For U.S. Latinos, defining their own racial identity can get complicated. With roots all over the world, our identities can’t always be explained by a box that says white, black, Asian, or Native American. In 2014, a study furthered conversation about what the term white Latino meant after it reported that more Latinos identified as white in the 2010 Census than they did 10 years before that. According to Latino Rebels, the responses varied, ranging from the idea that white and Latino are mutually exclusive to some saying that light-skinned Latinos’ frustrations were on par with other Latinos because they had to prove their Latinidad to everyone.
But sometimes it’s not just skin tone (or anything else about your appearance) that dictates what your experiences will be; your environment can also determine the way you are perceived. Between July 2015 and April 2016, The Whiteness Project interviewed Texans who identified as white, or partially white. Titled Intersection of I, the participants – all between 15 and 27 years old – talked about their own white privilege, white guilt, and past personal experiences. “By engendering debate about the role of whiteness in American society and encouraging white Americans to become fully vested participants in the ongoing debate about the role of race in American society, Whiteness Project aims to inspire reflection and foster discussions that ultimately lead to improved communication around issues of race and identity,” the site describes.
As infuriating as some of the anecdotes on The Whiteness Project are, talking about whiteness is an important part of understanding race as a whole. Four Latinos took on the question of what it means to be white and Latino. Here’s what they had to say:
The Whiteness Project, a multi-platform investigation into what it means to be white, is showing at the Tribeca Film Festival, as part of the festival’s Storyscapes showcase.
“In school, I would say more socially, I hang out with primarily white people,” he said. “I have mostly white friends. And when I’m taking a test or something like the ACT or something, I check the white/caucasian box… I kind of feel like the fact that I’m sometimes hiding that I’m Mexican, I feel like I’m disrespecting my mom.”
Check out what else Nick had to say here.
“If I said I’m black, people would believe me,” she said. “If I said I’m Hispanic, people would believe me. If I said I’m white, nobody would believe me because I don’t look white.”
Check out what else Amanda had to say here.
“I identify as culturally Hispanic in a lot of ways,” Alfredo said. “But as far as how I look, it’s pretty white, and I feel like I’m treated that way a lot of times.”
Check out what else Alfredo had to say here.
“My dad’s very ‘whitewashed’ if you want to call [him] that, and he’s Mexican,” Javier said. “And my stepmom is white. My mom is white, and my stepdad is white. So I’ve been raised around white people, so I completely get their mindset.”
Check out what else Javier had to say here.