“White Hispanics” are white people who trace their origins to Spain, and they’re the reason reports of America’s coming “white minority” status are 100-percent wrong.
By **Joshua Holland**
By arrangement with Alternet.Org.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s projections, the white population in the United States will decline from just under 80 percent at present to 74 percent in 2050.
This is an uninteresting piece of demographic trivia. It’s likely that a day doesn’t pass, however, without a major publication “reporting” that the U.S. will become a “minority-majority” country in 2050. These stories are received as anything but trivial, both by people terrified of the prospect of white minority status and those looking forward to a more diverse electorate in the future (it will be more racially diverse in 2050, but just by 6 percentage points).
This week, the Drudge Report stoked its readers’ tribalism and fear of lost privilege with a photo of an old white hand grasping that of a black infant. The photo accompanied the headline, “Census: Whites lose majority among babies.” The link Drudge provided led to an Associated Press story that was picked up by major newspapers across the country.
Citing Census estimates, it claimed that, “for the first time, minorities make up a majority of babies in the U.S., part of a sweeping race change and growing age divide between mostly white, older Americans and predominantly minority youths that could reshape government policies.” It’s a story—carried by everyone from the Washington Post to MSNBC—that is simply dead wrong. There is no “sweeping” or “growing” divide, and there’s certainly no reason to believe that the white share of the population falling from 80 to 74 percent will “reshape government policies.” For better or for worse, white babies continue to represent the majority of those born in the United States, and will for the foreseeable future.
What’s going on here is some very lazy reporting. These stories focus on a designation in the Census data for non-Hispanic whites, not white people. While the Census projects that white people will make up 74 percent of the U.S. population in 2050, non-Hispanic whites will represent 46 percent and white Hispanics will represent another 28 percent. Suggesting that the latter are “minorities” defies both common sense and simple English usage.
Who are white Hispanics? They are white people who trace their origins to Spain (often via other countries in the Spanish-speaking world) just as Italian Americans are white people who trace theirs to Italy. Some are descended from Spanish missionaries who were present on the continent long before the United States was formed. (At one point in our history, we distinguished between lighter “European” Italians and swarthier “Mediterranean” ones, but that distinction is long in our past, just as the distinction between white Hispanics and the rest of the majority will surely fall by the wayside before 2050.)
The Latino experience demonstrates that whiteness remains an important measure of belonging, stature and acceptance.
I have written about this before, and learned that this simple reality meets with no small amount of resistance among readers. So let’s take a look at some white Hispanics—if you think of these people as minorities, then the reports cited above are accurate. Otherwise, they’re utter nonsense.
Eighty to 90 percent of white Hispanics identify themselves simply as “white.” They are part of the mainstream majority, and marry other white people without any social stigma. Cameron Diaz is the daughter of a white Hispanic father from Cuba and a mother of mixed European ancestry.
[Former Chicago Cubs manager] “Sweet” Lou Piniella is a white Hispanic. His family emigrated from Spain to the United States via Cuba.
Born Ramón Antonio Gerard Estévez, [actor] Martin Sheen’s father was from Spain and his mother was Irish.
[Former baseball player] Keith Hernandez’s father was from Spain and his mother was Scots-Irish.
[Singer] Christina María Aguilera was born to an Ecuadoran father of Spanish descent and a mother of mixed European heritage.
Born Jo Raquel Tejada, [actress] Raquel Welch is the daughter of an English mother and a father who was a Bolivian of Spanish descent.
Born Andrés Arturo García Menéndez in Cuba, [actor] Andy Garcia’s parents migrated to the U.S. when he was a small child some 50 years ago.
These are celebrities, but aside from their fame—and extraordinary good looks—they are quite representative of the white Hispanic population. Many are the products of mixed marriages, and a study of the population as a whole found that about a third of native-born white Hispanic men marry non-Hispanic white women.
“Hispanic” is not a race. There are black, brown, white and Asian Hispanics. Among the Hispanic population in the United States, about half identify themselves as white people and half see themselves as black or belonging to “some other race.”
That brings us to the crucial point here. According to research conducted by the Pew Hispanic Trust, white Hispanics don’t identify themselves as such based on skin tone alone, but on the degree to which they’re assimilated into the American majority. In other words, by definition they are not minorities.
For Latinos the concept of race appears to extend beyond biology, ancestral origins or a history of grievance in this country. The differences in characteristics and attitudes between those Hispanics who call themselves white and those who identify as some other race, suggests they experience racial identity as a measure of belonging: Feeling white seems to be a reflection of success and a sense of inclusion… The Latino experience demonstrates that whiteness remains an important measure of belonging, stature and acceptance.
The Pew research found that white Hispanics have, on average, higher levels of education and more affluence than those who identify themselves as members of “some other race.” They tend to have less connection to the immigrant experience—Pew found that those born abroad are the least likely to identify themselves as white Hispanics, and as a family passes from the 2nd to the 3rd generation and beyond, they become more likely to identify themselves as such. They are light-skinned Europeans who see themselves culturally as part of the mainstream majority white population.
Like Martin Sheen or Cameron Diaz, they are white people, and will be among the 74 percent of the population that remains so in 2050. It would be nice if the media could get this simple truth and give the sensational, racial fear-mongering a rest.
Copyright 2011 Joshua Holland
By arrangement with Alternet.Org.
Joshua Holland is a senior editor at Alternet.