New UnidosUS Paper Details Systemic Racism’s Impact on Latinos in the United States

American policies and institutions have harmed Hispanics since the 19th century

WASHINGTON, DC—Systemic racism has adversely affected the Latino experience since Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos first became subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, according to a new research paper released today coauthored by Senior Director of UnidosUS’s Racial Equity Initiative Viviana López Green and Samantha Vargas Poppe, formerly of UnidosUS.

Unveiled in a virtual town hall by UnidosUS Senior Advisor Charles Kamasaki, López Green and bestselling author Julissa Arce, Toward a More Perfect Union: Understanding Systemic Racism and Resulting Inequity in Latino Communities offers a “primer” for understanding the ways that systemic racism has affected Latino communities in North America and the United States since the 19th century. In particular, this paper outlines the role that systemic racism plays in perpetuating injustices and inequity in the areas of employment, income and poverty, education, homeownership, wealth, health coverage and criminal justice, explaining the unequal social, political and economic opportunities for the nation’s 60 million Latinos.

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“On each of these measures—from housing to education to criminal justice to immigration and others—Latino socioeconomic outcomes are significantly lower than those of their White counterparts,” said López Green. “Together, these disparities continue to reinforce the separate and unequal status of Latinos in the United States by fueling a cycle of inequity where power in terms of wealth or representation in government remains out of reach for many Hispanics.”

Some key points of the paper include:

  • Latinos are 170 percent more likely to be killed by a police officer than their White counterparts thanks to institutionalized police violence that has affected Latino communities for decades.
  • Latino children are more likely to be in schools with fewer resources and lower funding levels and are the most segregated schoolchildren in the country because of confluence of intentionally racist laws, policies and cultural practices.
  • Although Latinos currently have the highest labor force participation rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States, they are concentrated in low-wage jobs and are the least likely to have access to benefits, including paid leave.
  • Only 41 percent of Hispanics receive health insurance through their jobs because of structural racism embedded in the employment-based insurance system.
  • Despite banning the worst discriminatory practices, Latinos are still less likely to own their homes (48 percent) than Whites (70 percent).
  • Following immigration reform in the 1960s, it became exponentially more difficult to live and work in the United States for Latinos, including in making adjustment of legal status more difficult and closing off access to public benefits.
  • Restrictive voter ID laws, roll purging, unnotified polling place closures and early voting reduction all limit Latinos’ ability to exercise their franchise.

“An essential element of the growing national discourse on race is the intentional and full inclusion of the history, perspectives and interests of Latinos,” López Green said. “We need a public discourse that is more inclusive of how systemic racism has harmed the Latino community throughout its history in the United States. Only by acknowledging and confronting the structural racism and inequities can they finally be dismantled for the benefit of everyone in the United States.”