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New survey finds about a third of Latinos have experienced racial discrimination during the pandemic

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The Pew Research Center recently published the results of a survey that shows Latinos in the United States experience racial discrimination from other Latinos in various ways: from comments about the color of their skin to criticism for speaking Spanish in public.

Ana González-Barrera, an expert on immigration and border deportations who was part of the team that did the study, talked with the Que Hay team about it.

Here are major takeaways she shared about the study:

  • Someone who was born outside the United States, or with darker skin, has more chances of experiencing discrimination.
  • About four in ten darker-skinned Latinos say they have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment from another Latino, while 25% with lighter skin color say the same.
  • Four out of ten Latinos born abroad or in Puerto Rico say that discrimination based on race or skin color is almost the same in their place of origin as it is in the U.S.
  • Younger Latinos, between 18 to 29, are more likely than Latinos who are 50 and older to say they hear racially insensitive comments or jokes about other Latinos.

The survey reflects racial attitudes that emerged during the pandemic

The online survey was completed in March 2021 and found out that about one in three Latinos has experienced some form of discrimination in the year when the pandemic started. More than 3,300 Latinos over the age of 18 participated in the survey.

González-Barriga explains these numbers are higher when comparing experiences of discrimination to other racial groups in the past. “Latinos report greater experiences of discrimination than, for example, [other] people in the United States,” she said.

Speaking Spanish in public is a common point of experiencing discrimination 

Latinos experience discrimination in different ways. Twenty-three percent of Latino Spanish speakers said they had felt criticized for speaking Spanish in public, and 20% were called offensive names in the last 12 months.

“This is one of the most common experiences [Latinos face] when it comes to discrimination,” says González-Barrera.

Racist comments within the Latino community 

The researchers asked Latinos if they had experienced or heard discriminatory and racist comments or jokes among their friends or acquaintances. They saw it was common; more or less one in three Latinos had experienced or heard these statements, and this was true for both non-Latinos and Latinos.

“This tells us that among Latino communities it is common to hear these types of conversations or jokes,” said González-Barrera “[and] not only about other racial or ethnic groups, but also focused towards or against Latinos themselves.”

González-Barrera says younger Hispanic adults are more likely than older Latinos to say they hear racist comments.

“This is something that we not only see among Latinos but also among other racial and ethnic groups in the United States,” said González-Barrera.

The study also found that people with a college education or more are more likely to say the same.

Impressions about skin color

In this survey, the Pew Research Center tried to look for some measures of race identity other than just asking if the person is Black, Asian, Native American, etc.

They tweaked the methodology and added a question asking Latinos to select a skin tone from a palette of ten skin tones. From lightest to darkest, participants selected the one that looked the most like them from their perspective.

In this question, González-Barrera says Pew found that 80% of Latinos selected one of the first four skin tones, classified as light skin, and the rest, approximately 15%, selected darker shades.

“And when we cross skin color with experiences of discrimination, we found that Latinos who select darker skin tones report a higher number of experiences of discrimination than those who have a lighter complexion,” explained González-Barrera.

According to the survey, 42% of Latinos with darker skin experienced discrimination or were treated unfairly by someone who is not Hispanic.

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