Racist comments by progressive Hispanic members of the city council have roiled Los Angeles.
Some observers may dismiss this episode as simply a few biased people. Others might attribute the incident to some Latinos’ exposure to anti-Black ideologies in their home countries.
But our research finds that Latinos’ anti-Black prejudice has strong roots in the United States, which has been steeped in anti-Black racism since its founding. When immigrants arrive here, they and their U.S.-born children learn that however low they might be on the social scale, another group is despised more. A series of such groups, including the Irish, Italians and Poles, earned their identity as Americans by expressing anti-Black prejudice. These efforts have ranged from hurling racial epithets at African Americans to violently keeping Black families out of neighborhoods and schools.
Many Latinos — along with other communities of color — are repeating this same pattern, asserting their position in the American fabric by denigrating Black people. For example, the 2012 installment of the American National Election Study — widely considered a benchmark survey of U.S. politics — examined a large oversample of about 1,000 Latino adults. In that survey, more than half of Latino respondents agreed with statements used to measure anti-Black racism, including: “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if Blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as Whites.”