Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'And what do you call yourself...?': Readers on the census and ethnic identity

Photo by Valerie Everett/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A post last week headlined "Should the census change how Latinos are counted?" addressed the U.S. Census Bureau's proposed changes to how Latinos self-indentify on census forms, which now ask them for their race, then to check a box as to whether they are of "Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin."

The idea would be to count Latinos as more of an exclusive group regardless of race. It's a complicated prospect, as Latinos so racially and culturally diverse, they don't even agree on a pan-ethnic label. The comments on the post strayed far from the original question of how to identify Latinos, but they were interesting. Here are a few of the highlights.*

Anonymous wrote:

And what do you call yourself when your grandfather is of Indian (India) descent your grandmother is of African descent and both of them and you were born in Trinidad and Tobago?

Mark R. Pachankis wrote:
Since anyone can put any race on their census, why bother listing it? Obama has a white mother, but he only listed “black” on his census. What stops someone who is Norwegian and Irish from checking “Native American” and “Hispanic?”

Damon Davenport responded:
Obama listed being Black because he self-identifies culturally as Black. Despite his white mother, he still proudly sees himself as being a Black Man. Obama is also seen in the eyes of most Americans as a Black man with very few naive enough to mistake him for anything else.

And Robson wrote:
You’re Mexican only if you are native from Mexico. If you’re born in the United States from Mexican parents or grandparents you’re North American, not Mexican. And I say North American because Mexicans are also Americans. Now if you feel more Mexican than American that’s okay, if that’s how you feel. Your blood is still Hispanic because that is what Mexicans are as well or Latinos. Even Italians are Latinos because their language comes from Latin.

More comments can be viewed here.

*Edited slightly for clarity.