Hispanic or Not Hispanic?

The question of ethnicity

The question of ethnicity.

As we started looking over the elementary school registration paperwork for Xander this week Ana and I were faced with the question of ethnicity and race. Naturally, Ana felt like we should check, “Hispanic/Latino” instead of “Not Hispanic/Latino.”  I embrace my Latino origins, but I also embrace my critical nature.  Ana is 50% Puerto Rican and I’m 25% Mexican.  Doing the math, our kids are 37.5% “Latino.”  What box to we check if they’re more “not” by percentage?  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as long as you have any “Spanish culture or origin regardless of race,” you’re Latino.

Where do you draw the line?

A combination of both cultural practice and origin seems right to me, but how would you define those levels?  There seem to be two ways of thinking. If you have any Hispanic origins, you are Hispanic. Then there are those, like me, that feel that majority rules when it comes to genetic origins.

I’m usually torn, myself, being 25% Hispanic. I have some Hispanic origins, but I’m more not hispanic than I am Hispanic. If someone was 50/50, I’d check the “Hispanic/Latino” box, especially if you practice the culture. But if you’re less than 50% and you live, culturally, like an average non-Hispanic person, then I’d check the “Not Hispanic/Latino” box.

But what does the government, whether state or federal expect us to report according to? They don’t lay out any real standard, and leave it completely up to the interpretation of the person(s) they’re collecting the information from.  I reported myself as not Hispanic in the last United States census, but was I wrong in selecting my choice since I’m 25% Mexican?

How does everyone else feel about this?

If I say that I am Hispanic (having a historical and cultural relationship with Spain), can I just as justifiably say that my race is American Indian since my Mexican ancestors aren’t full-blooded Spaniards?  If some of my ancestors have Spanish origins, they equally have Native American origins.  Being more white than not, by these definitions, I could check “Hispanic/Latino” for ethnicity, and “American Indian or Alaska Native” and “White” for race, right?

My boys are exactly the same percentage as yours but I check “Not” because we are not culturally Hispanic/Latino. – Hilary

That’s what I’m thinking. There needs to be culture and identity/association rolled in there. But what qualifies as a cultural practice, and how much of it is expected?

Sometimes I check all. Sometimes I check none. I think during the last census I put “human” under race. – Jeff

I love that answer as a response to “Race.”

It would be interesting to see if school enrollment forms in other states have the same questions, or is it just states with larger latino cultures? Also Ana’s mother is 50% Scottish (background also includes some Irish) and her grandfather had English as well. Was there a box for Celtic/English culture. I know Ana celebrates her Celtic heritage as well as the Latino culture. – Carolyn C.

Let’s not forget some Germans – no box to check for this one? What a crazy system! – Carolyn N.

Good point, Carolyns. If they’re going to single out one culture/ethnic background they should include the rest. I can tell the government that I identify with one culture, but not another?

I don’t think we should have to check any race. We are all Americans! – Terry

I’ve always had issues with citizens of the United States “owning” the label, “American.” We’re actually U.S. citizens that live in the Americas. Many of us are not true Americans by ancestry or culture, rather we belong to U.S. culture. Unless we’re closer in culture to our Latino origins… which is what the state and federal governments are attempting to identify. Right? I think I’m catching on.

I thought that was for the purpose of demographics… question is do you want to fall under “minority”… when my girls grow up to be successful they’ll fall under the “successful hispanic women” category and in tejas I think we are all hispanic by association… if you know what a fiesta is then your hispanic…who cares the percentage. – Imna

Yes, I agree… just living in South/Central Texas we practice Tejano culture, right? And if to be Hispanic someone must also be of Spanish or Portuguese origin (according to govt guidance), then… what percentage is acceptable?

…the government wants to know – there’s supposed to be a decline to respond option on forms, too. But, that’s usually removed, as it’s an easy out to not respond. I think much of the counting and tracking is more about dollars towards the schools, for funding, more than it is for cultural makeup. It also helps them when they report their numbers. The more success they have with a larger cultural and ethnic diversity looks better on them. They’d rather you check the ‘Hispanic’ than not, even if you’re 1.25%. – Jay

Sad, but true. Still, what about the other ethnic groups? Is it simply because Hispanics are the majority of the minority? Is that even true? That’s not fair.

This is interesting. Some colleges look at “blood quantum.”http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/hispanic-students/641650-hispanic-latino-defined-aka-am-i-hispanic.html

After a conversation with my mother I learned that I have always had a problem with this question. I completely forgot about this happening, but she informed me that I got so worked up about this when applying for scholarships that I chose “Not Hispanic” because of how unfair I felt it was to the white majority. So, in protest, I grouped myself with the majority and put myself at a disadvantage, denying myself of receiving any financial assistance that I believed I would have likely received. I must have not yet understood the realities of the world yet. Ah, to be young.

In the end, after remembering my choices as a young man and weighing all of the information I brought to my table, I signed Xander up as a Hispanic white.

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