Guessing Race

People say we need to cite more women of color in our scholarship. I have a practical question. I can guess who’s a woman from the scholar’s name. How can I figure out if she’s of color? In Hispanic studies, the name is useless in this regard.


23 thoughts on “Guessing Race”

  1. Didn’t you know? It’s now standard practice to dig up every little detail about every single scholar you cite.

    I kid. That would be a ridiculous and impractical waste of time. And then how do you know if they consider themselves to be women of color? If you think they might be, but you don’t know, do you cite them anyway? Is there a database (disregarding potential privacy issues)? If someone is not in the database, can you not cite them because they are not specially defined as a person of color?

    Shouldn’t citations be the most relevant to the topic, and not picked for the sake of being inclusive? I know for me, it would be insulting if my paper were picked solely for the sake of being a woman. Such a selection would tell me that my work doesn’t stand on its own, and that the only reason I got cited was because someone decided it would be best to be inclusive. Add to that the fact that a lot of the time academic papers (and plenty of books) just include the author’s first initial or two and the last name, and how can you guarantee that you’re citing a woman, let alone a woman of color?


    1. Among Hispanic people, the concept of POC doesn’t have much currency. And it would be the height of rudeness to ask people how they identify racially.

      One could research academics on social networks but many don’t do FB or LinkedIn.

      And that’s leaving aside the question of whether they’d welcome such inquiries. Once an administrator at my University asked me if I was Ashkenazi or Sephardic for a report he was making. I didn’t like that question at all.


      1. Come on, why are you worried about the administrators of a state institution making detailed lists of all the Jews? What could possibly go wrong?



  2. Yeah, there are a lot of cultures/regions where the white/of color line is blurry. Are pale Iranians white? Darker-skinned Greeks with some ancestors from various parts of the old Ottoman empire? Are southern Spaniards white? What if some of their family is Moroccan?

    If we say “Hispanic” is just some special category where we accept that these classifications break down, but we still insist on these classifications otherwise, then are Catalonians Hispanic and exempt from classification, or are they white? What if they have ancestors from all over the Mediterranean?


  3. Don’t you know that all Hispanics are “people of color” (read articles about actresses Eva Longoria and Sofia Vergara, both paler than Hillary) unless they’re considered evil by the media.

    Then they suddenly become “White Hispanics,” like George Zimmerman and the current Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz.


  4. I am pretty sure this is to be done according to the official categories in the US census. In which case all people of Spanish culture including those from European Spain are considered to be “People of Color” regardless of how white they are. Anybody from a predominantly Spanish speaking culture is considered a POC including people of Volga German ancestry from Argentina. So by definition anybody with a Spanish surname as well as anybody else from a Spanish speaking country is a POC. People of Middle Eastern descent except those from Spanish speaking America are considered white. So all Turks, Persians, Arabs, and Berbers that are not either Black in skin color or born in a Spanish speaking country are white. Brazilians that are not Black, Asian, or indigenous are considered white including those of Lebanese and other Middle Eastern descent.


            1. What is not true is that Hispanics are classified as “non-white” by the census, and that “People of Color” is a census category. That is what you originally claimed. The census allows for white Hispanics. This makes sense because Hispanic is a category of language, not race or ethnicity. You may be confusing these categories with other categories like “underrepresented minorities.” For example, in some contexts, Asians are minorities but not “underrepresented.”


              1. And no. I have been in Spanish departments my whole life (well, since age 16) and have never heard a white Argentine or Spaniard referred to as a POC, or refer to herself or himself as one. It has absolutely nothing to do with the census.


  5. “I don’t think POC is a census category at all.”

    It isn’t. As used in America today, it’s a political/social-justice term that simply means “everybody in the world except white people.” It’s a way of saying “non-white” without sounding exclusionary or condescending.

    But if you lump everybody in the world who isn’t white (blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Inuit, etc., etc.) together as as single group, they really have exactly one thing in common — the fact that they aren’t “white.” So then you have to define what “white” means.

    Many far-left “progressive” writers today use the terms “POC” and “white” as code words for “history of oppressed/colonized/subjugated/powerless” versus “oppressors/conquerors/imperialists/people in power.”

    So the term has as much to do with identity and victim politics as it does with race.


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