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Racial and Ethnic Identities: Are They One and the Same?

The line between race and ethnicity is one that has become very blurred for many Latino-Americans over the past several years. I’ve always been certain of my ethnic identity: I’m Puerto Rican; that much has always been clear to me. However, my racial identity has become a separate conundrum entirely. When faced with the question of my race on any standardized form, or any other such survey for that matter, I’m always left perplexed. “I don’t see Puerto Rican here… Or Hispanic… Or Latino… Or any other name for that which I consider myself to be. I guess I’ll just check ‘other’ and be done with this.” I know now that I am certainly not alone in my quiet little game of “what’s my race?”

 According to new research presented at the annual Population Association of America meeting, more than 10 million Latino-Americans checked different boxes for Race and/or Ethnicity on the 2010 census forms than they did in the year 2000. Could this be a sign of racial exclusion and ambiguity in the minds of many a Latino-American when it comes to filling out the census forms, or is it simply a matter of “today I feel White” and “tomorrow I feel Black?” I’d argue the former. Simply put: I am Latino, plain and uncomplicated. I don’t know what those in charge consider my race to be in this new, politically correct day and age, but I know that much is undeniable. In my opinion, the variety of answers that one may find to the questions of race or ethnicity on the census forms is nothing more than a result of harmless guessing. Of course, this is not to exclude those Latino-Americans who feel very strongly identified by a specific race that is represented on the census form. But, I can confidently speak for myself and most Latinos that I associate with when I say that, if Hispanic or Latino isn’t listed under race, we’re checking “other.” How do you identify yourself? Agree or disagree with my views? Post your comments here and make your voice heard!

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  • Those are both very poignant comments Maria and Elias. I myself do not identify as Latino and do not struggle with this question. However, I remember about a month ago when the hashtag #WhatLatinosLookLike was very prevalent on Twitter. A lot of people emphasized the diversity within the Hispanic Diaspora. It's always nice to see representation of all Latinos, as major networks and other media often project a very stereotyped portrayal of what it means to be Latino. Afro-Latinos, Arab Latinos, people from all parts of the world have inhabited Latin America for various reasons and created a beautiful shared identity. It is very frustrating that the U.S. Census doesn't provide a way for all of its signers to describe themselves in a way they feel is most accurate. Race itself is so rigid when it is ultimately socially constructed. I hope that one day society can acknowledge that people are people and we all hold varied & complex identities.

    Posted by Mitchell Carey, 24/07/2014 11:08pm (3 years ago)

  • I definitely agree with a lot of aspects of this article. What makes my personal puzzle even more confusing is the fact that because of the light color of my skin, I am constantly being classified as being White, even though I am 100% Puerto Rican.

    Posted by Maria Aguiar, 21/07/2014 6:54pm (3 years ago)

  • This article still rings very true for me. It is a constant, every day struggle that I go through when prompted to identify my race or ethnicity. I'm curious to know if any other racial/ethnic group has the same issue when identifying themselves to others.

    Posted by Elias Rivera, 21/07/2014 12:20pm (3 years ago)