White-Race Problems

White Hispanic

A strange meme circulated in July 2013, perhaps begun by Geraldo Rivera’s White Hispanic, Yellow Journalism, but then all over the media. It went like this: George Zimmerman is not really white, he’s Hispanic, and so the [liberal, race-baiting] Main Stream Media [MSM] invented “White Hispanic.” And if Zimmerman’s White Hispanic, does that make President Obama a White Black? Hahaha. #LiberalLogic Gotcha!

Rivera’s account is not completely inaccurate, it’s just a bit twisted and incorrect. First, the claim that “White Hispanic” is a completely made-up term for the Zimmerman trial should be news to the more than 26 million people who in 2010 marked in as White Hispanic on the US Census form–the categories for Hispanic yes/no and race are both separate and both mandatory, as they have been since at least the 1980 Census. Second, as of 2000, people like Obama could indeed check in as White Black on the US Census–however, understanding this issue means knowing about the traditional US framework of hypodescent. Finally, Rivera’s claim that the Hispanic immigrant experience is different from the Irish and Italian one–that Latinos will transform the US racial landscape–is intriguing but unsupported. If anything, the move seems to be toward a Hispanic White/Black bifurcation.

George Zimmerman was White before he was Hispanic

As Chris Escalante has been tirelessly tweeting, both the initial police report on Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman arrest warrant simply list Zimmerman as White. There is no indication Zimmerman said anything like “I’m not white, I’m Hispanic,” or protested his classification and treatment as a white male. It seems rather that the shout, “but he’s Hispanic!” was introduced by the defense team.

After that, some people began referring to Zimmerman as White Hispanic. But this is not a newly invented category. It dates to at least the 1970 US Census and has been firmly in place since 1980–separate mandatory questions for Hispanic origins and then a separate mandatory race question.

As Rivera notes, “Hispanics can be black, brown, red, or white.” But as of 2010 in the United States, 53% of Hispanics self-identified as white on the census. That percentage seems to have grown since 2000, when only 47.9% of Hispanics self-identified as white on the US Census.

White Hispanic is not a new category. It was not made up by the media. And in contrast to Rivera’s claim, the White Hispanic category seems to be one that is increasing–both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the Hispanic population. Zimmerman’s racial classification as white might be related to his parental heritage, but even if both parents were Peruvian, Zimmerman might have identified as White Hispanic. In other words, it is not necessarily a “mixed race” category. For that, it’s time for President Obama.

President Obama could have checked White Black (as of 2000) but chose Black–It’s Hypodescent

Before the 2000 Census, people could fill in only one race label. And the traditional US rule, often enforced by law, is that anyone with black ancestry is considered black. No mixed-race category like mestizo, no two boxes. The technical term for this system is hypodescent.

As of 2000, people have been allowed to check more than one race box. Note that this option has nothing to do with the Hispanic yes/no descent–this is the 2010 US Census form–the options were the same in 2000. Obama actually had more than a dozen options in responding to Question 9, about race. Obama chose to remain within the framework of hypodescent, but this was hardly a strange choice.

What’s particularly rich here is that in practice conservatives are more likely than liberals to identify mixed-race individuals as Black. That is, conservatives are more likely to lump mixed-race people into hypodescent categories. Conservatives have also been more likely to portray President Obama as darker skinned and to emphasize that Obama is black or African-American. And now, they are the same people laughing about the “White Black” thing–which is something most liberals already knew about! After all, how did they miss Chris Rock’s Message for White Voters?

I suppose the peculiar glee with which people announce their new-found gotcha knowledge that Obama is White Black is a bit more excusable–after all, only 1.8 million people marked in as White Black on the 2010 US Census, far fewer than the 26.7 million people marking in as White Hispanic. However, the White Black combination was the single most prevalent pick for those choosing more than one race, at 20.4% of the two or more races population. Now, anthropology can of course maintain that race is a cultural construction superimposed on biological variation, but making that case often becomes a goldmine for conservative politics.

Still, it’s pretty interesting to see the people who had been playing up Obama-as-Black or Obama as African-American are now doing a turnabout to play up Obama-as-White. Again, most liberals already knew that, and were more likely to know that about Obama. Indeed, for the left-of-liberal crowd, Obama is often criticized for governing as more White than Black–not as an essentialized race category, but simply to say that his policies have tended to support the status quo, buttress capitalism, enhance the security state apparatus, and extend military action abroad. For example, see the Maximilian Forte twitter response to statements like Trayvon Martin, Race and Anthropology by American Anthropological Association President Leith Mullings.

Probationary Whites–or “a new quasi-race is being born”?

My previous analysis of census figures in Race Remixed? investigated Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s statement:

What matters here is how the changing construction of whiteness intersects with the maintenance of a white/black divide that structures all race relations in the United States. Whether significant numbers of the people now called Latinos or Asian Americans–or the significant numbers of their known “mixed” offspring with whites–will become probationary whites and thus reinforce the structure is an important indicator of the future of race relations in the United States. (Trouillot 2003:151, Global Transformations)

My preliminary analysis indicated present trends from Latinos pointed to a white/black divide, a growing bifurcation in the Latino population which would indeed reinforce the structure.

Rivera claims the opposite, saying that the longer Latinos live in the United States the less likely they are to identify as white:

What makes this so intriguing is that it is in sharp contrast to the experiences of previous immigrants from Italy and Ireland, and the European Jews, who campaigned aggressively against being classified as “other” and insisted on being incorporated into the white category.

Essentially, a new quasi-race is being born that mimics the days of “Black is Beautiful.” In the same way African-Americans overcame the color prejudice within their community by rejecting skin tone as the definer of who is or is not “black,” we Latinos are following suit.

It’s an interesting claim, but given the US Census numbers, it seems dubious at best. As mentioned above, the percentage of Hispanics checking White-only increased from 47.9% in 2000 to 53.0% in 2010. Meanwhile, the percentage of Hispanics checking “some other race” decreased from 42.2% in 2000 to 36.7% in 2010. The percentage of Hispanics reporting two or more races fell slightly, from 6.3% to 6.0%, while there was a slight increase in the percentage checking Black Hispanic, from 2.0 to 2.5% (compare Table 10 in 2000 with Table 2 in 2010).

Interestingly from 2000-2010, the Hispanic population marking only white or only black for race increased by 5.6%, while the Hispanic population marking some-other-race or more-than-one-race decreased by 5.8%. And this was during a time when there were political efforts to encourage Hispanics to check the some-other-race box, when people like Rivera were already making the transformational claim, and when the US elected its first multi-racial President. It’s also interesting to note that despite the prevalent delusions of anti-white bias, more and more Hispanics see the white category as the best choice. If present trends continue–and it is interesting that in 2010 the percentage of White Hispanics crossed the 50% line–the choice of Hispanic and “some other race” may well become a residual category.

Now, there are many possible reasons for this shift, but it doesn’t seem to be evidence for a new quasi-race. Combine that with the marriage statistics analyzed in Race Remixed? and the research showing similar bifurcation in Puerto Rico, and it looks more like a division into black and probationary white. Moreover, the Zimmerman case itself suggests this bifurcation, as he took it upon himself to police the boundaries of who belonged and who should be accosted.

Admittedly, Rivera’s vision of Latinos transforming the United States may be more optimistic than these numbers suggest. However, Rivera is surely aware that there is a sinister other side to the Latinos-as-transformational vision: the idea that Latinos are essentially non-assimilable. The idea of Hispanics as unable to assimilate is of course part of the fuel for Jason Richwine’s Hispanic IQ thesis. Rivera’s post immediately before the “White Hispanic” does support immigration reform, and Rivera has been outspoken against the non-assimilation idea, but it’s obviously tricky politics.

The point is that true transformation is going to require some serious political organizing, as anthropologist Dana Davis writes in Heavy Hearted and Sick: Responding to the Verdict of Zimmerman or Melanie Bush writes in Time to Connect ALL the Dots. It means finally addressing gun laws, as Charles Blow writes in Standing Our Ground. And it may also require some reflection on the facts about Sanford, Florida, which is a place far more diverse than the US Congress, more diverse than most universities, and certainly more diverse than American Anthropology. In other words, it’s the White Hispanics and the White Black President who help keep most Whites in a comfortable bubble. Put most emphatically,

Don’t worry White people! White Hispanics and our White Black President will save us!

To cite: Antrosio, Jason. 2013. “Race Problems: White Hispanic, White Black, Geraldo Rivera.” Living Anthropologically website, https://www.livinganthropologically.com/white-hispanic/. First posted 25 July 2013. Revised 22 September 2017.

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  • Vera

    This post is fairly trenchant but overlooks the actions of another group: the non-Hispanic whites, as they’re currently called. It does seem fairly clear that Hispanics who come to this country increasingly want to be seen as white, whatever advocates may say, and there are obvious reasons for this desire.

    However, will the non-Hispanic whites/European Americans accept them as white? This is still very much up in the air, and will probably take decades to sort itself out. In order for Hispanics to get into the white category, their crime rates, divorce rates, single parenthood rates, educational attainment, etc. have to become meaningfully close to those of non-Hispanic whites. If they don’t, the Hispanics will be spurned, as they are being spurned now. People may understand “what the census says” about the Hispanic category, but it’s being currently used as a quasi-racial category, to set them off from the established white population. Non-Hispanic whites pretty clearly see Hispanics as a quite distinct group from themselves. Whether that continues, against the Hispanics’ will or no, depends very much on what the Hispanics as a group manage to achieve in the following decades.

    I think the key test will be whether significant numbers of Hispanics will eventually be able to move into non-Hispanic white neighborhoods without inducing white flight. If that can happen, we could reasonably describe them as having melded into one people. But if the non-Hispanic whites move away, that will be a clear sign that Hispanics are unaccepted, and are a distinct category–even if they do not want to be.

    • Hi Vera, thank you for this, a great comment and quite timely given the recent remarks from Rep. Steve King. Your accompanying comment-reply seems spot on too.

      One of the things in the back of my mind while writing this post was the Salon piece Is George Zimmerman white or Hispanic? That depends: “The genius of white supremacy is in its elasticity: It can expand to
      include the not-quite-right, the off-whites, when necessary, and then
      otherize and eject us when convenient.” I agree with you that a lot depends on what the non-Hispanic whites do, and this may take decades to sort out.

      I might also add that there may be quite a lot of local variation, depending on the particularities of the dominant Latino group in the area as well as local particularities.


      • Discuss White Privilege

        Thanks for the clarification, Jason. I appreciate the correction!

        • Not a correction! And should note, the US Census is self-reporting, so really can say anything. Although I remember one time there was someone who did not want to check off anything on the race box, and my Census boss told me: “Jason, do the science: What *WAS* she?”!

      • Shawn

        “The genius of white supremacy is in its elasticity: It can expand to
        include the not-quite-right, the off-whites, when necessary, and then
        otherize and eject us when convenient.” Are you talking about those Off-white Irish, or Itialians, or the off white Greeks or French?

        In your mind who is White and who isn’t?

        Or is it your own elastic notions that draw lines that don’t quite intersect on anything other than what you think at any given time.

    • Rico Suave

      That test that you mention is already underway. I’m a white hispanic my wife is of Irish decent my kids are part anglo and are also white hispanics. we live in a white area and make fairly good money my son attends Drexel university and works .and no none of our neighbors moved away how ever I can tell you there not crazy about blacks.

  • Ernest Valdemar

    I have an acquaintance who’s a dual citizen of the U.S. and Argentina. Because Argentina acknowledges hyperdescent, and the U.S. acknowledges hypodescent, when she’s in Buenos Aires, she’s White, and to everyone in Argentina, she “looks” White. But when she’s here in My City, U.S.A., she’s considered either Native American or Latina, and to everyone here, that’s what she “looks” like. This is because human beings are highly sensitive to facial features, but how we categorize different faces is culturally determined.

    It’ll be interesting to watch over the next couple of decades to see how race is redefined in America. Will we go to something more like Brazil or the Southern Cone countries?

    • Vera

      That is the other large barrier to the acceptance of Hispanics in our society–their physical appearance, and the degree to which it might perpetuate a barrier between them and the group currently called non-Hispanic whites. In Canada, groups that look clearly different are known as “visible minorities”, a useful concept.

      My guess is that Hispanics that look white and act white (see below) will meld into the non-Hispanic white category, and intermarry with non-Hispanic whites. Indeed, many of them already have. However, those who look the most visibly different will have the hardest time fitting in, and might perforce become a new quasi-race, being unaccepted by the newly-defined, somewhat Hispanic inclusive “white” group. If they remain poor and troubled, this will certainly be so. If this is what happens, the situation will mirror that in the Hispanics’ own countries–where lighter people are accepted as white and are fully integrated into the national life, and darker, poorer people remain unintegrated.

      • Discuss White Privilege

        Sounds a lot like Eduardo Bonilla-Silva the ‘Latin-Americanization of race in the US’.

        The possibility for a really interesting transdisciplinary anthropology/sociology conversation…

  • ryan anderson

    Thanks for this post Jason.

    You know, if Geraldo wants to blame someone for creating the whole “White-hispanic” thing, maybe he should take it up with old Hernan Cortes. Or perhaps Columbus, or maybe Pizarro. Or maybe the ruling elites of Latin America for the past 500 or so years. You know, those folks. It’s pretty rich–this whole idea that this category was “invented” to suit the politics of this particular case.

    Another interesting thing is how ideas about race are so often conflated with class, nationality, etc. See this for example:



    Anyway, I think it’s interesting how people think about, practice, and enact the whole “whiteness” thing. In the US, yes, but also here in Mexico where the whole media landscape is as white as snow for the most part.

    • Hi Ryan, wow, thank you for sharing one of the strangest links on the subject I’ve seen in a long time. A rather direct window into bizarre beliefs. I suppose, if anything, it does mean that some of this is going to be local, as I replied to Vera’s insightful comment.

      One would think with the commercial success of films like “Y tú mama también” that maybe some people might have thought about class and race in Mexico. But…

      Anyway, I’m still baffled by the insistence–really now widespread–that “the media” and “the racebaiters” made up the idea of White Hispanic. Plus that by the same “logic” then Obama is white. Very, very strange.

    • Discuss White Privilege

      I agree with Ryan. Both on the conflations of race and class, and the larger historical project of Hispanic-as-White that gets passed down as a result of Spanish colonialism, with an orientation toward valorizing white European ancestry and appearance.

      I also think this issue of georaciality and pre-immigration to US racial hierarchies is important for thinking about how race does and does not get ‘re-mixed’, and the investments that ‘probationary Whites’ end up having in orienting themselves toward Whites/Whiteness and away from Blacks/Blackness. In most non-white countries, there is a pigmentocracy privileging Whiteness and more White/European-appearing faces and bodies, especially with the growing influence of US, Euro-origin/oriented consumer culture and fashion and entertainment industries. People are already privileging lightness and Whiteness before immigrating to the US, and this only intensifies once they are here.

      Moreover, ‘probationary Whites’ often bring extremely anti-Black biases with them, which influences race ‘re-mixing’ and retrenchment.

    • Discuss White Privilege

      Ryan, your comment is also an interesting as a reminder of how anthropologists need to be honest about how white privilege travels globally. Given what you write about the media landscape in Mexico, how does this affect the experience of an ethnographer and the access differently positioned and hued ethnographers can have to study elites (especially in the media)? This question has real implications for anthropology graduate students doing dissertation fieldwork especially: a reminder of how not everyone can go anywhere in the world and easily study up, down, and sideways–which has real implications for people’s careers, perceptions of anthropological authority, and anthropology as ‘white public space’.

      • ryan anderson

        Ya, it surely does travel globally. And there are all kinds of implications about what it means, the effects it has. Mexico has some deep, deep race and class issues that go way back, and things here are a bit different than the US in terms of race. Of course, it depends on where you go. But the mestizo thing throws some complicated histories and ideas into the mix. Still, there is very strong racism and prejudice against the southern indigenous states like Chiapas, Oaxaca, Yucatan. The so-called “indios” as people often refer to them. These prejudices go way back.

        You’re right though that all of these issues have some very real implications for anthro grad students who want to work in these places–whether they pay attention or not.

        • Discuss White Privilege

          ‘Whether they pay attention or not’: this is a really interesting suggestion worth thinking more about.

          I would argue that one is paying attention to race/color even when one thinks one is NOT paying attention to race/color, especially when one is a graduate student from the US (in any part of the world, including the US). Every day of US life teaches people that race/color matters, and how to pay attention to it, and how to think that one (those with racial privilege, specifically White privilege) is not ‘paying attention’ to it. (Hence incessant–and completely dishonest–contemporary claims about ‘colorblindness’ and ‘post-racism’.) ‘Not paying attention’ to race is its own form of paying attention to race, and it usually just means only paying attention to (one’s own) Whiteness and assuming everyone else can do the same.

          In fact, one of the reasons that anthropology continues to be ‘white public space’ is because this kind of ‘not paying attention’ is part of the professionalization and socialization of the discipline, and the academy more broadly. Many White graduate students are quite well aware of how their White privilege affords them greater ethnographic access and a different ability to travel the globe than, say, a dark-skinned Black person, and happily embrace this privilege and the greater academic opportunities it affords them, even though they wouldn’t publicly/openly acknowledge being happy to have such privilege (hence angry responses of “Keep your ‘privilege’ critique at home if you want to be friends” when the issue is raised by a Black colleague). So I am quite skeptical that people are not ‘paying attention’, and think that part of the important work of confronting racism, and especially White supremacy, is pushing back against the narrative of ‘not noticing’ and ‘not paying attention’ per se–especially when the issue is not ‘not paying attention’ as much as it is *not caring* and/or not being troubled that one is benefitting from race/color inequalities. It is the issue of *dysconcious racism* versus complete ignorance.

          Additionally, I think that these issues of race/color privilege are not (sufficiently) discussed and acknowledged in most (US) anthropology graduate programs both because many White anthropologists (especially in previous generations) were attracted to anthropology by the thrill of getting to be the White Expert who ‘speaks for’ ‘those people’ and because acknowledging race/color privilege is fundamentally counter to academic discourses of meritocracy and brilliance which emphasize the proverbial (and in reality, epidermal) ‘cream’ rising to the top simply by dint of hard work, perseverance, and innate intelligence. It also speaks to Elizabeth Chin’s quip that non-White anthropologists are expected to study themselves while White anthropologists get to study everyone else.

          We all already know that race/color matter (in ethnographic fieldwork and anthropology graduate programs, as in the rest of life), we’re just not supposed to talking openly about it such that we can explain it away as ‘not noticing’ and ‘not paying attention’.

          • Discuss White Privilege

            Concretely, and an orthogonal addition to the previous comment:

            “As mortified as some white people may be at the suggestion that we’ve enjoyed career advancement at someone else’s expense, we need to acknowledge that one can benefit from privilege even if it isn’t explicitly claimed. Indeed, perhaps the ultimate marker of privilege is not having to be conscious of it.”


            Interesting for thinking about popular media (in the US), especially film and television (re)produce the category of Whiteness and who is and is not seen as belonging to it.

    • Vera

      That Yahoo answers post is what I mean by non-Hispanic whites using the term Hispanics to draw a line between themselves and people with Latin American origins, whatever their color, and whatever the Hispanic person in question thinks their race is. In that specific case, mastery of English was clearly what allowed the person writing that post to make the division.

      It might make sense to apply the notion of hypodescent to the current situation of Hispanics as well as blacks. Similar to anyone with visible African ancestry being African by hypodescent, Hispanics (well, Mexicans, anyway) are seen to be “Indian by hypodescent” by many non-Hispanic whites. Mexicans are known to have a mixture of European and indigenous genes, so even white-looking ones are suspect of miscegenation by wary non-Hispanic whites like that poster.

      This brings up the amusing and ironic fact that having Native NORTH American heritage 1) does not diminish whiteness, and 2) is often claimed by non-Hispanic whites as a good or cool thing! But if your ancestors mixed with Natives south of the border, that is seen as a stain.

      • Discuss White Privilege

        True what you say about you say, Vera, about many non-Hispanic Whites wanting to claim Native American ancestry so long as it is from indigenous groups north of the US/Mexico border. This issue of racial Otherness is thus deeply and inextricably tied to US citizenship claims (and/as a means of exclusion). At any rate, this willingness to claim ‘native’ ancestry is in no way about contesting White supremacy, just reinforcing it. Moreover, it is often done cynically so as to claim one is not ‘racist’ because one is a racial minority too, and to check off a non-White box that the person making the claim hopes will result in benefitting from affirmative action on the basis of race (such as in post-secondary education admissions). All the benefit and none of the burden, as the saying goes.

  • dude

    Geraldo said that “Obama is as much a White-African American as Zimmerman is a White Hispanic.”

    Why is this problematic? Do you believe that Obama cannot be considered ‘white African American’ in any way similar to how Zimmerman is described as ‘white Hispanic’?

    Now, of course, the term ‘white African American’ is not used in any descriptive way like ‘white hispanic’ is used, as is explained in this article, and it is used as a dishonest rhetorical tactic from many Zimmerman defenders.

    But those who ostensibly would be defined as “White African American”, by this reasoning, appear to be middle to upper class blacks who are more ‘assimilated’ into spheres of white culture and may end up avoiding some of the structural barriers and prejudices that poorer blacks are subjected to. Of course, they are not experiencing white privilege, but they are privileged, if not benefiting from what could perversely be called ‘white mercy’ (and not even then sometimes, judging from the behavior of the police and armed forces).

    Obama fits this definition. By that reasoning, is such a term still invalid?

    I believe that many who defend Zimmerman may be the same people who, normally suspicious of his white credentials, insist he isn’t white in order to handwave away the idea that there were racial motivations in this case.

    But isn’t Obama considered black because he identifies as a black man? Some would argue that it’s even more objective than that, because he is more ‘phenotypically’ black looking (But isn’t that true of Zimmerman too? I would bet most whites do not consider him or most other ‘white hispanics’ ‘white’. If Zimmerman walked into a bar in Queens or South Philly or Richmond, San Francisco, would he really be seen as white?)

    And most certainly, Obama “could have been Trayvon” in his younger days. But in order to advance his career, Obama benefited from supporting and perpetuating white privilege in many more ways as a political leader (in being elected and in his political decisions once in power) than Zimmerman could ever do.

    Assuming that if Zimmerman did identify as Hispanic (or the converse, if he instead identifies himself as white and downplays any Latino heritage), aren’t we obliged to respect it in the same way we respect Obama? Why not?

    Is Zimmerman being shoehorned into a class of white identity that he may not necessarily deserve, since many of ‘his fellow whites’ would otherwise reject him? Doesn’t this wrongly generalize and deny the fluid nature of Latino and Hispanic identity?

    Is it proper to read things like “Trayvon IS black… [but?] Zimmerman [merely?] identifies as Hispanic” and conclude it as right and accurate? Isn’t that essentialist?

    • Hi dude, thank you for the comment. What is problematic is 1) that Geraldo acts as if “White Hispanic” were a recent media invention, when it’s been in use for years and 2) that Geraldo doesn’t discuss the hypodescent of US race categories which makes Obama’s classification a quite different issue.

      I would definitely agree there are lots of class-race lived realities that are different from the census categories analyzed here. In 2010, 1.8 million people did check in as “White African American” (both boxes on the census form), but my intuitive take is that this did not correspond to middle-upper class. First, on a practical level there’s more “mixing” down the class ladder than at upper-classes, and second, people down the class ladder are potentially less aware of the political implications of not following the hypodescent tradition.

      • Discuss White Privilege

        I would also add that one could check the box ‘White African American’ because one is a White immigrant from an African Country, such as a White South African now living in the US.

        • Hi Discuss White Privilege, actually this would have to be a combination box in #9 on the 2010 US Census form, checking both “White” and “Black, African Am., or Negro” which is what 1.8 million people did in 2010. However, since this is technically a “race” question, it would not be correct for a “White” immigrant from an African country to check both boxes. Now of course things get very strange since other race boxes for Asian countries seem more like nationalities: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc. None of this makes any sense, but it does speak to the political realities of race and power.

  • sacha guitry

    I am white. I was born and raised in North Africa, from Catalan father, and Berber mother. On both sides, ancestry is known for centuries. I have been totally baffled by US Census categories, as well as the perception of people regarding my race. I am Hispanic (if you consider that the term means from Spanish origin), African, and white. I am a white Hispanic African. I can never find a slot to identify myself properly according to offered selections, and remain “other” As for my children, who are Anglo-saxon and part Native American on their father’s side, (yes, DNA proof) they are all American, and white, with American Indian blood, African blood, and Hispanic blood.

    • Hi Sacha, thank you for the comment. Indeed, the US Census categories do not make much sense for most of the world, although since 2000 the “check one or more” provision does give at least some allowance for all the different kinds of mixing that have always occurred.

      Your story reminds me of the first time I was a follow-up census taker in 2000. For the race question, the person replied that “they say I’m white but I don’t believe them.” She eventually decided to write in “some other race” as Egyptian. Many people believed that by 2010 there would be new census categories invented for various peoples from the Middle East, but 2010 kept the definition of white as people originally from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East out to India, when a separate box comes up. Many of these categories were based on US Supreme Court cases as described in part 3 of Race: The Power of an Illusion.

  • robman012

    Zimmerman’s mother isn’t from the European continent as you can obviously tell. So he is Hispanic through his Peruvian heritage. His father is white, but in the U.S, you are labeled as a minority if both of your parents aren’t white. This is the reason why Obama identify himself as Black. Zimmerman isn’t a white Hispanic because like I said, his mother isn’t European. Just because his father is white doesn’t make him a “white Hispanic.” Under that scenario, then Obama is a “white African American.”

    • Hi, you need to read the census form. White Hispanic has been a defined category since the 1970s. Please re-read the above post–the logic by which Obama chooses race categories, hypodescent, and the reason why 26+ million people in the U.S. check off both White and Hispanic are quite different.

      • robman012

        I’ve read it. My point isn’t as technical, I’m just pointing out the social norms in our society and I just don’t see how you can claim that conservatives somehow are the ones who chose to identify Obama as Black and Liberals are more likely to identify him as mixed race. I’ve never seen this behavior before in the media or on the internet. Every Liberal I know has always recognized Obama as Black and so do the Black community. It is true that Obama is mixed race and so is Zimmerman, but they both Identify with their minority status, at least in the public forum. I don’t know why Zimmerman’s police report Identified him as white, but his drivers license and voter registration is marked as Hispanic. Also the term white Hispanic is rarely used the national media. The last time it was used was over 50 years ago by the New York Times to describe a census option. All of a sudden, the MSM discovered the term when it fits their “white vs. black” narrative. If Zimmerman’s last name was Garcia, we all know this wouldn’t be national news. The media for decades have never used white Hispanic to describe actual real white Hispanics. Sorry for typos because im on a small smart phone that sucks lol.

        • Hi, thank you for the comment and for reading. Certainly race as lived experience doesn’t always match up to census form choices. However, the conservatives more-likely to perceive Obama (and mixed-race) as black was based on a psychological study, not anecdote.

          Back in March 2012, Fox News called Zimmerman a white Latino and no one got too excited about it. I’m not sure how Florida does its driver’s license, but since 76% of the people who check off Hispanic-yes in Florida also check off “White,” it would not be that unusual to identify as both.

          • TD

            “76% of the people who check off Hispanic-yes in Florida also check off “White,” it would not be that unusual to identify as both.”
            His voter registration card did NOT “check-off” “both”. He had ONE choice and he chose HISPANIC on his voter card.
            (making you and your liberal cohorts UNHAPPY).

            3 years later, you are still intellectually dishonest.
            Zimmerman is a registered democrat.
            Which makes him a “Hispanic Democrat”; not a “white Republican”.

            And it gets worse: He voted for Barrack Obama.
            No wonder you liberals lost the case on “white supremacy” and “racial profiling”.
            Liberals are an intellectually dishonest lot!

    • Rico Suave

      Your wrong alot of hispanics are of European decent also American indian. we dont care that if your black and white your consired black thats your problem. we are diferent . tha’s why if you take a peak at sensus you will see how Hispanics see thier selves. yes there are also Blacks Hispanics .at the end of the day it depends on what country you come from .

      • Hi Rico Suave, I know there is a lot of variation in self-definition for Hispanics. Certainly the US Census peeks at some of that, but it also rather insists on US racial labels, and I believe is demonstrating an incipient White-Black Hispanic bifurcation.

  • qaaaaaaaaaaa

    White hispanic may be on the census form, but it was very rarely used in public discourse or general writings until this case, is rarely used as an actual, serious identity in this country, and the majority of people in this country who are hispanic are “mestizos”, people of mixed white and native american descent. There’s been much written about how many hispanics identify as white on the census form, but has nothing to do with how they’re actually white or view themselves as such. After all, there’s less than a million Spaniard-Americans in this country: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_American

    You’re taking Geraldo Rivera as too representative of the outcry over this term; it may not have never been used, but outside of the census category, it indeed has rarely been used: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/why-did-new-york-times-call-george-zimmerman-white-hispanic/2012/03/28/gIQAW6fngS_blog.html

    I myself have heard the term before this case, but only rarely, and it’s never been used to apply to men like Zimmerman. Just because he had a white father doesn’t make his ancestry much different from many people in latin america; a white father and a non-white mother has been a common pairing throughout latin american history, and rarely have the offspring been considered white. George Zimmerman looks like a typical mestizo. If you were to look at him and didn’t know who he was, you’d call him hispanic. The whitest he’s ever looked in any of his photos have been in police ones from last year where he was under bright light. Why do you take the police report as the definitive word on his race? Or the April arrest warrant, which was only made due to public outcry? His driver’s license said he was hispanic, he identified as hispanic on his voting form, there’s no evidence he identified as anything but hispanic throughout his entire life. How do you know he had a say in these parts of the police report? I’ve been hearing to no end that the initial police investigation was sloppy/racist, but nobody, when his race in the reports is brought up, brings this up as an example of the sloppiness; the people who first brought this case to attention took this as the final word and used it to present to the world as a white on white on black killing because it supported a political agenda. People just want him to white, and you seem to as well.

    • Hi, thank you for the comment. I readily agree that “white Hispanic” was not a hugely-used term and may not reflect what people perceive as lived race realities. However, I would contend that it has been more in use–in both government and media outlets–than most people know; that it is particularly salient in Florida, where being white & Hispanic is not at all seen as unusual; and that it will become more used in the future.

      I have no desire to make Zimmerman white or go into the much over-analyzed details of this case. My primary goal was to analyze Rivera’s statement, and interesting idea, that Latinos are becoming like a new, transformative race, or whether we are seeing bifurcation of the Hispanic category into the traditional white/black lines. The census numbers and other evidence points more toward bifurcation, and the Zimmerman case is one signpost on the way.

  • shawn

    Is the Origin of Hispanics the origin of all of us?
    You have to start with the indigenous people of South America who have been argued to be a mixture Europeans who crossed the land bridge and possibly Asians who crossed the Pacific.

    In more modern times
    the Spanish showed up and basically forced their culture on the indigenous people
    so we have a Spanish or Latin culture that has flourished there for hundreds of
    years. But we have the same culture flourishing in the Philippines, which is in

    During the time of Alexander the Great
    we all spoke Greek, there was worldwide intermarriage between Greeks and everyone else as they conquered the known world. Next it was the Romans who also interbreed with other people throughout the world during their reign. Followed by the Germanic English and Latin Spanish who conquered and colonized the world from Africa to Asia to America.

    Now we are here today
    in the only country that is not solely occupied by one race of people with a
    common culture. America contains the risk takers and dreamers from all of the
    races and cultures. The crazy ones who left the relative security of their
    countries dominated by their own races and cultures for something new. We
    interbreed, infuse cultures, and rewrite the notions of society decade by
    decade. Our future is one without races and cultures but a divine mixture of
    the best of all races and cultures. Like it or not we are all becoming a single
    race and 1000 years from now Americans will be looked at just like Africans,
    Asians or Europeans are today. One common people with one common race and

    So your well placed and well thought-out arguments for, or against this race or that culture are all for nothing. This evolution cannot be stopped.

  • Discuss White Privilege
  • Elias

    I don’t understand Americans. Being a Brazilian of Portuguese and Italian descent, I have blue eyes, pinkish skin and thin wavy black hair. How on earth could I be not white just because I’m born in Latin America? Does being born in Latin America change my genes? The American idea that all Latin Americans are mixed-race with Native blood is ridiculous. I’m a white Latino (not Hispanic, Brazilians are not Hispanic). If I am to not be considered white because I’m born outside of Europe, then White Americans are also not white. I’m not less a person of Portuguese and Italian European descent just because I’m Brazilian.

    • Thanks! Sometimes I don’t understand US Americans either!

  • But isn’t the invention of white Hispanics being nonwhite in certain ways more relevant to the Latino identity in a way because of the cultural divide between Latino whites and other whites in America? The idea of immigrants wanting to be accepted as “mainstream” (often this means more “white”) goes back to at least the 1800s, but as a Southern Californian “far left” liberal I am used to white Latinos insisting they are not white or might as well not be white. Perhaps this is because Mexican-Americans are known for having a certain pride in their Chicano roots that is not as prevalent among other Latino groups in the US. Perhaps this is because of the “far left” mentality where we don’t want to see ourselves as history’s victors.

    • Hi Jacqueline, thank you for the comment. I would say that a lot of this identification is very regional and related to other factors (social class, gender), and may also shift contextually.

  • Aslyn Avila

    I found a section in a journal called The Anthropology of Afro-Latin America and the Caribbean: DiasporicDimensions by Kevin A. Yelvington that talked about how identity has to do with race, gender, ethnicity, class, and nation similar to Sanabria’s chapter 5. The journal talks about how people begin to identify themselves according to their skin color and background and the impacts on African American roots in some Latin Americans countries. It said “In Brazil used a set of 72 drawings on cards to solicit “racial” identifications across class, gender, and region; he obtained 492 different categorizations, many of which are not translatable, and showed that there was a large disagreement on the categories themselves. (Figure 1)” (Yelvington 243) In Figure 1, it shows the physical differences and skin tones between people. Anthropologists seem to find a lot of “black places” in Bahia, Brazil. It relates to chapter 5, because it talks about how sometimes it’s hard to label someone’s ethnicity or race because there are different backgrounds.

  • Juliet H. Foroughi

    The idea of the “helpless native” seems to have permeated a great deal of the more liberal Western conscious, in a “new” take on the savage slot. While there may be some documentation of this, it is a perspective that, Sanabria notes, is somewhat biased by gender. “…men have historically had greater access than women to education, and were gendered social roles give men greater flexibility to migrate to urban centers or other regions in search of employment. This results in women tending to more frequently be monolingual speakers of indigenous languages and being more closely confined to the contexts of their indigenous communities…” (139). He then notes, however, along with Peter Wade in his book “Race and Ethnicity in Latin America,” that viewed the indigenous community as, “…active agents and this was an important antidote to the characterisations that were part and parcel of much official ‘indigenismo'” (Wade, 69).