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Scholars Ask Why Latinos View Blacks Poorly

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”
This study, even if flawed, appears to demonstrate how powerful the popular media is in determining “race” relationships, not only within our physical borders, but globally. It also points out our inability and unwillingness to view ourselves as other countries do, to discover what opinions are formed about us, and to exert any control over inaccurate translations, interpretations, and their resultant opinions and actions.

-Geri R. Vital

“wake up and stop relying on other people of color”
I think it is amazing how Black people are in the mind set that other groups of people of color accept the American Black person.  If one were to look at other regions of the world and notice the separation of dark skinned people and light skinned people, one would recognize that the darker skinned people are treated as a lower class.  Many Hispanic people I have spoken with from various group perceive Black or dark skinned people as being cursed by God according to their religious teachings.  Therefore, the treatment of people who have been cursed by God is justifiable by the lighter skinned people.  If one were to look across the world and view the treatment of people from India, Mexico, and even Japan, one would notice the light skinned people are in power and are presented as being good while the dark skinned people are viewed as being bad and in positions of servitude. 

    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.

“quite accurate”
The study seems quite accurate. I’ve been living in the ground zero area of illegal immigration invasion for over thirty years now. ( Los Angeles County / Orange County, California) I personally know hundreds of former illegal aliens from Mexico who were rewarded amnesty in the past and have had contact with thousands. One thing I have noticed from all is their use of the “N” word how they come right out saying that black Americans are lazy, live off of welfare. Even the Lt. Governor of California, Bustamante was caught using the “N” word at a NAACP meeting a few years ago. He claimed it was a slip of the tongue and was given a pass because he wasn’t white. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue, the “N” word is part of his vocabulary that he uses often.

   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”
I can’t speak for the accuracy of these studies, but one thing I do know that some are fanning the flames of hostility between Blacks and Hispanics, because they stand to gain the most from keeping these two groups divided (and therefore weak).  It’s not hard to guess who they are and what their political leanings are. 
     Let this be a wake up call to both Blacks and Latinos that we cannot “be strong” on our own and make significant political gains on our own.  Our historic struggle for justice, equality, and dignity in this country draws its strength from the ethics and  principles espoused by Dr. King.  To act with distrust and hostility towards one another not only violates these principles, but even from a pragmatic point of view keeps us from being a formidable, viable, united block in the face of those who are keeping further progress from being made – and who are, in fact, actively trying to turn back the clock on what progress has been made over the last 50 years.
– united we stand

“not a monolithic group”
Once again, the U.S. government and all of its pretty labels have influenced the findings of research. Latino/Hispanic is not a word created by us (spanish speaking peoples). When we are asked our heritage, we say what country we are from. We are forced to be considered as a whole when in reality we are all so very distinct. The article fails to mention that a majority of the immigrant population in the South is Mexican. It also fails to mention that many “latinos” for example Puerto Ricans or Dominicans, relate more closely with Blacks than with other “latinos” like Mexicans. Let’s not feed into what the gov’t says is P.C., let’s do our studies, giving credit to all represented, or be more accurate when the representation is a select few. Pa’lante con la verdad!


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