August 11, 2013
Hispanic, Latina, Chicana, Mexican. What do these four words have in common? For the wordsmiths among you, I’m sure several answers leap to mind. Me? I’ve been identified and/or labeled with each of the four monikers at one time or another. Each is a correct description of who I am. Yet, each is so incorrect. Today’s Daily Prompt: Is political correctness a useful concept, or does it stifle honest discussion?
“Victoria, what are you? I thought you were Italian or Greek. But I grew up around Hispanics, and you sort of favor them.”
Really? You grew up around Hispanics? I bet in that barrio of your youth, none of the little brown people referred to themselves as , “Hispanic,” did they? No, not likely. Not likely because the term Hispanic is a government designed, government issued term for people of Spanish origin, or so the government tells us. The now-widely used word began appearing in the U.S. Census in 1980. So how did the ‘man’ label us prior to 1980? Silly me, it’s not important!
I am Hispanic when I fill out government and business forms. Hispanic is my government handle. Is it politically correct to call me Hispanic? Of course it is; after all, it is the word of choice for correct politicians. It’s just not my choice.
“Victoria, are you Latina? Jennifer Lopez is; I saw her on that magazine cover. Can you dance like her? All of my Latina friends are good dancers. ”
Yes, and all Latinas have rhythm. You know, just like Gloria Estefan sang, “The rhythm is gonna get you.” Latina, like its earlier counterpart, Hispanic, has fallen into favor via government intervention. The U.S. Census Bureau began including the Latino/Latina designation in the 2000 census. Great, now I’m really confused. Which box do I check? Latina? Hispanic? Who am I? Where am I?
I am Latina when I am speaking with Latinas under a certain age. I find that younger Latinas identify with being Latina rather than Hispanic. Latina is my en vogue sobriquet. Is it politically correct to call me a Latina? Of course it is; after all, it is the choice of the fastest growing ethnic group in the country. It’s just not my choice.
“You can’t be a Chicana because you don’t speak Spanish.”
This one always amused me. I dare you to find the logic in that statement because there is none. Although its roots date back further, the name, Chicano, became a political starting point for a generation of young, adult, Mexican-American’s living in the Southwest. During the 70s, Chicanos y Chicanas, marginalized by prevailing racism sweeping across the nation, adopted the once racist term and turned it on its head. A new generation, self-identified as Chicanos, used the term to fan the political flames of equality.
I am a Chicana when I wear my t-shirt that says I am. And I guess if I spoke Spanish, I could consider myself a Chicana. Chicana is my nom de guerre. Is it politically correct to call me Chicana? Of course it is; after all, it is the choice of warriors. It’s just not my choice.
“Hey Miss, you can’t be Mexican because you’re not from Mexico.”
I’ve stopped trying to explain this one. Nonetheless, Mexican identifies where my ancestors originated. It identifies my culture, our traditions and customs; it identifies one-half of who I am. I am Mexican-American. Is it politically correct to call me Mexican-American? I’m not sure. I understand that hyphenated Americans are no longer de rigueur. No matter, it may not be the choice of the masses, however, it is my choice.
Political Correctness, useful tool or discussion oppression, you decide. Hispanic, Latina, Chicana, Mexican…so many choices, what’s a girl, er, woman, no person, yes person! What’s a person to do? Peace, ~v.