The 2010 Census and the race question
I received my 2010 Census yesterday and decided to fill it out right away before it got lost in the basketful of junk mail.
I was stumped immediately on Question #1 regarding how many people live in the home. I had not intended to count Suegra… but the Census clearly states that you should count anyone under your roof on the date of April 1st, 2010, even if you don’t consider them a permanent family member.
So, even though we are a family of 4, I had to write a number 5 in that box. There it is…
Well, it turned out that this question was pan comido compared to the race questions.
Question #5 asks Hispanic origin. According to the Census, “Hispanic” and “Latino” are not considered a race – they are an ethnicity, since Latinos can be of different races, (take for instance, Sammy Sosa, George Lopez, Bolivian President Evo Morales, and Enrique Iglesias. They are all Latino but they are all different racially – and that is just a very small taste of the variety found in Latin America.)
Yet, aren’t Anglos just as racially diverse? I am part Russian, Irish, Native American and a number of other things. My neighbor could be French and Danish, yet we are both thrown into the “White” category.
I’m always baffled as to why Latinos are singled out. Nevertheless, this was an easy enough question to answer on the Census. I marked “No” for myself and “Yes” for my husband, our children and Suegra, (writing in “Salvadoran” to specify in the provided boxes.)
Question #6 was the real problem. This one is asking about Race. If my husband, Suegra and children can’t identify as “Latino” (half “Latino” in my kids case), what are they?
The options are:
Black, African Am., or Negro
American Indian or Alaska Native (with space to fill in the tribe.)
Guamanian or Chamorro
Other Pacific Islander (such as Fijan or Tongan, etc. with a box to fill in which one)
Other Asian (Pakistani, Hmong, Thai, etc. with a box to fill in which one)
Some Other Race (and a box to fill in which one)
For myself I marked “White”, but I was baffled as to what to do for everyone else in the family. Racially they are “ladino” (mestizo), which in El Salvador means an Indigenous person mixed with Spanish blood who has adopted the Spanish language and culture, (mostly leaving behind the Indigenous language and culture.)
The problem is, my husband’s family doesn’t know where their Indigenous roots come from. Are they Pipil? Lenca? Aztec? Mayan? They have no idea. I’m sure this is the case with many people from Latin America. With the way the Spaniards arrived and began converting everyone to Catholicism, forcing them to speak Spanish and adopt European ways, (not to mention massacring the uncooperative among them) – it became a shameful, or even dangerous thing to be Indigenous. It is a similar history to the way the Native Americans were treated here in the United States. Even in modern day Latin America, if a person acts in a uncouth manner, they are called a stupid “Indio” as an insult. And so, one’s indigenous roots is not something most families would have wanted to keep records of. Perhaps they considered it something best forgotten, and so now generations later, it has been.
So here I am with this Census, wondering how I am supposed to fill it out. I decided to search the internet to see if anyone else was struggling with this problem and found this article. Apparently I am not the only one scratching my head.
“El Paso – Anthropologists and Latino residents of El Paso have called into question recent statements made by a social activist that advise Hispanics to register their race as “white” when it comes time to fill out the census form this month.
Speaking to the El Paso Times this past week, Jessie Acosta, chairman of the El Paso Complete Count Committee, estimated that 98 percent of the Hispanics living in El Paso are technically white. His comments have generated much controversy and confusion in the community.
Academics and citizens agree that census officials have committed a “racial inaccuracy” by not offering Hispanics the opportunity to register themselves as “mixed,” given that the vast majority of Latinos are of mixed descent, with Spanish and indigenous American ancestors.
Margarita Rendón, a Mexican woman living in El Paso who regards herself as trigueña [a lighter-skinned Latina], stated that there exists enormous confusion over the race sections on these types of questionnaires. She stated that she is neither black nor white, and for this reason she always marks the box labeled “Other” to answer these questions.
“I always thought that the gringos were the white ones,” she said, a bit confused.”
-Héctor Manuel Castro – El Diario de El Paso
March 10, 2010
I think it’s laughable that the Census wants Latinos to mark “White”. Since when do they get to be included in the exclusive club? I’ll mark my husband as “White” when he gets treated as “White”.
Besides, how many Black people have just as much “White” blood as the majority of “Latinos”, yet they are expected to select “Black”.
I wrestled with how to fill out this Census for over an hour, and then I finally decided I would just mark “White” AND “Other”, not just for my kids, but for my husband and Suegra, too. In the “Other” box, I wrote “Latino”, but also considered “Mestizo”, “Ladino”, “Indigenous”, and any number of Central American tribes. I wrote it in pencil just in case I change my mind. I’m wondering how other Latinos across the country are answering this question. Please leave a comment!