As a foreigner, I find the American race debate perplexing.
Mind you, as a foreigner, that's none of my business. If that works for Americans, by all means, carry on. Besides, don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are many historical reasons for that (some of them no doubt much better than others), reasons that a foreigner cannot understand.
That said, I cannot help feeling that the effective level of factual information on race Americans demonstrate seems to fall short of the interest on racial matters they manifest. And I'm not talking about esoteric discussions on the science of race, no siree.
Want to see what I'm talking about?
Check the chart below. Let's examine it step by step.
First things first. That data come from the US Census Bureau, corresponding to the 2010 Census. It is, in other words, a reputable and well-known source (I'll withhold the link to where I found that data a little longer).
The dark blue bar to the left is the US total population (approximately 308.75 million people) regardless of any other characteristic: counted in that total are people of all classes, occupations, income/wealth levels, education, religions, genders.
Race is another way to classify those 308.75 million. Deferring to Americans' interest on race, the second, multi-colour bar to the right reports that. It is, in other words, the breakdown of that blue bar according to race and that's why it's as tall as that first bar. (Race data are self-reported: they say how the respondents see themselves. Say, the Census reports 223.55 million white people -- the large green area -- because enough Census respondents assessed themselves -- and their dependents -- as such.)
One can see several things. The second bar (the "race bar") shows 7 categories (5 "races", mixed race, and "others"). For aesthetic reasons the chart shows abbreviations, but here are the exact labels the Bureau employs (roughly from smaller to larger proportions):
- Two or More Races
- Some Other Race
- Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
- American Indian and Alaska Native
- Black or African American
Latinos, Hispanics! Where are they?
Were they just left out? Nope. The Census does study Hispanics and they are already counted in those two bars. Here's the proof:
There are 50.48 million self-reported Hispanics (the orange bit) included in those 308.75 million people. They are nor represented as a race in the "race bar" in the first chart because the Bureau considers Hispanics an ethnic grouping, not a race.
Odd as it may sound to non-Hispanic readers, there are good reasons for that. Examine this chart:
This does for Hispanics and non-Hispanics what the "race bar" did for total in the first chart: it breaks down both categories into their race components. Because there are roughly 5 non-Hispanics for each Hispanic, instead of charting headcounts (as in charts 1 and 2), this third chart displays percentages.
Compare both bars.
I can't speak for the reader, but the first thing to strike me was that big light blue area which is present in the Hispanic bar, but is all but absent in the not-Hispanic one. It corresponds to the "others" category. Non-Hispanics seem to have little difficulty placing themselves within the 5 "race" categories (only 2.3% fell into the "Some Other Race" category); that's not true for 36.7% of all Hispanics. Roughly speaking more than one third of all Hispanics don't see themselves as members of the 5 "race" categories which work so well with non-Hispanics.
Further, Hispanics, too, are more likely than non-Hispanics to see themselves as mixed race: 6% versus 0.2% (the black area at the top), respectively.
The second thing to strike me is that the majority of Hispanics (53%) see themselves as white (dark blue area at the bottom). Yes, dear non-Hispanic readers, white. Believe it or not.
On the other hand, only 2.5% of Hispanics see themselves as black. Compare that with 14.6% for non-Hispanics.
I might be mistaken, but things may not be as simple as considering that Hispanics are to all intents and purposes equivalent to blacks or to "browns". But I'm just a foreign worker. What do I know?
This is where that data came from. Note the title.