Am I hispanic or....

Ok, I know this must be getting old but I know I CAN do this (I read the stickied thread), I’m trying to decide if I WANT to do this. For me, the deciding factor is how people who are unambiguously Hispanic/latino feel about my claim.

I made it all the way from a community college to a phd in physics and a postdoc without calling myself “Hispanic”. Now I’m on the job market for an academic position and I’m starting to think I should.



1 spanish grandparent

3 sephardic/north african grandparents

Dad - born in France
Mom - born in North Africa
both Sephardic jews.

Born in France - raised in Houston, Texas - Everyone I’ve ever met has thought I was Mexican (my skin is brown). Being a brown guy in Houston, I’m always assumed to be a Latino, been insulted in all the ways you can imagine for being a “mexican”. Once people find out my origin they are mostly just weird about it or just accept me as “white”.

Putting Hispanic is a huge boost to my app as they really want more Hispanic Professors. I don’t speak very much Spanish (some), but I speak fluent french. I’ve never identified as “Hispanic” but from what I’m reading I’m well within my right to do so.

From the Sephardic side, my grandparents spoke Ladino (Spanish-Hebrew hybrid language), Sephardic literally means “Hispanic” in Hebrew. Most of the Spanish influence that has remained does so in the food my family eats (Paella, couscous, sardines, Shrimp diablo…your basic Mediterranean diet). Also, the Spanish government recognizes my Spanish heritage to the point that they just passed this law : , which offers Sephardic jews Spanish Citizenship. I am starting the application process.


As you’re aware, the term “Hispanic” can be looked at in many different ways, culturally or ethnically. I would say if you genuinely feel you are a Hispanic, you should be able to list it. It’s not like an employer can decide whether you are or not and then hold it against you if they decide you’re not. I think it’s more a way for them to check a “box.” On the other hand if you didn’t think you were Hispanic and were just making it up altogether, there would be an ethical issue possibly … but it seems like you have identified factual grounds supporting your inclusion.

You have a Spanish grandparent, therefore you are Hispanic. It’s simple as that.

You’re hispanic. Now start to own it.

Wouldn’t your North African heritage be a plus as well for schools seeking a diverse faculty?

Not that I’ve ever heard, I’ve been a white jew on paper my whole life.

At the end of the day, I’m most interested in how latino/latinas feel about my claim. How would I feel explaining this to a latino friend I’ve known for years. So far, not a single person has given me a negative reaction.

I would say “technically” you can qualify as latino/hispanic but one thing I would consider is why are academic institutions looking to hire diverse faculty and faculty of color? I’d argue it is more than just for statistical diversity but to bring a variety of viewpoints and diversity of thought to their teaching and to the interactions with students on campus. Many faculty serve as advisors and touchpoints for minority students and student groups on campus. Do you think you can fill those roles and bring that unique viewpoint to campus? Not opining on whether you can or not as I don’t know you, obviously, but I think it is worthwhile asking yourself these questions.

It is a sad fact that this even matters. Nothing against you - I understand you are trying to deal with the practicalities of the academic universe. I guess if you are going to work in a university, you must embrace the university culture so you can “identify” as anything that you “feel.” Sounds like you are most accurately Texan.

I just had this discussion with my peer who is a Mexican-born, American-educated Psychologist.

It really has to do with what @doschicos stated. We relate to the families of clients in a way which impacts our services. We also relate to SAE clients/ patients and have repeatedly dealt with questions about our capability, culture, status and educational levels that normally aren’t brought up until we are seen.

We both just met with a full day calendar of Spanish-speaking patients/clients. We had 4/5 staff who were bilingual multi/bi-cultural (from different parts of the Spanish speaking world-African/Caribbean, Argentinian, etc.). The 5th member was bilingual. We all have graduate degrees.

We needed to ask multiple times, throughout the meetings, about any questions, because we knew that questions from clients, come at the ends of the meetings. At the end of most of the meetings, the parents indicated that they were grateful/ pleased/ comforted that this was the first time they could actually participate and “follow” the presented information.

If you were able to get through grad school without it, then why would that need to change? Would you feel comfortable taking a position that was seeking a person, with a URM status, if that position had candidates who were also Hispanic?

It should NEVER matter how you present yourself genetically. Teach physics, that’s the job. But if you present yourself as “Hispanic” you need to be ready to explain how you got through your education as a non-hispanic each and every time a student asks with how you dealt with Hispanic cultural issues in college.

BTW: Our son was asked about his culture in HS. This was during the explanation about valedictorian to the top 5 candidates. They had all gotten into their colleges.

The candidates were all young men and the 4 were of Asian descent (Indian and Chinese).

During the wait, he kid who didn’t grow up in the neighborhood, ask my son: So what are you? (Our last name does not look/sound Hispanic to some).
My son said I’m Mexican/Native-American.

To which the kid laughed and said, “no, you’re not!”

So my son asked, “Why is that?” The kid said: “You’re too smart to be Mexican! Come on what are you???” The rest of the kids were embarrassed and looked away.
So my son said, “Why does it matter?”
Son said that later on, the other kids told him they called the kid an “idiot” and told him that our home was always open and filled with students, Mexican food, parties, etc.

That’s what we’ve dealt with for most of our lives.

“Do you think you can fill those roles and bring that unique viewpoint to campus? Not opining on whether you can or not as I don’t know you, obviously, but I think it is worthwhile asking yourself these questions.”

I’ve asked myself this already and I play this role now, so yes. I think I’d be playing this role no matter what I m\put down.

From my perspective, AA is about righting the wrongs of history as much as it is about encouraging diversity. I increase diversity, and my family/ancestors suffered as much as any people at the hands of the Spaniards. Why should I have to leave this advantage on the table? The connection to Spain through Sephardic Judaism is real, my middle name is Raoul after my Algerian grandfather, that’s not an accident. Spain was horrible to my people, why shouldn’t I benefit from it now? I am Hispanic by definition, why is it only about how I feel about myself?

Just thinking out loud. I’m not sure what I think, this has been an ethical minefield for me. I’m not usually the type of person who does something just because it benefits him, but I’ve never wanted anything more than this.

One observation – if you want to use the Hispanic category, then why are you asking people for reasons you shouldn’t use it? I have ancestors a few generations back from Norway, Scotland, France, and Germany. I don’t really identify with any of them other than perhaps Scottish (surname, and father’s identification). But if there were suddenly an advantage I suppose I could reconsider my lack of identification. That would be the counter argument, but if your desire is to do it, then my counter argument should not deter you from doing so. Another example: a sister grew up on the Canadian border but spent a lot of time in Mexico, married a Mexican (from Mexico), has kids with him, speaks Spanish a thousand miles a minute and lives in Texas. She clearly doesn’t think she’s Hispanic but she definitely identifies with the culture, and her kids can claim to be Hispanic or more probably Mexican-American even though they are “half white” and were born and grew up in Texas. Just a couple examples of how these things don’t fit neatly in a box, and you just have to do what you feel comfortable with. Be aware that people who think they have a greater right to claim Hispanic ethnicity or culture will challenge or possibly resent your claim, just as some darker toned or spanish speaking students might challenge or resent the claim of my nieces, who look “white” as their Mexican father also was fair complexioned. Assuming they become aware of your situation in some context. It’s a fascinating subject, sort of a bottomless well. My comment is probably not helpful in any way.

“my family/ancestors suffered as much as any people at the hands of the Spaniards”

Affirmative action in this country isn’t about righting the wrongs of those who suffered at the hands of the Spaniards though. At least, I’ve never seen it described in those terms. I’m not discounting the suffering your ancestors have faced but I’d be careful of addressing your right to affirmative action in those terms because you risked being called out for it.

I get the dilemma. But in my circles, including academic, there can be a loss of respect for claiming for an employment advantage when the intention was to hire someone with the actual perspective they were seeking.

You play this role now? You advise Hispanic American students who face challenges related to their culture and other particulars and relate to them as a Hispanic, yourself? Or your “unique viewpoint” is White Jew whose grandparents came from Spain and North Africa? (And who has been “insulted.”)

I am hispanic, and I do not take offense from you saying you are as well. I’m like 50% french, 25% mexican, and 25% polish. My parents put hispanic on my birth certificate because they saw the benefits of being about to say you are a minority just as you are saying.

Own it. You’re hispanic. There are a ton of advantages by being hispanic. My mom couldn’t have created her company without being one. Large cooperations like to ‘diversify’.

Nothing wrong in it.

“if you want to use the Hispanic category, then why are you asking people for reasons you shouldn’t use it?”

Because I don’t know if I want to exploit the Spanish part of my heritage for personal gain and honestly it matters to that I’m not doing the “wrong” thing.

"Or your “unique viewpoint” is White Jew whose grandparents came from Spain and North Africa? "

No way in hell you would think I"m white if you saw me. You would think I’m Mexican, or maybe Arab. I’m pretty dark.

And what I meant to say is that because of my skin color, my background, where I grew up, how I got into academics…I have a lot of empathy, and working with underprivileged/minority students is really one of my best qualities as researcher/mentor. Since I’ll probably never meet another french/Hispanic/texan brown jew, my personal journey is going to stay fairly isolated.

Then do it with gusto and don’t look back.

Also, I have no intention of ever lying or misrepresenting myself. If I decide to do this I’ll always be honest if anyone asks me.

Thanks for the frank discussion everyone. This has helped me crystalize my thoughts a lot.