The making of new peoples: Hispanizing race

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When Gunnar Myrdal published in 1944 a thousand-page summary of his investigation into the reasons for the persistence of poverty and political marginalization among blacks under the title of An American Dilemma, he provided U.S. society with a vocabulary with which to speak about its race problem. This American dilemma consisted of the struggle for Americas soul between two mutually exclusionary ideals: the noble quest for democratic inclusion, and the ignominous ideal of racial exclusion. Many of the great legal, political, social, and cultural gains in the twentieth century by African Americans and other minorities were the direct result of attempts to resolve this dilemma in favor of the noble quest for democratic inclusion. Today, however, a new American dilemma begins to dawn on the horizon. It is a dilemma that has roots in the racial history of the United States, but that at the same time points beyond race. Latinos, or Hispanics, are the people that embody this new American dilemma. In this new millennium Hispanics and Latinos will be the largest minority. They are also the poorest of the poor, as well as the most undereducated (lowest percentage of higher-education attainment), and the ones with the lowest rate of home ownership (always a measure of economic stability).1 Yet Hispanics and Latinos are being born, growing up, and arriving in the United States at a time when the state has begun to turn its back on minorities, the disadvantaged, the underclass. Hispanics are most in need precisely at the moment when less and less is being allocated to alleviate and ameliorate the harsh consequences of growing economic inequality. The dilemma that Hispanics and Latinos represent to the United States continues to be about the quest for democratic inclusion, but now denied not on the basis of race but because of other factors: language, ethnicity, class, religion, and political marginalization. Roberto Suro captured eloquently and acutely the new dilemma that we Hispanics and Latinos represent to a new America:2 “Latinos are rapidly becoming the nations largest minority group at a time when that term is quickly losing its meaning. Latino immigration can prom pt the creation of a new civil rights framework that distinguishes between two distinct tasks-redressing the effects of past discrimination and providing protection against new forms of bias-and undertakes both aggressively.�?3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHispanics/Latinos in the United States
Subtitle of host publicationEthnicity, Race, and Rights
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781136055348
ISBN (Print)0415926203, 9780415926195
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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