Imagine this. You walk into a doctor’s office to do your annual check up. The receptionist smiles at you as she hand you a clipboard with some sheets of paper on it it. She tells you to take a seat and fill it out. You go to fill out an application. Said application looks pretty standard. You start to race through the boring questions: age, date, year of birth. Blah, blah, blah. But then you get to race. You are presented with four options to fill in : White, African American, Asian, or Native American. Not Latinx.
Your eyes scan over these options a few times and you decide to weigh your options. Internally you kind of have an existential crisis. As a person of Latin American origin you don’t fit into a box, not really.
You narrow it down to White and Native American. You are technically both of these things, but which one do you choose? Which one do you feel more? Do you even feel one at all? Your pencil keeps hovering between the two, stuck in between to options that don’t feel quite right. You end up leaving it blank.
But even if there was a Hispanic/ Latino/a option on the form, this does not mean that it is your race. In the United States, there is the common assumption that identifying as Latinx means being a certain race. This misconception did not happen overnight.
The US Census and Us
The Census has always struggled to correctly categorize people from Latin America correctly. The options have always been too broad and confusing. Before the 1970’s the US Census did not have an option for counting Latinx people, instead they counted as “white”. It wasn’t until Latinx lobby groups fought to get more representation that the Latino/Hispanic option was added.
The problem arises when the “one drop rule” is incorporated into the equation. Most Latinx people are a combination of things and identify as more than one “race”. In the United States today, The Washington Post reports that a large group of young people in the US have one white European parent and one Hispanic one. Because of this, most people don’t really fix into one box so the current census system feels archaic. Changes to the Census are supposed to come by 2020 through the addition of more nuanced options, but the damage is already done. By not counting specificities, there has been a less accurate picture of minorities in the US for decades.
A Nationality Rather Than Race
It would be more accurate to call Latin American origins as a nationality rather than a race because that is what it really is. People in Latin America are connected through language of Latin origin and colonization, but that is pretty much it. The people of Latin America come in many different colors there are White Latinx people, Afro Latinx people, and indigenous people among others. It is harmful to categorize all Latinx people under the umbrella term of race because it isn’t the truth and can lead to mistakes being made in the future in terms of government programs, etc.
There is No Face to Latinx
The umbrella term also creates a stereotype of what a typical Latinx person should look like. People unfamiliar or outside of the community might make up a mental image in their mind of what Latinx people should look like. Anybody outside that stereotype is usually met with disbelief and shock once they reveal their Latinidad( this writer has dealt with this same reaction– multiple times throughout her life). A Latinx person can look like anybody anywhere because being Latinx is a culture and ethnicity not a race.
What do you think of being Latinx? Tell us in the comments!
Featured Image Source: https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/04/why-use-latinx/
Andrea is a writer from California who keeps buying used books she doesn't need from library sales. Her favorite author is Sylvia Plath and she is currently working on her first novel, a middle grade book about kids in space.