Under Which Conditions Will Latinos Show Anti-Black Racism?

In the APSA Public Scholarship Program, graduate students in political science produce summaries of new research in the American Political Science Review. This piece, written by Karra McCray, covers the new article by Efrén Pérez, Crystal Robertson, and Bianca Vicuña, University of California, Los Angeles, “Prejudiced When Climbing Up or When Falling Down? Why Some People of Color Express Anti-Black Racism”.

Blacks and Latinos have always been the largest ethnic minorities in the United States with Latinos surpassing Blacks as the largest racial minority within the last twenty years. Both groups are often seen as building coalitions to fight discrimination and advocate for the creation of more equitable and inclusive policies, but to what length will Latinos go to differentiate themselves from Blacks?

Pérez, Robertson, and Vicuña seek to analyze this phenomenon more closely in their recently published APSR article. Although marginalized in similar ways, Latinos withstand their own marginalization by excluding Blacks with hopes of improving their sense of identity and belonging as Americans. As a result, the authors contend that Latinos express racial resentment and anti-Black prejudice when they feel their marginal position as Americans is threatened.

Examining the relationship between Latinos’ identity as Americans, their feelings toward Blacks, and their support of policies that benefit the Black community, the authors propose that when Latinos feel more American, they are more likely to be prejudiced toward Blacks and oppose policies that center and uplift the Black community. Using surveys and experiments to evaluate their claims, Pérez, Robertson, and Vicuña thoroughly examine how a sense of being American reduces Latino support for Black policies, increases liberal Latinos’ racism, and drives Latinos to express racism when their status as Americans is downgraded.

The first study collected answers from a widely known American National Election Survey (ANES) that asked respondents to identify how important it is to be an American. The authors find that Latinos who identify as more American have stronger resentment toward Blacks.

In the second and third experimental studies, participants were divided into two groups: one group was asked to read an article that acknowledged the improvements and growth within the Latino community, while the other group was not provided any additional information. After reading the article, participants were prompted to answer questions about their feelings about #BlackLivesMatter and punishment for hate crimes to gauge levels of racial resentment similar to the measure used in study one. The authors find that levels of prejudice are high among Latinos and highest among those who identify as liberal. Latinos’ insecurities about their position in society contribute to a downstream effect that makes them less likely to support policy initiatives beneficial to the Black community.

“This research has shown that the expression of anti-Black racism is not restricted to only whites.” In the final experiment, the authors downgrade Latinos’ status as Americans, making it appear that they have lost their tenuous status to Black Americans to test how it affects their treatment towards Blacks. Participants were randomly assigned to three groups – one with no information, one with information highlighting that the Latino community has declined, and the other also highlighting the decline but making a direct comparison to Black Americans. After a follow-up about relevant policy proposals, the authors discover that greater racial resentment is triggered among Latinos when their marginal status is downgraded, and they are compared to Black individuals. Liberal Latinos are more hostile and resentful toward Blacks but just as the “rising tide lifts all boats,” this resentment also drives all Latinos to undermine their support of Black-centered policies.

This research has shown that the expression of anti-Black racism is not restricted to only whites. Non-Blacks, specifically Latinos, are also capable and willing to express prejudice and oppose policies catered to the Black community when they feel as if Blacks’ identity as Americans is more potent than theirs.


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