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Florida Today

A Black And White Issue

Black Hispanics Battle Racism, Difficult Odds; White Counterparts Are More Successful, Census Figures Show

John A. Torres

August 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Florida Today. All rights reserved. 

There's a saying in Spanish that translates, "Let me have a look at your grandmother." The implication is somewhere down the line someone in your family was black.

That notwithstanding, black Hispanics have it tougher than white Hispanics. White Hispanics make more money, hold down more jobs and live in better neighborhoods than black Hispanics, according to a study released by the University of Albany based on 2000 census numbers.

In Brevard County, there are less than 1,000 black Hispanics, and nearly 15,000 Hispanics consider themselves to be white.

Melbourne attorney Steve Casanova, a white Hispanic, said the study's findings were not a surprise. He said it may boil down to racism based on skin color.

"White Hispanics have done well in American society and that's based on racial segregation, mainly because of color," he said. "It's really a shame but there is one and only one reason: color of skin."

Anselmo Baldonado said black Hispanics such as himself may face more racism than white Hispanics simply because of where they live. Although he has lived in the county for 22 years without any major racism problems, Baldonado admits to getting looks when he walks into department stores.

"You immediately arouse suspicion because you are a member of the darker persuasion," he said.

"I think the main factor is that we live here in America and fall into that American experience," he said. "Those that classify themselves as black, experience what black Americans experience."

The study, "How Race Counts for Hispanic Americans," was prepared by University of Albany sociologist John Logan using data from the 2000 Census. Logan said his analysis should better illuminate the similarities between blacks and Hispanics and color differences within the groups, topics he said were often glossed over in the national discussion on race.

Not immune

Casanova said his white skin has not made him immune to racism. He has experienced prejudice on both the professional level and while going through school partly because of his ethnicity.

"I felt totally alienated once in a professional surrounding. I was viewed as a lesser person because I'm Hispanic," he said, adding he felt law school professors treated him differently than non-Hispanic white students. "They treated us Hispanics as if we weren't that smart."

Samuel Lopez, president of United Third Bridge, a Melbourne-based civil rights organization, agreed.

"I've even seen it take place in Puerto Rico; racism exists there between the whites and blacks," Lopez said. "Because, strange as it seems, it all goes back to color and racism.

"It's about the color of skin and the identification with people as being African or brown, it has a negative connotation. Yet, we clap for Roberto Clemente and Felix Trinidad. Figure it out. Otherwise the thinking is 'I don't want them living next to me,' " Lopez said.

Clemente, who died in 1973, and Trinidad, a recently retired boxing champion, are both black Puerto Rican athletes admired by Latinos who follow sports. According to the 2000 Census, 17.6 million Hispanics described themselves as white, 939,471 Hispanics described themselves as black and 16.7 million checked off neither white or black. Logan refers to those as "Hispanic Hispanics."


Ironically, the study concludes that despite their socio-economic status, black Hispanics seem the most "Americanized" of the Hispanics. Only 28 percent of black Hispanics are foreign-born compared to 38 percent of white Hispanics and nearly 44 percent for Hispanic Hispanics. Black Hispanics are also less likely to speak a language other than English at home. Black Hispanics also average 11.7 years of education compared to only 11 for white Hispanics.

But this doesn't translate into good news in the job market. Only 8 percent of white Hispanics are unemployed while 12.3 percent of black Hispanics are unemployed.

Social standing isn't much better. According to the report, white Hispanics live closer to non-Hispanic whites than black Hispanics do and their neighborhoods are wealthier than those of other Hispanic groups.

In the middle

Baldonado, publisher of El Playero -- Brevard's only Spanish-language newspaper -- lives life right in the middle.

"I speak Spanish and function very well in both groups," he said. "I've been accepted without any reservations by the black community. But there are some white Hispanics who don't know I'm Hispanic when they see me."

Lisa Navarrete, spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza -- the country's largest Latino civil rights organization -- agreed the study's findings are an indication of what it's like to live in the United States.

"America defines how you are treated in a lot of ways, especially how you look," she said. "Afro- Latinos (black Hispanics) experience discrimination based on country of origin as well as race and color. In this country, race determines a lot -- where you live, where you work -- but so does national origin. That combination makes it difficult."

Miami has the highest share of white Hispanics, while New York has the highest share of black Hispanics. The highest rate of white Hispanics can be found among Cubans, while Dominicans have the highest share of black Hispanics.

According to the study, White Hispanics have another distinct advantage over black Hispanics in that they are more likely to be raised by both parents. Only 30.5 percent of black Hispanics under the age of 18 live with both parents, while nearly 72 percent of white Hispanic children live with both parents, the report states.

This, according to attorney Casanova, may have other consequences -- not all of them bad.

"Black Hispanics probably integrate into American society better than white Hispanics, maybe because their family units are not that close," he said.

Suntree resident Rebecca Soto said she has seen racism between Hispanics.

"As a white Hispanic in this community, I have not faced what perhaps a black Hispanic would have faced," said Soto, a bank manager. "Unfortunately, there is probably a little racism in everyone."

But Casanova, who worked his way from poverty to building a successful law practice, said the American dream is there for the taking -- regardless of race or color.

"I feel that in America, if you want it bad enough, you can get it," he said. "It might be a steeper climb, but you can get there."


Brevard Hispanics at a glance

White Hispanic............... 14,716

Hispanic Hispanic............. 4,414

Black Hispanic.................... 933

Other.............................. 1,907

Total ............................ 21,970

Note: Hispanic Hispanics are those who did not check either white or black on their 2000 Census.

Source: 2000 U.S. Census


National origins of Hispanics by race

The highest percentage of black Hispanics is Dominicans at 12.7%. Puerto Ricans also make up a higher than average percentage of black Hispanics at 8.2%

White Hispanic Hispanic Hispanic Black Hispanic Total

Mexican..............10,324,597..49.3%....10,406,214..49.7%... .221,905...1.1%...20,952,716

Puerto Rican.....1,661,517..49.0%.....1,450,124..42.8 %.. 277,765...8.2%.....3,389,466

Cuban.................1,071,596..85.4%....... 123,472...9.86%.. ..59,341...4.7%.....1,254,364

Dominican.........197,939 ..24.3%....... 514,185 .63.1%.. 103,361..12.7%......815,485

C. American......746,847..42.1%....... 956,540 .53.9%. ..72,823....4.1%...1,776,210

S. America.........854,785..61.1%........522,762..37.4%... 21,956....1.6%...1,399,503

All others............2,744,601..48.6%.....2,726,803..448.2%. .182,320....3.2%...5,653,724

Total....................70,601,942..49.9%...16,700,055..47.4 %.. 939,471...2.7%..35,241,468

Note: Hispanic Hispanics are those who did not check either white or black on their 2000 Census forms.

Source: Lewis Mumford Center, University of Albany


Socio-economic characteristics of Hispanics, blacks

White Hispanics have the highest incomes and lowest rates of unemployment and poverty.

Foreign born Speak other language Years of education Median Income Unemployment Below poverty
White Hispanic 38.8% 75.7% 11.0 $39,900 8.0% 24.1%
Hispanic Hispanic 43.8% 82.6% 9.9 $37,500 9.5% 27.7%
Black Hispanic 28.2% 60.8% 11.7 $35,000 12.3% 31.5%
Total 40.9% 78.6% 10.5 $38,500 8.8% 26.0%
Non-Hispanic Black 6.4% 6.3% 12.5 $34,000 11.0% 29.7%

Note: Hispanic Hispanics are those who did not check either white or black on their 2000 Census forms.

Source: Lewis Mumford Center, University of Albany

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