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Latinos View Black “Law-abidingness” Less Favorably than Whites Do

- July 22, 2013

We welcome another guest post from Brown political scientist Michael Tesler.


Some commentators have questioned the role of race in the events leading up to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin because George Zimmerman’s mother is Latina—a discussion that has carried over into the comments section of this blog.  The fact that Zimmerman is part Hispanic, however, hardly immunizes him from the explicit and implicit anti-black biases that Corrine McConnaughy described in her recent post.

Indeed, the figure below suggests that Latinos are actually more likely to stereotype African-Americans as criminals than whites.  Those results, which come from a 2009 Pew Poll that interviewed a relatively large number of Hispanics (N = 376), reveal that Latinos were much less willing than whites to say “most blacks are law-abiding.“  Only 48% of Latinos, for instance, endorsed that statement compared to 76% of whites.  Moreover, the second panel of the display shows that this pessimism among Latinos was limited to their perceptions of black law-abidingness.  Three-quarters of the Latinos surveyed said that “most whites are law-abiding.”  The display also shows that African-Americans were surprisingly suspicious of their own group’s law-abidingness.  Yet, unlike whites and Latinos, African-Americans were even more likely to stereotype whites as criminals—a factor that may contribute to the wide racial divide in Americans’ reactions to the Zimmerman verdict.

(Source: Pew Social Trends–October 2009–Racial Attitudes in America II; raw data here)

A recently published article by Tessa Ditanto, Richard Lau and David Sears also suggests that anti-black attitudes may be more prevalent among Latinos than whites.  Analyzing data from the 2008 American National Election Study, which included a Latino oversample, these authors found: “In terms of negative affect toward Blacks, acceptance of Black stereotypes, and implicit prejudice, Latinos score higher than non-Hispanic Whites.“

To be sure, these results in no way imply that Zimmerman’s actions on the night of Trayvon Martin’s death were racially motivated.  They do, however, make it clear that Latinos are just as likely, if not more so, to maintain the stereotypes and implicit biases that could lead to the racial profiling of African-Americans.