Since its founding, the US government has sorted people into racial/ethnic categories for the purpose of allowing or disallowing their access to social services and protections. The current Office of Management and Budget racial/ethnic categories originated in a dominant racial narrative that assumed a binary biological difference between Whites and non-Whites, with a hard-edged separation between them. There is debate about their continued use in researching group differences in mortality profiles and health outcomes: should we use them with modifications, cease using them entirely, or develop a new epistemology of human similarities and differences? This essay offers a research framework for including in these debates the daily lived experiences of the 110 million racialized non-White Americans whose lived experiences are the legacy of historically limited access to society’s services and protections. The experience of Latinos in California is used to illustrate the major elements of this framework that may have an effect on mortality and health outcomes: a subaltern fuzzy-edged multivalent racial narrative, agency, voice, and community and cultural resilience.
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