One-third of Afro-Latinos checked ‘white’ on the census. BLM, racism drove others to embrace Blackness 

About 6 million Afro-Latinos in the U.S. make up 2% of the adult population and 12% of the adult Latinos, research shows.

Loading the player...

More than 6 million people in the United States identify as Afro-Latino, according to new data from The Pew Research Center, who note that the life experiences of Afro-Latinos are shaped by their race, skin tone and other dynamics, including their country of origin. 

The research found that the 6 million Afro-Latino adults in the U.S. make up 2% of the adult population and 12% of the adult Latinos. However, many do not identify as Hispanic — instead embracing a Black identity. 

Afro-Latino poet Melissa Dunmore discusses the topics of identity in her poetry outside her Phoenix home. (Photo: Monica D. Spencer/The Republic/USA TODAY NETWORK)

On the census, Hispanic identity is part of a two-step question where one checks Hispanic/Latino and/or another box: white, Black or some other race. 

AZ Central analyzed the data and wrote that nearly one-third of Afro-Latinos check the box which says “white,” while 25% checked Black, and 23% selected “some other race.” 

Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, a senior researcher at Pew, told AZ Central they obtained deeper data by asking people directly how they identified. She noted that the more than 6 million Afro-Latinos in America is “a significant number.” 

“The multiple dimensions of Latino identity reflect the long colonial history of Latin America, during which mixing occurred among indigenous Americans, white Europeans, Asians and enslaved people from Africa,” the report says. Further, that identity can be shaped by the culture of origin or parentage. 

Melissa Dunmore, a writer, poet and storyteller who lives in Phoenix, said she believes the Afro-Latino population is growing through migration and through the embracing of Blackness, particularly because of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“It would depend on their racial political consciousness,” said Dunmore, whose mother is Puerto Rican and father is African-American and Cherokee, “but I do think more people are claiming their Afro-Latino identity, and it’s becoming less of a default to whiteness in terms of self-identifying as Latino.”

The Pew survey found that Afro-Latinos experience racism from other Latinos and from the greater society. It notes that Afro-Latinos are even more likely to be criticized for speaking Spanish in public than other white-presenting Latinos. 

“Discrimination happened from everywhere, from the Latino community, from within my own family,” said Andrea Martinez, the daughter of a Latina mother and Black father. “In schools, in church, in our neighborhoods. Everywhere.”

A report from KQED in February claimed that many Afro-Latinos were calling for more recognition during Black History Month.

“We are Black. We are part of the African diaspora. We just speak Spanish,” restaurateur Nelson German said. “The African continent influenced the world. We should embrace that, and really give tribute to it now, because there’s a lot of people who had to shed their blood and sacrifice their lives for us to be in this position. We should show them some respect.”

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!

Loading the player...