Latinx Files: The need to tackle colorism in our community

Photo illustration of blocks of different skin colors
Latinxs experience discrimination from other Latinxs at about the same rate as they do from non-Latinxs
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

Latinxs experience discrimination from other Latinxs at about the same rate as they do from non-Latinxs, according to the Pew Research Center.

In a report published Monday, the nonpartisan think tank found that 27% of Latinxs surveyed said they had “personally experienced discrimination or were treated unfairly” by other Latinxs. When asked about non-Latinxs, that number increased slightly to 31%.

For the record:

9:14 a.m. May 5, 2022

An earlier version of this post said that a survey found Latinxs with darker skin faced prejudice from other Latinxs nearly twice as much (48%) as Latinxs with lighter skin (25%). The correct percentage for Latinxs with darker skin who faced prejudice is 41%.

The survey also found that Latinxs with darker skin faced prejudice from other Latinxs at a much higher rate (41%) as Latinxs with lighter skin (25%).


“Having darker skin and being born outside the United States is associated with an increased chance of experiencing this type of discrimination,” writes Luis Noe-Bustamante, a Pew research analyst and author of the report.

I can’t say I’m shocked.

I could very easily point to the rise of white nationalism among people with Spanish surnames. I could also direct you to this New York Times story set in the Rio Grande Valley (puro 956 cuh!) about the grievance politics of “my family did it the right way” Hispanics.

But if I’m being real with you, I could also point to relatives who have casually used indigeneity or skin color as an insult. And I know I’m not the only one.

According to the survey, nearly half of respondents (48%) said that they had heard family members and friends make racially insensitive comments or jokes about other Latinxs.

That certainly was Matthew Luis Rivera’s experience. Rivera grew up in Humboldt Park, a historically Puerto Rican neighborhood in Chicago. The Windy City, he points out, is a very segregated place.

“The way it was, there was us, there were the Blacks, the Mexicans, and the Polish — not even the whites.”

As a child Rivera was “conditioned to believe that Puerto Ricans and Mexicans were rivals.”


“I grew up hearing Mexican parents saying they didn’t want their daughters to date Puerto Ricans, and I’ve heard people in my family say, ‘Don’t date any Mexicans.’”

That skin color plays a major role in determining how much discrimination Latinxs face isn’t surprising, either. After all, colorism and racism are as much part of the culture as the food and music.

In a report published in November 2021, Pew researchers found that when given the option to self-identify using the Yadon-Ostfeld 10-point skin color scale, 80% of Latinxs chose a lighter skin tone.

This unspoken reality has led some to reject the concept of Latinidad altogether.

“I step over the margins Latinidad relegates me to and continue to forge in the fullness of my Blackness,” wrote Dash Harris Machado in a personal essay for Refinery29. “That is where my pride lies.”

It’s an uncomfortable truth to reckon with, especially given that Latinxs themselves are often racialized and subjected to bigotry. But Latinx is not a race. Neither is Mexican or Cuban or Salvadoran or Puerto Rican.

Rivera tells me that he grew up conflating ethnicity with race. It wasn’t until he left the friendly confines of Humboldt Park to go to college in Indiana that he was forced to learn the distinction.

It was there where he was called the n-word at a Walmart. It was there where he was pulled over multiple times by police. It was there where he learned that the way he saw himself wasn’t exactly how others saw him.

Rivera describes those experiences as being crucial in forcing him to think more critically about his racial identity. The way he sees himself now has evolved.


“I now say I’m a Black Puerto Rican,” he says. “I’m Afro Latino and if anyone assumes I’m just Black or just Latino, then I’m going to be like, ‘Nah. Actually, I’m both. I’m everything all at once.’”

There is a tiny sliver of optimism to be found in the Pew report, and that is that younger Latinxs are more likely to say that they’ve witnessed a family member or friend make comments or jokes about other Latinxs and non-Latinxs alike than older Latinxs.

Granted, it’s not much, but I’m choosing to see it as a sign that there is some inclination to recognize the problem.

And the sooner we recognize it, the sooner we can begin to address it.

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Henry Cuellar and a column from the Supreme Court
Henry Cuellar
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images )

Democratic leadership backs anti-abortion incumbent

All hell broke loose on Monday after Politico reported that the Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion at the federal level. You can find the Times’ extensive coverage here.

Democrats have vowed to fight back, but as this New York Times analysis indicates, the party in control of the White House, House of Representatives and Senate has few viable options.


It also doesn’t instill much confidence that the same party leaders decrying the potential ruling are also backing Henry Cuellar, the last anti-abortion Democrat in Congress, in an upcoming primary runoff against progressive Jessica Cisneros to represent Texas’ 13th congressional district.

Rep. Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, was in San Antonio to stump for Cuellar on Wednesday.

“When people tell you you need to agree on everything, I do not agree with Henry Cuellar on everything … we need to sit down with people who we do not agree with and try to find common ground, to do what is necessary to move this country forward,” Clyburn said at the rally.

In a bitter twist of irony, Cuellar’s district includes Starr County, which is where 26-year-old Lizelle Herrera was recently arrested and charged with murder for inducing an abortion.

Things we read this week that we think you should read

Arts columnist Carolina Miranda went to Denver to check out a new exhibit that challenges the historic portrayal of La Malinche, the enslaved Indigenous woman who served as interpreter for Hernán Cortés and has long been a symbol of betrayal.

— This Saturday, Mexican boxer Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez will look to win a title in another division when he faces off against Dmitry Bivol in Las Vegas. The Cinco de Mayo weekend fight is NOT just one of the sport’s biggest nights, it’s also, as my good friend and ESPN senior writer Roberto Jose Andrade Franco likes to say, the unofficial start of Paisa Summer, that wonderful time of the year cuando los tambores se prenden y se arma el reventón.

To get you pumped for this weekend’s fight, check out Manouk Akopyan’s feature on Canelo’s other sporting love: golf.

— This week, thanks to KCET, I learned that the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations were held in Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1863. For more on the history of the holiday, read this story written by Yvonne Condes.

— On Monday, Bad Bunny was roasted online for showing up to the Met Gala looking like Inspector Gadget. On Wednesday, he announced that he was about to drop a new album. You can’t convince me that these two things aren’t related. For more details on the upcoming record, Times music reporter Suzy Exposito has you covered.

— Sam Raimi is back helming a Marvel movie and to commemorate the occasion, the homie David Betancourt, who covers comic book culture for the Washington Post, wrote about watching 2002’s “Spider-Man” for the first time. No spoilers but David’s abuelo and dad have cameos in his story.