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- The Whitening of U.S. Latinos
There is often a discussion in the US about how white people will soon become a minority within our lifetimes.
The idea is usually thrown around more often by either right wing folks who hate the idea or left wing folks who jerk off to the idea.
Among the discussion is also the topic of Latino immigration.
Of course, it’s not just Latino immigrants who are making the country “less white” given all of the immigrants from around the world that the US gets.
Still, when discussing the “diversification” of the US, the topic of Latino immigrants is obviously the first thing that many Americans think of given how they make the news way more often with the occasional headline about migrant caravans at the border and such.
Though, even then, not all of those migrants are even Latino as you can see here.
Regardless, given that this website is about all things Iberian America, we’ll focus on the Latino immigrants specifically.
More specifically, I feel it’s interesting to discuss the idea of the “whitening” of U.S. Latinos.
For, if we were to assume that the U.S. will become less white, we should probably discuss if Latinos could ever be seen as white!
Do such instances occur?
And, if they do, how does that impact the timeline regarding when the U.S. could ever have a white minority population?
It’s a topic I touched upon briefly in this article here regarding a Pew Research poll that had folks self-report what skin color they are.
Oddly enough, about 80% of participants self-reported as being “light skinned.”
While I haven’t met that many Latinos in the U.S., that number does seem quite high for what I would have expected.
Because almost all of the Latinos that I have met in the U.S. were not very light skinned.
Granted, I’m from Iowa and have spent time in Ohio.
It’s not Texas, Florida or California.
Either way, it’s a point to consider.
Could we see the day that Latinos are seen as “white” or at least some of them anyhow?
Let’s break it down.
Latino as a Cultural Identity & Not Race
This is the first thing that needs to be mentioned.
Before I ever left Iowa, I probably always assumed that all Latinos were medium brown skinned.
Not White, Asian nor Black.
However, after my years living in Latin America, that idea quickly became debunked in my head.
Clearly, there’s a lot of diversity among Latinos and not all of them are medium brown skinned.
That’s simply what I saw among the few Latinos I met in small town Iowa.
And, in that article I wrote about Pew Research, this comment left behind summarized well the reality of it:
“….some Hispanics are obviously white and some are not but if we recognise Hispanic/Latino as a cultural identity rather than a racial one then we won’t go far wrong….”
That’s simply the first thing that needs to be mentioned before we go forward.
But there’s a few complications to consider before we dig even deeper.
The Latinos Seen as White
However, for Latinos (even white ones) to be seen as white, there are extra complications that come with that in the U.S.
For the most part, people tend to classify all Latinos as not being white in the U.S. even if they are white!
However, one could argue that a Latino can become “so white” passing that he is more easily characterized as such.
Assuming he at least is white skinned or white passing, the next issue is usually the last name from my understanding.
Take George Zimmerman as the comment above mentioned briefly as you can see here.
"The ‘Hispanics are becoming white’ is happening now with Kyle Rittenhouse and his ‘brother from another mother’ George Zimmerman who proclaimed their Hispanic parentage to show the world that they’re not racists but the pair of them have a Hispanic parent. I am sure no-one would look at either of them twice as anything other than white in the United States."
Side Note: Never knew Rittenhouse was Latino? I did hear that about Zimmerman. Here's an article discussing Rittenhouse's "Latino heritage possibility" here.
Anyway, as you can read here, Zimmerman has a Peruvian mother whose last name was Mesa but his last name is Zimmerman.
So now he even has a non-Latino sounding last name.
While the man isn’t entirely white looking as you can see here…
“Very shocking to me that simply based on my last name, people would make that presumption.”
He also doesn’t have the darkest skin tone either and his story of shooting Trayvon Martin was sometimes mixed in with mentions of “white supremacy” as you can read here.
Or how, as you can read here, he sued Pete Buttigieg for his tweet claiming white supremacy in these words here.
“Trayvon Martin would have been 25 today. How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice and fear? #BlackLivesMatter”
Of course, it’s not just the George Zimmerman case where this is relevant.
Some have argued, as you can see in this article I wrote here, that more Latinos will be classified as white or somehow tied to “white supremacy” as more of them vote Republican.
Personally? I can see that happening.
You have cases all the time of the media machine and politicians on both the right and left exploiting race issues for financial and political gain.
The classic example being Nick Sandman here.
But what about Latinos?
Well, in that article on Pew Research here, I cited one CNN article that made the claim that many Latinos will eventually be seen as white as you can see that article here.
Here’s a few quotes.
"The data also call into question whether America is destined to become a so-called minority-majority nation, where whites represent a minority of the nation's population," said the The New York Times. "Those projections assume that Hispanics aren't white, but if Hispanics ultimately identify as white Americans, then whites will remain the majority for the foreseeable future."
It could go either way. A study suggests that Latino identity fades across successive generations as immigrant connections fade away. If large numbers of Latino people identify as White in the future, Whiteness will expand. The enhanced status and socio-economic benefits that come from identifying as White will be too tempting for many to ignore.”
You have other articles to bring up also.
In order to bring up the political element to this, we have this Washington Post article here that goes into the topic.
“Such diversity highlights the fact that President Trump’s share of the Latino vote in November actually rose over 2016, notwithstanding years of incendiary rhetoric targeting Mexicans and other Latino communities. Yes, Trump’s voters — and his mob — are disproportionately White, but one of the more unsettling exit-poll data points of the 2020 election was that a quarter to a third of Latino voters voted to reelect Trump.
The chairman of the neo-fascist Proud Boys is Enrique Tarrio, a Latino raised in Miami’s Little Havana who identifies as Afro-Cuban; when he arrived in Washington for the Jan. 6 march, he was arrested for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a Black church the month before.
Multiracial whiteness promises Latino Trump supporters freedom from the politics of diversity and recognition. For voters who see the very act of acknowledging one’s racial identity as itself racist, the politics of multiracial whiteness reinforces their desired approach to colorblind individualism. In the politics of multiracial whiteness, anyone can join the MAGA movement and engage in the wild freedom of unbridled rage and conspiracy theories.”
In a way, you can already see the corporate left wing of the media beginning the narrative of “white supremacist Latinos.”
The reason for why they do this, in my opinion, is one intellectual and another for financial and political gain.
While it is true that racism exists among Latinos and they can show sentiments of colorism, it is also true that the, as I said, the media on both political aisles plays racial divisions.
A parody of such can be seen in this video here.
Random black dude gets shot.
Nobody really gives a fuck about the facts as to if the shooting was justified or not (sometimes is, sometimes it isn’t).
Protests and riots start.
Both sides play the footage of the protests and the trial for political gain.
Democrats talk all day about white supremacy and Republicans discuss things like law and order, Blue Lives Matter, etc.
It drives up ratings.
And it gets voters pissed off enough to hopefully get them to the polls.
With American predicted to becoming less white, you do have issues from both sides as how to address that.
For the Democrats, it could be as simple as expanding the idea of “whiteness” to Latinos so even someone like Zimmerman – a Latino man – can get their voters angry (which, as I said, both sides tend to not give a fuck about the facts and, in this case, yell “white supremacy” anyhow).
And, on top of that, given the recent Republican successful efforts in getting more Latino voters under Trump, I imagine that encouraged the corporate left of the media to shift a little bit the narrative about U.S. Latinos anyhow (especially if, in the future, Republicans have more success with them but that’s yet to be seen).
For the Republicans, it’s a matter of expanding your voter base in the long run to stay relevant and still capable of winning elections.
Even the GOP admitted this after their 2012 loss with Romney in which they released their own autopsy report regarding the reasons for their political loss and what they need to do going forward as you can see here:
“The report, called the "Growth and Opportunity Project," lays out an extensive plan the RNC believes will lead the party to victory with an extensive outreach to women, African-American, Asian, Hispanic and gay voters. Among the plans: hiring paid outreach staffers across the country in a $10 million push that begins right away; backing "comprehensive immigration reform"; abbreviating the presidential primary process with fewer debates, specifically saying the party would like at least half the 20 there were during the 2012 cycle; and moving the convention to June or July, as well as improving the data and digital effort.
Priebus noted that the party's policies are fundamentally sound but require a softer tone and broader outreach, include a stronger push for African-American, Latino, Asian, women and gay voters.”
Funny enough, the guy known as Trump who is even more vocal about illegal immigrants and their “crime, drugs and rape” managed to expand the Republican appeal among Latino voters than someone like Romney ultimately.
Though, as we can see here, being tougher on immigration isn’t necessarily an idea hated on by every Latino immigrant.
“Amid a growing number of apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border that have reached levels last seen in 2006, 42% of Latinos say increasing border security is a very important immigration policy goal, while only 18% say increasing deportations is a very important goal.”
Among many other polling questions given to U.S. Latinos! For more interesting information on how Latinos responded to immigration policy questions, check out that article here.
Anyway, I could go all day on this topic and dig into it much deeper but we’ll leave it at that for now.
There’s a few other important details that need to be addressed outside of any political motivations that might exist for portraying more Latinos as “white,” “white adjacent,” “white passing” or “working with white supremacy.”
The Historical Precedent
Remember that CNN article I mentioned before?
It actually did have a few good points to bring up that should be mentioned.
One of them being the historical precedent for expanding the idea of who is white.
Let’s quote it here.
“In books like "How The Irish Became White" and "Working Toward Whiteness," scholars have argued that the definition of Whiteness has expanded to include Irish, Italian and Jewish people -- groups that once weren't considered fully White in the US.”
This actually reminds me of a talking point brought forth by more right-leaning folks at times when discussing slavery and slave reparations in the US.
In which, as a point against slave reparations, some will say “well, the Irish were seen as non-white and treated as indentured servants. So, therefore, no reparations!”
And, technically, they are right that some Irish folks were treated that way as you can see here.
The Italians or Sicilians?
Here’s a few quotes from this article here.
“In certain parts of the South during the Jim Crow era, Italians "occupied a racial middle ground within the otherwise unforgiving, binary caste system of white-over-black." Though Italians were viewed as white for purposes of naturalization and voting, their social standing was that they represented a "problem at best." Their racial status was impacted by their appearance and that they did not "act" white, engaging in manual labor ordinarily reserved for blacks. Italians continued to occupy a "middle ground in the racial order" through the 1920s.
However, "color challenges were never sustained or systematic" when it came to Italians, who were "largely accepted as white by the widest variety of people and institutions" throughout the U.S. Even in the South, such as Louisiana, any attempts to disenfranchise them "failed miserably"
During the majority of American history, Sicilians were often not considered white. Around 1900, as Sicilians were disembarking at Ellis Island and New Orleans by the millions, they were required to check off "Southern Italian" or "Sicilian" rather than "White" on entry forms. Emigration from Sicily to the United States began before Italian unification and reached its peak at a time when regional differences were still very strong and marked, both linguistically and ethnically. Therefore, many of the Sicilian immigrants identified (and still identify) primarily on a regional rather than a national basis. This difference has largely contributed to Sicilians identifying or being labeled as non-white in America.
After large numbers of Sicilians entered into the United States, legal restrictions were put in place to stop further immigration of Sicilians. The Emergency Quota Act, and the subsequent Immigration Act of 1924 sharply reduced immigration from Sicily except for relatives of Sicilians already in the United States. In certain parts of the South during the Jim Crow era, Sicilians, even more so than Italians generally, were affected by discriminatory policies. The reason Sicilians were much more prone to racial discrimination than other Mediterranean groups (such as Northern Italians or Greeks) was due to the fact that they were seen as much darker.”
Yet, to this day, just about anyone sees anyone of Irish or Italian descent as white.
I should know – I am almost entirely of Irish descent (like 92%).
My dad even has a book of our ancestors going way back with photos of some random dude on a farm in Ireland.
But, going forward, how does this relate to Latinos now?
Well, I found this quote from the last source interesting.
The reason Sicilians were much more prone to racial discrimination than other Mediterranean groups (such as Northern Italians or Greeks) was due to the fact that they were seen as much darker.”
Let’s make a comparison.
The Whiteness of U.S. Latinos
It’s always been my opinion that, for any Latino to be seen as white, he’d have to come close to being “white passing.”
Shit – if Zimmerman can be seen as white by some, then I guess a lot of Latinos can since, in my eyes, he isn’t overly light skinned but not too dark either.
I wouldn’t have classified him as white personally because he does have an extra bit of a tan but I do remember many people classifying him as such when getting into heated discussion about the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Anyway, I do strongly believe that more Latinos will be “seen as white” if they have white enough looking skin.
Similar to how the Irish had better treatment than the Sicilians.
But how many Latinos are white passing?
Well, according to that Pew research article cited initially, about 80% of Latinos self-identify as “light skinned” as you can see in this screenshot here.
Though, as I wrote in that article just cited here, I do doubt the 80% number.
It does seem a bit heavy.
You might have had some Latinos self-report as whiter than they really are for personal reasons and also keep in mind that, from what I read only, I guess Latinos can appear whiter near the winter and that survey wasn’t taken in the summer.
Anyway, what do other sources say?
Well, we have that same source on the Italians before giving us this information here.
“On the 2000 Census form, race and ethnicity are distinct questions. A respondent who checks the "Hispanic or Latino" ethnicity box must also check one or more of the five official race categories. Of the over 35 million Hispanics or Latinos in the 2000 Census, a plurality of 48.6% identified as "white," 48.2% identified as "Other" (most of whom are presumed of mixed races such as mestizo or mulatto), and the remaining 3.2% identified as "black" and other races.
By 2010, the number of Hispanics identifying as white has increased by a wide margin since the year 2000 on the 2010 Census form, of the over 50 million people who identified as Hispanic and Latino Americans a majority 53% identified as "white", 36.7% identified as "Other" (most of whom are presumed of mixed races such as mestizo or mulatto), 6% identified as "Two or more races", 2.5% identified as "Black", 1.4% identified as "American Indian and Alaska Native", and the remaining 0.5% identified as other races.”
Outside of my defense for using Wikipedia as a source (let’s be real, it’s not A BAD source given how well-cited it is), one interesting to bring up is how, in 2000, it seems that the distinction between “Hispanic” and “white” was made?
With survey makers recognizing more often that someone can be both and having them check not only if they are Latino but also white?
Though I haven’t taken those surveys in a very long time, I do remember taking a few way back when I was a kid where “Latino” was categorized as a race.
No idea how it is now (and I’m not old in anyway though I guess the early 2000s is seen as way back for some like me).
Anyway, I wonder if that could be seen as evidence of an historical trend towards recognizing that Hispanics and Latinos can also be white in the US?
At least to how they might have been seen beforehand.
On top of that, we have this bit here.
“As of 2019, 58.5 million or 18% of Americans identified themselves ethnically as Latino. Of those, 38.3 million, or 65.5% (11.8% of the total US population), also self-identified as white.”
That information was cited here and came from this source here.
Then you have this bit here for comparison sake.
“In the 2000 census, the responses that contained a race specified by the Office of Management and Budget and a race not specified by OMB, were reclassified to match the races that OMB had considered. In this way, 44.24% of the hispanic population that had marked as white and another race not specified by the OMB was recategorized as only white.”
The information was cited here and came from this source here.
So a 21.26% increase in Latinos identifying as white?
Wonder what could be behind that?
Why the Drop: Interracial Marriage?
It is a question as to why seemingly more Latinos might identify as white now than before.
Well, one theory, as you can see in this screenshot here, is due to marriages with non-Hispanic whites.
We have this source here claiming as such with their own source for that information to be found here.
“In 2017, the Pew Research Center reported that high intermarriage rates and declining Latin American immigration has led to 11% of US adults with Latino ancestry (5.0 million people) to no longer identify as Latino.”
You also have this interesting source here showing the racial preferences of men and women on dating sites like this one.
In which most of the groups, including Latinos, have a strong preference for dating white men and Asian women.
“All women except black women are most drawn to white men, and men of all races (with one notable exception) prefer Asian women.”
But what about issues stemming from generation to generation beyond simply just marrying a non-Latino person?
Generation to Generation Issues
Next, we have the “generation to generation issue.”
Let’s start by citing this source here that uses this source here for its data.
“First generation immigrants from Latin America identify as Latino at very high rates (97%) which reduces in each succeeding generation, second generation (92%), third generation (77%), and fourth generation (50%).”
I wonder how long it takes for that 50% number to drop to 0%?
Anyway, I can think of some Latinos in the US who were like this.
Now that I think about it, I do know of one white Latino dude in high school who was white looking, didn’t speak Spanish and who didn’t seem to be “very Latino” so to speak?
I don’t know how much he identified with his roots despite having a Latino last name. That’s all I can say on him.
Next, there was a Latina gal I went to prom with in high school who very much knew her roots (whose dad was even born in Mexico) but she changed her last name to something non-Latino sounding way back.
She was raised in some small town in Iowa close to where I lived where she was heavily discriminated against from what I remember her telling me. Some fucker even tried running her over on his truck once.
While she identifies as Latina, the changing of her last name is interesting, I suppose. Makes me wonder how many other Latinos choose to not identify with their roots or distance themselves from them due to any discrimination?
In college, there was a dude born in the US with Guatemalan parents but he didn’t speak Spanish all too well.
Back in high school, there was also some Latino kid (light brown skin) whose name was Nick. Did he speak Spanish? Not at all.
There was also a medium brown skin kid named Josh that I was friends with. From what I remember, he was born in Brazil and somehow ended up in my small town. Similarly, there wasn’t much about him that seemed “Brazilian” or “different.”
On top of all of this, I also wonder how, as a minority, growing up in a small town community of people different from you makes you, as the minority, adopt to the climate?
While I can talk about being a racial minority in Mexico, I can’t speak to growing up as such (and definitely not so much in a small town setting).
But I always imagined that has an effect on some of the mentioned Latinos above. But in ways I couldn’t really go into detail and only speculate on. I have no idea.
And, beyond the small-town setting, how else could one’s “Latino ness” be withered away over generations?
We already discussed the main ones.
Perhaps the Latino parent procreates with a non-Latino.
Maybe raising them in a small-town setting with few other Latinos to relate to makes them feel more pressure to assimilate to the culture of the broader community?
Either by discrimination and/or not having many resources to have them grow up connecting and enjoying with Latino culture.
Also, by not living in Latin America and living in a country where the vast majority of people are not Latino (be it in a rural or urban setting), I imagine that has an effect also.
And, on top of that, perhaps not learning Spanish or Portuguese has an effect also.
How many Latinos don’t know Spanish in the US?
Well, this source here gives us some idea:
“A Simmons Market Research survey recorded that 19 percent of Hispanics speak only Spanish, 9 percent speak only English, 55 percent have limited English proficiency, and 17 percent are fully English-Spanish bilingual.”
And that number is technically falling as you can see here.
“More than 37 million Latinos in the U.S. speak Spanish at home, making it the country’s most common non-English language. But while the number of Latinos who speak Spanish at home continues to increase due to the overall growth of the Latino population, the share of Latinos who speak the language has declined over the past decade or so: 73% of Latinos spoke Spanish at home in 2015, down from 78% in 2006, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.”
I imagine that the number of Latinos who speak Spanish (fluently and not fluently) falls down at similar rates to those who identify as Latino by generation as we saw before.
Though, if I’m being honest, that’s just speculation.
Either way, it all brings us to that type of Latino a few generations away.
The White Man Who Was Once Latino
It does bring into question then, no?
What does it take for a Latino to be seen as white in the coming decades?
Well, as we showed before, even polls now ask both if you are Latino and what race you are (white, black, Asian, etc).
I imagine that – with the trends above – of Latinos identifying less with being Latino by each generation with more interracial marriages also and less learning Spanish even…
That you’d have many of the Latinos above identify as other races in the coming decades.
Not always white though.
Be it simply mixed race, black, Asian, white, etc.
Whoever their parents and grandparents are.
Though, as we see in the trends cited above, I suppose many would identify as white.
Many more Zimmermans with lighter skin tones and the same non-Latino sounding last name?
Hopefully with less shootings.
Anyway, what else is there to say?
Honestly, I was surprised at how many Latinos identify as white.
I always knew that many Latinos would end up like the Italians or Irish because I have seen Latinos in small town Iowa who didn’t speak Spanish or straight up didn’t even identify with their Latino roots seemingly.
Not many to be fair because it wasn’t like my small town was full of Latinos anyhow.
But I didn’t know that already over 60% of them identify as white?
That was much higher than I expected.
Though I suppose that’s because, as I said, almost every Latino I knew in the US wasn’t white looking.
Which, in the coming decades, I do feel that’d be a requirement for any Latino to identify and be seen as white obviously.
As you actually white?
While many will procreate with white folks, as I said, others won’t.
Whoever it might be!
An Asian dude, black dude, Indian dude, etc.
Still, the trends, as I said, seem to point to a “whitening of Latinos” in many ways and, much more strongly, a “stripping of Latino hood” for those who won’t have white offspring anyhow.
If we were to believe that statistic about each generation of Latinos identifying as less Latino anyway.
Anyhow, that’s all I got to say.
Nothing else comes to mind.
If you have any comments, drop them below in the comment section.
Was an interesting thing for me to look into so I’d appreciate any comments.
As I said, I’m not Latino and definitely not an expert on the Latino community in the US.
This was just simple research I did out of curiosity after reading a comment on my last article that made me curious about this subject.
Anyway, follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.
The massive difference between mass European immigration and modern day Latin American immigration was that it ceased in 1965 and they became Anglicised – they stopped speaking their languages – German in St Louis, Italian dialects in New York, Swedish and Norwegian in Minnesota and became ‘American’ whereas Latin American immigration is ongoing and is never ever going to stop and the powers-that-be KNOW THIS (sorry but lack of italics…) so what this means is that FOB Latin communities will always exist in the way FOB German and Swedish communities died away. A rich, white, Latin American isn’t going to go to the midwest when they can just go to Miami where there is now a huge community catering to them – they don’t even have to speak English or learn it! Miami to Panama City is a couple of hours away, Miami to Bogota or Caracas is three hours away – they can buy a property there (in cash) and live a great life that is somewhat recognisable to them.
Will Latinos ever become ‘white’ and the answer is no because some aren’t white and I would say a lot of them refuse to identify as such – you are always going to get weirdoes like Sammy Sosa but I think most Latinos in America would define themselves as the colour/racial background that they are – that and that racial hierachy exists in the Latin American world anyway. I was reading about some Venezuelan immigrant (which I now cannot find the link to such is my luck…) who was complaining the local rednecks around Miami saw him and his girlfriend as the same as their Nicaraguan colleagues working night shift in a factory despite the fact he had a law degree from Venezuela’s finest university (I didn’t read it in The Onion…) those barriers and differences exist in those communities also – you stated that in your previous piece of how an Afro-Cuban woman would be told by white Cubans that she wasn’t a ‘real’ Cuban – stupid nonsense of ignorant people but that kind of thing is probably a lot more widespread than it is in America I think.
There are lots of rich, white, Hispanic neighbourhoods in south Florida – my favourite example is Doral – 91% white and 85% Hispanic and as rich as fuck – Weston has similar numbers – I doubt there are many Dominican or Bolivian homeowners as there aren’t many rich, white Venezuelans or Argentinians living in Paterson in New Jersey (home to the largest Peruvian expat community in North America…) and of course, there are cultural differences between all these Latin American nations – sometimes language isn’t enough of a glue to bind such a diverse demographic like that together. One thing is for certain though, the Latin Americans are not going to stop coming any time soon. Legally or illegally – they will still make their way across the Rio Grande.