Latinos in America: Philosophy and Social Identity, by Jorge J.E. Gracia. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008.
Reviewed by Georgianne Bordner, University Librarian
The Latino population in the United States has grown rapidly over the past 30 years, leading to its current position as the largest minority group in the country. The implications of this fact have been a source of concern and even fear for many Americans. In his book Latinos in America: Philosophy and Social Identity, Jorge Gracia, a Cuban-born professor of philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, addresses these concerns by considering Latino identity and the place of Latinos in America from a philosophical point of view.
Gracia believes that in order to deal with the issue of Latinos in America, we need to change the way we think about ethnicity in general, and Latinos in particular. He helps the reader to do that by discussing three main topics. First, he tries to clear up the misunderstandings concerning Latino identity. He emphasizes the need to avoid stereotypes and remember that not all Latinos are alike. For example, there are many differences between Cubans and Mexicans, so it can be problematic to group them all together as “Latinos.” In fact, it is even difficult to agree upon the best name to use in identifying the group as a whole, as both “Latino” and “Hispanic” can have negative connotations. Gracia explains why the issues of identity and labeling are important in helping us to understand Latinos better. In the second part of the book, Gracia discusses some of the main problems faced by Latinos in American society, focusing on the role of Latinos in the philosophy marketplace, the pros and cons of affirmative action, and the issue of language accommodation and language of instruction for Latino children. Finally, the last section of the book looks at Latino philosophy and what it says about who Latinos think they are.
As a Latino philosopher, Gracia draws on many of his personal experiences in discussing the issues involved. His insights into who Latinos are, how they think, and the problems they face in society will help the reader to look beyond the stereotypes that can lead to fear. Latinos form an important part of American society, and need to be accepted as such. Latinos in America is an important contribution in helping us to understand how to do that.