Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hierarchies within Race

The other day in lecture, someone brought up the idea of hierarchies within race due to their skin color. Latinos that are lighter-skinned are more readily accepted into the white culture because in a sense they blend in more. This also made me think of the first day of class where we attempted to define ‘Latin@’ and the discussion of census categories arose. Latinos can be classified as “white,” however this is not how the group is treated. Latinos are marginalized in treated in a discriminatory manner, not one of white status. However, then another issue is of how “light” is still not white thus yielding a question of authenticity and all of the discriminatory notions that permeates within society.

In a research paper I did for another class I came across Ilan Stavans’ article “Living in Another Language” who discusses from his personal experience people’s reactions to being a white- skinned Hispanic. He states how “society in the Americas has been structured by class. And class is often defined by degrees of foreignness. Thus, as a white-skinned Hispanic, I was automatically awarded a higher status, and among the Latino community in New York, that status again - attached to my Jewishness - opened doors to me” (Stavans 166). In my personal experience, I am a light-skinned Latina with a white name. People argue with me and state that I am not in fact Latina and of another ethnicity. But really, what does it matter and whose business is it anyway? Unfortunately, as Stavans indicates it does matter because of society’s perception and the importance placed on appearance.

Reference to: Stavans, Ilan. “Living in Another Language.” New England Review Vol. 22, No. 3 (Summer, 2001), pp. 168-172


  1. This weekend I attended the AB540 dinner on campus. It was a dinner to raise money for undocumented students, as they are not eligible for Financial aid. One of the student speakers adressed this topic. He is a light skinned mexican guy. He said he never understood what was different from him and other mexican kids as they were treated differently based on skin color. I believe that skin color helps explain wherre exactly you come from in Latin American, not how you live.

  2. I have a friend who finds her self faced with the same issue. She's from Colombia and does not fit the typical image that is believed to be the "look" held by Latin@s. She is extremely pale with rosy cheeks and light-blue eyes. WHOAH. You didn't see that one coming. Many times on campus I also find myself seeing the way lighter skinned latinos being treated differently than those that are brown. The whole thing about "brown is beautiful" or "brown power" within the chicano and latino community is very disturbing because in reality there are a ton of Latino's that are in fact NOT brown. I think a lot has to do with the fact that many individuals who are latino and just happen to be light have the privilege of being able to pass. The thing is, my friend can pass as long as she keeps her mouth shut. As soon as she speaks you can hear that she has an accent that is not french, not english, but a spanish accent. As my friend always says "this is fucked up." I think that because lighter skinned latinos or chicanos are seen as having "white privilege" should not mean that they should be treated differently by their own community. There is no generic skin tone or eye color for latinos as there is not with any other ethnic or racial category. I don't know, it really disturbs me though and I wish I didn't have to admit that I have seen this happen on campus. Some groups claim to attempt to create a more inclusive university while at the same time creating exclusive support and resource groups.

  3. As a lighter-skin Latina, who has family in all kinds of shades of brown and black--I also get to see first hand how skin color makes this huge difference in how you get treated every day. In terms of how other Latinos treat me, I guess people just have to get over their own stereotypes and deal. Although it is curious when I am in PR or Miami, or even parts of Nueva York, folks talk to me in Spanish -- they just assume I'm Latina, so I think it also depends on where you are.