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FT_15.06.03_califProjectionsShare Hispanic as a catchall is a ridiculous term. I was thinking about this a few days ago when I saw this article, Google’s staff worldwide still overwhelmingly white and Asian men, where it actually notes the underrepresentation of “Hispanics.” Why does this matter exactly for an international corporation like Google? Presumably people of Middle Eastern descent (and no, I don’t count Ashkenazi Jews who are not Israeli as Middle Eastern!) are also underrepresented. But through an American prism having a surname from the Iberian peninsula really, really, matters* (also, it can transform people who are 100% white into underrepresented minorities; e.g., a friend who is the grandchild of Jewish refugees to Mexico who proudly checks Latino on demographic boxes to gain diversity points). The term arose almost by happenstance during the Nixon administration in the early 1970s. Though at least unlike the term “Asian American” there is some sort of cultural-historical coherency, as it generally connotes people of Latin American provenance, who are shaped by the events and migrations after 1492.

In any case, I just want to point to a Pew piece today, Will California ever become a majority-Latino state? Maybe not. The key to remember is that the sensitivity to assumptions is a major issue with all ~50 year projections. And yet the news media, and the general populace, tends to take these extrapolations as fact. “Proven.” It might strike you as ridiculous that seven years can radically overturn earlier initial conditions and qualitatively change predictions such as the “inevitable Hispanic majority” in a state as marinated in Latino culture as California, but that’s the takeaway, it is ridiculous. One should have only marginally more confidence in this projection than the one from 2007.

Remember, historically inevitable forces have a way of being not inevitable. History over timescales that mortals care about tends to be highly contingent. We make our own history. It does not proceed as the tides rise and fall and the sun marches across the sky.

* Latino is often preferred by some as it is more inclusive of Brazilians.

• Category: Ideology, Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Hispanic 
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"