What Defines ‘Hispanic’?
In a racially diverse America, we have no discernible rules for what determines one’s race.
New Mexico governor Susana Martinez is Latina — her parents were Mexican-American. But her now-desperate Democratic challenger for the governorship, Gary King, claims that Martinez “does not have a Latino heart.” Apparently for King, a self-appointed genealogist, if you do not share his liberal agenda, then you are, de facto, not Latino.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid made a similar statement in 2010, when he defined ancestry by political ideology: “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay?”
The New York Times made up an absurd category for George Zimmerman, classifying him as a “white Hispanic” when it wished to gin up the Zimmerman–Trayvon Martin controversy along racial fault lines. But had Zimmerman taken his mother’s last name, Mesa, or Latinized his first name to become Jorge Zimmerman, then the New York Times might have had more trouble pulling off its racial gymnastics.
After all, Zimmerman is as Hispanic as Barack Obama is African American. But the Times would not dare dub the president, who had a white mother and African father, a “white African American.” In short, not only are racial bumper stickers sometimes cynical, but they are also hopelessly inexact.