If Only a Label Were the Answer

After all the huffing and puffing, the ongoing discussion about the Hispanic and/or Latino labels sort of misses the point. Yes, Hispanic is a confected term, and, yes, Latino, is not far behind but Latino is personally more acceptable to many of us who are Americans but cannot go around town calling ourselves Paraguayans, Colombians, Dominicans, Cubans or Mexicans first but who yet feel differently about our selves, meaning our identity.  Thus the discussion – wholesome, necessary and inevitable – is not about a label but about identity, a term that is as much about who we are as it is about purpose in life.

This discussion is being had again because the rest of society – in this case the Pew Hispanic Center – has asked a question of us that underlies the questions that the country has about the Hispanic/Latino population.  The debate would not be as important to individual HispanicLatinos if no on else cared.  But the fact of the matter is that the country cares – very much.  The country minds because it cares a lot about race, and the citizens of our not-too-sophisticated nation carelessly mix up race and ethnicity and national origin and culture with labels and skin colors.

HispanicLatinos engaging in this debate often fail to keep in mind the historical context of the formation of the country’s character:  It formed over conflict over race, and it has not gotten over it.  And as the composition of the population continues to change, the debate is not going to go away.  If anything, it is going to intensify, given the socioeconomic standing of a group that is not progressing fast enough – as a whole – to fill the void a receding “Anglo” population is creating.  Only an economically successful HispanicLatino population will keep theUnited Statesfiscally and financially viable in the future.  The ongoing social and economic development of the HispanicLatino is a national security concern.  So our sense and sensibilities should not revolve around past or present labels as much as about the immediate, critical future.

For that reason and that reason alone – to bring about national awareness of the importance of the HispanicLatino population to the country and to raise the consciousness within the HispanicLatino population itself – is it time to unify a population that must have a coherent view of itself and its future. HispanicLatinos need a statement of purpose within a new intellectual framework that evolves from, within and for the individual self.  HispanicLatinos do not need to form another national organization as much as they need to form a new identity that collectively could help seeAmerica through in the years ahead.

The presumed differences among a population that takes in members from the 18 Spanish-speaking countries of the hemisphere are mere vanities to be jettisoned in light of the new, history-making responsibilities HispanicLatinos bear.  The need to have one’s existence acknowledged gives rise to the perception of irreversible differences within the HispanicLatino community.  Without a more focused and forward-leaning view of the future, it is easy to see why many HispanicLatinos who share many similarities demonstrate highly disparate behavior – to the point of assuming counterintuitive philosophical positions counterproductive to their interests.

It seems logical to expect that the temptation to play out the experiences of the past in a common cultural crucible will be made irrelevant by the exigencies of an increasingly globalized and compacted world.  A new, universal existence looms that requires a new, universal unity of effort to turn back threats to the earth’s very existence.  In the same vein, it is reasonable to expect that their close proximity ultimately – and the flow of history inevitably – will amalgamate HispanicLatino subgroups to attain common objectives.  For those who believe in a post-racial world, why would the unification of HispanicLatinos be the exception?

The expansion of the HispanicLatino population across the land should not be about extending old rivalries or increasing personal insecurities or prolonging discussions about labels.  The future – with perhaps the very fate of humanity at stake – is by far more important.

Feel free to forward these blogs adapted from previous writings, with additional thoughts published invariably in between.

2 thoughts on “If Only a Label Were the Answer

  1. I saw your interview on Univision with Jorge Ramos. Afterwards I had a discussion with my father about the label, “HispanicLatino.” For that, I want to thank you.

    I felt that the interview missed some important points. Maybe you will be able to cast some light. I understand that Al Punto probably just wanted to plant a seed of interest into the topic. However the overgeneralization of the Pew Hispanic Center statistics may ignore some underlying issues that impedes unification among the Hispanic community. It was not clear if the people surveyed were in their mid-40s or in their mid-20s. I believe Hispanics with varying gender, sexual orientation, religion, language, education, occupation, community go through different experiences in the United States. Because of their different experiences, certain identities are more important than other identities.

    The Pew Hispanic Center perhaps highlights a more important issue within our community. Since most of them preferred to be labeled by their country of origin, I can assume that people surveyed were from an older generation. Most youths do not tend to have a country of origin, since the U.S. is their country of origin. I believe that the Pew Hispanic Center did not conclude that there is a racial war against us waged by the Anglo-Americans. I believe that the Pew survey points to division within our community. Our own community discriminates and berates one another’s Hispanic culture. Recently my date’s Mexican mother warned her to be careful since I have Salvadoran roots. Everyone knows how dirty a Salvadoran can play against the prestigious and honorable Mexican. I believe we need to resolve stereotypes within our community before we set out on an idealistic reverie of the label, “HispanicLatino.”

    Well, thank for taking the time to read through my comment. I enjoyed visiting your blog. It provided me with motivation and insight. I have recently graduated from University of California, Riverside with a B.A. in Political Science: Law & Society. I have not been able to find employment yet, but I am working on a Research Project titled: The Social Identity Theory: The Evolution of Mexican-American identities in the United States. It brings me great joy to be able to discuss these issues with like-minded individuals.

  2. I would like to suggest to you the term Hispaniclatinamerican (Hispanolatinoamericano en español), since it would sound more inclusive to the american society and the english language by the mere fact of having the word american in it. just like chineseamerican or africanamerican.

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