The race that isn’t

Today’s New York Times contains a piece by Nate Cohn about how Hispanics increasingly identify themselves a white. Leaving aside the very real question of whether race even exists as anything but a collection of superficial physical attributes, this article makes little sense. Technically, Hispanics are people from the Iberian peninsula and their American descendants, although Portuguese speakers are usually excluded. “Latino,” which the Times used interchangeably with “Hispanic,” generally refers to Spanish-speak people from Latin America, although exactly what constitutes Latin America is not entirely clear, either. However one defines those two terms, they are not races. The US Bureau of the Census recognizes five races: White, Black or African American, Native American or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. In theory, members of each of these races share some genetic commonality. Hispanics and/or Latinos share nothing but a language. In fact, many people who are said to be Hispanic are actually of Italian, German, or native American extraction. Many others are the descendants of African slaves. And nearly all, like rest of us in the Western Hemisphere, have richly mixed heritage. To lump them together because they share a language is preposterous. How many Italian Americans would be comfortable with being called Anglos? As a French Canadian I am emphatically not Anglo even through my primary language is English. It is an indication of our national preoccupation with race that we have, in effect, created an entirely one new based on nothing but language. Perhaps it is time to end altogether the practice of identifying people as being of any race besides the human race.

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