Identification vs. Categorization among Latinos
- Identification vs. Categorization
and some Latinos-of-color.
"If you have populations that need certain remedies,
what do you do to `identify' them?" asked William A.
Darity, director of the Institute of African American
Research at the University of North Carolina .
Self-identification is the only way, he said,
"while being careful that how they are seen
by others can be quite different from the way
they label themselves - and that may be more
important in the kind of social treatment they face."
Some "black" Latinos say that how others perceive
them has an effect on how they identify themselves.
Maria Perez-Brown, 41, a Puerto Rican television
producer and entertainment lawyer in New York ,
is the daughter of a dark-skinned Puerto Rican
mother and a White Puerto Rican father.
She marked "Hispanic" and "black" on the census form.
"A lot of times society makes that decision for you," she said.
"The way American culture works, you select one or the other.
If you're brown-skinned and you say you're White,
you're going to grow up with a lot of conflict."
But self-identification [should] also be a personal choice.
Nina Paulino, 42, a Dominican in New York is blue-eyed
and olive-skinned but said she identifies herself as a "black" Latina
--as a political statement -- to honor her father's side of the family.
"I had never given respect to that side of me"
while growing up in the Dominican Republic , she said.
Almost half the Latinos responding in the census - 47.9 percent -
identified themselves as White, even though many
Americans might not see some of them that way.
In Latin America, by contrast, the concept of race tends to be more
elastic, said Roberto Suro, the director of the Pew Hispanic Center .
It often starts out from a baseline of Mixed heritage
--- rather than one that is purely Black or White.
"In the Caribbean we're White, but in this country we would
be "black"," said Neyda Martinez, Fernando Ramirez's
fiancée, who was born in Chicago to Puerto Rican parents.
She is dark-skinned, with long wavy hair, and is
often regarded as Indian in Puerto Rico but is
more accurately Mulatto, a Mix of Black and White.
Ms. Martinez, who identifies herself as a "black" Latina .[says]
"It's a very personal thing how people identify themselves.
You can't go by skin color."
Will Jones, a 26-year-old "black" Latino of Panamanian descent
said he has moved comfortably in the Hispanic and African-American
worlds because he sees himself as belonging to both ...
Ms. Perez-Brown, who grew up in the East New York section of
Brooklyn, said that when she attended Yale University there
was a division between the Puerto Ricans from the island -
"rich and blonde," she said - and "mainlanders" like her [who are]
more in tune with African-Americans from the same background.
"It was a class issue, but class and
race became commingled," she said.
"I made a conscious decision to hang out
with "blacks" rather than the Latin Americans."
These days, Ms. Perez-Brown is busy trying to pick the right skin
tone for Kaelyn, the lead character in an animated series she is
creating for Nickelodeon that features preschool superheroes.
The character's parents are Puerto Rican and African-American,
----like Ms. Perez-Brown and her husband
Ms. Perez-Brown was leaning toward making
Kaelyn a medium brown, not unlike herself.
While a marketing team may look at the character's coloring
as something that will help determine its commercial success
as a toy, Ms. Perez-Brown said, she has other priorities in mind.
"I want "black" and Puerto Rican girls to
be able to say, `That's me,' " she said.
"And `that's me' because of the way she looks."