When Part-Latino Men are Considered ‘White Dudes’

In responding to a Wall Street Journal story about how white children are now the minority in many states as the number of Hispanic children grows, D.C.’s Matthew Yglesias writes:

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.

The New York Times profiles four (white) pundits.

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.

  • andrew

    Some of us pass for white — that means accent, passport, cultural background (raised middle class US), education, and yeah, very fair skin, hair and eyes. I didn’t see any of them dispute their whiteness. Which is not at all to say we shouldn’t contest the whitening of Latin@s generally a la that Pew report — nuestros vocer@s/our spokespeople are uniformly light-skinned, middle class assimilationists who want desperately not to be lumped in with African-Americans and other people of color, and this tendency towards colorism and the old phrase “improving the race” (mejorando la raza) goes back to the days of the conquistadores. But for some of us, particularly 2nd-gen, not acknowledging our whiteness would be like watering the grass during a rainstorm.

  • Keith

    Isn’t there a difference between being a White-skinned Latino who identifies as Latino first and foremost and having a Latino and White parent and being White-skinned? I don’t know that any of these bloggers self-identify as Latino, so even though their parentage is part of who they are, was their Latinoness or lack of Latinoness releavnt in this piece?


  • Zena

    None of this is new for mixed race folks, especially those of us who look white (I’m half white and half Arab). Self identification can, and does change depending on the situation in which you find yourself. For those of us identified as “white,” regardless of our actual ethnicity, we must understand the privilege that that label might have afforded us. I’m never more conscious of that then when I am in a crowd, standing next to my very dark skinned Lebanese father. For the record, I feel most comfortable identifying as a “mixed American.”

  • Illy

    Well coming from a fairly educated white female I’ve always been struck at how some latinos think themselves to be white. Before the anti muslim sentiment I believe Arabs believed they were white as well. I never see them as such. The human mind works that way. The meme is too powerful. To be white is to be european !Not Armenian or Hispanic or arab or lebanese. To be frank most Americans feel more of a commonality with black Americans. Maybe it’s because their families have been Americans for as long as we have. Even longer. Most of what we stereotypically think of as American has it’s roots in black culture , we all consciously or subconsciously know that. What most white Americans like myself are uncomfortable with is immigrants. America wouldn’t have voted for any Latino under any circumstances and I think a lot of Americans would tell you the same if they were being honest. Race is more politics than a particular look.

  • http://twitter.com/punkrockhair punkrockhair

    People find it strange when I tell people I consider myself non-white. I’m half Colombian, raised in the UK, but I’m light skinned and look European and my Colombian mother is also light and looks “white,” although other members of my Colombian family don’t. But I consider myself Latina and I feel very uncomfortable with saying I’m white.

  • Pradoprada91

    Well to be Frank with you most Mexicans have an average of 65%-85% European admixture, aka mostly white. Some have more some have less. “Hispanic”, “Latino”, “Mexican”, “Cuban” are NOT races they are nationalities and ethnicity. There are white Cubans, white Mexicans, black Cubans, black Mexicans, ect. Your views are biased based on current immigration trends. You try to separate from a people whom you actually have more in common with than say blacks or Asians.

  • jay

     You have no idea what you are talking about. If an asian were born and raised in Mexico and grew up speaking spanish he or she would be Latino. Latinos can be off any race and I bet you are just  seeing more native american looking latinos in the United States. Light skinned latinos usually have some or all european ancestry. Also most people aren’t uncomfortable with immigrants they are uncomfortable with illegal aliens.

  • Realist

    Spoken like a real racist, get a life lilli.