringing diversity to a board of directors, who is vilified as an oppressor and racist, and who is characterized as a disadvantaged minority, regardless of income or population numbers.

This is reminiscent of the cephalic index that was used by progressives in the early twentieth century to categorize individuals and ethnic groups by the shape of their heads, for purpose of eugenics and other discrimination. The index was developed from the “science” of craniometry, which is a fancy word for skull measurements.

Let’s turn now to what Flores got wrong.

He was wrong in believing that Hispanics are a monolithic group, a mistake that is easy to make due to the government coming up with the contrived “Hispanic” label in the early 1970s for political reasons.

Hispanics are not monolithic, of course.  They consist of Mexicans, Guatemalans, Columbians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Peruvians, Brazilians, Iberians, and others. Then there are subgroups within each of these, including mestizos, indigenous peoples, people of different colors, and direct descendants of Spanish conquistadors and slave traders. Moreover, all of these can be divided into different socioeconomic classes. The permutations and combinations seem endless.

Oh, and let’s not overlook the millions of people of Japanese ancestry living in Latin America, plus the 30 million people of Italian ancestry living in Argentina. What label do they get? Are they Hispanic, Latino, Latinx, White, Asian, Italian, Japanese, or what?

At least the peoples of Latin America have the Spanish language in common. Well, not exactly.  Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, a nation of 209 million people.

Even if the Hispanic label were restricted to the big-three groups of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans, there is extensive diversity between them.

Incidentally, in the combined 40 years that I’ve lived in Tucson, Phoenix, and the barrio of San Antonio, I haven’t known any Mexican Americans or Mexican nationals who referred to themselves as Hispanic.

Flores went on to say that Italians and other ethnic groups secured political power by becoming ethnocentric. Not quite. Yes, the first and second generations of immigrants formed ethnic voter blocs, but their political power came from building coalitions with other ethnic groups, including WASPs. For sure, those who emigrated from the diverse nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea did not acquire political power by joining together and calling themselves “Mediterraneanic.”

The best book on how ethnic/racial groups did or did not obtain political power, and did or did not assimilate, was a book published in 1960 and published again in 1970 as a second edition: Beyond the Melting Pot:The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City, by Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan.

Both authors were very prescient. Moynihan would go on to be a US senator (D-New York), but before that he published the landmark Labor Department study on how counterproductive welfare programs would fracture African-American nuclear families—a study that still produces howls of indignation and denial.

In the second edition of Beyond the Melting Pot, the authors warned about the divisiveness that would come from new racial categories being introduced in 1969—categories that divided Americans into oppressors and the oppressed.

A closing thought: with ever-increasing intermarriage in America, ethnic/racial labels are becoming blurred and outdated. Take my family.  My maternal and fraternal grandparents, like other Italian immigrants at the time, were not seen as white. They were part of a generation of Italian immigrants who almost never married someone who was not Italian. Intermarriage was still uncommon among my parents’ generation. But it was very common among my generation and became even more common among my son’s generation.

Speaking of my son, his mother (my wife) is Swedish and Scots-Irish. In terms of the six official race/ethnic categories, does that put him in the White category?  In turn, he is married to a wonderful woman whose dad is in one category and whose mom is in a different category. When they have children, how will it be decided for purposes of diversity and inclusion which racial/ethnic label the kids should wear? Will craniometry be used? 

A better question: Why are America’s intellectuals so stupid when it comes to the six categories?

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