21st Century Challenges for a 21st Century Global Left

In a recent interview, Angela Davis stated:

Feminism, radical feminism, radical anti-racist and anti-capitalist feminism helps us to do the reconceptualisation that is necessary in order to produce a left that is more in line with the vast changes that have occurred in the era of global capitalism, recognising the feminisation of the working class, the structural shifts in the global economy, of the fact that some industries are largely populated by women, industries that rely on reproductive labour, of care industries, domestic service, health care, etc. It seems to me that in many ways, unions around the world are not willing to recognise those changes. To organise the unorganised, at this moment, is to organise women.

I couldn’t agree more with Professor Davis’ analysis. All too often too many of us of the so-called “Global Left,” even while recognizing the three-stranded braid of colonialism-racism-capitalism in the very essence of the modern worldview, we tend to forget or dismiss the fact that each of those strands are, in turn, embedded in anthropocentered patriarchy (not to mention Christian fundamentalism and its extremist terrorist methods). Undoubtedly, as we seek to address the material and structural consequences of these persistent ideologies today, we must simultaneously seek to decolonize our many anti-oppression and liberation movements from the limiting culturally shared systems of thought and behavior psychosocially embedded within.

At the same time, the exponential acceleration of technological change [the rate at which change occurs is, itself, speeding up exponentially] that this modern era has set in motion raises for us yet increasingly urgent questions:

  • What is the future we collectively desire?
  • What does equity, justice and peace, or the integral well-being of all peoples and our sustainable development, really mean to us of the Global Left? 
  • And what does all of that really look like, specifically, in the midst of now unstoppable technological advancements, including, by the way, those that have helped our movements interconnect and extend their reach?

The Global Left, then, while correcting our collective failure to deal with the intersections of oppressions that so effectively undermine our struggles, we must simultaneously begin to articulate our visions of the desired future.

For instance, are we still envisioning a future of workers united as owners of the means of production … though, now, in highly robotized manufacturing plants, or in service industries, hospitals and schools where AI (articficial intelligence) have replaced skilled workers —from welders, cooks, cashiers and clerks to teachers, pilots, surgeons and lawyers?

What, then, is the work that human workers will be doing in our liberated future? Or should we be, instead, asking ourselves: Will we even really need to work, as we now conceive of work (or, perhaps, as capitalism itself has made us conceive ourselves as “productive workers”)?

The whole notion of work or of envisioning a future the workforce gets even more complicated when considering the likely impacts of medical research that is already beginning to result in curing once terminal diseases, and will soon enhance cognition and physical health, and extend our lives well into our 90s and 100s years of age.

Clearly, given the game-changing transformations already in motion, as liberation workers we will need to reconceptualize work itself, the notion of being paid for labor, the idea of needing to “earn a living” or, perhaps even the human right to a quality life. We need to begin to envision the possibility of the emergence of a post-capitalist society, and begin to consider ideas such as:

  • A guaranteed or Universal Basic Income (UBI).
  • Re-think our consumption and minimalize our lifestyles. Learning to share, recycle and repair things we now discard.
  • Locally produce or generate food, energy and water

Increasingly, leaders of Big Capital, including the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk, are coming to realize its economic system, in its current form, is unsustainable and must be fundamentally transformed within the next 20-30 years, if not sooner. And you can be sure Big Capital is working tirelessly to figure out how to redesign capitalism, while keeping white supremacy, patriarchy and imperialism essentially intact.

So, then, the question remains: From our critical liberation perspectives, what are the economic, political, cultural and ethical implications of these emergent technologies? 

Or more importantly: What will be our roles —as members or leaders of radical feminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, decolonial movement— in the seemingly inevitable 21st Century reconfiguration of human society, be?

Social & Political Dangers of Dis-identification in the Time of Trump

“We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified. We can dominate and control everything from which we disidentify ourselves.” — Roberto Assagioli

Roberto Assagioli, founder of Psychosynthesis, offers this “fundamental psychological principle” (above) that is central to the work of counselors, coaches and psychosynthesis practitioners as we seek to guide people into higher stages of well-being and development. It is this principle that informs one of many foundational techniques and applications, including the Exercise in Dis-identification: “I have a body… I have a mind…I have emotions… Yet, I am more than my body… my mind… my emotions… I am a center of pure consciousness, of self-awareness and of will.” The full exercise, and moreover, the identification/disidentification principle itself, can be powerful and effective in processes for along the path to well-being, development and liberating transformation.

This basic principle is also implicit in Buddhist practice of non-attachment that resonates with so many of us, even as we feebly attempt to not-aspire to such a level of spiritual attainment (as holding the aspiration itself contradicts both the principle and the practice of acceptance of the here-and-now of Existence).

Managing this contradiction, this dynamic tension of forces of ego identification and attachment in juxtaposition to our aspiration for stages of development not yet reached, much less embodied, is at the heart of our work, not only with clients but, also (if not mostly) within ourselves.

In moments like this one, this historical time of Trump, so many of us find ourselves rocked and shocked, hopes shattered, or worse, exposed and vulnerable, some fearful for our very lives —literally, physically— and those of our families and friends, and the material well-being of our communities and nation(s). And so many of us in the Psychosynthesis community, knowing what we know about body, mind, heart and spirit, having access to this knowledge and these techniques, are reminded that, yes, we are experiencing these feelings of disappointment and shock, anxiety and fear, and yet, “we are more than these feelings; we are centers of pure consciousness, self-awareness and will.”

And in reminding ourselves of our True Self, we regain dominion and control.

Or do we?

I ask this question as I recall another one of Assagioli’s psychological principles: “One cannot disidentify from that with which one has not yet fully identified.“ In other words, according to this principle, one must fully explore, examine and identify with the aspect of oneself in question or conflict (albeit approached strategically and appropriately), and only thereafter, one is ready to disidentify.

Now, who am I to say how much time is enough time for a reasonably matured person to explore, examine and process the meaning and implications of an event of the magnitude of Trump’s impending presidency. But, beyond what will it mean once he is in office this coming January, what does it mean already, today, now that he has won? How much time is enough time, particularly for those who had been in denial of the possibility of his victory, to actually wrap their head around this reality — before they are ready to fully identify with the impact, so that they may then be able to disidentify?

Given that his presidency has not even yet begun, it might seem relatively easy to transit rapidly through this process. However, signs of bigotry and hatred, foreseen and foretold by social observers, activists, organizers and members of targeted communities, are already being unleashed across the land: swastika grafitti, bullying of Latino children, attacks on Muslim women and other assorted abhorrent behaviors have immediately followed Trump’s victory. After all, it’s important to understand that Trump, with all his racist, misogynist, Islamophobic and otherwise bigoted behaviors, is not the real culprit. The real problem, rather, would be the deep-seated sense of entitled superiority within US American culture that Trump’s campaign reinvigorated, and the collective sense of impunity for white US American men and women his victory has, to some extent, legitimized.

[Yes, white friends and colleagues, I did just go there. Hopefully, those of you struggling with my assertions will be able to remain engaged by using the identification/disidentification principle, and remind yourself that any feelings of discomfort are just that: feelings, emotions. Moreover, you might also remind yourself that there is no learning, growth or change that does not cause some level of discomfort.]

A day or two ago I came across a post on social media that read: “Dear White People: Stop Saying Everything is Going to be Okay.” It was only one of several posts pointing out a pattern I had also begun to track. This headline also made me think of how my partner, who is also an antiracism organizer and trained counselor, responds to white people who so often ask her: “But why are People of Color always so angry?” “But why are you NOT?,” she replies.

Clearly, racism impacts white people differently than it does People of Color. And with the 25+ years I’ve been doing liberating transformation work, I know it takes some serious critical analysis —both historical and psychosocial, both personal and collective— for people across race to begin to grasp the extent to which institutional racial oppression has robbed us all of so much of our cultural expressions of humanity, including important aspects of peoples’ stories, values and wisdom traditions. Attaining this level of understanding and insight requires committed, intentional engagement of consciousness (thought, imagination, intuition, emotion, sensation, impulse-desire) toward recognizing humanity’s shared body, our shared mind, our shared feelings, our common purpose … an extraordinary act of will, indeed.

Having said that, I do believe each of us must do what we can do to “manage” our wide-ranging emotional reactions to the political crisis of this moment. Moreover, we must do what we can to tap into the deep well of Being … particularly if we are to show up as our best selves for each other. We’re going to need each other, perhaps in ways we haven’t ever before, for years to come.

We are also going to need to draw from Our Higher Source(s) in order to not fool ourselves into believing that “everything is going to be okay.” Because everything is not okay! When 63% of white men and 53% of white women voted for Trump, things are obviously NOT okay. [And when one in four Latina women and one in three Latino men voted for Trump, that, too, is a problem.]

To be clear, if our shared purpose as psychosynthesists, counselors, coaches, activists, organizers, and leaders of all sorts is to foster conscious evolution, then we must ask ourselves:

In the time of Trump, what is our ethical obligation, our best response to state-sanctioned, open-use of bigotry and oppression, moral bankruptcy and the additional damage Trump’s presidency is likely to cause for Humanity and our Planet? What will be our collective Act of Will”?

[Note: Assagioli’s identification/disidentification principle points to a whole other layer of personal and social power with significant political implications, which I shall explore in a future piece.]

De la negación a la impunidad: huellas de superioridad racial en Puerto Rico

Aquí en Puerto Rico persiste un gran desconocimiento del racismo. Como tantas cosas en la colonia donde el marco de referencia principal son los Estados Unidos, para muchos aquí el racismo es aquello que vemos, así de lejitos y por encimita, que ocurre allá: el discrimen, la segregación y el maltrato de las “minorías”.

Aunque entre nosotrxs sí hay quienes conocen de primera mano la brutalidad y la complejidad del racismo de allá, la gran mayoría en Puerto Rico desconoce la historia racial del Gran Norte: que esa nación se forjó y se constituyó a base de una economía capitalista esclavista; que esa república llegó a emancipar a los africanos esclavizados, pero luego de casi cien años de fundada y sólo para terminar su brutal Guerra Civil, para entonces, finalmente, concederles la ciudadanía; que ese país masacró a millones de los pobladores originarios para robarle las tierras; que el ejército de ese gobierno también invadió y le quitó la mitad del territorio a México; que esa sociedad reemplazó la esclavitud institucional por la segregación legal y la continuada encarcelación masiva de personas negras y latinas; que en ese pueblo las luchas por los derechos civiles en los ’50, los ’60 y los ‘70 todavía se están luchando, incluso al derecho humano a la vida misma, el de no ser legalmente asesinado por la Policía mientras se camina a pie o en auto por las calles, o hasta en una celda si es que llega a ser detenida con vida.

Quizás por desconocimiento de esa historia, muchos se rascarán la cabeza tratando de entender cómo es que en esa gran democracia puede haber, a estas alturas del Siglo 21, un candidato presidencial burlón, vulgar, abusador y abiertamente ofensivo a personas negras y latinas —entre muchas otras— que reciba tanto apoyo entre sus electores. Pero conociéndola o no, muchos aquí suelen decir que en Puerto Rico la cosa es diferente, que aquí no hay racismo.

Lamentablemente, muchxs tampoco nos percatamos de que a pesar de los grandes retos que aún persisten allá, las luchas antirracistas han logrado asegurar que en gran medida la gente, particularmente en los medios de comunicación masiva, así como en el mundo de las artes y el entretenimiento, ya se entiende que hay unas conductas y expresiones que ya son inaceptables, que simplemente no se toleran. Como, por ejemplo, el uso del “blackface.”

Aquí en Puerto Rico esa lucha popular de liberación racial no se ha dado. Todavía. Por lo tanto, como supuestamente aquí “el que no tiene dinga tiene mandinga”, mucha gente más clarita (y aparentemente blanca) se trata de curar en salud diciendo: “Yo no soy racista, ni puedo ser racista, pues yo tengo ancestros negros.” [Aunque más comúnmente lo que reclaman es ser de ascendencia taína y no africana.]

Ocultamos que el racismo nació, no solo del ultraje europeo al África, pero de su propagación globalizante aquí en Puerto Rico y en el Caribe — unos 125 años antes de que los ingleses y holandeses llevaran sus primeras cargas humanas secuestradas de la Madre África a sus colonias en el Caribe y en el Gran Norte. Se nos olvida la realidad de que nuestros ancestros paternos, los españoles, fueron los que violaron a nuestras ancestras taínas y africanas; que fueron los españoles quienes, entonces, crearon y establecieron el sistema de castas para clasificar el producto de su proyecto colonial-genocida, capitalista-esclavista, fundamentalista-cristiano y machista-eurocentrado. Nos desprendemos emocionalmente al considerar el esquema de clasificación de seres humanos según el espectro colorista, el mismo que dio lugar la pigmentocracia que rige las relaciones sociales y escenarios laborales, educativas, culturales, religiosas, judiciales, etc., del Puerto Rico de hoy.

No por culpa nuestra personal, sino por la naturaleza colonial de nuestra cultura latinoamericana y por el diseño de nuestras instituciones, los hoy llamados “blancos” en nuestro contexto colonial isleño (ya que no así en el exterior), nos distanciamos de esta historia. Este distanciamiento de nuestro legado cultural racial supremacista nos permite refugiarnos en el mito de las tres razas donde, en el imaginario colectivo, siempre aparece la raza española como figura central, representativo de los valores de la belleza, la verdad y la bondad, según definidos por la cultura eurocentrada; los taínos, exterminados en los primeros 50 años del proyecto colonial español, rezagados; los africanos, eternamente encadenados, subyugados, inferior.

Pero, más allá, este distanciamiento psicológico colectivo permite que los llamados blancos andemos por la vida sin tener que pensar, ni por un momento en un día normal, en nuestra identidad racial ni en nuestra posición socio-económica-política-cultural privilegiada. Peor aún, el distanciarnos de esta realidad nos facilita el tratar de invisibilizar y negar los privilegios que nos da el vivir como blancos en un país racista. Y nos distanciamos más rápido que volando de la idea, de la mera consideración, de que podamos ser racistas. Como blancos, nos dejamos confundir con la noción de que para ser racista hay que tenerle mala fe o mala voluntad a las personas obviamente negras.

Sin embargo, desde el análisis crítico necesario como educador y organizador antirracista y como psicólogo de la liberación, así como por experiencia personal como latino racializado como inferior en los EEUU y como persona aparentemente blanca y presumido superior en Puerto Rico, puedo afirmar que nuestros prejuicios raciales, conscientes o inconscientes, son, en cierta medida, lo de menos. Dado el esquema racista institucional y cultural de nuestro país, hasta alguna mala fe que podamos sentir o alguna mala voluntad que podamos expresar son, para efectos prácticos, de poca relevancia inmediata.

Dicho eso, sí hay un aspecto interno, psicológico, personal/individual que hay que tomar en cuenta, ya que es clave para entender y desmantelar el racismo. Este gran reto de toda persona aparentemente (o relativamente) blanca es que necesitamos percibir, reconocer, examinar y entender la internalización de un sentido de superioridad racial en nosotrxs mismxs, personal/individualmente que es, a su vez, compartido con otras personas de nuestro colectivo racial.

La internalización de la superioridad racial blanca es un aspecto de la internalización psicológica de la opresión racial cultural, institucional e interpersonal que ocurre durante el proceso de socialización. Durante nuestra crianza y formación, por la familia, la escuela, los medios, etc., en nuestro entorno social, cultural, político y económico, cada unx de nosotrxs —de todos los grupos raciales— aprendemos y reproducimos narrativas compartidas (mitos, mentiras y estereotipos), narrativas distorsionadas sobre la supuesta superioridad de los europeos y sus descendientes (blancos) y la supuesta inferioridad de todos los demás grupos racializados, con los africanos —las personas negras— en la posición más baja de la jerarquía racial. Estas narrativas que informan y deforman aspectos importantes de nuestra propia identidad son, a su vez, validadas por la experiencia concreta cuando las instituciones del país las pone en efecto, sistemáticamente privilegiando a las personas blancas y rezagando a personas visiblemente afrodescendientes.

[Para aquellas personas que se resisten aceptar esta noción comparto este breve ejercicio que hago con estudiantes al examinar la existencia del racismo institucional sistémico: En el último censo en Puerto Rico, unas 77% de las personas fueron identificadas como blancas, mientras se reportaron unas 23% personas de otras razas. ¿Si entraras hoy a un banco, una empresa, una universidad, al Capitolio, a la Fortaleza, o a alguna estación de radio o televisión, habrás de encontrar que 23% —más o menos una de cada cuatro personas— en puestos de dirección de esas instituciones son personas negras, personas que no sean aparentemente blancas? ¿No? Yo tampoco.]

Tal es la dinámica, el ciclo vicioso del racismo cultural, al racismo institucional, al racismo internalizado y, de nuevo, a la siguiente generación, manteniendo así la cultura de supremacía blanca.

Más obvio aquí que en los EEUU, sabemos que en Puerto Rico hay un espectro, un contínuo, entre blanco, mestizo, taino, trigueño, jabao, mulato y negro. [Eso, sin incluir, por no complicar aún más la cosa, a la comunidad asiática, entre otros grupos racializados en el país.] En nuestro contexto socio-político-racial, es esencial que sepamos dónde estamos ubicados en este contínuo; no solo dónde nos ubicamos nosotrxs mismxs a base de nuestra propia experiencia subjetiva, sino además dónde se nos ubica en la cultura, como parte de qué colectivo racial se nos identifica, particularmente las personas del grupo dominante —a quienes históricamente se le ha asignado poder colectivo sancionado por el estado— en este esquema racial: los blancos.

Para personas que, como yo, aunque de clara ascendencia multirracial, se nos identifica como “blanco”, una de las primeras expresiones de nuestra superioridad racial es, precisamente, nuestra negación de la existencia misma del racismo, ya sea en nuestro país, pero particularmente en nosotrxs mismxs. Ya sea por ignorancia (porque nunca lo aprendimos, porque nunca se nos enseñó) o sea porque al considerarlo no lo queremos aceptar, no importa. Nuestra experiencia personal, como miembro del colectivo “blanco” típicamente no nos obliga a considerar nuestra ubicación en la jerarquía o de considerarla, ni nos requiere que cuestionemos nuestra posición privilegiada. Después de todo, irrespectivo de nuestro nivel de preparación, no existe ninguna profesión que requiera un entendimiento del racismo, mucho menos la autoreflexión y el autoanálisis.

Lo que me lleva a otra manifestación de superioridad: la presunción del derecho de acceso a los recursos y sistemas institucionales necesarios para nuestro bienestar. Tomamos por dado que ese acceso y control es nuestro derecho … al trabajo digno, a servicios básicos, a una buena educación donde el currículo y el personal represente certeramente mi pasado, mi presente y que me prepare para un buen futuro, etc. Lo cual sí es un derecho … excepto cuando se le niega o se le limita ese acceso y control a sectores de la población a base de su ubicación en el contínuo racial. Ahí es donde ese derecho se convierte en un privilegio … cuando como patrón social el acceso se reserva para los escogidos. No porque seamos más merecedores, sino por nuestra ubicación en el contínuo racial.

Son muchas las manifestaciones de superioridad racial blanca internalizada, más de lo que pudiera mencionar en esta nota. Pero hay dos más que necesito enfatizar. El primero de éstos es el sentirse con el poder de definir la realidad, la realidad de uno mismo y la realidad de otrxs racialmente diferentes y presumidos inferiores. Como cuando Ángela Meyer afirma:

“He considerado muy respetuosamente la opinión de aquellas personas que entienden que el personaje es una ofensa a la raza negra, sobre todo en estos tiempos en que pintarse de negro es totalmente innecesario por la gran cantidad de excelentes actores de dicha etnia. Honestamente, como no soy racista se me hace muy difícil entender que hubo prejuicio en nuestro medio hacia los actores negros, que tan abominable injusticia existió alguna vez y aplaudo su lucha con todas las fuerzas de mi sentido común.”

Fíjese que, aparte de su negación, ella afirma su poder de decidir si el personaje de Chianita es, o no es, una ofensa; ella es la que afirma su poder de definir si ella misma es, o no es, racista. Y que ella es la que afirma que “se [l]e hace muy difícil entender que hubo prejuicio en nuestro medio hacia los actores negros”, aparentemente sin siquiera indagar con éstos si fue así o no. Cuando uno ha sido criado y apoyado por toda una cultura, por toda una vida, a sentirse con el poder de definir la realidad de personas racializadas como inferiores no se nos ocurre que tal vez nos haga falta indagar, explorar, abrirse a la posibilidad que, muy a pesar de la buena fe y la buena voluntad, uno simplemente es ignorante, no sabe, no entiende el impacto negativo que uno, sin querer, reproduce. Mucho menos se nos ocurre la posibilidad de que las personas negras puedan definir su propia realidad — y cuidado si no también la nuestra, dado los serios lapsos en nuestro desarrollo humano como seres racializados como blancos.

La última manifestación de superioridad racial internalizada que señalo aquí es el sentido de impunidad: el actuar sin preocupación de impacto negativo alguno ni temor de castigo, penalidad o repercusión negativo a uno. O peor, como lo es lo que desde la psicología de la opresión y liberación de la calle llamaríamos técnicamente, la actitud del “¡Que se joda!” … como cuando la Meyer, no empece los reclamos a desistir de la resucitación de Chianita, anuncia:

“En el fin de semana se prueban distintos maquillajes y si no me causan alergia, les aseguro que su grito de esperanza, dirá solo una vez más ‘Voten por yo’.”

Este sentido de impunidad se da solo porque el sistema institucional que regula y controla los medios y los espacios artísticos así lo permiten. Después de todo, la impunidad no existe sin la inmunidad. Eso es, a menos que una comunidad antirracista organizada —de gente consciente de todo el espectro racial boricua— le haga ver que ya no está en sus intere$e$ seguir permitiendo este tipo de atropello racista.

Que conste que esto no es una censura al arte ni tampoco al espectáculo y entretenimiento. Es una mirada crítica a un aspecto poco discutido del racismo: formas en que se manifiesta el sentido de superioridad que hemos internalizado psicológicamente los llamados blancos en Puerto Rico. Ángela Meyer (la actriz) y Chianita (el personaje) meramente proveen el texto y el contexto para la crítica.

Pero, más allá de las observaciones y el análisis desde la psicología de la liberación, sino como organizador antirracista blanco (o relativamente blanco en el continuo racial boricua), este escrito es una denuncia a la insistencia de artistas en reproducir irresponsablemente actitudes de superioridad racial disfrazadas como “arte” sin autoexaminarse, sin indagar con colegas y comunidad, y sin ningún sentido de obligación ética de examinar el impacto negativo de su trabajo.

Es, también, una denuncia a los medios de televisión y prensa que avalan estas expresiones racistas y conspiran al propagarlas. Y es una denuncia a la clase artística del país que, como cómplices, se queda en silencio, dando así su consentimiento a esta práctica tan burda de racismo.

Claro está, que de estas actitudes y conductas de superioridad blanca no se escapa nadie en la altas esferas de poder cultural, social, económico y político de nuestra sociedad. Aunque algunx que otrx podrá en un discurso mencionar la inclusión, no se habla de nuestra predisposición cultural, ya no dirigida contra nuestra afrodescendencia, sino implícitamente a favor de lo español, de lo norteamericano anglo, de lo europeo: de lo blanco.

Hay mucho trabajo por hacer en Puerto Rico en nuestra lucha antirracista. Y es aun más profundo y más difícil el trabajo que necesitamos hacer los que vivimos los privilegios de ser considerado blanco.

On Liberating Transformation and Antiracism: Interview (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a two-part interview done earlier this year by friend and antiracism colleague, Toi Scott, on key concepts and principles of consciousness-in-action and liberating transformation that inform our antiracism education and organizing work. prepared for Toi’s Herbal Freedom School Program.

I also talk about antiracism and liberation work in Puerto Rico.

On Liberating Transformation and Antiracism: Interview (Part 1)

Earlier this year, friend and antiracism colleague, Toi Scott, asked me to share some of the key concepts and principles of consciousness-in-action and liberating transformation that inform our antiracism education and organizing work. This is Part 1 of a two-part interview prepared for Toi’s Herbal Freedom School Program.

The Oppressive Underpinnings of Language Interpretation

by Raúl Quiñones-Rosado and María I. Reinat-Pumarejo

As fully bilingual Latino antiracism educators and organizers, we are committed to working with Latinos and Latinas of all national identity backgrounds, citizenship status or time in the US — in English, in Spanish or both. Since 1990, when we first began to design and facilitate antiracist, anti-oppression, decolonial and liberatory empowerment and leadership development programs for Latinxs, we have had to reckon with the unique challenges presented our identity, status, history and language in all of its complexity.

We have trained and participated in workshops (both original as well as designed by others) in English and in Spanish, some with simultaneous interpretation provided.[1] Over these three decades of experience, we have concluded that offering language interpretation for antiracism workshops, is not an effective tactic for recruiting Latinxs into antiracism movement, and is even much less so for organizing Latino communities.

First of all, interpreted workshops are a headache. Literally. They make your head hurt. Everybody’s. Those being translated to. Those being interpreted. And those doing the interpretation, too! As well as everyone else in the room who has to bear with the constant murmuring in the room (or perhaps right next to you) while you’re trying to pay attention to learn some important information or to gain some potentially life-changing insight. The physical and mental imposition of a gadget on your head and a voice in your ear is not to be easily dismissed.

Additionally, and more importantly, this indirect, mediated communication, most often through well-meaning, but inaccurate interpreters, tends to hinder, if not altogether impede, rapport, relationship and trust between trainers and participants, and throughout the circle of participants. Not only does it not elicit their full participation, but rather, it inhibits it. Not to mention, the times when people walk out of the workshop in total frustration because they understand enough English to know that their powerful and insightful contributions are being butchered by inadequately skilled interpreters. This could be avoided, to some extent, if host organizations could locate —and actually afford— a team of certified professional interpreters (alternating every 60 minutes, max!) who are also fluent in the often nuanced and carefully crafted language of antiracism organizing … steeped in historical, cultural, economic, sociological, psychological knowledge that is pan-American in scope … all at the tip of their tongue … in two languages! Many times we have been in interpreted sessions, used the headset to listen in, only to realize how inadequate (at times, infantile) the translation actually was. We have also even experienced a professional translator being totally overwhelmed by the technical language and admitting she could not keep up. On that occasion, we ended up having to do the interpretation — in addition to doing the training! On another occasion, a white East Coast community organizer was convinced she could provide language interpretation of an Undoing Racism workshop for a group of immigrants she worked with, only to end up stuck and having to ask for help from one of the trainers. The process was painfully slow and extremely frustrating, not to mention totally exhausting for the trainer in question.

Within an international context of organizers from the US, Puerto Rico and East Asia (Okinawa, Japan, South Korea, The Philippines, Guam and Hawaii) from 2000 to 2012, we had to contend with the challenge of meeting with activists and women who spoke many different languages. In the process, we realized that language interpretation is a deeply political act. Interpretation in a truncated fashion, that is statement by statement, was deemed a disservice to the process and to the women involved. As people waited for their statements to be interpreted, they were unable to get into a natural flow of communication, vital energy and creativity was lost, and the process seemingly endless. Meanwhile, even with specialized audio equipment (including a portable soundproof booth for simultaneous interpretation), our interpreters ended up utterly frustrated as presenters would invariably forget they were being interpreted and forget to modify their normal, fluid or often fast speech patterns as accurate interpretation demands. Out of that experience, we came to develop a multilingual dictionary of technical terms to ease the process of interpretation and properly communicate across nationalities for future network events.[2]

Professional simultaneous interpretation may be well suited for presentations or speeches, perhaps at rallies or conferences, where the interpretation is primarily unidirectional (from one language to another), especially if its delivery is informed by antiracist anticolonial analysis. It can also be very useful in meetings or conversations between two or three persons. But our experiences in bilingual and multilingual contexts have taught us that language interpretation simply does not work well in antiracism workshops. Particularly given the dynamic dialogical nature —a core principle of our liberation pedagogy— of our two day-long training sessions. Therefore, not only do we do NOT recommend it: we strongly advocate against it.

Moreover, in addition to these challenges, offering language interpretation for Spanish-dominant Latinxs in an English-language antiracism workshop would do little to nothing to support their gaining critical antiracism consciousness… or foster community organizing… or promote movement-building across racial groups. That level of transformative change requires that the workshop appropriately and effectively address the different cultural and historical contexts faced by Latin American immigrants within the political realities of the US today. And clearly, this is much more than an issue of language.

Therefore, when groups interested in our Latino Challenges Toward Racial Justice workshop insist on having language interpretation for their current (or prospective) Latinx constituents, we ask them to consider this series of questions:

  • Why does your organization/group want to reach out to Latinos?
  • What are your desired outcomes re: Latino participation in this workshop and afterward? [How does everyone mutually benefit? How is antiracism movement advanced?]
  • How does providing language interpretation of the workshop get you closer to those desired outcomes?
  • Is language the real barrier that keeps Latinos from accessing and participating in the workshop and, moreover, from participating in your organization’s antiracism organizing?
  • Are current Latino gatekeepers and potential antiracism organizers in your community new immigrants whom do not speak English? [How do new immigrants in non-leadership roles fit into your antiracism strategy? Are English-speaking 2nd or 3rd generation Latino gatekeepers already active in your organizing strategy?]
  • Can the organization locate and afford a team of certified professional interpreters who are also fluent in the precise and nuanced language of antiracism?
  • If the workshop were to be conducted in Spanish, would the group’s English-monolinguals be okay with simultaneous interpretation and having to wear headsets for two full days?
  • Where would this language interpretation approach be located along the antiracist Multicultural Organizational Development continuum?[3]

In our experience, organizations often seek to attract, recruit, retain and organize Latinxs across a very broad spectrum by offering language interpretation at workshops and events, all in good faith. Yet for a workshop of such complexity —and of significant cost— language interpretation often times has more to do with efficiency —getting more value for the organizations investment of effort (time) and resources (money)— than with effectiveness: doing what must be done that actually expands and strengthens our antiracism movement.

Given our shared critical antiracist principles and analysis, therefore, one can conclude that the valuing efficiency over effectiveness is, indeed, a function of white culture, one that merely reproduces white supremacy. One can also conclude that the primary beneficiaries of language interpreted workshops (and services), then, are NOT Latino participants, but rather dominant culture (most often white) organizations, institutions and their members. Offering language interpretation, then, in effect, merely benefits the host organization (and quite possibly also the training organization) to the extent that they can claim to have a relationship with Latino community, albeit if only a superficial and fragile one. And while these groups may often be motivated by the positive intention to INCLUDE Latinos, they may well remain unaware of (or unconcerned with?) how this response is inadequate and, ultimately, serves to reproduce institutional and cultural racism.

Meanwhile, Latinx participants —both non-English speakers and English speakers— may very well continue feeling marginalized, tokenized or, worse, used or abused. Furthermore, Latino communities will remain separate, if not absent, from antiracist struggle.

This is why we offer two separate workshops: one in English for racially integrated groups, and one in Spanish for Spanish-dominant speakers. Even while the overall goals and content of both workshops are essentially the same, as is the historical analysis of racial oppression, the details, the emphasis, the lens and the approach in addressing the particular complexities of this segment of the overall Latino population calls for a separate, unique workshop process. Simply put, language interpretation would NOT support the fundamental purpose of the work!

Realizing that a separate workshop for Spanish-dominant Latinxs would involve additional costs for groups with limited resources, we work with interested groups to explore ways to leverage the limited resources in order to make the two separate trainings feasible, whenever possible. This approach has been a most effective one on all fronts.

An additional challenge of offering a non-interpreted Spanish-language workshop, and in many ways a more difficult challenge, is that doing so often requires people to confront long-held issues of trust. The “What are they talking about in Spanish?”, “Who are they talking about?”, or worse, “What are they saying about me?” is still pervasive in US culture, a racial attitude more common than one would hope for in this day and age. Issues of cross-racial trust remains a core antiracist challenge, even within the antiracism movement. We believe that providing this workshop in Spanish, with the support of multiracial antiracism partners, offers a powerful way to contribute to overcoming this obstacle and the building of solidarity.

Naturally, the content and group process of such a workshop takes into account the possibility, or likelihood, that recent immigrant participants may have limited understanding or life experience of racism in the US, including but not limited to knowledge, perceptions, perspectives, relationships to Anglos/whites, Black US Americans and other People of Color — even concerning Latinos of other nationalities or those whose families have been in the US for generations. This setting also provides an environment in which the history and legacy of anti-Black bias within Latin American cultures can be examined in greater depth and transparency. This environment also allows for a more honest conversation about participants’ notions and experiences concerning “The American Dream” and their place in it.

As is to be expected, engaging, organizing and building Latinxs leadership and advancing cross-racial solidarity in our movement will take a bit more time and a whole lot of love. It will also require thinking beyond tried and failed symbolic approaches and embracing knowledge, insight and creativity born from struggle.

———

[1] It is important to note that, with only one exception, all of these workshops were offered in English (the culturally dominant language) and interpreted into Spanish (the culturally subordinated language), clear examples of unexamined linguistic dominance.

[2] In 2007, the East Asia-US-Puerto Rico Women’s Network Against Militarism issued a statement together with this technical dictionary on the political and colonial nature of language interpretation.

[3] Developed by Dr. Bailey Jackson, and used in modified versions by Crossroads Ministry and The People’s Institute for Survival & Beyond.

Mapping Social Identity and Power in Integral Theory

I have long resisted efforts (and requests) to translate aspects of the consciousness-in-action approach into the language and frameworks of Wilber’s Integral Theory and his AQAL (all quadrants, all levels) map. But my recent conversations with Hokyo Joshua Routhier and Sarah Middendorff, from Great Lakes Integral, got me going. So, here I’m sharing a preliminary mapping of key of where and how social identity and social power may coincide in the AQAL map.

Social ID & Power in AQAL.001

 

More interesting to me, though, is the diagram of how social identity development, multicultcultural organizational development, relational development and consciousness development (according to Wilber) correlate.

Key Lines of Development of Transformation

At some future date, I’ll be writing (or presenting) more of my thoughts on how social identity and power are central to an integral understanding and practice for development into the next stages of consciousness and human culture.

Meanwhile, here’s the recording of the great conversation with my friends at Great Lakes Integral on how social identity and social power expands integral theory and can, in effect, provide a gateway to the next stages of human consciousness and culture. And some electoral politics, of course. Check it out.

 

Race Policy and Multiracial Americans

Race Policy coverRace Policy and Multiracial Americans, edited by sociologist Kathleen Odell Korgen, in available at Policy Press (University of Bristol, UK) and at the University of Chicago Press.

This is the first book to offer a closer look at the effects of multiracial citizens on race-related policies. As the number of people who identify as multiracial is growing rapidly, policies that relate to race continue to lag behind, failing to properly account for the ways that a multiracial citizenry complicates programs aimed at mitigating the effects of racism, ameliorating past discrimination, and more. The book takes up key questions relating to the intersection of race-based policies, social welfare, education, and multiracial citizens, while drawing on tools and techniques from a range of fields to present a picture of where we’re at today and what possible steps are needed to create more effective and more inclusive policies in the future. It will be essential reading for students and scholars in sociology, political science, public policy, and other fields dealing with race relations and social justice.

Latinos and Multiracial America is my contribution to this critically important and increasingly relevant conversation. In her introduction, Kathleen Korgen says:

Raúl Quiñones-Rosado vividly describes the rich multiracial history of Latinos in the US in Chapter Three. He argues that Latinos now confront policies designed to re-racialize many into the White racial category. [He] demonstrates how this policy encourages the assimilation of many Latinos while deepening the socio-economic disadvantages of Latinos deemed “non-White” and compromising the cohesion of the Latino community in the US.

Racial Assimilation of Latinos through Race Policy

by Raúl Quiñones Rosado, Ph.D.
Latinos and Race Policy in the US (Part Three)

Black, Brown or Light 2The racial assimilation of People of Color has always been a concern in efforts to end racial oppression, to mitigate its negative impacts, and to create racial equity in US society. In contrast to integration, a group’s process of gaining admission into and occupying a legitimate place within society while maintaining their own group identity, assimilation is the process by which People of Color psychologically internalize patterns of thought and behavior of white culture while largely replacing their own cultural and racial identity. In a racist society such as ours, assimilation, whether that of individuals or of entire groups, requires that the distinct identity of those previously racialized as non-white is absorbed into whiteness. At the individual level, a Person of Color who assimilates passes for white. At the collective level, a People of Color who assimilate lose their distinct identity: their unique existence as a group dissolves into the white collective.

The assimilation of Latino/a individuals, and potentially our various collectivities, is another negative outcome of living within a culture of racial oppression and yet another challenge for antiracism and racial equity efforts. As a manifestation of internalized racial oppression, assimilation functions as a disruption within the process of racial identity development. This disruption can occur to a person born and raised within a Latino-identified family or, as is increasingly the case, to a child of mixed Latino and white parents. Assimilation is a psychosocial phenomenon that occurs mostly beyond the conscious awareness of the individual, someone who is, to some degree, distanced from their cultural heritage, unaware of their people’s history, disconnected from family roots, or disassociated from community.

At this individual level, assimilation may be mitigated or prevented through any number of liberating and transformative psycho-educational strategies—a topic beyond the scope of this writing. Yet, beyond efforts to mitigate or avoid the negative impact of assimilation on Latinos individually, it is fundamentally important and urgently necessary that we examine the impact, if not question the purpose, of race policy on a larger scale and its role in assimilating many Latinos into the white collective, rather than integrating all Latinos into US society.

As antiracism organizers and racial equity advocates work in Latino communities and build multiracial alliances to transform institutional practices and change race policy, there are multiple layers of cultural complexity to consider. Many involve how dynamics of internalized racial oppression of Latinos in the US may interact with historical patterns of structural racism in Latin American contexts—cultural, sociological and psychological backdrops of Latino identity. For example, the cultural legacy of Spain’s racist caste system[1] throughout Latin America, which like the historical racial paradigm of the US, also privileges people deemed to be white, is an issue that needs to be acknowledged and examined among Latinos. Addressing light-skin privilege, colorism, eurocentrism and their intersections with classism, sexism and nationalism within our Latin American cultures of origin and, then, how these in turn may relate to Latino assimilation and collusion with white supremacy in the US, remains a primary task of antiracism. Meanwhile, we must also examine the extent to which race policy supports or undermines efforts toward racial equity and the potential for true integration without racial assimilation into whiteness of all Peoples of Color.

Undoubtedly, an ambivalent national race policy that insists on dividing Latinos among multiple races and, then, re-racializing more than half of this segment of the population as white would surely appear to foster the process of Latino assimilation. On the one hand, current race policy ensures that Latinos are counted as a specific demographic separate from whites, African Americans and other racial groups, for the purpose of monitoring shifts in economic, political, cultural and social patterns of this group relative to other groups and toward establishing other relevant public policy. Implemented through institutions’ use of “Hispanic” and “Non-Hispanic” labels, this policy simultaneously tracks persons by the official “races”: White, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. Census reports, for example, typically show complex population tables with three data sets: (1) total population; (2) Non-Hispanic population, and; (3) Hispanic population. An additional layer of complexity, and difficulty in using the information, is that numbers for people of “two or more races” also appear in each set. Yet, on the other hand, when presenting total population by race in simplified form, the Census Bureau aggregates much of the “Hispanic” population to the “white” totals. Such application of current race policy, intentionally or unintentionally, would maintain a numerically white majority well beyond 2042 when the demographic shift has been projected to occur. Besides ensuring that whites remain the racial majority and retain the “majority rules” rationale for their continued cultural dominance, privileged social status, and political-economic control,[2] the ambivalent nature of current race policy would certainly serve to perpetuate structural racism and its corollary racial inequities.

“Hispanics” as a Policy of Racial Assimilation

The term “Hispanic” was adopted in the 1980s, a time when Latinos were identified as the fastest growing segment of the population and were, within a mere two decades, projected to numerically surpass the African American population. The adoption of this term also followed on the heels of the US Census Bureau moving away from a door-to-door census-taking process to using, starting with the 1960 Census, the national postal service to collect the raw data. A term more politically convenient, if not also seemingly more culturally fitting, than those previously used (such as Spanish, Spanish-language, and Spanish-surnamed) was deemed necessary as household occupants themselves, and no longer Census enumerators, would be the ones to identify and report the race(s) of household members and return completed forms by mail.

G. Cristina Mora, in Making Hispanics, convincingly argues that government bureaucrats adopted the term “Hispanic” with the active involvement of Latino activists and corporate media. Each of these three sectors, Mora posits, needed a simple label that could potentially reconcile the many different national identities combined under it, distinct groups often at odds with one another. Each of them needed a term that could serve their particular interests: race policy in the case of government bureaucrats; regional and national politics for Latino activists; and demographically targeted marketing for the media and their corporate clients.

To be clear, the adoption of a term that sought to create a unifying identity for peoples of Latin American origin in the US, groups often at odds with each other, was indeed a political achievement. In large measure, it reflected a major shift of critical consciousness spurred by decades—from the mid-1950s into the early 1980s—of African American civil rights and Black Power movements, then expanding into the liberation struggles of women, of American Indians, and of Latinos: the United Farm Workers, the Brown Berets, the Young Lords, and the Puerto Rican pro-independence movements, among others.

While “Hispanic” ostensibly served to unify Latinos, or at least, generate a greater sense of shared identity across Latino groups, it also advertently or inadvertently had other results in the general public psyche. To many other US Americans, the term gave people an acceptable way to collectivize Latinos, as well as a way to avoid calling us “Mexican” or “Puerto Rican,” identifiers that, in the context of post-civil rights racial narratives and emerging multicultural sensitivities of the 1980s and ‘90s, could have been considered “politically incorrect.” To many of us, while still proudly Mexican, Puerto Rican, or, increasingly, Cuban, Dominican, Salvadoran and other Latin American heritages, widespread adoption of the term “Hispanic” in popular and official discourse meant we were finally acknowledged as part of the fabric of US American society.

Yet, in the thirty-plus years since its ubiquitous adoption by public, private and non-profit sectors alike, the term “Hispanic” has also, in effect, reoriented the shared language of race throughout the general public. “Hispanic” seems to have redefined ways in which Latino identity has historically been collectively perceived and conceived, both by Latinos and by other groups. Though still resisted or outright rejected by many Latinos, widespread acceptance of the “Hispanic” label has, for all intents and purposes, functioned as a sociolinguistic reframe that has shifted US Americans’ collective subjective referents of this social identity group away from our actual origin—Latin America—stereotypically characterized as economically poor, politically unstable, ethically questionable, culturally backward, racially hybrid, and thus, decidedly, non-white. Instead, “Hispanic” has redirected our collective thinking toward Spain: European, cultured and, ostensibly, white. In effect, the pervasive use of the term “Hispanic” has not only reoriented the racial narrative of US society; it has misled it, placing it at the service of white supremacy.

It is important to consider the role of the US government in advancing the misleading reframing of Latino identity.[3] For the Census 2000, the US Department of Commerce, through its Census Bureau, would remind us that, according to official race policy as established by the US Office of Management and Budget (1997), “Hispanic/Latino/Spanish” was not to be considered a race, but rather, an ethnicity.[4] In order to reduce the high percentage of Latinos that typically would choose “Some Other Race” in the absence of a Latino category, Census responders would first indicate if they were “Hispanic/Latino/Spanish,” and if they answered “Yes”, they would then specify their national origin: Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, etc. Clearly stating that “people who identify their origin as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be of any race,” the next questionnaire item directed members of this ethnic group to identify their race based on one of five categories: White; Black/African American/Negro; American Indian/Alaska Native; Asian; and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

To be sure, in both the 2000 and 2010 Census processes, Latinos were, indeed, counted as a separate group, albeit not a racial one. Then, like today, the Federal government and its agencies needed data sets specific to this growing demographic sector, information that, in turn, can be used by policymakers and implementers in health, education, public welfare, housing, transportation, industry, retail, banking and finance, and every social, cultural, political and economic institution and system. This information is gathered presumably in order to track health, income, wealth and other indicators of well-being in our communities. And this data continues to be collected, in large measure, because of the activism of Latino advocacy groups and, more recently, the lobbying of Hispanic for-profit interest groups.

Yet, this counting and tracking of Hispanic/Latinos—still necessary because of the legacy and persistence of structural racism—is done in a way that invisibilizes the reality that Latinos have always been and still are a racialized ethnicity, a group perceived and conceived in the collective US consciousness as non-white, as People of Color. This data collection is done in a way that, in effect, steers many Latinos into being counted as white. By separating race from ethnicity as distinct categories, and asking Latinos to identify both their Latino ethnicity and their race, the percentage of Hispanic/Latinos who were counted as white by the Census increased from just under 48% in 2000 to 53% in 2010.[5]


 

[1]  Early in its colonization of The Americas, Spain created a system of castas that classified people, not only as Spanish, indio (indigenous) and negro (African), but also according to their “racial” mix: Spanish and indio, mestizo; Spanish and negro were mulato; negro and indio, sambo, etc. “Racial nomenclature was variable and dozens of labels existed,” according to Wade (2010:27).

[2] Clearly, the South African apartheid experience serves as a reminder that a numeric majority is not required for white cultural dominance, privileged socio-economic status and state control.

[3] In Making Hispanics (2014), Mora narrates how media and Latino advocacy organizations also played a key role in advancing this reframing process.

[4] I would argue that Hispanic/Latino/Spanish is a racialized pan-ethnic category, a sociopolitical construct, in effect, no different than white (racialized pan-ethnics of European origin), Black (racialized pan-ethnics of African origin), Native American (racialized pan-ethnics indigenous peoples), Asian, and other identity groups commonly referred to as races in US society.

[5] Please bear in mind that what I am saying is that many Latinos are being added to the “white population count,” not that Latinos count, matter or have value in the same way that whites do in order to actually be considered white in US society.


 

Adapted from Latinos and Multiracial AmericaRace Policy and Multiracial Americans. K. Odell Korgen (Ed.). The Policy Press, University of Bristol, UK. 2016.

Racializing and Re-racializing Latinos

by Raul Quiñones-Rosado, Ph.D.
Latinos and Race Policy in the US (Part Two)

Until very recently, Latinos have been the fastest growing segment of the US population and, at over 53 million people, they now comprise the country’s largest so-called “minority” group. What may not be commonly known, except to US Commerce Department demographers and planners in both public and private sectors, is that Latinos are an economic force with purchasing power of over $1 trillion annually. Latinos are, and have always been, a vital part of the US labor force, as well as of the US military. Of particular interest to political operatives in both major parties, Latinos also help win elections. In 2012, there were over 23 million eligible Latino voters; with an additional 800,000 Latinos turning age 18 each year, Latinos are increasingly becoming a formidable political force.

As peoples of Latin American origin who live in the United States, Latinos are not members of any singular national, ethnic or racial group. We are pluri-national: we originate from the twenty different sovereign Latin American nations, plus Puerto Rico, an unincorporated US territory. We are pan-ethnic: even within these individual nations, there are often many ethnicities or cultural groups. We are multi-racial, but not only at a macro-level in terms of the racial diversity within each nation and across the continent; we are also what I refer to as multizo[1] in terms of the large number of persons who are racially-mixed.

Contrary to perceptions that Latinos constitute a body of voluntary immigrants to the US, much like Europeans, though markedly unlike kidnapped and enslaved Africans, the fact is that people of Latin American origin are here as a result of the United States’ centuries-long policies and strategies of territorial and economic expansion. The vast majority of Latinos are of Mexican origin and, as an oft-repeated statement reminds us: Mexicans did not cross the border; the border crossed Mexicans. The US War on Mexico (1846-1848) resulted in the transfer to antebellum United States and its slave-based economy of almost half of Mexico’s national territory. With the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States of America gained possession over the northern-most part of the United Mexican States: Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California. And, of course, with possession of the lands, the US also gained control of its Mexican and Native American populations. In the case of Mexicans, the treaty granted US citizenship — a major concession to Mexico given that, as per the US Naturalization Act of 1790, citizenship was a status strictly reserved for whites, that is, people of European descent, which, clearly, Mexicans were not.

Like the northern Mexican territories, Puerto Rico is also land obtained through US military intervention in Latin America. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, US armed forces invaded Cuba and Puerto Rico, Spain’s last remaining colonies in The Americas, taking both islands as treasure of war.[2] Nineteen years later, for geopolitical purposes and against the will of Puerto Rico’s local civilian legislative body, the US imposed its citizenship upon its new subjects, conveniently allowing Puerto Rican men to be drafted into active duty in the US armed forces in World War I. And while the former Mexican states were eventually incorporated as states of the Union, Puerto Rico to this day remains an unincorporated territory—a de facto colony—of the United States.[3]

Beyond the addition of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans to the country’s population over these past 160-plus years, millions of other Latin Americans have since immigrated to the US. Most significantly, the US Latino community has also come to include people from Cuba, El Salvador, Dominican Republic and other parts of Central America and South America’s Caribbean nations, the regions of Latin America closest to and, historically, of greatest economic and geopolitical interest to the US. This steady flow of political and economic refugees from Latin America has continued as a consequence of US policy toward Latin America.

After its wars on Mexico and Spain’s colonies in the Caribbean, the US government directed its military might towards supporting US American economic interests throughout Latin America. According to a 2005 Global Policy Forum report, there have been over seventy-six US military interventions and countless covert actions in the region. These interventions, together with US business and trade agreements with Latin American governments, have resulted in what journalist/historian Juan González refers to as the “harvest of empire”: on-going waves of immigrants, documented and otherwise, from Latin America to the US, forced out of their homelands by economic and political conditions created by US geopolitical and economic interests beyond its own national borders. These geopolitical strategies were implemented in addition to other specific immigration policies established by the US in cooperation with the Latin American governments and local business interests to actively recruit laborers to supplement labor shortages in US farms, factories and mines.

Of the 53 million Latinos in the US today, about 35 percent are foreign-born. The majority of Latinos are US citizens, born and raised in this country, most over multiple generations. Growth of the Latino population, currently driven more by births here than by immigration, is a trend that is expected to continue throughout the 21st century. Already having surpassed the African American population in 2000, the US Census Bureau projects that by 2060 Latinos will comprise just under 30% of the population. “By the end of this century, a majority of the people living in the United States will trace their origins, not to Europe, but to Latin America,” suggests Juan González in Harvest of Empire: The Untold Story of Latinos in America, a documentary based on his similarly titled book.

In considering race policy, what must remain clear is that throughout this entire history, from pre-Civil War times to the present, people of Latin American origin in the US, collectively, were neither perceived nor treated as whites. Latinos, as a group, even when officially counted as white by virtue of treaty, law or policy, have suffered discrimination based on their perceived non-white racial backgrounds.[4]

Three important legal cases provide evidence of this race policy in regards to Mexicans. In 1897, Ricardo Rodríguez, a Mexican citizen of indigenous ancestry, petitioned the US Federal Court in San Antonio, Texas to become a US citizen, which was granted “despite the court’s belief he was not White,” a legal prerequisite for becoming a naturalized citizen until 1952. This rare exception was granted on the basis of US treaties with Spain and Mexico conferring citizenship to Mexicans in territories now belonging to the US. In Hernández v. Texas (1954), the US Supreme Court found that Mexican Americans were “a class apart” or “other white,” while in Cisneros v. Corpus Christi Independent School District (1970) the US Federal Court found that “Mexican Americans, as an identifiable minority group based on physical, cultural, religious, and linguistic distinctions,” warranted protections against discrimination such as those extended to African Americans as per Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

The segregation of Mexican and Puerto Rican military personnel in the US Armed Forces from WWI through the Korean War, like that of Blacks and Asians, also stands as evidence of the de facto racialization of Latinos as People of Color. Moreover, the documented and undocumented stories of Latinos and Latinas segregated into urban barrios or bordertown colonias, exploited in factories, farm labor camps, hotel rooms or restaurants, mistreated and miseducated in English-only schools across the nation, stand as unimpeachable testimony to the daily reality of being identified as a racialized “other”: other than white.

Yet in spite of this long history of racialization, race policy of the past decades has sought to de-racialize Latinos: to assert that Latinos are not to be viewed as members of a distinct racial group, but rather, should be considered members of an ethnic group who can be of any race. That is, as “Hispanic/Latino/Spanish,” we can be: White; Black/African American/Negro; American Indian/Alaska Native; Asian; and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. Or, at least, we can be counted as one of these races.

[1] From mulato (Spanish/white and Black) and mestizo (Spanish/white and Indigenous), yet inferring our multiraciality—presence of multiple races and history of racial mixing—beyond white (Spanish, other Europeans and Mid-Easterners), Black (African) and Amerindian (Taíno, Azteca, Maya, etc.) of the early colonial period, to include more recent immigrations to Latin America of Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and others from around the globe.

[2] In this war, Spain’s colonies in the Pacific, Guam and The Philippines, were also invaded and occupied by US military forces, and transferred in the Treaty of Paris of 1898.

[3] The 3.6 million citizens living in the colony cannot vote for US President and do not have congressional representation other than a non-voting “Resident Commissioner.” Puerto Ricans that join their 4 million compatriots of the diaspora on the US “mainland” do gain these basic civil rights, though only while officially resident of one the fifty states or the District of Columbia.

[4] In each census since the Mexican-American War until 1980, except for the 1930 Census, people of Latin American origin were to be counted as white, unless deemed of another race by census enumerators during in-person interviews (Rodríguez, 2000).

Adapted from Latinos and Multiracial AmericaRace Policy and Multiracial Americans. K. Odell Korgen (Ed.). The Policy Press, University of Bristol, UK. 2016.