« Home | The Race-Class Taboo » | New Comment Policy » | Is the GOP the Party of White Supremacist? » | Oaxaca: Follow-up » | When in Doubt, Spin » | The American Empire: Conquest Through NAFTA » | Pat Buchanan: Xenophobic Poster Boy » | The Lead Up to the Oaxaca Crisis » | Assassination Attempt on Chavez Failed » | The People in Oaxaca Need Your Assisstance » 

Friday, October 20, 2006 

Racism Is Not A Thing Of The Past, It Exists

In a recent Washington Post article, the Post reported on a study conducted by Vanderbilt economist Joni Hersch where she found a correlation between skin color and income earnings among immigrants. Hersch found that Hispanic, Asian, and white immigrants with darker skin color earned less money than their fair-skinned counterparts.
Immigrants with the lightest complexions earned, on average, about 8 to 15 percent more than those with the darkest skin tone after controlling for race and country of origin as well as for other factors related to earnings, including occupation, education, language skills, work history, type of visa and whether they were married to a U.S. citizen.
This information is not new, it was already understood among African-Americans that preferential treatment is given to those with lighter skin, which is referred to as "colorism."

Some people are under the impression that Hispanics do not encounter color-based racism, but this idea is very wrong. Most are either uninformed or perhaps harbor some personal agenda that limits their perception of reality. The sad thing is, the issue has only been addressed by a few scholars, and for the most part, it has been neglected. When it comes to discussion about skin-color, it has generally been discussed in terms of a Black/White dichotomy. However, similar issues concerning skin color also exist within the Native American and Asian-American communities.

Despite all the adulation of having an indigenous past, the sad reality, color-based racism has been lodged firmly in the subconscious mind of too many Hispanics due to it's Spanish-colonialization heritage. In different regions of Latin America, color-based racism continues to have an impact in the way people interact with each other. In fact, if anyone were to examin any US-based Spanish language media networks, such as Telemundo and Univisión, one would definitely find a large presence of blondes than their English-language media counterparts.

As a Xicano, I do have to accept, perhaps there are no other ethnic group so self-conscious and irresolute about its self-worth. To get a firm grasp of this madness, one must understand the historical impact and the psychological effects of Spanish colonization it had on the indigenous population. In Guillermo Bonfil Batalla's book, Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization, Batalla notes:
A basic characteristic of every colonial society is that invading group, with a different culture from the dominated, ideologically affirms its immanent superiority on all areas of life and denies and excludes the culture of those colonized.
According to Batalla, even though Mexico achieved Independence from Spain, Mexico never completed the decolonization process. The internal colonial structure was never eliminated since groups, who continued to hold power, even after the Mexico's Independence, never abandoned the distorted view where "whiteness" was rewarded and "Indianness" was stigmatized.

The desire to shed one's native identity was one of the most devastating consequences regarding Mexico's colonization. Batalla calls this type of transformation "de-Indianization."
De-Indianization is a historical process through which populations that originally possessed a particular and distinctive identity, based upon their own culture, are forced to renounce that identity with all the consequent changes in their social organization and culture.
This process of shedding one's indigenous identity is coupled with the desire to improve one's socio-economic condition, which ultimately meant, the indigenous remained the poorest, most subjugated group in Mexico - a process that started in 1492.

Interestingly enough, it appears, African-Americans were also subjugated to the same process during and after the end of slavery. According to Hersch:
Within the South, the likely causal link of preferred treatment of light skinned blacks was through kinship, as slave owners bore children with their slaves. These advantages persisted after the end of slavery, with mixed-race individuals holding leadership positions in the black community and establishing segregated societies within the black community.

Discrimination within black communities on the basis of skin tone was generally not subtle and was apparently widely practiced. It influenced residential housing, membership of social clubs and churches, entrance into historically black colleges and universities, and membership of fraternities and sororities.
In Hersch's paper, she also found a direct link between wage earnings and skin-color for "non-Hispanic white immigrants, and for Asian immigrants." In our minds, we often equate race to skin color, so, one would wonder how is it possible for white folks to discriminate other white folks based on skin color. But in the late 19th century and early 20th century, it wasn't so, there was a distinct belief that people who came from Northern Europe were far superior than those from Southern and eastern Europe.

During the 1920s, the US passed several restrictive immigration laws. In 1921, the Emergency Quota Act, which discriminated against immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, and in 1924 the National Origins Act, which completely excluded Japanese and other Asian immigrants and further reduced those admitted from Southern and Eastern Europe. It was at this time, there was a large interest in eugenics.
U.S. eugenicists also supported restriction on immigration from nations with "inferior" stock, such as Italy, Greece, and countries of eastern Europe, and argued for the sterilization of insane, retarded, and epileptic citizens.
Unfortunately, Hersch did not identify what countries the non-Hispanic whites originated. She does make an interesting finding. She notes:
There is also considerable support for the possibility that darker-skinned respondents may have likewise faced discrimination in their originating countries, and for that reason may have ended up with inferior market-related characteristics ... A preference for lighter skin occurs not only among blacks in the U.S., but in India, Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. What appears to be skin color discrimination affecting immigrants to the U.S. may instead be a continuation of discrimination already experienced in their home countries. On the other hand, positive self-selection among immigrants would offset negative effects of skin color discrimination experienced in their home countries.
For those who persist in claiming discrimination is a thing of the past, why is there a large number of people in the US who have the desire to appear as white as possible?

(Hat tip to JV for pointing out Belle Waring's post at Crooked Timber)


About me

  • I'm XicanoPwr
  • From Tejas, United States
  • Un Xicano who is tired of the current status quo.
My profile

Freedom Fighters

Cost of the War in Iraq

(JavaScript Error)


Email me:
Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates
Today's Gas Prices