September 16, 2020


Where Did the Term "Hispanic" Come From?: "Hispanic" as the name of an ethnicity is contested today. But the category arose from a political need for unity. (Livia Gershon  September 15, 2020, JSTOR Daily)

The new "Hispanic" identity arose partly from the work of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a Chicano organization. The group modeled much of its work on Black civil rights organizing. But it had a problem. Where African-American groups were able to draw on census data to make public policy arguments about issues like Black unemployment, Mexican-Americans had no such data. The group, with other Chicano organizations, began lobbying the Census Bureau to collect specific data on Mexican-Americans.

At the same time, Mora writes, the bureau was also facing lawsuits charging that it undercounted minority groups, including Spanish speakers in big cities. It created a Spanish Origin Advisory Committee (SOAC), including Puerto Rican, Mexican-American, and Cuban-American activists and civic leaders.

Some Mexican-American and Puerto Rican committee members pushed for a new racial category, such as "Brown." But that was complicated by the diverse origins of Spanish speakers. Instead, the Census Bureau added an additional "Spanish Origin" or "Hispanic" category and experimented with additional ways to identify Latin American ethnicities. (It was forced to drop one question asking about Central American origins when a significant number of people living in the U.S. central time zone checked the box.)

Mora writes that the new census data allowed NCLR to make data-backed arguments about economic marginalization, not of Mexican-Americans but of Hispanics generally. The group's work followed the data. By the end of the 1970s, it was encouraging Puerto Rican and Cuban groups to become affiliates. Eventually, it changed its name to the more inclusive Unidos US.

While my colleagues and I are progressive on social issues, as researchers, we have to put aside our personal biases and render advice based on the best available empirical evidence. To examine the acceptance of "Latinx" our firm conducted a nationwide poll of Latinos using a 508-person sample that is demographically representative of Census figures, yielding a ± 5% margin of error with a 95% confidence interval.

We presented our respondents with seven of the most common terms used to describe Latinos and asked them to select the one that best describes them. When it came to "Latinx," there was near unanimity. Despite its usage by academics and cultural influencers, 98% of Latinos prefer other terms to describe their ethnicity. Only 2% of our respondents said the label accurately describes them, making it the least popular ethnic label among Latinos. [...]

So, what do Latinos want to be called? Consistent with past studies by Gallup and Pew Research, our poll found a plurality of respondents preferred the term Hispanic (44%) over Latino (24%). 

Progressives insisting on the term Latinx, which no actual Latino prefers, is like forcing slave names on an entire cohort.
Posted by at September 16, 2020 7:19 AM