The race debate

Miriam M.E. Garcia, 61, executive director of Adelante of Suffolk County, Inc., a social service agency, was born in Mexico, where she lived until age 13, when her family emigrated to the United States. She's lived in Brentwood for 33 years.

"Our question is this: are we black or are we white? If you want to categorize us, we don't look white and we don't look black. Now, some people have said they are going to put Latino, but that's not necessarily a race ...

"I'm Mexican-American, which I had no problem filling out. But I'm also part Japanese and part Filipino." While Garcia understands the reasons for the race data, she thinks the categories "will become obsolete as more and more people mix."

Nadia Marin-Molina, 40, executive director of the Workplace Project, an immigrant advocacy group based in Hempstead, said the race question for many Latinos is hard to answer "because people are so mixed."

A native-born American of Colombian heritage, Marin-Molina said she checked "some other race" on her census form and wrote in Latino. "Race in general is a social construct. It's created by society."

Luis Valenzuela, 57, executive director of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, who is Puerto Rican, answered Latino on the census form's race question.

"I would say that, personally, it's problematic because it reduces a whole people to the North American, United States binary construction of race ... It's socially constructed because it's only one race: the human race."

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