I ask, is a Latino white? This is a question that is raging in the US. The question when posed is very subjective and complex with the person being questioned obviously taking time to ponder the question. In reality, the answer is easy but the complexity and politics of race in America has messed everything up.
Before I continue, to put things in perspective, Latino is not a race but an ethnic group. Also, by white, I refer to Caucasians – basically the inhabitants of Europe. Frankly, I am at a loss as to how we got to this point of classifying it as a race. The only reason I can conjure up is the “us versus them” mentality; more like “if they don’t speak our language, share our culture and are not in the same (society) perceived social class as us, then they are of a different race”.
Firstly, let’s analyze the question in America. Society has imprinted in us that you have to be proud of your heritage, proud of your color, proud of your country and all – If you are not comfortable with being crammed into any of these affiliations, then you are termed unhappy, in denial and ashamed of your situation (total hogwash). When the question is posed to an (second generation American) American-Latino, you get answers with shifty eyes or they become defensive. The person is thinking “will my answer make me look like a sellout struggling to identify with a group in which society says I am not”, “will my answer make me look desperate, ashamed of my people”.
Some basic history. The Americas (North and South America) as we know it was inhabited by the natives. These peoples were considerably darker in complexion and looked nothing like what we see in large swaths of North and South America; and then, Spain, England and France came – the rest is history. Basically the continent was carved up into colonies and thousands of Europeans moved into the continent to live in these colonies. Some of their descendants are what we now have living in the US either as citizens or immigrants.
So you see, it is a really simple answer to a simple question. If you can effectively trace your heritage to those European settlers – Spanish, if you are South American, then you are white. Simple, end of story.