Study: Latinos bring view of blacks
BY PAUL BONNER : The Herald-Sun
Jul 10, 2006 : 8:34 pm ET
DURHAM -- Latino immigrants bring negative attitudes toward blacks with them from their home countries rather than develop them after they arrive here, a team including four Duke and two UNC researchers say.
The study, which will appear in the August issue of the Journal of Politics analyzed survey data drawn from Durham residents in 2003.
Latinos also more often identified with whites than blacks, although whites were less likely to see themselves as having much in common with Latinos.
The survey asked 500 residents nearly equally divided among the three groups. The researchers chose Durham because of its nearly 500 percent increase in Latino population between 1990 and 2000, and because its black population spans socioeconomic levels.
"What surprised us most was the high level of negative stereotypes on the part of Latino immigrants," said Paula McClain, a professor of political science at Duke University and the study's lead author. "We were also, I guess, pleasantly surprised at the low level of stereotypes of blacks held by whites in Durham. Less than 10 percent of our sample of whites held negative stereotypes of blacks. And that blacks were more tolerant of Latino immigrants than Latino immigrants were of blacks."
The survey asked such questions as whether members of one group saw the others as hardworking, trustworthy or easy to get along with.
A majority of Latino immigrants, 58.9 percent, said few or almost no blacks are hardworking. Nearly one-third said few if any blacks are easy to get along with. And nearly 57 percent said few if any blacks could be trusted.
Only one-third of blacks, on the other hand, said they distrusted Latino immigrants; 42.8 percent said most or nearly all Latinos are easy to get along with; and 72 percent characterized them as hard-working.
Negative views toward blacks tended to be higher among male Latinos but lower among those who were more educated. Although it was too small to be statistically significant, some evidence suggested that unfavorable perceptions lessen with time spent in the United States.
Latinos seemed unlikely to have absorbed the attitudes from whites, the researchers said, mostly because whites were more positive toward blacks. Only 9.3 percent of whites said few blacks work hard, only 8.4 percent said few or no blacks are hard to get along with and only 9.6 percent said few if any blacks can be trusted.
More than three-quarters, 78 percent, of Latinos said they have more in common with whites than blacks. But whites said they have more in common with blacks -- 45.9 percent, as opposed to 22.2 percent saying they have more in common with Latinos.
Blacks were split on whether they have more in common with Latinos or whites -- 49.6 percent and 45.5 percent, respectively.
Through El Centro Hispano, Durham's Latino community supports advocacy for the economic interests of poor people of all races and ethnic backgrounds in Durham, said Alba Onofrio, El Centro's director. One way it does so is as a member organization of Durham CAN, which stands for Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods.
Friction arises from causes besides race, she said.
"We find that more often it's a matter of class and not of race," Onofrio said.
And although Hispanics are El Centro's main constituency, it aids other local immigrants, such as the Tanzanian Association, which meets at its offices, she said.
Onofrio suggested that Durham Latinos' attitudes toward blacks may be affected by black-on-Hispanic robbery, which gained a high profile in the mid-1990s as Latino immigration to Durham increased. But that, too, has more to do with blacks and Latinos living in close proximity, with both groups in dire economic straits, rather than race per se, she said.
"That creates a tension, because people aren't able to see out of that box that they live in," she said.
Although the study didn't look at crime, other evidence suggests Latino immigrants' attitudes about race may be formed in Mexico, where most Durham immigrants are from, McClain said. Recent studies there have documented racism and discrimination toward darker-skinned people, she said.
Three others of the study's 10 authors are at Duke: Niambi M. Carter, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto and Monique Lyle. UNC researchers Gerald F. Lackey and Kendra Davenport Cotton participated, as did J. Alan Kendrick of St. Augustine's College in Raleigh.
In the United States, relations can improve as long as people are willing to examine their presuppositions, McClain said.
"If you recognize these attitudes exist, you can begin to ameliorate them," she said. "The question is, since they exist, what do we do about them?"