Conservatives baffled at idea of white Hispanic people

A brief primer on race versus ethnicity

Topics: Trayvon Martin, National Review, Race,

Conservatives baffled at idea of white Hispanic people George Zimmerman

Apparently conservative have decided that the liberal media, in their endless quest to smear conservatives as racist by forcing them to defend George Zimmerman, have now made the ludicrous claim that a Hispanic person can be white. That’s ridiculous, liberal media! Only white people are white! Isn’t that right, Victor Davis Hanson?

The media then created a special rubric “white Hispanic,” when its narrative of white-on-black crime was endangered by new information that Mr. Zimmerman had a Latino mother, although it normally does not use such terminology for others of mixed ancestry — Barack Obama himself being a good example.

I think the argument here is that if the media wants to claim Hispanics can be white, they better also call the president a mulatto.

Bernie Goldberg and Rush Limbaugh have been making a similar claim, presenting the phrase “white Hispanic” as intrinsically ridiculous. Jonah Goldberg referred to the term “white Hispanic” as “rarely if ever used before this tragedy.” (“Rarely” would have been fine by itself, Jonah. Especially because the term has a Wikipedia page and everything, that you could’ve Googled.) Jonah Goldberg also suggests that if the press is going to pretend Hispanics can be white they should call the president “white,” too, because of his mom.

OK, guys. Here’s the thing. I know all of you don’t actually give a single shit about ethnic identity and are in fact simply trolling as part of a pathological need to deny the existence of racism, but “Hispanic” is not a race. The U.S. Census has a handy, easy-to-remember definition: “‘Hispanic or Latino’ refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.” If “white” means “descended from Europeans” then guess what? A lot of people from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and South and Central America are white, even though they speak Spanish and you are racist against them.



Plenty of Hispanics don’t self-identify as white (just as plenty of Hispanics reject the vague umbrella term “Hispanic“), but the United States quietly counts those who don’t self-identify as black or Asian or American Indian as racially “white,” and the police initially referred to Zimmerman as “white.” Again, this is race we’re talking about, not ethnicity or nationality. “Half-Peruvian” is also not a race, and unless conservative bloggers and pundits really want to start examining Zimmerman’s distant family history to determine what percentage Amerindian or Asian he might be, white will have to suffice.

Of course, in America, “white” means more than “descended from Europeans.” It also means, commonly, “not recognizably a member of a minority group”; that definition is likely why Hanson and Goldberg scoff. And that’s one reason the mainstream press rarely uses the phrase “white Hispanic”: Many people, conservative and liberal, use “white” to mean “non-Hispanic white.” A more benign reason for the term’s rarity is that in a lot of cases it’d be sort of weird and irrelevant, like referring to a person who is “white and Irish.” (“Of course an Irish person is white,” you say, but tell that to your great-grandparents.) One instance in which it would be relevant would be, say, a racially charged shooting.

I assume the descriptor “white” was used in the press not to smear white people or to “maintain a liberal narrative” or whatever, but simply to identify Zimmerman as not black. (Because there are also black Hispanics, which might also be news to Jonah Goldberg and Victor Davis Hanson?)

Finally, and it should really go without saying, but anyone with a glancing understanding of American history should understand how an American whose mother was Peruvian ends up described as “white” while a man with a white mother and an African father doesn’t.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>