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A Message to Americans: Hispanic/Latino Is Not a Race

Updated on May 15, 2019
SeviMichelleMoreno profile image

Sevon Michelle Moreno is an Afro Latina/Carribean. she writes to raise awareness about social justice issues regarding people of color.

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"Your Black Not Hispanic"

"You don't look Hispanic", "You're black, not Latina", "Your African American", "you're too dark to be Hispanic", “You're Hispanic, not black”. Growing up, these were phrases I often heard. To non-black Hispanics, I wasn't Latina. To non-Hispanic black folks, I wasn't black enough. To non-Hispanic whites, I wasn't Hispanic cause I looked black. I always felt the need to prove my racial identity to my fellow black folks and the need to prove my ethnic identity to my fellow Hispanic folks.

My mother is of Cuban and Haitian descent and my father is of Jamaican, Native American and Puerto Rican descent but racially they are black. My ethnicity is Hispanic and my race is black. No, I am not African American, I am Caribbean American and yes I am a black Latina. We exist but for some reason, Americans can't seem to understand the concept of being an Afro-Latino.

Latin America and Americans tend to only popularize light-skinned Latinos or Latinos who tend to look Italian. They star in telenovelas, American tv shows, music videos and other sources of media, we don't see a variety of different Latinos. Mestizo Latinos are the only kind of Latinos that seem to exist to the media. Afro-Latinos, darker skinned Latinos and Asian-Latinos aren't widely known in America because to Americans we don't exist. To Americans, Hispanic/Latino is a race and if you are visibly white, Asian, or black then there is no way your Latino. So this article is a message to those who are convinced that Latino or Hispanic is a race.


Ethnicity vs Race

For the people who are confused or don't understand what I'm saying, I will define what race and ethnicity are. “Race is associated with biology, whereas ethnicity is associated with culture”(www.livescience.com). Race often refers to a person's physical traits, such as bone structure and skin while ethnicity refers to culture, that includes nationality, ancestry, and language. Nationality refers to the country you come from. Meaning Mexican, Cuban, Haitian and etc are not races but they are nationalities because they describe the country that you or your ancestors come from. “The world population can be divided into 4 races, namely white/Caucasian, Mongoloid/Asian, Negroid/Black, and Australoid” (www.umsl.edu). Caucasoids are people of Caucasian descent, Mongoloids are people of Asian, Indian, and middle eastern decent. Negroids are people of black descent and Australoid are people of aboriginal descent.

Now that I have defined the difference between race, nationality, and ethnicity, there should be a better understanding of why Hispanic/Latino isn't a race. “Federal policy defines “Hispanic” not as a race, but as an ethnicity. And it prescribes that Hispanics can, in fact, be of any race. But these census findings suggest that standard U.S. racial categories might either be confusing or not provide relevant options for Hispanics to describe their racial identity”(www.Pew research.org).

So if Hispanic/Latino isn't a race… then what is it?

“According to official U.S. policy, Latinx and Hispanic are ethnicities and not races”(www.medium.com). So what race are Hispanics and Latinos then? “Many Latinx and Hispanic people are of mixed ancestry. Often, when people incorrectly refer to Latinx and Hispanic as a race, they’re referring to “mestizos,” or mixed-race people of both indigenous and European ancestry. However, you can be of any background and be Latinx or Hispanic. Afro-Latinx people are of African descent and are from Latin America, such as Cardi B (Dominican) or Tyson Beckford (Panamanian). Some have Middle Eastern heritage, like Salma Hayek and Shakira (both part Lebanese). Peru even had a president of Japanese ancestry: Alberto Fujimori. It’s safe to assume there isn’t one way to “be” or “look” Latinx or Hispanic” (www.medium.com). “The U.S. Census Bureau defines the ethnonym Hispanic or Latino to refer to "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race" and states that Hispanics or Latinos can be of any race, any ancestry, any ethnicity” (www.wikipedia.com).


Mestizo Latina

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White Latina (Cameron Diaz)

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Black Latina (Juju Castaneda)

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Asian Latina

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Final note

Hispanic/Latino is not a race but is an ethnicity. Ethnicity is exclusive to all and any race, meaning you can identify as a white Hispanic, Asian Hispanic, and black Hispanic. Hispanics and Latinos on average are of mixed ancestry, made up of Spaniard, Native American and African and sometimes Asian, French and Portugal ancestry. Some Latinos have more European in them, which makes them a white Latino. Some Latinos have more Native American in them, which makes them an indigenous Latino. Some Latinos have more African in them, which makes them a black Latino. Some Latinos have a lot of Asian in them, which makes them an Asian Latino. And some Latinos are heavily mixed with Native American and Spaniard, which makes them a mestizo Latino.


The typical image of Latinos that we see everywhere needs to change. ALL Latinos and Hispanics need to be represented because a lot of us are hidden and people don't know we exist because many people think mestizo Hispanics/Latinos are the only kind of Hispanic/Latino that exist. Our schools need to teach the difference between race, ethnicity, and nationality and us Americans need to educate ourselves.


Latino does not have a specific skin color

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Sevon Michelle Moreno

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