Friday, November 16, 2007

Who you callin' Hispanic?

There’s a racial profiling war going on in Chandler Arizona. One of the Spanish radio stations is calling the police racists (shouldn’t that be “ethnicists”?) for their description of a rapist on the loose.

Even the ACLU isn’t backing the radio station, so that should tell you something.

I’ve blogged before about the definition of Hispanic. The most accurate way to describe a Hispanic is someone who thinks himself to be one. Of course, it is to the advantage of Latino activists if more people are included in the group. And advertisers like to bunch them together and treat them the same. And it gives punch to media reports.

The term was really the brainchild of the government, who didn’t want all those scorekeeping forms they use to have 30 different choices. It all sort of falls apart anyway when dad is from Guatemala and mom is from Fiji.

But when you think about it, the same problem exists for everyone else.

It is about as accurate as the term Caucasian. Technically, unless you can trace your roots to the small mass of land between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, you have no claim to call yourself a Caucasian. Even the term Caucasoid is of incorrect origin.

I guess I’ve never identified myself with the term Caucasian, although I check the box because it seems to be the most likely substitute for White. They never have a choice called “American.” I’m often tempted to check the box “Other” and write in “Caesarian” but I was always afraid of perjury if they checked my birth certificate.

So, how do the Hispanics themselves feel about the label? According to a Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation survey in 2002, 54 percent said they primarily identify themselves in terms of their or their parents' country of origin. About one quarter choose "Latino" or "Hispanic," and 21 percent chose "American."

Indeed, that question may be the litmus test for assimilation, or at least the willingness to work at it.

Anyway, you decide if the radio station has a valid gripe. Here are bits and pieces of the police bulletin about the suspect:

“The male was described as late 20’s to mid 30’s, approximately 5’03” to 5’05” tall. The suspect had short, dark hair, Hazel/brown eyes, and an unshaven face. He had dark brown/black thick, well-defined eyebrows.”

“The suspect spoke very clearly in English with a Spanish accent. Additionally he spoke Spanish clearly and fluently.”

“…male, about 5’06” tall who speaks clear English fluently but with a Spanish accent.”

One thing we are sure of…the truck he was driving was white.

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