A look at ‘race’

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Here’s a fact: 71.2 percent of the population of West Liberty identified as White/Caucasian in 2010 while 52.2 percent claimed to be Hispanic/Latino.

Numbers don’t seem to add up? Well, West Liberty provides the perfect backdrop to take on a common misconception among people and the media: race.

“This is a good time to remember that Hispanic or Latino is not a race,” writes President of Hispanic Research Inc., Ricardo A. López.

In ‘Latino Opinion,’ a blog kept by Mr. López, he points out that it is not unusual to use race as a demographic classification in the United States.

Yet, Latino is not a race. In fact, there are several races and distinctions within the Latino community including white, black, native indian and Asian.

“This is a big area of confusion in the U.S. because Hispanic has been listed and often continues to be listed as a race classification in all kinds of government, business, and academic forms,” he writes.

The official U.S. race classifications are American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black and White with classifications for “Hispanic Origin” and “Not of Hispanic Origin”.

“Unfortunately, we continue to see the race question in most market research studies and marketers in this country continue to label Hispanic as a race,” states Hispanic Research Inc.

“The misconception that Hispanic is a race is so ingrained in this country that many Hispanics are confused themselves,” it adds on hispanicresearch.com.

Race is so muddled many Hispanics check “other” if Hispanic is not a category, yet, many Hispanics also check “White” or “Black” and not “Hispanic” if “Hispanic” is a category.

So what does this mean for West Liberty, a community that often finds itself in county, state and national news as one of the most diverse cities in Iowa?

Well, it’s still a diverse community. That’s according to to the Comprehensive Plan Update released by HBK Engineering last year which uses census data and its own research.

The update states that 71.2 percent of West Liberty is identified as White/Caucasian in 2010. While this may seem like a large percentage, it’s actually one of the smallest in the state.

That’s because Iowa has an estimated population of 3,046,355, where roughly 91.3 percent identifies as White/Caucasian.

That means there’s a rough 20 percent increase of the minority in West Liberty from the rest of the state, and that minority doesn’t necessarily mean Hispanic/Latino.

However, the same update states that “52.2 percent of the entire population of West Liberty acknowledged to having some Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.”

It’s the second highest percentage of Hispanic/Latino people in Iowa, behind Conesville at 63 percent. About 12 cities in the state have a percentage higher than 30 percent.

And that’s how a community that’s nearly three-quarters White/Caucasian can also be half Hispanic/Latino. It all comes down to terminology and confusion.

“In the United States, anyone with a mix that includes Black is considered Black,” adds Mr. López. “I never understood the reasoning behind this but the definition is very well documented.”

It’s the same with White or Asian, two incredibly vague terms used to categorize a huge number of people for the simple purpose of collecting data.

This doesn’t diminish the fact that West Liberty has a large Hispanic/Latino population, a fact that should be celebrated considering we’re a nation of immigrants.

It just shows that when many of us go to check the box there really is no clear universal understanding of race. Everyone’s different, yet 100 percent human being.

Since I still have your attention, what’s the difference between Hispanic and Latino. You may have noticed this article using the term Hispanic/Latino instead of one of the other.

To put it simply, Hispanic refers to language, as in if someone’s ancestry comes from a primarily Spanish speaking country.

Hispanic denotes a culture and people of countries formerly ruled by the Spanish Empire according to Deffen.com.

“This definition includes Mexico, the majority of the Central and South American countries, and most of the Greater Antilles.”

Meanwhile, Latino refers to geography, specifically to Latin America countries such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia.

While there’s overlap, there’s also several countries that can only fit onto one of the two categories. Brazil is often used as an example to prove the point, they are Latino but not Hispanic.

So, the next time someone wants to label West Liberty as a racially diverse community jump in and say yeah!

Then take a moment to give the facts.
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