I have signed up for two different survey websites, because I get airline miles when I take them. I’ve actually been collecting a significant amount of miles doing it, so it’s great. Also, it takes minimal effort and concentration to answer questions about what fast food restaurants I like, or whatever.
I’ve also noticed that, in preliminary questioning, I am most likely to be eligible for the study if I identify as Hispanic. Since I do identify as Hispanic, that’s not a problem, but all surveys were not created equal, and sometimes they require you to pick only one racial/ethnic designation (I recently applied for a job at a social service agency that asked if I identified as Latino; if I said yes, it wouldn’t let me continue to choose a race as well, even though Latino is defined as an ethnicity and not a race), so I can’t always fully identify myself. Anyway, on this most recent survey I did, I noticed something that I’ve actually seen on quite a few surveys that I’ve taken. The focus on Hispanic people and Spanish-speaking people is admirable and marks the fact that, even if politicians are taking the minority becoming close to the majority as a threat, business people at least acknowledge that Latinos are a big part of the United States. So I think it’s great. But questions like this, that I have been asked more than once, show that actually, Latinos are still considered “other,” not part of the American population. This, by the way, is why the melting pot theory is not only a crock, but also offensive to anyone who’s not a WASP.
(I’ve edited out the name of the company doing the survey and the stylistic things indicating which website it is, just so no one can get mad at me. But I wanted to do screenshots, since they have more oomph than quotation marks.)
I don’t know why the screenshot uploaded so tiny, but the text says, “If you had to describe yourself, would you say you are…Totally American? Mostly American? About equal Hispanic and American? Mostly Hispanic? Totally Hispanic?” So obviously, the first problem is assuming that the two identities are mutually exclusive. But been there, done that; everyone conflates the term “ethnic” as something meaning “not-white, not-Caucasian,” even though “Caucasian” doesn’t actually mean what we think it means, and even though “ethnicity” just means culture, so white people have it, too. So whatever. But also, I have a problem with that question because I’m trying to see how the data is going to be used. And also because I have a problem with considering myself “totally American,” because I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about how awful and crass and snobby Americans are, and so I do like to distance myself from that. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what they mean. They mean, “Do you consider yourself white or other?” Quite honestly, given how politics and institutions treat people of color, I do consider myself other. But I mean that in a victimization sort of way, not in the way I conduct my daily life. But then again, I’m sure in many ways, the way I conduct my daily life is indeed colored by my ethnicity. BUT SO IS EVERYONE’S. The problem is, I’m guessing the survey company doesn’t care about sociology or sensitivity and doesn’t realize that, so they want to know if I act like the typical white person or if I go around watching telenovelas and munching on chiles all day.
A couple questions later,
Let’s keep in mind that “Hispanic/Latino” does not in any way mean that you were not born in the United States. And while I do speak Spanish very well, I never answered a single question on this survey about what language I speak. Before the survey started, it had me click on “English” or “Español,” and obviously I chose English. So, even though I’d like to think the best of this company, obviously it’s not so well informed that it understands that “Latino” doesn’t actually mean one specific culture or language.
Let’s just focus on the last question. Ummm, obviously I do. I seek out lots of opportunities at organizations. And most organizations in the United States are “non-Hispanic,” whatever the hell that means. It’s not like I really have a choice. So again, I was in a quandary when answering. The truthful answer was yes. But would I like to support businesses/opportunities/events headed by people of color? Sure. Are there plenty of those? I guess. Are most of those things focused on the color/ethnicity/religion, not to otherize but to try to give people of color back what white people get from privilege? Yes. Would it be better if there were just organizations, and they could focus on whatever they wanted, and they had white people, black people, brown people, yellow people, and purple people working there together? Hell yeah.
Okay, so the last one was just the icing on the cake.
(I’ve blurred out the name of the insurance agency it’s asking me about, since that’s totally unimportant.)
I’m sorry, but when did I tell you what my culture was?
This one’s hard, because as someone who works at a social services agency, I have participated in trainings about cultural sensitivity, and I totally see the value in learning basic cultural values, social customs, etc. Obviously no culture is all-encompassing, but the term arises because there are basic similarities, and it’s helpful and also just friendly to know things, AS LONG AS YOU DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. So there’s the problem. There is a big difference between me at work, saying hello to someone and then realizing that they’re more comfortable speaking Spanish, and then switching languages, and this survey assuming that “my culture” is something so foreign and requiring so much extra care that I must need an extra special person to take care of me. Yes, companies should employ Spanish-speaking agents to cater to the many people in the United States who are monolingual Spanish speakers or who simply prefer Spanish. Does that mean everyone with the surname Rodriguez or Gonzalez feels that way? No.