Blog Post

Are Hispanics Whitening?

Is "whitening" the result of a trend or a misunderstanding?
July 10, 2014

In a previous blog post I mentioned I was going to share my take on the New York Times’  coverage of the “whitening of Hispanics” and the controversy that it generated around the fact that more Hispanics chose “white” as their race on the 2010 census form.

So here it is, illustrated with an actual anecdote:
Last year, SE2 conducted a series of community meetings on behalf of client Denver B-cycle. We collected some demographic data on participants as part of a larger research project. At one Spanish-speaking meeting, two women seated next to each other asked for my help to fill out their form since we asked – in a similar fashion to how the census does – two separate questions, one about race and one about ethnicity (are you Hispanic/Latino?).
Both women were Spanish-dominant Latinas from Mexico; both looked the “classic” way of a mestiza so they could be easily identified as Latinas. But after my two-minute explanation differentiating race from ethnicity, one of them selected “white” as her race (after telling me she has been told in the past that that’s the option she should use). The second woman selected “more than one race”.
Maybe some people are choosing “white” not because of assimilation or lack of contact with their own culture, as the Times piece speculated.  Instead, the difference between race and ethnicity is still not well understood, as I noted in this Denver Post column.
The census form has contributed to that “whitening” of Hispanics with some confusion about terms, names and even the location of its options on the form. If it keeps similar forms for 2020, the census department will require a better outreach plan to explain this.
Let me know what you think at @abraham1morales.

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