Race and Identity. Where do Hispanics Fit into Today’s Conversation?

Race and Identity. Where do Hispanics Fit into Today’s Conversation?

With so much focus on Black Americans and the protests across the nation, the question that comes to mind is, where do Hispanics fit into the conversation?

Many Hispanics, whether they identify as Black or not, have joined the movement to protest systemic racism and police brutality. Our community has also been significantly impacted by the effects of the coronavirus. But at times, the “black and brown” narrative tends to overshadow the injustices faced by the general Hispanic community.

This, therefore, begs the question – why is this? And how do Hispanics fit into today’s conversation about race, racism, and injustice in America?

What’s in a label?

One thought that does come to mind is whether our internal divisions have played a part in the lack of focus on Hispanic issues. Hispanic matters tend to come to the fore when politicians talk about the Black and Hispanic votes as being critical to winning an election.

But apart from politicians and the news media looking at the collective group because of our political power, how else have we entered the national conversation about issues that affect the Hispanic community?

Are we not a part of the conversation because we do not see ourselves as a unified front?

How many of us readily identify as Hispanic/Latinx? Or do we instantly say we are Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican or Dominican?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau report at June 2020, the Hispanic population is over 60.57 million, a 20 percent increase since 2010. But a study done by the Pew Research Center shows that 51% of Hispanics prefer to “use their family’s country of origin to describe their identity”. Only 24% self-identify as “Hispanic,” and 21% simply prefer the label “American”.

So, what’s in a label? Have we clung to our families’ heritage so closely that we fail to make known our collective identity and work together as a group? Have we so “assimilated” that we no longer identify as Hispanic? Or is it more systemic than that, and we have perpetuated our own divisions within the collective Latinx/Hispanic identity?

Ni de aquí ni de allá – what does it mean to be Hispanic?

We have a lot to navigate as Hispanics. If you’re born in the U.S., you’re an American. You may also be Black and Latinx. Then there is the country(s) from which our families originate. That is a lot of different identities to reconcile in coming up with a true label that supports us.

As such, many Hispanics have joined the Black Lives Matter because they are directly impacted by the injustices facing Black Americans. After all, 25 percent of the Hispanic demographic are Afro-Latinos.

Plus, we have our own issues of racism within our community.

The wide spectrum of being a Hispanic/Latinx identity also impacts our perceptions and how we approach issues related to our community. The closer we are on the race spectrum to looking “white,” the easier it is to navigate certain issues. And this can sometimes blind us to seeing what others in our community are facing as a result of the color of their skin. So, we need to acknowledge certain privileges we have and use that uplift our community as a whole.

But we also have issues that directly affect the collective Hispanic community. We face discrimination in housing, education, and wealth. Our communities have been overpoliced. We also have the added fear of I.C.E. targeting Latinos.

Hispanics also face stigmas and stereotypes. How many of us can attest to searching for an apartment and never getting a call back because of our last names?

We have also been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in great numbers because a majority of us work in essential fields. This leads us to Hispanics in the workplace. Why are Hispanic professionals rarely mentioned and most conversations about the Hispanic workforce assume Latinos are blue-collar or in poverty?

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace for Hispanics

Hispanics are underrepresented in the workplace, especially in federal and high-tech jobs. We are underrepresented in film and often forced to play stereotypical roles.

But many organizations claim that they are pursuing diversity and inclusion policies in their workplace. However, Hispanics hold less than 5% of executive positions in the U.S.

There is a slight difference for cities, like Miami, that value the linguistic and cultural dynamic that Hispanics bring to the table. But for a corporate capital like New York, the executive positions are dominated by white males.

On the entrepreneurship side, Hispanics account for the fastest growing sector in small business development. Since 2010, the number of Hispanic small business owners has grown by 34% compared to the average for all business owners (1%). With over $500 billion contributed to the economy and employment of over 3 million people, Hispanics are a strong contributor to the American economy.

Yet we are told to “assimilate” and “go back to where you came from” if you speak Spanish in public, even if our family lineage dates back generations.

Carving out a place for Hispanic-Americans

We are the second-largest racial or ethnic group in America, behind white-non-Hispanics. Plus, for the next few decades, we will be adding more people to the U.S. population than any other group.

As the largest minority group, we are yet diverse. Those differences can translate as divisions that hinder our approach to policy, collective action, and supporting the goals of the Hispanic community. Our inclination to pan-ethnic terms makes it difficult to organize and take collective action as a group to tackle the major issues facing our community.

Finding a place in the national conversation on systemic racism, discrimination, and the injustices faced by Hispanics requires a collective approach. And the current movement may just give us the impetus we need to finally have the conversations that are important to the Hispanic community. It might be the opportune time to bring about the change needed to advance socially, in education, and professionally.

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