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Doctoral Student Esther Terry's "Class, Race, or Ethnicity Apart?"

Excerpted from Esther Terry's recent article, "Class, Race, or Ethnicity Apart?: Changing Whitness and Counting People of Mexican Descent" on the peer-reviewed website US History Scene:

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In June 2013, Sebastien de la Cruz sang the National Anthem for Games 3 and 4 of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals in San Antonio. In July 2013, Marc Anthony sang “God Bless America” at the Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game. Both de la Cruz and Anthony are U.S. citizens; the family of de la Cruz descends from México, and Marc Anthony’s family from Puerto Rico. Social media backlash labeled both of them Mexican and indicated neither belonged as U.S. nationals. The United States Census currently categorizes both performers as ‘Hispanic/Latino.'

This heated debate over who ‘belongs’ to the United States, who is worthy of being called American, shows a longstanding contention over geography and history, race and national belonging. México, after all, once included the present-day southwestern United States. Before Mexican independence, imperial Spain claimed these lands. And before that, the indigenous peoples of Anáhuac, Mogollon, and Diné.

Neither Marc Anthony nor Sebastien de la Cruz is a Mexican national, even though the backlash pejoratively labeled them as such. The usage of Mexican in the backlash could refer to nationality or to race. Twentieth century battles over racialized school segregation policies and U.S. Census categories reveal an equally contentious history fought by people of Mexican descent over race and national belonging.

“We did not cross the border, the border crossed us.”

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Read the full article here