Ethnicities and lables (outside observation)

JOdel at aol.com JOdel at aol.com
Sun Nov 9 17:42:09 EST 2003


> And I thought 'Latino' or 'Latina' only referred to people whose background 
> was from Latin America - which doesn't include Mexico, does it?
> 

It does. The term is *applied* to anything south of the USA borders. The 
accuracy of this application is of no concern to anyone. I think the distinction 
is that   'hispanic' includes (and implies) recent European Spanish ancestry 
which rarely is applicable. Not a few of the people labled 'hispanics' are from 
virtualy pure Mexican and South American indian stock.

One term you rarely hear any more is 'chicano' which was reasonably common in 
the '60s. 'Spanish surname' were the popular weasel words adopted briefly by 
officialdom around the same time. That didn't last terribly long, and chicano 
was rapidly tainted by too close an association with "poor" and "ignorant". I 
think its heyday was during Cesar Chavez's UFW agitating where it was used 
interchangably with 'bracero'. Hispanic seems to have settled down as the default 
official term, but Latino/Latina is popular in use, distinguishing new-world 
'hispanics' from "Latins" from southern Europe.

As to the verious terms for black. When I was groweing up the polite term was 
'colored people'. 'Negro' was an official term. The impolite terms were 
leigon, of which the n-word was only one and not the ugliest. 'Black' was one of 
the impolite terms, but somewhat toward the less objectionable end of the scale.

Along about the '60s the "Silent Generation" started hitting the age of 
midlife crisis and despairing that they were growing old before they ever were 
fully "in charge" of their own lives. Accordingly, they began to loudly and 
publiclly question the social contacts that they had signed 20 years earlier without 
reading the fine print. Once it was clear that questioning the status quo was 
now allowed, the Boomers, now hitting their late teens and early 20s, weighed 
in just on general principles, much louder and without any of the Silents' 
sense of decorum.

What is now refered to as the 'black' community had always had good reason to 
keep its head down and to draw as little attention to itself as possible. 
Accordingly, the only valid "society" was percieved to be "white" society, and, 
consequently, those of the highest status within 'black' society were those 
individuals who were the least 'black'. 

The Silent Generation's crowning achievement was the Civil Rights movement 
which gradually overturned the legal constraints which had historically kept the 
black community in a subordinate position within their own country. 

With the removal of the bona-fide legal restrictions placed upon black 
citizens merely because they were percieved as being black (it was always more a 
matter of color than of biologicaly trackable race), Boomer-generation blacks, 
along with their white counterparts began adopting the confrontational stance 
common to most of their generation at that point in time. Most of the Boomers' 
favord methodology deployed in the service of this stance was inflamitory 
language. Anyone who lived through the '60s will remember that this was the time in 
which all the words that everyone was brought up to regard as unspeakable in 
mixed company was routinely shouted on street corners and in every 
demonstration.

One of the more wholesome insights made by young black Boomers was that there 
was nothing whatsoever *wrong* with being black. "Black is Beautiful!" they 
shouted. And rather than emulate their parents' and grandparents efforts to 
tone down their 'blackness', they let their hair frizz and adopted what they 
liked from primitive art and loud colors which their mothers, guided by the rules 
of majority society, would not have considered "in good taste".

Non-black society had a hard time adjusting to how it was suposed to respond 
to this. Not the least in figuring out what one was now supposed to call these 
'colored people' which would offend nobody. There was a period in which it 
flailed about alternately adopting and rejecting the offical 'negro', a brief, 
abortive affair with 'Afro-American' (which was regarded as unfair to wholely 
African imigrants) before finally capitulating and settling (with an apologetic 
look toward the older generation) upon 'black'. 

Well. That was over 30 years ago and evidently the term is no longer trendy 
and radical any more, and we have to figure out something that is. 
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