One drop of Hispanic blood

One drop of Hispanic blood makes a student Hispanic, according to U.S. Education Department regulations that take effect this year. Students of non-Hispanic mixed parentage will be classified as “two or more races,” which some says lumps together those who are likely to be disadvantaged (black and American Indian) and those who are not (white and Asian).

The new standards for kindergarten through 12th grades and higher education will probably increase the nationwide student population of Hispanics, and could erase some “black” students who will now be counted as Hispanic or as multiracial (in the “two or more races category”). And reclassifying large numbers of white Hispanic students as simply Hispanic has the potential to mask the difference between minority and white students’ test scores, grades and graduation rates — the so-called achievement gap, a target of federal reform efforts that has plagued schools for decades.

The New York Times’ Room for Debate asks: How should students of mixed ancestry be classified?

Not at all, responds Shelby Steele, a Hoover Institution fellow.

Civil rights leaders don’t like this ruling because they are in the business of documenting racial disparities. In our culture mixed-race children do not carry the same level of entitlement as blacks. Giving them their own category reduces the number of blacks and, thus, the level of entitlement that civil rights groups can argue for.

Identity politics is a cynical and dehumanizing business that, in the end, helps no one. Better to eliminate all such categories and leave race and identity in the private realm.

Race still matters, writes Georgetown’s Anthony Carnevale. His research shows that “being Black still has independent and powerful negative effects on educational opportunity, quite separate from language and class barriers.” That is, blacks do significantly worse on tests even when socioeconomic factors are considered.

People who look black are treated differently.  Other mixed-ethnicity people usually blend in, certainly where I live in California.

My new nephew celebrates his one-week birthday today. Like his sisters, he’s one-quarter Hispanic in ancestry, but nobody will know that by his name or appearance or Spanish fluency. His first cousins are one-quarter Hispanic, one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Italian and one-quarter German/British, to simplify.  They are middle-class Americans.

If we’re going to classify kids by race, then we should know who’s black-Hispanic and who’s Asian-Caucasian and who’s Samoan-Irish-Cherokee. Computers can do this in nanoseconds. But wouldn’t it be nice to stop.

About Joanne


  1. My great-grandmother was Latina (her family had lived in Arizona prior to it becoming part of the U.S.) but apparently took great pride in her family being “Spanish” rather than mestizo. My grandma had fair skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, and a Scottish last name. It would be absurd to my mind to consider her anything other than “white”.

  2. Soapbox0916 says:

    Well I have to follow HUD where I work which was based on Census. Is the 2010 Census changing things or has the Ed dept got off the deep end again?

    Hispanic is not considered a race. Hispanic versus Non-Hispanic is an ethnic classification and NOT a racial classification.So in the case of CW’s grandmother, her ethnicity could be considered hispanic, but her race would be white There are two separate categories that one has to answer, both ethnicity and race.

  3. Race is a social construct. How we treat people based on our perception of their race is a social creation. If we’re worried because dark-skinned students aren’t treated as well as others, how about we just measure the darkness of everyone’s skin and classify them that way? Sounds outlandish, but since most of us are very, very bad at determining a person’s supposed race just by looking at them, we either have to accept the current flawed way of thinking or think of something else.

    I believe it would be wrong to completely eliminate categories just because it would be hard to detect unfairness based on appearances if we did so, but we need to categorize based on how people are perceived rather than on their actual DNA. Discrimination and lower expectations are based on perception, not what’s actually in a person’s genes.

    Or, we could just start treating each other as fellow humans, but that might be asking too much.

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    “People who look black are treated differently. Other mixed-ethnicity people usually blend in, certainly where I live in California.”

    I live, I think, in the same area as Joanne, and sadly what she says is true. For example, a black teenage boy driving around my neighborhood is going to get a different reaction than a non-black teenage boy. A black runner on my street will be treated differently than a white runner.

    I can’t now find the link, but I read last year about some filmmakers setting up a scenario to see if restaurant patrons would intervene if they saw a case of threatened domestic violence. It went roughly as follows: A male and a female actor would be sitting at a table in a restaurant, and the man would loudly threaten the woman. We’d see whether the other patrons would intervene. Short answer: they’d intervene if the woman was white, but not if she was black.

    In a similar case, some filmmakers at What Would You Do? filmed young male actors ostentatiously trying to steal (planted) bikes in a park. If the “thief” was white, he was unmolested, even when he was standing there cutting the chain and admitting the bike wasn’t his. If he was black, people called the police at once.

  5. The Indian tribes have their own rules. Years ago, I knew a college librarian who was originally from Oklahoma. Like many Oklahomans, he was part Indian, 1/4 or 1/8 or something like that.

    He had married a Jewish woman. They had three sons. Two were officially members of his tribe; the third wasn’t.

    Why not? Because between the births of their second and third sons, the tribe changed the rules, increasing the blood quantum, as I believe it is called.

    That may have had real consequences for the oldest son. He went into the Foreign Service, and I have always wondered whether he would have been accepted if had not been, officially, an Indian. He was bright, but the competition for those places is fierce.

  6. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Hmmmm. Isn’t that…. interesting.