The article “America’s Problem of Race: The Black and Latino Man Divided by a Common African Ancestry” by Harris focuses on the discussion of the contemporary racial issues in the United States. The author argues that there is a pertinent issue of structural racism both against African-American and Hispanic men. Her major point is that both minorities, in fact, constitute one racial category, and the acceptance of that fact contributes to the fight against racism in the United States.
The article employs a qualitative methodology by providing a range of historical examples of discrimination and inequities in various domains. In particular, Harris refers to the situation in education, housing, and health care. To provide one example, she notes that “…Institute of Medicine (2003) report revealed the disproportionate affliction of health and health care disparities on minorities and especially on African Americans.” Upon presenting the historical background of the issue, the author turns to the discussion of the contemporary racism. The article’s emphasis is clearly put on the racist practices of law enforcement agencies. I think this is a major limitation with regard to methodology and evidence presented in the article. It is questionable why the author offers a cross-sector overview of the historical background but limits the modern-day discussion to one specific area.
The essential part of the article is the criticism towards the divide between Black and Latino men. It is important that the author acknowledges the different socioeconomic contexts, in which the two minorities came to the United States: “…one taken forcibly from the African motherland for the sole purpose of enslavement by the Europeans, the other arriving voluntarily as an immigrant to seek economic opportunities.” Ultimately, the author bases her view of the two minorities belonging to one group on the critical race theory, questioning the category Hispanic or Latino as an appropriate ethnic identifier. By resorting to such criticism, Harris inevitably places her publication in the domain of racial identity development.
It is important to note that the category of Latino is largely an umbrella term. It is a pan-ethnic identity that covers a broad range of subgroups and different countries of origin. Thus, the process of identification as ‘Latino’ or ‘Hispanic’ is very complicated. For example, the Ruiz model of self-identification involves five stages: causal, cognitive, consequence, working through, and successful resolution. (Mio et. al, 2016) Interestingly, Harris gives very little weight to the element of self-identification as such. She expressly notes, with regard to the Latino man, that “no matter his quest at self-identification, he cannot deny his African ancestry”. I find this a far-reaching and even provocative statement. The author bases her conclusions on the grounds of shared ‘otherness’ in Latino and Black men, their immigrant history, and, to a lesser degree, their socioeconomic situation. But these arguments do not explain the common differences of Latino and Black men from Asian Americans, for example.
Mio, Barker, and Rodriguez attribute significant relevance to self-identification in the questions of structural racism. In fact, in the context of minority groups, including racial minorities, self-identification is an especially complex process in comparison to the American mainstream. For the reason of racist experiences, minorities can be reluctant to clearly identify themselves as belonging to a particular group. Both African Americans and Latinos face common issues in the societal context because of the physical differences perceives as non-mainstream in the culture. (Mio et. al, 2016) However, there is no evidence to support that any traits, which is different from the mainstream, are alike among themselves.
All things considered, Harris’s apparent hostility towards the relevance of self-identification is largely motivated by her appeal to the critical race theory. However, this academic does not fully justify her unsubstantiated arguments with regard to treating Latino and Black men as a single racial category.
- Mio, J. S., Barker-Hackett, L., & Rodriguez, J. (2016). Multicultural psychology: Understanding our diverse communities. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.