Friday, June 12, 2009

Latino New York: Michael Jones-Correa Responds to NYT's Readers

Michael Jones-Correa, Director of Cornell University American Studies Program, held this week an on-line Q&A with The New York Times' readers on the city's Latino communities and their connection with politics, race, and immigration, among other issues (click here for the second and the third and last part of the Q&A) Below, some of Jones-Correa's answers:

"The United States census introduced the term Hispanic in 1970; it is still the preferred “official” label. Latino emerged as an alternative in the 1980s and gained currency in activist and academic circles. If asked in surveys, more people of Latin American origin will say they prefer Hispanic to Latino. However, I use both: they both describe the same group of people, and in my line of work it gets boring and repetitive to have only one word to describe the people I live with, work with and write about."

"In 1980 census, more than 95 percent of Hispanics chose to identify racially as 'white.' However, upon the introduction of an 'other race' option, in subsequent censuses 40 percent of Hispanics identified as neither black nor white, but rather as 'other.' In the 2006 Latino National Survey, 'other' was the preferred racial category for every Latino national origin group except Cuban-Americans.

"The shift to the 'other race' category for many Hispanics might seem to indicate that Latinos may wish to avoid identifying as 'black,' but also distance themselves from identifying as 'white,' choosing instead an indeterminate intermediary category."

"Work by John Logan at Brown University looking at the results of the 2000 census suggests that black Latinos are significantly worse off than Latinos who identify as white. But here is an alternative explanation: Could it be that darker-skinned Latinos who experience discrimination are more likely to choose to make a statement about their racial identity by identifying as 'black'? After all, very few Latinos identify as 'black.'"

" ... we do not have a Antonio Villaraigosa or a Bill Richardson (in New York) in part because New York City is not a majority Latino city or state. If a Latino city leader emerges, it will be because she or he happens to be Latino, not only because she or he is Latino. That is, that person will have to appeal to a much wider constituency beyond his or her own ethnic community, even if the ethnic community provides a crucial base for his or her election."

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