Latino immigrants often hold negative views of African-Americans, which they most likely brought with them from their more-segregated Latin American countries, a new Duke University study shows.
The study also found that sharing neighborhoods with Blacks reinforced Latino’s negatives views, and reinforces their feelings that they have “more in common with Whites” — although Whites did not feel the same connection towards the Latinos.
“We were actually quite depressed by what we found. The presence of these attitudes doesn’t augur well for relations between these two groups,” says Dr. Paula D. McClain, a professor of political science at Duke University, who led the study along with nine graduate students.
The study, “Racial Distancing in a Southern City: Latino Immigrants’ Views of Black Americans,” is based on a 2003 survey of 500 Hispanic, Black and White residents in Durham, N.C., a city with one of the fastest-growing Hispanic population.
This study reiterated a similar conclusion reached a decade earlier out of Houston, which found that U.S.-born and foreign-born Latinos expressed a more negative view of African-Americans than Blacks expressed of Latinos. In both studies, it’s interesting to note, Blacks did not reciprocate the negative feelings.
However, Duke’s study found that the more educated the Hispanic respondent, and the more social contact they had with Blacks, the less likely they were to harbor negative stereotypes.
“It was interesting that the greater social contact with Blacks, the less they had negative stereotypes,” says Rob Brown, assistant dean of students for Emory College. “I think that’s a pivotal variable, especially for Latino immigrants who are learning English and who have not had much contact with Blacks, who are unfortunately influenced by the American lens and vocabulary of race and what White America has constructed in terms of stereotypes of Backs.”
McClain focused her study on the South because Latinos have only appeared in significant numbers there in the past 10-15 years. Recent and limited research suggests that migration has been encouraged by the 1994 North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, global economy and an expanding market for unskilled, low-wage workers.
In 1990, Latinos made up 1 percent of the population of the city of Durham. However by 2001, they represented 8.6 percent, even as the city’s overall population also grew. The majority of Durham’s Latino population is from Mexico.
This increase prompted McClain to examine what difference Hispanic integration into the South was going to make on the Black/White dynamic.
“No section of the country has been more rigidly defined along a Black-White racial divide [than the South]. How these new Latino immigrants situated themselves vis-à-vis Black Americans has profound implications for the social and political fabric of the South,” McClain writes.
Among the results: almost 59 percent of Latino immigrants reported feeling that “few or almost no Blacks are hard working.” One third said that Blacks are “hard to get along with.” And 57 percent found that “few or no Blacks could be trusted.”
When Whites were asked the same questions, fewer than 10 percent responded with similar negative attitudes towards Blacks. McClain says that finding came as a positive surprise, and prompted her to conclude that Hispanics were not adopting their negative views from Whites.
The study concluded that most likely Latinos are bringing negative views with them from their home countries. Previous research on race and Latin America found that Blacks “represent the bottom rungs of society” and Duke researchers surmise Latino immigrants “might bring prejudicial attitudes with them,” the study states.
Dr. Ronald Walters, a professor of political science at the University of Maryland, has spent a lot of time in Brazil and calls the study “right on target.”
He also says that although most Hispanics are indigenous, they overwhelming consider themselves as “White” because of the overall negatives associations with being Black in Brazil.
“We’re dealing with a conflict between a Latin American conception of color and an American conception of color,” Walters says.
At the University of California, Davis School of Law, professor Kevin R. Johnson points the finger at Hollywood. He says movies portraying Blacks as gang members and criminals send out a global message that influences foreigners’ expectations when they arrive in the United States.
“These stereotypes are propagated on television and film that are broadcast all over the world,” he says. “We have some foreign judges and lawyers come through UC- Davis School of Law, and I’m surprised sometimes about their stereotypical views and their concern with crime and African-Americans.”
While some have said that such poor relations represent a missed opportunity for two working-class groups to partner politically, a recent Gallup poll showed that Blacks and Hispanics now both share a low opinion of the Bush administration. While Blacks opinion was low during the 2004 election (and has dropped further), Hispanics’ support of Bush has dropped drastically, due to the immigration and other issues, Walters says.
McClain intends to start a larger survey in the next year, and include Memphis, Tenn., Greenville, S.C., and possibly Greensboro, N.C. and Dalton, Ga. She hopes her findings will be more positive.
“If large portions of Latino immigrants maintain negative attitudes of Black Americans, where will this leave Blacks?” she asks. “Will Blacks find that they must not only make demands on Whites for continued progress, but also mount a fight on another front against Latinos?”
— By Christina Asquith
Reader comments on this story:
There is currently 6 reader comment on this story:
“Latino’s perceptions of African-Americans”
I believe this article should be taken with a grain of salt. This data was obtained by a very specific sample. I would be curios to know what ethincities were represented in this sample. There are a variety of Latino; Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Costa Ricans and etc. Each on has a unique culture and racial make up. There are many Latinos who feel truly connected to their African heritage and African-Americans. I hope that this does not serve as the sole representation of African-American/Latino Relations because we face the same the soci-economic issues in American, we live in the same neighborhoods are seeking the same goals in life.
Here is an interesting article to further research the issue:
Thanks for reading.
“International perceptions of race”
-Geri R. Vital
“wake up and stop relying on other people of color”
I think Black Americans need to wake up and stop relying on other people of color to “be on their side” when it come to race relations in America. Black Americans have enough skill and intellect to hold their own in this society and abroad.
Immigrants have always brought their luggage with them, be it their politics, values, ethics, racism, etc. Most immigrants in the past welcomed American culture and assimilated in to American society. Today we are seeing an exception.
Take a look at the racial riots taking place in the California state prisons and recently in the Los Angeles County Jail system where latino gangs / latino inmates are targeting black inmates. Most of these latino inmates are either Mexican nationals, or 1st or 2nd generation Mexican-Americans. ( I hate using hypen-Americanism when referring to Americans but the latino Americans prefer being hyphenated-Americans, I can only guess why.)
Anyone who questions this study/poll, do your own study. Go into a Mexican immigrant community and talk with these people.
“fanning the flames of hostility”
“not a monolithic group”
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