Pigments of Our Imagination: On the Racialization and Racial Identities of “Hispanics” and “Latinos”


Pigments of Our Imagination: On the Racialization and Racial Identities of “Hispanics” and “Latinos”


The use of the label “Latino” or “Hispanic” is itself an act of homogenization, lumping diverse peoples together into a Procrustean aggregate. But are they even a “they”? Is there a “Latino” or “Hispanic” ethnic group, cohesive and self-conscious, sharing a sense of peoplehood in the same way that there is an “African American” people in the United States? Or is it mainly an administrative shorthand devised for statistical purposes, a onesize-fits-all label that subsumes diverse peoples and identities? Is the focus on “Hispanics” or “Latinos” as a catchall category (let alone “the browning of America”) misleading, since it conceals the enormous diversity of contemporary immigrants from Spanish-speaking Latin America, obliterating the substantial generational and class differences among the groups so labeled, and their distinct histories and ancestries? How do the labeled label themselves? What racial meaning does the pan-ethnic label have for the labeled, and how has this label been internalized, and with what consequences? This chapter considers these questions, focusing primarily on official or state definitions and on the way such categories are incorporated by those so classified.


Ruben G. Rumbaut


This article is pp. 15-36 in: How the U.S. Racializes Latinos: White Hegemony and Its Consequences, edited by José A. Cobas, Jorge Duany and Joe R. Feagin. Paradigm Publishers (2009).


Paradigm Publishers




A condensed version written for the Migration Policy Institute is available (link below). It argues that the dominant "racial frame" that evolved in the United States — during the long colonial and national era of slavery and after it — was that of white supremacy. It examines the major question: How do persons classified as Latinos or Hispanics fit into the country's racial frame today?







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Ruben G. Rumbaut, “Pigments of Our Imagination: On the Racialization and Racial Identities of “Hispanics” and “Latinos”,” Anti-Racism Digital Library, accessed July 4, 2022, https://sacred.omeka.net/items/show/69.