Racial Democracy in the Americas: A Latin and U.S. Comparison

Racial Democracy in the Americas: A Latin and U.S. Comparison

Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Volume 35, Number 6 (November 2004)
pages 749-762
DOI: 10.1177/0022022104270118

Yesilernis Peña
University of California, Los Angeles

Jim Sidanius, Professor of Psychology
Harvard University

Mark Sawyer, Professor of Political Science
University of California, Los Angeles

The “racial democracy” (Iberian exceptionalism) thesis claims that racial prejudice in Latin America is not only lower than that found in the United States but is essentially absent altogether. We explored the plausibility of this thesis by the use of both explicit and implicit prejudice measures among Blacks and Whites from the United States and three Caribbean nations. In general, the results showed significant racial prejudice against Blacks and in favor of Whites in all four nations. African Americans were the only participants not to show significant implicit prejudice either in favor of or against Blacks. In addition, North Americans (i.e., participants from the United States) displayed lower implicit and explicit racial prejudice than participants in each of the three Latino nations. Overall, the results clearly contradicted the thesis of racial democracy and suggest that Latin America may not be nearly as egalitarian as some have argued.

The thesis known as “Racial democracy theory” (also referred to as Iberian exceptionalisin) argues that, relative to the United States, the nations of Latin America are largely free of the ferocious racial prejudice that has characterized race relations in the US for most of the 19th and 20th centuries (see Degler, 1986: Freyre 1951: Hoetink, 1967: Pierson, 1942: Tannenbaum, 1947). Racial democracy theorists base these conclusions upon the fact that, compared to North America. the nations of Latin America experienced a marked absence of post-manumission institutionalized racism (e.g.. segregation & Jim Crow laws), a general absence of race-based group violence (e.g.. lynching, race-base hate crimes), or racial protest, and a strikingly high rate of miscegenation. It is argued that, the extent to which racial inequality is still discernible in Latin American societies, this inequality is almost exclusively due to the residual effects of past racially contingent resource allocation and not to the effects of ongoing racial prejudice.

Racial democracy theorists attribute Latin American’s racial egalitarianism to three major factors. First, unlike the European colonists of North America, the Iberian conquerors of Latin America had the experience of living under the political and social hegemony of the Moors, a dark-skinned people, for nearly 800 years. Having experienced these dark-skinned conquerors as their political and cultural “superiors.” the Iberian colonists could not then regard the dark-skinned African and Indian slaves as sub-human with the same degree of celerity as the North American colonists found possible. Second, contrary to the Calvinist and Puritan doctrines of North American Protestantism. Catholicism regarded Native Americans, and even African Slaves, as people with souls and equally beloved of God: thus, the Catholic conquerors were less aversive to intermixing with them. Finally, in contrast to the colonists of North America, the early Latin American colonists did not venture into the New World with intact families. As a result, the Iberian colonists established sexual and emotional relationships with the Indian and African slave women rather quickly, creating a more positive attitude toward those of African descent and resulting in the high rates of miscegenation we see today in Latin America (Degler, 1986: Freye, 1946. 1951). As a result, they argue that broad based social movements like the Civil Rights movement in the US were not necessary because of the more egalitarian nature of race relations in Latin America…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,