The lure of whiteness and the politics of "otherness": Mexican American racial identity



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Using a “constructed ethnicity” (Nagel 1994) approach, this project employs multiple methods to explore the racial identification of Mexican Americans. The U.S. Census has grappled with appropriate strategies for identifying the Mexican-ancestry population for over a century, including the use of a “Mexican” racial category in 1930. I examine historical documents pertaining to the 1930 Census and the development of the “Mexican” racial classification, as well as how Mexican Americans in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) constructed “White” racial identities in their efforts to resist such racialization. I then explore contemporary Mexican American identity as reflected in current racial self-reporting on the U.S. Census. Finally, I conduct fifty-two in-depth interviews with a strategic sample of Mexican Americans in five Texas cities, investigating how such factors as socioeconomic status, racial composition of neighborhood, proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, social networks, nativity/migration history, Spanish language fluency, physical appearance, and political attitudes affect their racial and ethnic identifications. Results indicate a complex relationship between personal histories and local community constructions of identity that influences racial identification.