identity politics race

Census 2010: What Race Should Latinos Choose?

Check “American Indian” And Write In “Mestizo” Or “Unknown” As Tribal Affiliation

Census 2010: (8) Hispanic Origin vs (9) Race

arts download identity race video

‘Embracing Ambiguity’ Exhibits Self-Portrait, Race Cube, Crayola Monologues

Three of my pieces (Self-Portrait, Race Cube, Crayola Monologues) were included in the group exhibit "Embracing Ambiguity: Faces of the Future" at the Cal State Fullerton Main Art Gallery from January 30 to March 3.

history race

Racial History in the Making

Although it’s been said many times before, I can’t help dwelling on how definitive this moment is in the cultural history of the United States. A black family now lives in the White House. The multiracial face of a nation truly represents the diversity of its people.

No, this moment won’t solve racial inequality or erase a history of injustice. But it is a blossom of hope, a testament for future generations not to give up. The final chapters in the rulebook of race and power are undone with the image of a brown-skinned president.

Official Portrait of President Barack Obama

culture crit race

U.S. Census Bureau Race Categories

Part of my graduate thesis dealt with the history of race and the complicated nature of categorization. I’ve always been curious about the U.S. American category options and how they’re used. And to my surprise, our address was randomly selected for a U.S. Census Bureau survey. On the second page, we get questions about race and ethnicity:

U.S. Census Bureau Race Categories

Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino? Mark (X) the “No” box if not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino.
[ ] No, not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino
[ ] Yes, Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano
[ ] Yes, Puerto Rican
[ ] Yes, Cuban
[ ] Yes, other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino — Print group.

What is this person’s race? Mark (X) one or more races to indicate what this person considers himself/herself to be.
[ ] White
[ ] Black or African American
[ ] American Indian or Alaskan Native — Print name of enrolled or principal tribe.
[ ] Asian Indian
[ ] Chinese
[ ] Filipino
[ ] Japanese
[ ] Korean
[ ] Vietnamese
[ ] Other Asian — Print race.
[ ] Native Hawaiian
[ ] Guamanian or Chamorro
[ ] Samoan
[ ] Other Pacific Islander — Print race below.

When I was in high school, I remember being confused while filling out race information on standardized tests. The options have changed quite a bit since then, with more specific Asian options. The Latino category has become an ethnicity in addition to a race.

Question: In what race category would you put Rosario? Not white, black or a specific American Indian tribe. I’m stumped.

Mi Dama

culture crit race


Every time I go to the bank for anything that requires a conversation with a person who isn’t behind an inch of bullet-ready glass, I seem to get the same lady. She added Rosario to my accounts after the wedding, ordered new checks, and wired money to an escrow company. She’s always been courteous. She keeps a professional distance, not asking more than the necessary questions.

Tall and trim, large brown eyes, long brown hair, medium to light brown skin. She’s got a mysterious look and a subtle accent. But it’s not a Spanish accent so it has me guessing Brazilian.

Today, I walk into the bank, write my name on the clip board and sit in a chair just firm enough to be unwelcoming. I notice my usual helper is with someone else. A guy walks toward and past me saying “I’ll be with you in one sec.” Before he returns, she finishes with the older gentleman at her desk and calls me over.

As she’s entering information into a screen I can only see the back of, a co-worker says goodbye and asks when she’s taking her day off. “I’ll be off Thursday because I’ll be doing the Latin festival.” I jump in, “The Latino Film Festival? Will you be working at a booth or something?” “Yeah,” she explains, working a table for opening accounts.

Counting on her accent not being Spanish, I ask what she thinks of the term “Hispanic.” She tells me she’s often asked to fill out forms at work that show they’re hiring a diverse workforce, but she always fills in “other.” “I’m from Brazil and I speak Portuguese, so I’m not Hispanic. Here they think you’re all the same. In Brazil, you call it by your color: white, black or in-between. In Brazil I’m white,” she explains.

“Do your Mexican clients ever get upset you don’t speak Spanish?” She says they get frustrated, not angry. “They do get angry with this other guy who is third generation Mexican-American ’cause he doesn’t speak Spanish. You know, he’s like, get angry at my parent’s; it isn’t my fault.”

She hands me the receipt and the transaction is over — just in time to keep me from embarrassing myself by regurgitating my thesis.

borders download music race video


One of my favorite songs about América (yes, that accent means I’m refering to the continent) is a song by Chilean hip hop group Tiro de Gracia called “América” from their album Retorno De Misericordia. Listen here and read along:


Tiro de Gracia

The song begins by describing América as a place of corruption, colonization, corporate exploitation, dictators, murderers.

América tierra vendida, explotada y herida,
América con corrupción, malos trabajos,
explotación, educación, racista, clasista,
hay muchos blancos elitistas
América con dictadores, asesinos
traficantes, mal nacidos
América mi tierra en pie de guerra
América con genocidios
por colonos no bienvenidos
América con Colón igual
muerte destrucción
América con héroes aunque el gobierno los niegue
América con mucha gente inconciente
América con muy pocos inteligentes
América con deforestación
que es igual a la tierra, muerte destrucción

The chorus then states “This is América. When God made Eden, he thought of América.”

América América esto es América
América América esto es América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América
América América esto es América
América América esto es América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América

The music and lyrics shift to describe the beauty of América, the people and rich culture.

América tierra de sabor
rimas salchis amador amor
mi tierra y cultura yo Lengua Dura
dura mi gente morena, pelo negro
yo te respeto te amo
América India JAH te bendiga
mi América Pacha Mama esta es mi cama
recuerda que el Perú es igual que tí
who are you bu umbudú guerito explotador
mama la pinga por favor

The song is scattered with references to the white racist colonizer and exploiter (You know that’s why I like it). It’s an ode to the good and the bad, a realistic portrait of a truly complicated landmass.

Dedico esto para tí
porque soy de aquí
con todo el corazón
soy tu caparazón acción
que pocos toman
porque mucho alcohol toman
recuerda que eso a los mapuches hundió
la falsa religión también la muerte apoyó
yo hablo de Historia y Geografía de tierra
y aunque a los maricas les duela
como un dolor de muelas
América suelo y tierra, sudor y escuela

This is the song I often think of when I hear people talk about being “American” in the U.S. I know a lot of people think of themselves as “Americans” but are unaware that others who drink Coca Cola but will never visit Disneyland also consider themselves “Americanos” in the continental sense. The saddest part is that many U.S. Americans mistake the country’s economic power for cultural superiority to the Spanish-speaking Américas, making them unworthy of seeing eye-to-eye as neighbors.

* * * * * * *

About a week ago, I was thinking about writing something up about the song, and on the TdG website (a web disaster, btw) I found the video for “AméricaAmérica,” which I had never seen. Unfortunately, the file took 20 minutes to download… so I figured I might as well upload it somewhere so it can get more access. Out of respect, I thought I should ask. So I did. I sent them an email asking if they didn’t have any problems with me uploading it to youtube. It took a week to get a response, but I got one (which contained the JPG I posted above). Viktor is the group’s Email Manager:


Vaya nuestro mas afectuoso saludo y deseos de paz y respeto para todos los seres humanos. Puedes usar el video de la forma que quieras sin uso comercial …. difundelo y todo lo que necesites …. quedamos a tu servicio.

Adjunto grafitti de la banda

Crew TDG


I immediately went to upload the video and found someone else had uploaded it while I was waiting for permission. I can’t say I’m any worse off for asking; it is nice to know they care enough to respond. Unfortunately, the video itself is a bit of a let down. From their lyrics, I expected a bit more artistic layering than what they came up with. The song still stands strong, and despite some of the rockstar cliches, they did slip in a few smart scenes and made it clear they are having a good time doing what they do.