Latinos in the United States with darker skin are experiencing discrimination from fellow Latinos and from non-Latinos at nearly the same rate, a new poll from the Pew Research Center says.
The report, published Monday, is based on a survey conducted in March 2021 among a randomly selected sample of 3,375 Hispanic adults drawn from panels originally recruited using probability-based methods.
Among Latinos with darker skin, about 41% said they were discriminated against or treated unfairly by another Latino and 42% said they had been discriminated against by non-Latinos, the survey found.
Latinos with lighter skin said they experience discrimination but not as much as dark skin Latinos. Researchers found that about 25% of those who took part in the survey said the discrimination came from other Latinos while 29% said it was from non-Latinos, the report says.
While there was not an overall breakdown of how the respondents trace their heritage, the survey shows Latinos’ country of origin impacts their experience with discrimination.
About a third of Latinos born outside the US or in Puerto Rico said they faced discrimination or unfair treatment by another Latino, the survey shows. In a previous report, Pew researchers said 40% of respondents said discrimination based on race or skin color is about the same in both the place of their birth and in the US.
Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center, said the report highlights an aspect of the discrimination that Latinos in America face that has not been widely studied in the past.
“The experiences of Latinos being discriminated against from within the group is not talked about as much,” Gonzalez-Barrera said. “There’s not a lot of research, at least not something that you can point to.”
Overall, Latinos said they were criticized for speaking Spanish in public (23%), called offensive names (20%) and nearly all of them said they sometimes or often hear their Latino friends and family members say racially insensitive comments or jokes.
Gonzalez-Barrera said researchers found that younger Latinos are more likely to report hearing those comments or experiencing discrimination than people ages 65 and up.
The survey shows half of Latinos ages 18 to 29 reported hearing those racially insensitive comments aimed at Latinos and non-Latinos. About 38% of Latinos ages 65 and up said they heard they fellow Latinos making similar comments. Latinos with college experience were more likely than those with lower levels of educational attainment to say the same, researchers said.
Colorism runs deep in the Spanish language and social mobility in parts of Latin America has heavily depended on the complexion of a person’s skin for generations, experts say.
“In the popular culture there’s still that belief – whether it’s subconscious or not – that if you marry someone lighter than you, you have a better chance for upward mobility,” Maria Peña, Library of Congress Hispanic media spokeswoman previously told CNN.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, activists across the US and top Latino leaders said it was time for Latinos to examine and fight their own racism and colorism.
“We have remained silent when our aunts have encouraged us to partner with people who have lighter skin than we do so we can improve the race (improve the race). We have hated ourselves for our skin color, hair texture, our curves and our accents,” the leaders of prominent organizations wrote in a letter published in The Miami Herald.
Months later, an incident between a Latina and a Black teenager in New York City spotlighted how anti-Black sentiment is embedded within the Latino community.
Miya Ponsetto was seen on video attacking a 14-year old boy who was with his father in the Arlo Hotel and accused the boy of stealing her cell phone, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said. Investigators later determined the teenager did not take her phone from her.
Ponsetto has insisted race was not a factor in the incident. Earlier this year, she pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment in the second degree as a hate crime.