A new study reveals deep-rooted colorism that has existed in the Latinx community for ages
Not unlike the United States, Latin America also has its history of discrimination based on skin color.
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According to a poll from the Pew Research Center, more than 27% of Latinx adults say they have experienced discrimination and unfair treatment from other Latinx individuals compared to 31% from non-Latinx people. More specifically, having darker skin and being born outside the U.S. creates an increased probability of being discriminated against.
The survey, which was conducted in March of 2021, reveals the results of 3,375 phone and mail surveys that were sent to Latinx adults. The degree of discrimination and the amount varied, as the report showed that U.S. born Latinx adults reported discrimination at lower rates compared to their foreign-born counterparts. In some cases, regardless of birth place and skin color, many reported unfair treatment from non-Latinx as from fellow Latinx individuals.
The report highlights an ingrained aspect of discrimination that exists for Latinx populations in the U.S., and those in Latin America that is often not talked about. With not enough research on the subject, it is tough to be able to point to something concrete to prove its validity. But up until now, it was a poorly-kept secret within the Latinx community.
The report, among other things, revealed that 23% of Spanish speakers were criticized for speaking Spanish in public. While another 20% reported being called offensive names in the year leading up to the survey. More notably, nearly all said that occasionally (35%) or frequently (13%), hear other Latinx friends or family members say racially insensitive statements and jokes towards other Latinx people.
As is always the case, skin color continues to be the separator, as 41% of dark skin Latinx individuals reported discrimination or unfair treatment from another Latinx people, while only a quarter of lightskin individuals said the same. Place of birth is also linked to the poll, with people from Puerto Rico and other countries more likely to experience discrimination from another Latinx individual than those born in the states, at 32% and 23% respectively.
The younger demographic of the Latinx community, ages 18-29, are the ones most likely than older Latinx, 50 years and up, to hear or say racially insensitive jokes and comments about other Latinx. Out of the younger generation, those with college experience are more likely to say the same compared to those with lower levels of education.
With that, when it comes to discrimination based on skin color and race in Latin American countries vs. the U.S., 40% of those surveyed said it is the same in both places. Furthermore, 17% reported the situation being worse in the U.S. compared to their country and 15% said it is worse in their country compared to the states. Twenty-five percent believed discrimination based on race and skin color is not an issue in their home country.
The tens of millions of Latinx in America are diverse and vary by country of origin, demographics, and economic backgrounds, but almost half, 48%, agree that discrimination is a big problem in the U.S.
When it comes to colorism, it runs deep in Latin American culture, with social advancement in some parts of that world being dependent on a person's skin color. The popular belief is that marrying someone of a lighter complexion is the key to moving up the social and economic ladder.
Many Latinx parents push the notion of “mejorar la raza” or “improving the race,” meaning marrying or having children with someone whiter in hopes of having “better looking” children.
This leads to many shaming themselves and being embarrassed of their own hair texture, complexion, and racial identity. With no escape in their home country or the United States, the feeling is often one of separation and isolation.