LatinaLista — An interesting study was published on how Latino immigrants see themselves. According to the researchers, many immigrants are pushing the envelope to be seen as “white” regardless of how dark their skin color.
Authors of the study, published in the June edition of the American Sociological Review journal, found that the darker the skin of the Latino immigrant, the more discrimination that immigrant faced which even manifested itself in a wage difference between himself and lighter-skinned Latinos.
They attribute this discrimination towards dark-skinned Latino immigrants into them wanting to be seen as “white.”
In the 2000 Census, about 50 percent of those who marked Hispanic or Latino as their ethnicity chose “some other race” as their racial category. That has been interpreted by many researchers as them attempting to assert an alternative Latino racial identity, she said.
However, in the New Immigrant Survey used in this study, participants were not given the option of choosing “some other race.”
As a result, in the New Immigrant Survey, more than three-quarters of respondents (79 percent) identified themselves as white, regardless of their skin color.
“This shows that Latino immigrants do recognize the advantages of a white racial identity. Most are attempting to push the boundaries of whiteness to include them, even if their skin color is darker,” Frank said.
I beg to differ.
These researchers, and others, who claim dark-skinned Latino immigrants are aspiring to be white though their skin tone is clearly on the other side of the color spectrum do not understand the complexity of what it means, and what it has always meant to be Latino or Hispanic or Puerto Rican or Cuban-American or Mexican-American or fill in the ethnic blank.
When it comes to the U.S. Latino population, skin tone is secondary to mindset.
Though racial discrimination still runs rampant in most Spanish-speaking countries and even among some U.S. Latino populations who adhere to an old-world view of elitism as was practiced by their parents and abuelos back in the “old country,” the truth is most U.S. Latinos, especially in the Southwest, don’t see skin color.
And the reason is simple.
Within Latino families, there can exist a variety of different skin tones. From the very fair-skinned to the very dark, families are comprised of members who may not even look like they’re related but they all share the same blood and family history.
Since many “Latinos” can trace their family tree back to the intermarriage, or raping, of indigenous ancestors by Spanish conquistadores, as well as, the intermarriage of other ethnicities throughout the generations, it’s not uncommon for one family to have several members who have no physical similarities to other family members.
The notion that there is a specific “look” for a Latino or a Latina is what serves to frustrate and anger many in the Latino community when it comes to racial labeling, a.k.a. profiling. The fact that dark-skinned family members would identify with the “white” label as their lighter skinned siblings versus choosing a “black” label is no surprise in Latino families.
Unless a family was Afro-Latino, choosing the “black” descriptor normally wouldn’t even enter someone’s mind — and the state of mind has everything to do with how Latinos see themselves, and sometimes how other Latinos identify each other.
The study’s researchers feel that discrimination plays a huge part in whether or not Latinos feel “white” or not. While discrimination certainly does impact and serves as a reminder that the social order is not equal, I would argue that it has less of an impact on a person’s sense of “whiteness” unless the person’s own family treated them differently.
In Latino families, it’s not uncommon for terms of endearment or family nicknames to include references to race. Light-skinned family members are almost always referred to as guera or guero but the most important thing is that everyone, regardless of color, is equal in the family and skin color is irrelevant.
Among some young people, as a way to bring their peers down if they don’t think they’re being true to their Latino heritage, one of the more insulting names to call each other is “Oreo.”
It means that a person, though obviously Latino, acts more Anglo than Latino. While it’s meant to be derogatory, it underscores that subtle fact that “being white” really has nothing to do with skin tone but state of mind.