The U.S. Census Bureau is proposing to make that an option.

Currently, the U.S. Census and other government agencies first ask whether someone is of “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.” 

First of all, these are not all equivalent options. 

Here at CALÓ News we prefer Latino as a general descriptor or Latino/a/x. But Hispanic is a government derived term. And Spanish is European and shouldn’t be in that category at all.

Then the Census asks one to select their race from five primary categories: White; Black or African American; American Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian; or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.  There also is a tab for some other race.

In a 2021 analysis by Pew Research, 58% of Latinos identified as white, 2% as Black and 27% as some other race. In the 2020 U.S. Census an even higher number of Latinos, 35.5%, marked their race as “some other race” and 8% did not respond to the race question at all. 

So why is there a move to make us a race?

U.S Census

The Census argues it will be less confusing.  It gives those picking some other race a chance to be counted. It’s about political power and funding.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) developed standards to collect data in 1977 and they were revised in 1997. Using these standards, schools, public health facilities and other government entities and agencies keep track of how many Hispanics they serve. This was  the primary goal of the 1976 law.

In 1976, the U.S. Congress passed a law that mandated the collection and analysis of data for a specific ethnic group: “Americans of Spanish origin or descent” and “Americans who identify themselves as being of Spanish-speaking background and trace their origin or descent from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central and South America, and other Spanish-speaking countries.” This includes 20 Spanish-speaking nations from Latin America and Spain itself, but not Portugal or Portuguese-speaking Brazil.

Some argue that Hispanics are people from Spain or from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America (this excludes Brazil, where Portuguese is the official language). Others say Latinos are people from Latin America regardless of language (this includes Brazil but excludes Spain and Portugal). 

Despite this debate, the Hispanic and Latino umbrella labels are not universally embraced or used. Other labels designed to be nonbinary and more inclusive such as Latinx and Latine also are not commonly used. Some Latinos also propose banning Latinx. There is no plan to include them in the Census. 

If we can’t all agree on what to be called, can we agree on one race?

We are not a monolith and we are not one race. Latinos are all races white, Black, Asian, Indigenous and mixed. Many are mestizo, a mixture, descendants of the painful legacy colonialism.

Studies show Latinos identify more with their family’s country of origin such as Mexican, Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, etc.

You can argue that we are united by language and culture. Still, we have many differences, political but also in culture and language. Not all Latinos speak Spanish.

If the end goal of the Census proposal is that Latinos receive more resources and power, then that could be a bonus. The proposal would fold the race and ethnicity choices into one question.

There still will be debate over what we want to be called and or labelled. We should be sure that we are counted.

Read more stories about culture here.