Anti-Latino Racism: A Pew Center report

The Pew Hispanic Center has an interesting fact sheet, “Hispanics and Arizona’s New Immigration Law,” which provides some useful data for our often data-less, faith-based, often white-racist or white-fearful, debates on U.S. immigration. According to a 2009 Pew survey of Americans

nearly one-in- four (23%) Americans said Hispanics are discriminated against “a lot” in society today, a share higher than observed for any other group…This represents a change from 2001, when blacks were seen as the racial/ethnic group discriminated against the most in society.

In the earlier period some 25 percent of those polled said blacks were discriminated against a lot, which was more than the 19 percent who said the same for Latinos. Now in the 2009 survey only 19 percent said blacks were discriminated against “a lot,” compared to the 23 percent for Latinos. Pew makes a significant point out of Latinos being seen as (but, actually, only a little ) more discriminated against than African Americans, but what I see as much more striking is that this majority-white national sample actually has rather low percentages that see either group as facing “a lot” of discrimination.

This is the more important finding. Once again, only a modest minority of whites apparently see any problem with racial discrimination for either group. This is the white racial frame in its modern white-virtue, little-discrimination form. Lots of analysts talk about this as a new form of racism, of “colorblind racism,” but actually it goes back for centuries. Whites since the 1600s have seen themselves as virtuous, and thus as doing nothing wrong or bad in their everyday oppression– which is thus seen as something other than oppression or racial discrimination.

Pew also has some interesting data on other matters affecting Latinos:

One-in-ten Hispanics say that they have been asked by police or other authorities about their immigration status….According to the [Pew] 2008 National Survey of Latinos, 45% of Latinos said they had a great deal or fair amount of confidence that police officers in their communities would treat Latinos fairly. Eight-in-ten Hispanics say local police should not be involved in identifying undocumented or illegal immigrants.

Racial profiling and likely other police malpractice thus seem a reality for many Latinos in this country–even before Arizona’s nativistic legislators made it even more of a national discussion. Less than half have confidence in police officers treating folks fairly. Also

According to a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center survey of Hispanics ages 16 and older, one-third (32%) say they, a family member, or a close friend have experienced discrimination in the five years prior to the survey because of their racial or ethnic background.

Significant anti-Latino discrimination is regularly found in Pew surveys, but I have yet to see any national discussion of this raical discrimination. Indeed, to my knowledge well into the 21st century we still have no major study or book of the extensiveness of racial discrimination facing Latinos in the United States. How tardy is our contemporary “social science”?

Of course, a little recent social science data indicate that this Pew “32 percent” is very likely a severe underestimate of the actual discriminatory reality faced by Latinos. (And my Latino students report much more than this.)

I keep wondering when U.S. pollsters like those at Pew will get beyond their methodological naïveté on these matters, and ask in-depth questions that use savvy language likely to get people of color to talk more openly about the extensive discrimination they do face–more likely about 90 percent, not 32 percent, in recent months (not years).