Cristina Beltrán

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Cristina Beltrán is an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University.


  • As someone who studies race and the right, I have found that Democrats and progressives, expecting demographic change and rising diversity to tilt the country leftward, have failed to take seriously how that change is not at all a given...Communities of color are simultaneously victims of, participants in and practitioners of the violence practiced within and beyond our nation’s borders...Communities of color have an intimate history with violence, from massacres of Native Americans and chattel slavery to anti-Asian violence, police killings and the deaths of migrants on the border. But communities of color are not monolithic, and their responses and relationships to that violence mirror that very diversity.
    • "America’s Increasingly Diverse Security State Is Changing Communities" (2023 article)

"To understand Trump’s support, we must think in terms of multiracial Whiteness" article (2021)

  • What are we to make of [Enrique] Tarrio — and, more broadly, of Latino voters inspired by Trump? And what are we to make of unmistakably White mob violence that also includes non-White participants? I call this phenomenon multiracial whiteness — the promise that they, too, can lay claim to the politics of aggression, exclusion and domination.
  • Before Trump, conservatives seeking to appeal to Latinos typically embraced the politics of conservative multiculturalism. Politicians such as George W. Bush reached out to Latino voters by showing a familiarity with their language and history, emphasizing the values of diversity and inclusion. Depicting Latinos as a distinct and valuable part of America’s democratic mosaic, conservative multiculturalism connected Latino culture to Republican values, emphasizing conservative approaches to faith, patriotism and the traditional family. Trump, by contrast, knows nothing of the history of Latinos in the United States and rarely even pretends to find value in Latinos’ distinct identities. Rather than offering his non-White voters recognition, Trump has offered them multiracial whiteness.
  • Multiracial whiteness reflects an understanding of whiteness as a political color and not simply a racial identity — a discriminatory worldview in which feelings of freedom and belonging are produced through the persecution and dehumanization of others.

Interview with NPR (2021)

  • whiteness is not the same thing as white people and that whiteness is actually better understood as a political project that has emerged historically, and that is dynamic and that is always changing. And so whiteness as an ideology is rooted in America's history of white supremacy-which has to do with the legacy of slavery or Indigenous dispossession or Jim Crow. And I think it's important to realize just how long in this country legal discrimination was not simply culturally acceptable but legally authorized. And so we've only been practicing a more consistent form of legal equality for a relatively short time since the 1960s. So Americans have often learned how to create their own sense of belonging through violence and through the exclusion of certain groups and populations.
  • I think that one of the things that's interesting about the politics of multicultural conservatism, for example, is that multicultural conservatism - which is the kind of conservative politics of reaching out to other racial minorities practiced by folks like Jack Kemp or George W. Bush - was an effort to recognize the specific histories and backgrounds of particular racial populations and to say that they could be part of the GOP. And I think that one of the things that's interesting is that there's a segment of people of color who don't necessarily want to be recognized at all. They don't want to be recognized for their racial distinctiveness-that for them, the very act of sort of identifying them as Latino, as African American - that they themselves have a certain discomfort with that very logic. They want to be understood as simply Americans outside of those kinds of identity categories.
  • I think that one of the big political divides we face right now is people who find the very act of talking about those histories of racial exclusion as divisive because the act of talking about it and acknowledging it produces a kind of defensiveness or anger - and even discussing it, the idea that unity should be practiced from sort of not engaging with our history, not - sort of celebrating the best stuff and not really acknowledging that we have a complicated, beautiful, tragic, inspiring inheritance that we have to understand to go forward.
  • What I actually find helpful about theorizing and talking about whiteness as understanding that the politics of whiteness is distinct from white people is I think it actually opens up and expands our political possibilities going forward because we're not actually trapped in our identities or our demographics. It means that white citizens can - and many are - rejecting the politics of whiteness and working with communities of color to forge a multiracial democracy. But we have to understand this complicated and tragic and also beautiful shared inheritance we have. If we want to build something new together, we have to understand where we've come from.

Cruelty as Citizenship: How Migrant Suffering Sustains White Democracy (2020)

  • Today, the variability of white identity is visible in the growing rupture between white citizens who support the politics of white democracy and those increasingly appalled by racist and xenophobic appeals to whiteness. (p 21)
  • Majority-white schools, neighborhoods, and community institutions were made white through violence; racialized exclusions; and the denial of equality, opportunity, and legal protection for nonwhite populations. (p 18)
  • Limited by a scarcity logic in which migrant flourishing means citizen hardship, nativists in the thrall of whiteness presume that migrant movement will invert the practices of white democracy, causing whites to "lose their country." Trapped in their own fears and fantasies of domination and racial terror, nativists can't help but conjure Latinx migrants as subjects planning to inflict a vengeful politics of invasion, replacement, and reconquista. (p 114)
  • Emphasizing standing and status rather than political participation and collective action, white citizenship continually constrains the meaning of both democracy and political freedom. (p 118)
  • Rather than envisioning and enacting a better and more beautiful world, white democracy's vision is defined by scarcity. In the logic of racial replacement, nativists imagine social goods within an economy of exclusion and democratic forms of denial; there is no sharing of power; there is only one majority "taking control" from the other. (p 119)
  • when it comes to finding joy, who you're with matters more than where you are. (Acknowledgements)

The Trouble with Unity the Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity (2010)

  • "Hispanic" and "Latino" are terms whose descriptive legitimacy is premised on a startling lack of specificity. The categories encompass any and all individuals living in the United States who trace their ancestry to the Spanish-speaking regions of Latin America and the Caribbean; Latinos hail from Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, and beyond-more than twenty countries in all. Such inclusivity is part of the problem: "Hispanic" and "Latino" tell us nothing about country of origin, gender, citizenship status, economic class, or length of residence in the United States. An undocumented immigrant from Guatemala is Hispanic; so is a third-generation Mexican American lawyer. Moreover, both categories are racially indeterminate: Latinos can be white, black, indigenous, and every combination thereof. In other words, characterizing a subject as either "Hispanic" or "Latino" is an exercise in opacity-the terms are so comprehensive that their explanatory power is limited. When referring to "Latinos in the United States," it is far from immediately clear whether the subjects under discussion are farmworkers living below the poverty line or middle-class homeowners, urban hipsters or rural evangelicals, white or black, gay or straight, Catholic or Jewish, undocumented Spanish monolinguals or fourth-generation speakers of English-only.
  • Both Chicano and Puerto Rican activists continually stressed the importance of community control of local institutions, arguing that oppression and inequality would never end until Chicanos and Puerto Ricans controlled the institutions that directly affected community life.
  • Poetry such as "Puerto Rican Obituary" highlights another significant aspect of movement thought: the shift from cultural shame to ethnic pride. Unlike earlier critiques of prejudice and discrimination, movement rhetoric and writings often focused on the emotional and psychic damage of racism, exploring the need toovercome internalized shame and self-hate.
  • The Puerto Rican movement of the 1960s and 1970s can be defined by its consistent calls for a radical transformation of U.S. society while simultaneously promoting the independence of Puerto Rico. Known as El Nuevo Despertar, this "New Awakening" of Puerto Rican radicalism was inspired and shaped by the growing militancy abroad and at home. Black Power, youth unrest (particularly against the Vietnam War), the War on Poverty, national liberation struggles in the Third World, Chicano and Native American militancy, gay and lesbian rights, and second-wave feminism are all part of the context that shaped the movement.
  • The movement's institutional legacy can also be seen in the realm of higher education: Chicano and Puerto Rican studies programs are the product of these movements and continue to play a key role in providing Latinos with a "civic education" that both politicizes and produces particular conceptions ofLatino identity and subjectivity.
  • During the late 1960s and 1970s, Mexican American and Puerto Rican activists put forward a politically charged critique of American politics. Bringing together a paradoxical mix of cultural nationalism, liberal reformism, radical critique, andromantic idealism, the Chicano and Puerto Rican movements created a new political vocabulary, one emphasizing resistance, recognition, cultural pride, authenticity, and fraternity (hermanidad). The movements-organizations, issues, and events left a profound legacy.
  • Unlike the civil rights struggles of African Americans or the protest politics surrounding the Vietnam War, the Chicano and Puerto Rican movements represent a decidedly underexplored aspect of 1960s New Left radicalism. Outside of the communities themselves, the names, places, and events of these two movements are virtually unknown.
  • In challenging traditional gender relations, many Chicana activists were accused of being lesbians, 'white identified,' narcissistic, and antifamily.
  • 1980s feminism focused on questions of difference and making the category of women more inclusive
  • It is my contention the category ‘Latino,’ like the category ‘women,’ should be reconceived as a site of permanent political contestation
  • Rather than speaking in terms of specific and distinct subgroups (Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, etc.) ‘Latino’ and ‘Hispanic’ have become the shorthand designation of choice among journalists, politicians, advertising executives, academics, and other influential elites.

Quotes about Cristina Beltrán

  • Cristina Beltrán's powerful book The Trouble with Unity is timely for our age of Obama in which an ugly anti-immigrant spirit looms large.