Bouie's strange work was thoroughly debunked by a writer that Denise pointed us to, Julio Valera, but I want to expand on a couple of thoughts I had regarding that piece and the issue in general (musings more than data coming).
To say that America will become a majority-minority country is to erase these distinctions and assume that, for now and forever, Latinos will remain a third race, situated next to “non-Hispanic blacks” and “non-Hispanic whites.” But, as the Zimmerman controversy illustrates, it’s not that simple.Yeah, it's not that simple because it's wrong now. Latinos don't identify themselves as a race. How Bouie came to think of Latino as a racial category is beyond me. But that error is widespread, as Denise detailed, including Nate Cohn's piece worrying about more Latinos checking the "white" box for the U.S. census. Of course, as Denise demonstrated, there is a serious problem with even this supposed insight.
But my problem is more of a first order one, which is ignoring the fact that for Latinos in the United States, race is one of the factors that least defines us. Sure, there is a shorthand describing Latinos as "brown," but that is more of a political shorthand, not a true reflection of how Latinos perceive themselves. In my experience, the characteristic that most defines Latinos in their personal experience is their nationality, their country of origin. The immigrant experience in the United States has done a lot to break down those nationality-based barriers. Bouie identified this issue and failed to understand its significance:
While we see the 19th century as a world of blacks and whites, that wasn’t true for Americans at the time. They saw their United States as diverse as we see ours—a hodgepodge of races and ethnicities, with blacks as the insoluble element. The difference was their construction of race, which placed various Europeans on a convoluted hierarchy of racial difference.[Emphasis supplied]Latinos are prone to this nationality breakdown. It is the immigrant experience in the United States that has broken down these barriers, creating real solidarity, both cultural and political, amongst Latinos of different nationalities.
I have more thoughts on the flip side.
When will Latinos become "white?" When they are treated like whites. Does anyone see the Republican Party doing that anytime soon? Should we ask Eric Cantor? Karl Rove wanted to treat Latinos as "whites" as a political strategy, to peel them away from the Democratic coalition. Nine years ago, the Bush administration started its push for immigration reform. This was Rove's political brainchild. It died on the shoals of the GOP's virulent hatred of the other with the failure of the Comprehensive immigration Reform Act of 2007.
It died because the Republican base hates Latinos. And guess what? Latinos know the Republican base hates them. People usually don't vote for political parties that include as one of their fundamental purposes hatred of them. Denise again demonstrated how this works:
This Latino whiteness discussion certainly contains echoes of wrong-headed media memes about Hispanics and the Latino vote we've heard before. Remember how the Latino vote in Florida was going to sweep Romney to victory in that state because of arch-conservative, white-identified Miami Cubans?How in gawd's name did Obama win Florida's Cuban Americans? The reality is, he didn't. The GOP lost them. They lost them by letting them know they did not like people who speak Spanish, who are from a Latino culture. They lost them despite the fact that Cubans, especially Miami Cubans, are pretty well off. They lost them despite 40 years of catering to the foreign policy dictates of certain segments on Cuba. They lost them despite the fact that many in the progressive coalition have been insulting and demeaning to Cuban Americans.
It didn't happen, according to exit polls:President Obama didn’t just win the state of Florida. New exit polls show that the President narrowly won the state’s typically conservative Cuban voters. NBC News’ exit polls show that President Obama won 60 percent of Florida’s Latino vote compared to Mitt Romney’s 39 percent. The polls also show that Obama won 49 percent of the state’s Cuban votes and Romney won 47 percent. Though Obama barely inched past Romney for the Cuban vote, the fact that he garnered more Cuban Americans’ votes notes a shift in ideology and a challenge for the Republican party. [My emphasis]
They lost them despite all this because the organizing principle of today's Republican Party is to hate anyone who is "different." And those of us who are different have noticed. Will we still be different in a generation or two? Maybe not as much, but so long as a major political party and significant portions of our society insist on treating us as different, and in a bad way, then no, our "Latinoness" will still define us.
So will Latinos become "white" in a way that makes them Republicans? Not as long as Republican hate us. No one likes to be hated. Not even me.