28 March 2011 ~ 0 Comentarios

Fifty million

The U.S. census has produced the figure of 50 million “Hispanics.” Two thirds of that human mass are of Mexican origin. Apparently, the definition of Hispanic comes from the language they speak or their ancestors spoke, or from the family patronymic.

A gentleman surnamed Pérez, a fourth-generation American who speaks not a word of Spanish, is a Hispanic. On the other hand, my friend Patterson, a brilliant professor of philosophy, a black Cuban who lives in Miami and speaks English with a very strong accent (“patriotically poorly,” as Unamuno wanted us to speak foreign languages) is not exactly a Hispanic in accordance with the census. But he’s also not an African-American. I don’t know which box on the census questionnaire Patterson checked.

The U.S. census is a conceptual absurdity. For instance, actress Jennifer López, of Puerto Rican origin, is Hispanic. However, actress Cameron Díaz, a descendant of Cubans, is not. Why? Impossible to know.

There’s also something of a “strategic identity” that is voluntarily assumed. Because the authorities in Washington have engaged in this absurd task of classifying society in various manners (by the color of the skin, by the surnames, by the geography, by the ethnicity), those who are classified learn to use their purported identity whenever it suits them.

For example, the five talented children of a couple I know – a male and four females – white, intelligent, from the higher middle class, born in the United States, fortunately blessed with a Hispanic surname, used this flimsy factor to gain access to good universities, preferential loans and the bureaucratic protection that benefits minorities.

The four women – married to U.S. Americans of Irish origin – acquired their husbands’ surnames. They and their descendants have now disappeared from the Hispanic census.

There is a basic contradiction between the legal concept of the American nation and the census the country conducts every 10 years. Supposedly, the United States is a legally egalitarian republic that does not take into account the sex, race, origin, religion or culture of those who live voluntarily subjected to its Constitution.

The State conceived by the founding fathers was based on that premise. With time, some scholars began to talk about the “constitutional patriotism” as the great cohesive factor of society. To be an American was simply to place oneself under the rule of law.

The Census, however, from the perspective of the mainstream – those 200 million white, non-Hispanic Americans – capriciously (and perhaps unconstitutionally) classifies the remaining 110 million – African-Americans, Hispanics of all races, Asians and other residual creatures of difficult taxonomy – without pausing to observe that its own definition changes with time.

What is the “white-non-Hispanic” category that occupies two thirds of the census? Several decades ago, the Italians, Irish and Jews suffered great discrimination and were not considered exactly as” white by the dominant stream, founded on the prejudiced outlook of a culture that was originally English-German-Dutch.

With time, however, the ranks of the whites opened and absorbed other people who were eager to blend into the melting pot of the central stream of U.S. society.

The President of the United States himself is an enigma to the Census. Why is he an African-American if his mother was white and he lived most of his life in a very exclusive and predominantly white milieu? Why not a European-American? For the purpose of collectivity and his work as chief of State, what real meaning does President Obama’s genetic composition have?

There’s no question that it is important to survey societies, to learn their material living conditions, identify their lacks and needs and make note of their changes, but it is foolish to introduce in the poll subjective factors impossible to ponder, forever anchored in prejudice.

Contrary to what one might think, these classifications, far from accelerating the integration of immigrants into a healthily homogeneous society, only prolong the differences.

I’ve told this many times, because it seems to me to be a precious example. In” Derso Uzala, the film by Akira Kurosawa, when Dersu, a Chinese nomadic hunter, is asked of what country he is a citizen, he stares in puzzlement and answers: “I am a human being.”” That’s the only important fact. [“©FIRMAS PRESS]


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