Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Bit Behind The Ball

I don't mean to brag, but I definitely presaged this Matt Yglesias post by about two years.


The Gaucho Politico said...

The evolving definition of whiteness is hardly a new phenomenon. As whiteness has been a dominant characteristic or description for average americaness the ethnic groups that have integrated with the dominant cultural norms have, over time, come to be accepted as "white". Light skin helps too.

Superdestroyer said...

ACtually, the move is the other way. As places like Universities are evaluated in way such as Hispanic graduation rates, the easist thing for those universities (and employers, governments,etc) is to reclassify as many whites as possible as Hispanic.

If you wold visit a place like Albuquerque, you will see that many professional women have names like Smith-Lujan. When they married nordic looking Mr. Smith, they did not want to give up the benefits of being Hispanic. HOwever, when Mrs. Lujan (Nee Smith) marries, it is to her advantage to drop the anglo name and adopt the Hispanic husband's name.

Anonymous said...

Yeah but your post opens on Cheryl Harris whereas he starts by talking about Karen O. from YYY. Cool point balance does not favor Debate Link (and posting Linkin Park lyrics doesn't help).

PG said...

Superdestroyer, are you aware that there's a convention among many Spanish speaking cultures for people to take both parents' surnames and for Spanish women not to change their names at all upon marriage, such that a "Hispanic" named Maria Smith-Lujan actually might have her maiden name?

David Schraub said...

Cf. Ian F. Haney Lopez.

Of course, Superdestroyer's comments virtually never come with supporting evidence (occasionally, they come with links to irrelevant information and/or anecdotes, but the concept of a "warrant" is way beyond his limited cognitive faculties).

Superdestroyer said...


I grew up in a town that is majority mexican-american. I went to college in Texas. I never meant a married mexican-american woman who took both her husbands name along with her maiden name. It always seemed that the maintaining of the Hispanic maiden name was reserved for Mexican-American women who had married anglo men. I also notice that anglo women always took the Hispanic last name.


What kind of reference would be appropriate. It is not like any college professor or government agency is going to study how people game the racial spoils systems. About the best that could possibly find is the large number of problems that 8a contractors have gotten into trying to obtain and maintain small, disadvantage minority contracts.

You should look up the former dean(?) of the Ohio State University law school who wrote a book about being a half white/ half white child in West Virginia. Of course that same legal educator married a white woman. I have always wondered what his daughters put on their college applications for race.

chingona said...

being a half white/ half white child in West Virginia

Is that a joke or a typo?

Here in Tucson, which also has a strong chicano culture, it's been my experience that Mexican and Anglo women hyphenate vs. keeping their own names vs. taking their husband's names at about the same rates, regardless of whether they marry Mexicans or Anglos. And the breakdown occurs more along professional and educational lines, the same way it does everywhere. There certainly are many, many Mexican families in Tucson with Anglo (or Irish or German - most famously the Ronstadts) last names.

Lastly, a woman can prefer to keep a marker of her ethnic identity - in the form of her name - without trying to "game the system." I think I probably would have kept my name anyway, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that one reason I felt particularly attached to it is that my husband's name is a particularly generic white American name. I wanted to keep that marker of my identity.

chingona said...

And more germane to the post, I'm sure the lawyers and law students among you already are familiar with this case, but I just recently learned (thank you, PBS) about Hernandez v. Texas, which revolved very much around whether Hispanics were white or not. For housing, for schooling, for public accommodations, they were not. But when it came time to select a jury, it was perfectly acceptable to seat an all-white, non-Hispanic jury to judge a Hispanic defendant because Mexicans were white.

David Schraub said...

Actually, SD, there is some literature on the phenomenom you purport to be talking about -- it just doesn't say what you want it to be (go ahead, I wait while you wail about TEH CONSPIRACY OF TEH LIBRUL ACADEMY). It notes that there are plenty of White folks who try and dodge out of their place in America's racial hierarchy by citing some distant non-White ancestor ("I'm part Cherokee!" -- it's nearly always Cherokee). The trick is that these folk identify in every which way as White -- and expect society to treat them as White in every form except when it comes to remedial programs designed to counteract the disadvantages which accrue to non-Whites.

It'd be one thing if all these "part-Cherokees" actually identified as Native Americans throughout their lives. Then we'd actually be seeing some support for your argument that there is a flight away from Whiteness. But that's not what happens at all.

Superdestroyer said...


The Washington Post had an opinion column by a member faculty of the US naval Academy who worked on admissions. He has several stories about how applicants tried to game the racial spoils system.
But one-eighth was enough, and in any case we later learned we couldn't even ask about the percentage. This led to apparent howlers like the student with an un-Hispanic last name attending the flossiest private school in his part of Texas, who identified himself as Hispanic and received preferential treatment.The article is several years old and shows that people are willing to game the racial spoils systems. Image how the children of the elite blacks in DC benefit from putting that they are African-American on college and professional school applications even though they cannot claim to have been harmed by racism in the U.S.

And Yes, I have read about the adoption of bogus American Indian hertiage by whites. The 2000 census had twice as many American Indians as the 1990 census.

Superdestroyer said...

oops, forgot to give the link

David Schraub said...

I know a half-Hispanic woman with the last name of "Harvey". It's not that difficult, once you realize that there are (gasp) interracial marriages (and, contrary your above assertion, the norm of adopting the father's name is still strong. Oh, and that not all Hispanic persons families are poor).

That link certainly elucidates some of the practical difficulties of administering an AA program, though the author overstates them and the one story you cite which probably isn't even a "howler" at all hardly warrants your above claims (it does, however, add another data point to my prediction of "irrelevant information and/or anecdotes").

Superdestroyer said...


The problem with any racial set aside program is there are no clear definition of what it means to be black, Hispanic, Native American, etc.

As the NY Times wrote several years ago,

If a program is set up to benefit those who have suffered from a legacy of slavery does not mean that they will actually get to benefit. If schools openly let immigrants take advantage of a program set up to help African-Americans,

Also, if you look at the book" Mixed RAce America and the Law"

There is an entire chapter of taking advantage of affirmative action that was referred to as box checking.

PG said...


"And Yes, I have read about the adoption of bogus American Indian hertiage by whites. The 2000 census had twice as many American Indians as the 1990 census."

Are you aware that the 2000 census was, rather famously, the first census that allowed people to check multiple boxes to identify their race? That means that people who, when required to pick a single race in 1990, were not picking Native American, but when given the option to indicate that they had multiple racial ancestries, did so. This would seem to refute the thesis that people were identifying primarily as Native American (at least in 1990) when they had only some NA ancestry.

"If a program is set up to benefit those who have suffered from a legacy of slavery does not mean that they will actually get to benefit."

Which program is that? Certainly any such program would have to eliminate affirmative action for Latinos and Native Americans, as they didn't really live under slavery in the United States. I think you'll find that in the real world, affirmative action programs have multiple goals and intents. I certainly don't know of any affirmative action admissions policy intended solely to remedy the ills of slavery.