30 April 2012
Rejection : Understanding Latino American Self-Identity through Tanya Golash-Boza’s “Dropping the Hyphen? Becoming Latino(a)-American through Racialized Assimilation”
For many hyphenated Americans, issues of acculturation and identity do not stray far from their thoughts. For some Latino Americans, oftentimes the issue of a hyphenated identity causes pain and confusion because of conflicting values and interests the two identities hold and their experiences may factor into their choice of identity. Some may feel closer to their American identity and others may reject it, but what motivating factors result in a tendency in either direction? A article by Tanya Golash-Boza called “Dropping the Hyphen? Becoming Latino(a)-American through Racialized Assimilation” explores a few of the reasons why.
The finding that respondents who have experienced discrimination are less likely to self-identify as American indicates that the decision of people born in the United States not to describe themselves as American is a decision made in light of experiences of exclusion here in the United States. I have argued that this exclusion is part of racism in U.S. society, and is due to the implicit whiteness in the label American. (Golash-Boza 51)
The researcher notes that for hyphenated Latinos who tend to not self-identify as American do so for they “have experience discrimination” and “exclusion.” Their experiences determine how they self-identify and Latino-Americans may equate their negative experiences with the American identity. By rejecting that identity, it may serve as a defense mechanism or a reaction against their abusers. They reject the pain they endured as “the other” for if mainstream “American”-ness entails such racial prejudice then this identity becomes undesirable based on personal experience. In a way, this action embodies a form of exclusion initiated by the bullied against the offending force. Latino-Americans “exclude” this American identity by rejecting it as a form of identification. The author also suggests that the label American has historical associations with an “implicit whiteness” and whoever doesn’t fit that definition and skin-tone do not get to assume the American identity. These “non-Americans” become subject to the racial backlash that results from this narrow judgment, which then results in those racially discriminated to reject their American identity.
Others’ perceptions strongly affect how one perceives him or herself. For the Latino@s who choose to push against the American side of their identity it seems the next logical step leads to taking refuge instead in the other half of their identity for it has not treated them with the same prejudices. Golash-Boza argues otherwise:
However, those Latinos/as who face discrimination and who are not perceived to be white are less likely to be viewed by others, and consequently themselves, as Americans. Yet, even if Latinos/as born in the United States are not Americans, they are also not Mexicans or Cubans, since they are also viewed as foreigners in Mexico or Cuba. Latin Americans […] have responded to this denial of full citizenship by fostering a new ethnic identity […] This identity is that of Latino and Latina Americans. (Golash-Boza 52)
The way Americans view and treat these Latino/as factor into how these Latino/as view themselves. It would be incorrect and unfair to blame Latino/as who reject their “American” identity for reacting in such a way. In this excerpt, Golash-Boza suggests that these Latino-Americans who rejected their American identity do not then automatically turn to their “other” ethnicity. Rather, they turn to the overall identity of “Latino and Latina Americans.” They live within the hyphenated space of two identities whether or not they accept either one or receive acceptance from either one. They cannot readily turn and accept (or gain acceptance from) their “other identity” because they still possess an American experience and as a result treated as “foreigners” by the natives. This experience of the borderland dictates how they self-identify. This new identity encompasses a large variety of Hispanics from range of Latin American countries and joins them in a shared experience of what it means to take on the role of Latino/as in the United States and how to survive in this war of identity. For Golash-Boza, this identity of Latino or Latina American incorporates the experience of discrimination faced by Latino/as from “Americans” along with the wariness “Mexicans or Cubans” may regard them with. This new identity becomes a meeting point for these experiences and helps engender a new category that accepts these Latino/as without conditions.
Golash-Boza, Tanya. “Dropping the Hyphen? Becoming Latino(a)-American through Racialized Assimilation.” Social Forces 85.1 (2006): 27-55. JSTOR. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.
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