I think this is a widely misreported trend. When the New York Times recently did a piece on me, Ezra Klein, Brian Beutler, and Dave Weigel exactly zero people complained about the massive over-representation of people of Latin American ancestry that reflected. People saw it as a profile of four white dudes. Which is what it was. But my dad’s family is from Cuba, Ezra’s dad’s family is from Brazil, and Brian’s mom’s family is from Chile. That’s kind of a funny coincidence, but the combination of continued immigration and intermarriage means that over time a larger and larger share of American people will be partially descended from Latin American countries.
That Times piece on Yglesias and his fellow, young pundits did receive plenty of criticism (and even its own parody!). But Yglesias is right: no one criticized the over-representation of Latin American-ancestry among the four subjects. The reporter behind the piece even commented on the “white maleness” of the story.
When it comes to Latinos and Hispanics, racial identity has proven to be a much more fluid thing than for other groups. For instance, let’s take a look at Latino immigrants: a 2010 American Sociological Association report found that there are many Latino immigrants who are accepted as white by larger society, but those with darker complexions still face plenty of discrimination. It even suggested a new racial category to describe Latinos could form.
A 2004 Pew Hispanic Center report [PDF] zeroes in on how Latinos and Hispanics self-identify, showing that many “have seized on whiteness as a measure of success, a measure of belonging.”
The report also showed that how Latinos racially-identify isn’t just about the color of their skin; rather, it has plenty to do with their socioeconomic status. A summary of the report reads:
‘It is not that some are more Hispanic or Latino than the others because they all really have taken on the mantle,’ said Sonya Tafoya, a research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center and author of the report. ‘Nor are Hispanics saying that race does not matter to them. Rather, the message seems to be that Latinos in the United States experience race differently. For them, it is not something that pertains exclusively to skin color, let alone history and heritage.’
Yglesias, although pointing out the Latin American roots of the Times profile subjects, does write it was indeed about “four white dudes.” But perhaps that’s just as much a reflection of how the world views young men like these as how they view themselves. Maybe even more.