Hatred III: the Hispanic panic
Apr 13th, 2011 by Unamused
Welcome back to “Hatred,” Unamusement Park’s five-part documentary on the War on Hate. In part one, we observed how anti-racists react when John Derbyshire pokes them with a stick, by which I mean: tells them about intelligence research that insufficiently flatters black people. In part two, with decidedly bigger fish to fry, we tiptoed up to the railroad tracks of gender feminism and slapped both hands on the third rail of rape responsibility — which, I suppose, would fry a very big metaphorical fish.
Today, there will be no frying of fish. Today, we take that big fish… and we grill it with salsa verde! Ay, caramba!
It’s a genetic epic: an Hispanic panic! Are they ethnic or organic? That third rail was galvanic.
Definition, or: Hispanics — what are they and how do they work?
What are Hispanics, anyway? (Or should I say Latinos? Latino-Hispanics?) Are they a race? An ethnic group? What’s the difference? I thought races were social constructs anyway. Does that make ethnic groups super-social constructs? AAAAAAAH IT’S SO CONFUSING.
Let’s get the basics out of the way. (This is still much further than “anti”-racists ever get.) The term “Hispanic” has many meanings, of varying degrees of uselessness, complicated by the fact that no one can decide what term to use.
For now I’ll work with the most official definition of all, officially introduced by the US government in the official 1970 Census. (Back then, the term was “Hispanic.” By 2000, it had been updated to “Spanish/Hispanic/Latino.” Someone must have complained.) Currently, according to the US Office of Management and Budget, the term (actually, they use “Hispanic or Latino,” but let’s not quibble) means “a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.”
By this definition, “Hispanic” is not a race. Not one little bit. (Someone should really explain that to Hispanic gangs, so they stop warring with black gangs.) According to the very official US Census, it is an ethnicity. It’s also the only ethnicity: you are either “Hispanic or Latino” or “Non-Hispanic or Latino.” (Self-identifying as both, a logical contradiction, is neither explicitly allowed nor prohibited.)
So what’s an ethnicity? According to Wikipedia:
a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture (often including a shared religion) and an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy. “…in general it is a highly biologically self-perpetuating group sharing an interest in a homeland connected with a specific geographical area, a common language and traditions, including food preferences, and a common religious faith.”
Other definitions are similar: “people of the same
race or nationality who share a distinctive culture” (Free Dictionary); people “sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like” (Dictionary.com); a classification “according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). But we know better than to think ethnicity is racial.
Heritage, or: Once upon a time in Mexico
Unfortunately, people “of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin” do not share a common language, a common culture, or a common religion — distinctive or otherwise. Anyone who thinks they do is more racist than I’ll ever be.
What, then, is this “heritage” they share? Surely not a genetic heritage! Although that’s usually what a “common ancestry or endogamy” implies… and it would be “highly biologically self-perpetuating”…
Other people, especially Hispanics, are confused too — frustrated, even. From Time magazine (March 29, 2010):
Many, if not most, Hispanics in the U.S. think of their ethnicity (also known as Latino) not just in cultural terms but in a racial context as well. It’s why more than 40% of Hispanics, when asked on the Census form in 2000 to register white or black as their race, wrote in “Other” — and they represented 95% of all the 15.3 million people in the U.S. who did so.
An even larger share of Hispanics, including my Venezuelan-American wife, is expected to report “Other,” “Hispanic” or “Latino” in the race section of the 2010 census forms being mailed to U.S. homes this month. What makes it all the more confusing if not frustrating to them is that Washington continues to insist on those forms that “Hispanic origins are not races.” If the Census Bureau lists Filipino and even Samoan as distinct races, Hispanics wonder why they — the product of half a millennium of New World miscegenation — aren’t considered a race too.
Miscegenation… that’s got something to do with races, right? Must not be important, then. We’ll leave it until later.
Race, or: (d) none of the above
The Washington Post (July 14, 2003) reports the same curious phenomenon.
“Nearly 50 percent of Latinos who filed a Census report said they were white, according to the center’s report.
The 2.7 percent of Latinos who described themselves as black, most of them from the Caribbean, had lower incomes and higher rates of poverty than the other groups — despite having a higher level of education.
Among Latinos who described themselves as “some other race,” earnings and levels of poverty and unemployment fell between black and white members of their ethnic group. About 47 percent of Latinos said on Census forms that they are “some other race,” according to the report.
“The point of the report,” said John R. Logan, the report’s lead researcher, “is that if we take seriously the way people talk about their race, and the reality of their lives, we find that there are real distinctions between white and black Latinos and Hispanics who say they are some other race.” …
In the average metropolitan neighborhood where white Hispanics live, there are hardly any residents who are black Hispanic, the study found. The same is true in neighborhoods populated by Hispanics who say they are neither white nor black.
Fascinating. Apparently, “if we take seriously the way people talk about their race, and the reality of their lives” (but who would want to do that?), “we find that there are real distinctions between white and black Latinos and Hispanics who say they are some other race.”
Ask Hispanics about their race, and you get one of three answers, almost 100 percent of the time: white, black, or other. I wonder… what should we name this other race of Hispanics?
Culture, or: nobody expects an Hispanic inquisition
Frankly, “Hispanic” does not seem to be a particularly useful or natural way to categorize people. After all, a black child of black parents, born in Puerto Rico but raised in Philadelphia, is Hispanic by definition. So are
- a half-white, half-Asian child living in Mexico and immersed in Mexican culture,
- anyone — anyone at all — who partakes of any part of Puerto Rican or Cuban or Brazilian or Spanish culture, and is inclined to label themselves “Hispanic,”
- the more than 11,000 migrants kidnapped by Mexican gangs during one six-month period in 2010, including the 72 massacred last August,
- the Mexicans crossing into the United States to kidnap Americans for ransom, gun them down, or rape them by the hundreds of thousands — or just waiting until Spring Break, and
- the entire population of Spain.
It’s not just who we include, it’s why we include them. If we insist on making “Hispanic” about culture, then we’ve mashed together the cultures, past and present, of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, South America, Central America, and Spain; from soccer to bullfighting, from Rioplatense baroque architecture to ethnic cleansing. (Gang culture is culture too, you know.)
How is this a useful classification? Under this definition, what is the point of knowing whether or not someone is Hispanic? They could be talking about human sacrifice or invading England. It’s very confusing.
Drop culture from the definition and it makes a little more sense: “a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish… origin, regardless of race.” Now at least we’re talking about people with a real
biological ancestral link to a real geographical location. (Geography isn’t racist, right? Oh good.) There’s still something out of place, though… and I can’t quite —
SPAIN, or: the rain in Spain stays mainly on Hispanics
Spain? I wasn’t expecting a sort of — oh, I already used that joke.
Personally, I had never heard of the Spanish being Hispanic until now. Certainly a lot of people studying Hispanics prefer to differentiate between them and the Spanish — probably because the whole subject is confusing as hell (see above).
There are about 25 million Spanish Americans, but that includes anyone “[t]racing their ancestry in Spain, including white Latin Americans of Spanish ancestry.” So it seems “Spanish American” means something like “white and Hispanic.” Of the 25 million “Spanish Americans,” only 350,000 are actually Spaniards; the rest are “[w]hite Hispanic or [white] Latino of Spanish ancestry.”
In America, then, we would be modifying the definition of “Hispanic” by less than two percent if we omitted the Spanish, reserving “Hispanic” for people of Latin American descent. (Of course, the change would be even tinier in Latin America.) Then our definition would at least match the Merriam-Webster’s definition of “Latino”: “a native or inhabitant of Latin America,” or “a person of Latin-American origin living in the United States.”
Now why would we want to omit the Spanish? Read on, sir or madam. Read on.
Miscegenation, or: “White girls, they’re pretty funny, sometimes they drive me mad./Black girls just wanna get fucked all night, I just don’t have that much jam.”
(I considered calling it “Black Holes And Miscegenations” after my fourth favorite Muse album, but that’s just crass.)
What were those Hispanics complaining about in Time magazine, again? Someone ate their delicious tacos? No, that wasn’t it at all.
Hispanics wonder why they — the product of half a millennium of New World miscegenation — aren’t considered a race too.
Miscegenation means people of different races having children together. When you look at traits with strong genetic components in interracial (or mixed-race) children, you often find that the kids lie somewhere in between their parents. Skin color is one obvious example — look at Barack Obama (half white, half black). Intelligence is another (Appendix A).
What does this have to do with Hispanics? That depends on which Hispanics we’re talking about. Who’s “the product of half a millennium of New World miscegenation”? Obviously not the Spanish Hispanics. Not the white or black or (almost nonexistent) Asian Hispanics, either. It’s those “none of the above” types who can’t figure out what race they are, but suspect it has something to do with Latin America.
The impeccably anti-racist Evergreen State College, in its celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, affirms that
[“Hispanic”] is not a racial identification. Hispanic is more of a regional identification like saying “North American.” What is a Hispanic? Hispanics come in all sizes and shapes. There are Jewish, Arab, Asian, Indian, Black and White Hispanics as well as brown.
Anyway, here is the relevant part:
What most Americans perceive as brown is actually a mix of Indian [i.e., Native (Central or South) American] and White. When Spanish explorers settled the Americas, they did not bring families with them like the English settlers did when they arrived in the U.S. The Spanish explorers were mostly soldiers and priests, etc. As a result, the soldiers intermarried with the Indian women they found in the countries they explored [quite a euphemism, that]. The result was a new racial identity known as mestizos. In time, mestizos became the middle class and the largest population.
White? Native American? Those sound suspiciously like races. A mix of the two? That sounds suspiciously sort of like a race.
Genetics, or: we meet again, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza — but this time, it’s personal
As I pointed out in section 2 of “‘Scientific racism’ is actually valid science (part 2),” race exists, and it is genetic. The brown Hispanic sort-of race is not an exception. (Neither are the white European sort-of subraces — see Appendix B.) The following genetic map of the Americas is from Cavalli-Sforza’s unabridged History and Geography of Human Genes (1994). Now imagine mixing some white people into the middle bit and the part at the bottom. Boom, there’s your new race.
Scientists are working away on the genetic makeup of Hispanics. Harry Ostrer, professor of Pediatrics, Pathology and Medicine and director of the Human Genetics Program at NYU Langone Medical Center, has co-authored a 2010 paper, “Genome-wide patterns of population structure and admixture among Hispanic/Latino populations”, in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).
Hispanic/Latino populations possess a complex genetic structure that reflects recent admixture among and potentially ancient substructure within Native American, European, and West African source populations. …
Comparing autosomal, X and Y chromosome, and mtDNA variation, we find evidence of a significant sex bias in admixture proportions consistent with disproportionate contribution of European male and Native American female ancestry to present-day populations. …
Finally, using the locus-specific ancestry inference method LAMP, we reconstruct fine-scale chromosomal patterns of admixture. We document moderate power to differentiate among potential subcontinental source populations within the Native American, European, and African segments of the admixed Hispanic/Latino genomes.
Indeed, there is a lot of genetic variation in Latin America. A few centuries ago, some people were kind of obsessed with it.
From PNAS again (be careful with that acronym), “Admixture dynamics in Hispanics: A shift in the nuclear genetic ancestry of a South American population isolate” is a 2006 paper by the extremely racist and discriminatory anti-Hispanic scientists Gabriel Bedoya, Patricia Montoya, Jenny García, Ivan Soto, Stephane Bourgeois, Luis Carvajal, Damian Labuda, Victor Alvarez, Jorge Ospina, Philip W. Hedrick, and Andrés Ruiz-Linares, and edited by every race denialist’s favorite geneticist, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (who secretly thinks they’re all nuts — sssshhhh, it’s a big racist conspiracy!).
Although it is well established that Hispanics generally have a mixed Native American, African, and European ancestry [I thought it had something to do with Spanish culture?], the dynamics of admixture at the foundation of Hispanic populations is heterogeneous and poorly documented. Genetic analyses are potentially very informative for probing the early demographic history of these populations. [Genetic histories? Clearly, this is KKK propaganda.] Here we evaluate the genetic structure and admixture dynamics of a province in northwest Colombia (Antioquia), which prior analyses indicate was founded mostly by Spanish men and native women.
Fascinating stuff. Too bad for them a bunch of internet geniuses already decided that race isn’t genetic. Time to give it up, Bedoya and Montoya.
The Hispanic race, or: “Lucky that I love a foreign man for/the lucky fact of your existence.”
The 47 percent of American Hispanics who don’t believe they belong to any race known to man aren’t crazy. They aren’t extraterrestrials, either. There is definitely some kind of race here somewhere.
We could call it brown, but we’re going to confuse the Egyptians and the Indians (from India). We could call it mestizo, but that’s about mixing races. Sure, that’s how it all started, but given that the Aztecs and Conquistadors aren’t kicking around Mexico City anymore, isn’t it time we came up with a more accurate name for this relatively stable group of people, with their common ancestry and their endogamy and their highly biologically self-perpetuating nature? Besides, mestizo already means a bunch of different things to different people.
Let’s try something crazy: let’s call this race “Hispanic.” We’ll call people from Latin American countries… um… “Latin Americans.” And we’ll just forget about culture for now, because it’s very complicated and subjective and it’s not genetic, either. Put race and nationality together, and you’ve got
- white Latin Americans, including white Latin American immigrants to the USA, whose kids would be white Americans (see below),
- black Latin Americans (ditto),
- Hispanic Latin Americans — you know, the ones you can tell are “Hispanic” just by looking at them,
- white Americans,
- black Americans,
- Hispanic Americans — you know, the 47 percent of “Hispanic” Americans who get confused when you ask them what race they are,
and so on.
Now, is this a useful way to classify people? Well, it’s based on genetic histories. Not on how strongly a person identifies herself with Latin American or Spanish culture. Not on having some ancestor from some country once colonized by Spain — oh, except for those Spanish colonies in Africa and the East Indies, to which the Spanish also brought their culture, especially their religion.
My crazy definition is socioculturally useful, too. Basically, it gives us a way to describe those brown-skinned people who live in Mexico and Cuba and Brazil and America and other places, and all seem to have something in common — no, not a common language or culture or religion. It’s something passed down from parents to children, generation after generation. Something based on a common ancestry. Something that makes this subset of “Hispanics” particularly highly biologically self-perpetuating.
Hispanic: it’s a race now
Try to make sense of our world with any other definition of “Hispanic.” I dare you.
- From the Wall Street Journal: “Univision Communications Inc. plans to launch at least two new Spanish-language cable channels in the U.S. in the next year, as an increasing number of competitors rush to cash in on the growth of the country’s Hispanic population. … it hopes to roll out the first new channel, built around soapy dramas called telenovelas… as early as this year’s third quarter. A new sports channel called Univision Deportes, focused on Mexican league soccer, is being readied for the first half of 2012.”
Are they targeting Spaniards, or perhaps black Puerto Ricans?
- From the Daily Caller: “Colorado, a state where Democrats have seen numerous victories in recent years, could be ready for a swing in 2012. … According to James Nava, writing at The Americano, the key to winning over Colorado’s Hispanic electorate is to ‘encourage family values, education and employment opportunities that will promote stability for Hispanic families and drastically reduce… child poverty.'”
What does this have to do with Cuban culture?
- From Texas GOP Vote: “The lawsuit brought on by the MALC [Mexican American Legislative Caucus] claims that the census numbers should not be used in Texas redistricting because they say the census underestimates the Hispanic population in south Texas.”
Good for them! I’m glad to see the Mexican American Legislative Caucus is looking out for Hispanics like Alexis Bledel and other white Argentinian Americans.
- From the same article: “2001 Houston Hispanic Entrepreneur of the Year award winner, Alan Vera, emphasizes the concept that a Hispanic can be represented by a non-Hispanic, a black can be represented by a non-black, a white can be represented by a non white. He urges the members to consider creating three to five districts based upon community interests and not skin color.”
Being an Hispanic, Alan Vera should really brush up on his Hispanic facts! (Hispanofacts?) It has nothing to do with race or skin color.
- The Pew Hispanic Center doesn’t get it either: “Latinos are less likely than whites to access the internet, have a home broadband connection or own a cell phone… Hispanics, on average, have lower levels of education and earn less than whites. Controlling for these factors, the differences in internet use, home broadband access and cell phone use between Hispanics and whites disappear. In other words, Hispanics and whites who have similar socioeconomic characteristics have similar usage patterns for these technologies.”
Since we all know “Latino” is not a race, these sentences are meaningless.
- The Pew Hispanic Center drops the ball again: “By their own reckoning, Latinos living in the United States do not have a national leader. When asked in an open-ended question to name the person they consider ‘the most important Latino leader in the country today,’ nearly two-thirds (64%) of Hispanic respondents said they did not know. An additional 10% said ‘no one.'”
Excuse me, but the President and First Lady love Mexican food, which is a part of Mexican culture, which makes them both part Hispanic. (I estimate their Hispanicity at 7 percent, according to my Hispanometer.) So. There.
- Check out all the smiling faces at the Hispanic College Fund and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. It’s not like those kids generally have similar hair and skin, or anything.
- Hispanic Magazine’s list of Latino icons is great, but it should really make an effort to include more white and black people. Otherwise it’s discriminating against a majority of American Hispanics. (Not to mention 100 percent of Spanish Hispanics.)
- Don’t even get me started on La Raza. Someone should remind these so-called Hispanics they’re not a race! Sheesh.
Hispanic: it’s a race now. That seems to be what the brown “Hispanics” want anyway. Who are we to deny them it?
Appendix A: Interracial high-school [genetic inter]action
Consider, if you will, the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study, published in 1976 by Sandra Scarr and Richard A. Weinberg. They devised an experiment to see if the IQ gap between black and white children was genetic or environmental (i.e., caused by some combination of white racism and the lousy neighborhoods, schools, and homes of the poorer black children) or genetic. (They favored the environmental explanation.)
A number of upper-middle-class white parents in Minnesota with above-average IQs had adopted children of various races. There were adopted kids with two white parents (we’ll call those children “white”), two black parents (“black”), and one white and one black parent (“interracial”). When the researchers tested the adopted children’s IQs at age 7, the white children scored 112, on average; the interracial children, 109; and the black children, 97. That’s the same 15-point IQ gap between whites and blacks you observe today, with the interracial children scoring somewhere in the middle. Most of the adopted children were tested again at age 17. Their IQ scores, their GPAs, their class ranks, and their school aptitudes showed the same order: white > interracial > black. Correcting for the Flynn effect only makes the gaps larger, without changing the order. That’s exactly what we would expect if IQ depended more on genes than on shared (or family) environment.
It’s not the only transracial adoption study, of course. Dr. J. Philippe Rushton, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario and an expert on race and intelligence, put together a lot of different results in his book Race, Evolution, and Behavior.
But surely we can find some way to blame the environment for this. Maybe the black children were treated differently at school, and that accounts for their lower scores? Well, in that case, an interracial child identified and raised as black should score like a black child (they experience similar discrimination), and not as an interracial child raised as interracial (they have similar genes). Luckily for us, some of the parents did mistakenly believe they were raising black children. Those children’s scores were not significantly different from the other interracial children. Even their own parents couldn’t tell they were half white all along, yet they performed like all the other half-white children.
He has also been called “an honest and capable researcher” (E.O. Wilson, father of sociobiology), “widely known and respected for the unusual combination of rigour and originality in his work” (Hans Eysenck, Rushton’s doctoral supervisor and the most cited living psychologist at the time of his death). In Rushton’s own words: “from an evolutionary point of view, superiority can only mean adaptive value — if it even means this. And we’ve got to realize that each of these populations [races] is perfectly, beautifully adapted to their own ancestral environments.” That would make all races equally superior. Hurray!
Would these findings be controversial if we were discussing interracial pea plants? We can only speculate.
Appendix B: EuroTrip
Check out this Gene Expression article, “Genetic map of Europe; genes vary as a function of distance.” It’s talking about this 2008 paper in Nature (arguably the most prestigious science journal in the world). From the paper:
… Despite low average levels of genetic differentiation among Europeans, we find a close correspondence between genetic and geographic distances; indeed, a geographical map of Europe arises naturally as an efficient two-dimensional summary of genetic variation in Europeans. The results emphasize that when mapping the genetic basis of a disease phenotype, spurious associations can arise if genetic structure is not properly accounted for. In addition, the results are relevant to the prospects of genetic ancestry testing; an individual’s DNA can be used to infer their geographic origin with surprising accuracy–often to within a few hundred kilometres.
Don’t believe me? This is what you get if you plot the genetic variation between people from different countries, represented by colors (click for larger version). The axes have nothing to do with geography; they represent only the two largest components of genetic variation. Yet it looks quite like a map of Europe…
And this is what you get when you take the data on genetic variation and project it back onto a map of Europe (click for larger version). You can predict geographic origin very accurately.