A new study by Pew basically debunks the media’ new narrative regarding race, in which black folks and Latinos are at each other’s throats. At the same time, the study explains why many of us may have been shocked or surprised that there were serious tensions between the black and Latino communities in the first place.

While blacks and Hispanics hold broadly favorable views of each other, Hispanics are less likely to say the two groups get along well. At the same time, African Americans are far more likely than Latinos to say blacks are frequently the victims of racial discrimination, according to a recent survey of racial and ethnic attitudes by the Pew Research Center.


The Pew survey suggests that the answer depends on the question that you ask. On many core issues, majorities or large pluralities of blacks and Hispanics share the same view. At the same time, the poll also pinpoints some areas of disagreement and potential conflict. The telephone survey was taken from Sept. 5 through Oct. 6, 2007 among a nationally-representative sample of 3,086 adults.

Black folks and Latinos share many of the same concerns, issues and views. But black folks are more likely to assume we get along, and perhaps the most crucial bit of information is that Latinos have adopted similar attitudes as whites regarding anti-black discrimination.

But some differences begin to emerge when blacks and Hispanics are asked how well the two groups get along. A majority of blacks (70%), but a smaller share of Hispanics (57%), say the groups get along very or fairly well. At the same time, Hispanics are significantly more likely than blacks to say that inter-group relations are strained (30% vs. 18%). Whites are roughly equally divided, with nearly four-in-10 (39%) saying that blacks and Hispanics get along well, 32% saying they do not, while nearly as many express no opinion.

I love that last statistic. A lot of white people don’t really care how we get along as long as we’re not robbing them, marrying their daughter, or moving in next door.

Latinos are more likely than whites to acknowledge anti-black discrimination, but far less likely than we ourselves are.

For example, two-thirds of all African Americans say blacks are “almost always” or “frequently” discriminated against when they apply for a job, compared with 36% of Hispanics and 20% of whites. Similarly, blacks are about twice as likely as Hispanics to say that blacks face discrimination when buying a house or renting an apartment (65% vs. 36%), applying to college (43% vs. 22%) or dining at restaurants or shopping in retail stores (50% vs. 29%).

As I said in a previous post, while Latinos and black folks share similar obstacles and frustrations, Latinos are a recent immigrant group, and recent immigrant groups work very hard to accept the prevailing cultural narrative, and that is that black people exaggerate the discrimination we face.

The study also shows that when black folks and Latinos live in the same neighborhood, they tend to have more positive views of each other, although it suggests this only goes so far.

Does familiarity breed tolerance or contempt? It depends. Hispanics and blacks living in counties with relatively high concentrations of African Americans are somewhat more likely to say that blacks and Latinos get along well (65% Hispanics, 72% blacks) than are Hispanics and blacks living in low-density black counties (50% and 57% respectively), suggesting proximity is associated with greater acceptance. But there is no difference in perceptions of relations between blacks and Hispanics between who live in counties with relatively higher or lower concentrations of Latinos; in either case, about two-thirds of blacks and six-in-10 Hispanics think the two groups get along well.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I…strongly dislike Debra Dickerson, but on this subject she has a lot to say, and it’s worth reading:

There are fancier ways of saying this, but since offense can’t be avoided with those determined to be offended, let’s apply the KISS rule and save some pixels: Just as whites aren’t much interested in black problems (“nobody gave my immigrant great grandfather—who didn’t own slaves—special treatment”), blacks are shockingly unmoved by Hispanics’ problems and vice versa. Blacks, quite reasonably, have little reverence for immigration and resent the most often repeated lie in America: “We are a nation of immigrants.” Kunta Kinte did not come here to make his life better. So, while the non-slave-descended get all misty-eyed about immigration and can potentially be reached via arguments based on that shared experience, blacks remain aloof.

Latinos, conversely, don’t much care about slavery and Jim Crow—look at what we’ve been through!—except as proof of racism and insofar as the latter affected them. Those experiences occurred through no fault of theirs, so why, they reasonably argue, shouldn’t they, too, employ the same type of race-based proportional representation and affirmative action arguments that blacks have long made? Why indeed?


What we’re witnessing here is the slow, agonizing death of identity politics, the scourge that white supremacy bequeathed America. Identity politics, just as did overt racism and white supremacy, is collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions. And it is collapsing in Hispanics’ favor. Damn logical and moral consistency. As blacks like to bitterly say in dismissing Latinos’ (or gays’) invocation of movement rhetoric, “Y’all weren’t on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.” True enough. Tough noogies. Unless blacks are ready to put an ‘expire by’ date on the “Letter From the Birmingham Jail.”

There are plenty of black folks, even black leaders, like the late Coretta Scott King and even yes, Al Sharpton, who have championed civil rights causes for gays and Latinos, and of course, Latinos are also beneficiaries of Affirmative Action. Once again, Debra is weak on the details but her point is well taken. Our stories are similar enough that they require similar solutions, but not so similar that we should expect to get along without working hard at it.

The Pew Poll ultimately suffers from some of the same issues as regular media coverage; it lacks the necesarry language to appropriately express the diversity of the Hispanic community in America. Different parts of the country have concentrated Latino populations that are culturally distinct, and this survey in no way expresses that. As America absorbs more immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, it will face similar issues in gauging the cultural attitudes of black Americans.

Last week Gregory Rodriguez debunked the idea that Latinos wouldn’t support a black person running for office, and the Pew survey now debunks the media narrative of simmering hostility between both communities. But the problem with trend journalism is that once a trend is started, other media outlets work hard to find a similar angle on the same story.

Trend journalism often follows a social or cultural need; in this case, the desire to project whatever anxiety white people are feeling over the possibility of actually having a black president is being projected on to Latinos. It allows us to have a conversation about race and racism without talking about whiteness, and such a conversation is doomed to fail.

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