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Discrimination and Hispanics in America

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    Discrimination and Hispanics in America Racial discrimination commonly refers to unfair or unequal behavior upon on individuals due to their race or ethnicity. Racism has been practiced for decades. Exerting superiority or supremacy over a race of individuals is the attempt of racial dominance. Despite the increasing population in the United States, Hispanic Americans find racial discrimination a reality in their lives.

    Migration rates have been on a dramatic climb over the past several decades resulting in a significant growth in diversity being experienced. The migration of the various cultural groups, including the Hispanic cultures, has not been readily accepted by the current populations of the United States, causing social inequality. This social inequality both in the past and present has led to discrimination, segregation, and stereotyping of the Hispanic American populations, particularly the Puerto Rican Americans, despite being from a United State Territory. What is Hispanic? Hispanic is a term coined by the United States.

    It was established in the 1970’s by the government “in an attempt to identify a diverse group of people among the population with a connection to the Spanish language or culture” (U. S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany, 2008, Para 2). Despite the stereotypic classifications of Hispanics, the Hispanic community is a mixture of numerous groups. These groups include individuals from different countries in Latin America including Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba and Brazil (U. S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany, 2008). Not only a diversification by country, but the Hispanics also have a diverse array of cultures, beliefs, political views, and religions.

    The Migration of Puerto Rican Americans The Island of Puerto Rico was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. Puerto Rico was impoverished; much of the population was struggling in agriculture or mining. African slaves were introduced into the island as an added workforce for mining and farming in the attempt to revitalize the island’s industries. This introduction of new cultures diversified their culture further. During the height of the poverty levels, the nation was relinquished to the military of the United States in the early 1900s, becoming a territory of the United States.

    The United States Congress later passed legislation that made the population of Puerto Rico citizens of the United States. Following World War II, the continued poverty combined with overpopulation of the island, compelled many Puerto Ricans to migrate to the United States in search for better opportunities. This migration continues today. The Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico voiced his concern of the state of the island: “the Island’s current status does not enable the people of Puerto Rico to fulfill their potential for social, economic and political development.

    This is not only a political problem; it is also manifested in Puerto Rico’s chronic economic underperformance” (Fortuno, 2007, Para 3). Racial Discrimination Often many minorities attempting to avoid discrimination reside in neighborhoods that are predominantly their ethnicity or is culturally diverse to have a safety net of common culture around them. This safety net is not always the case. The following is a prime example of such discrimination. In 1994, the Ramos family; a Puerto Rican/black man and his Puerto Rican wife relocated to a racially diverse neighborhood where they were welcomed by most.

    There was a neighbor in particular, a 27 year old white woman who was not so welcoming (Gleick, 1994). The Ramos family reported in a lawsuit that this neighbor went to their home, not to welcome them but to say: “her family would not allow spicks and niggers to live in the neighborhood” and recommended that the Ramos family to move out (Gleick, 1994, Para, 1). It was reported that this neighbor used racial slurs against the family including “spick whores” towards the women and “little nigger” and “little spick” on their children (Gleick, 1994). The lawsuit also noted that on one occasion the neighbor threatened them by aying “if he weren’t a Chicago police officer, his home would be burned down like that of another black family that had moved into the neighborhood” (Gleick, 1994. Para. 3). Puerto Rican Americans are also the victims of reverse discrimination or inter-racial discrimination. The 1940 Nationality Act, which gave the Puerto Rican population their United States citizenship, caused tension between the various groups of Hispanics. Despite the overall struggle of the Puerto Ricans, this shred of social status has turned many of the Hispanic groups against the Puerto Rican Americans. There are examples of this in recent history.

    In 2008 the EEOC filed suit against a Florida wholesale club (“BJ’s”) for reverse discrimination. The complaint charged that “a hostile workplace was created when a BJ manager subjected a Puerto Rican employee and a Black employee to offensive slurs based on race and national origin. The manager was a Cuban-American” (Parham, 2008, Para 1). A social problem that many Hispanic migrants have to deal with upon their arrival to the United States is segregation. Often we have heard, particularly in the world of politics, the largest minority group is the Hispanic population, a force that can swing an election.

    Despite this political clout, there continues to be segregation. Based on an interview with Ronald Davila, a Puerto Rican American who came to this country a little more than ten years ago, continues to fight off stereotypical notions of uneducated, recipient of welfare, and illegal immigrant that are ever present (personal communication, 2010). Ronald Davila also points to another aspect that has caused segregation is the strong belief in family ties. He explains that it is not uncommon for extended family members to live in the same household which is a break from the mainstream populations (personal communication, 2010).

    This is a traditional value that many attempt to hold on to despite the urbanization. It can be argued that this traditional value can be seen as segregation as it different from the mainstream and by default causes isolation from various neighborhoods. Language is another barrier that causes segregation. Often newly migrated Hispanics retain their native languages. English as the official language in the United States and teaching Spanish in elementary schools are often debated topics. I personally do not see what is wrong with learning a second language as a child. Spanish and French were always the second language options for me rowing up and for my child. It is a great way to become diversified and mesh with the community. There are still some who would prefer not to mesh and thus the debate occurs. Racial redlining has many forms. An example of such is the inequality of insurance rates for minority groups including Hispanics. In 1994, complaints were filed by the ‘National Fair Housing Alliance’ of Washington D. C. against State Farm Insurance, as well as other insurance companies, for incidents of racial discrimination and redlining. NFHA’s conducted a study testing the insurance rates nationally.

    The study concluded that non-minority homeowners received better rates and coverage than Hispanics 53% of the time. In some areas, specifically noted with State Farm in Toledo, the discrimination rate was 85% (Jones, 1997). “The discrimination took on many forms but was typified by practices that restricted or denied homeowners insurance coverage to Hispanics and minority neighborhoods” (Jones, 1997, Para 8). This practice of racial redlining prevented Hispanic populations from purchasing homes, insurance, or other assets and protections, reducing their opportunities of achieving financial success.

    Stereotyping adversely affect individuals due to false or negative perceptions of the minority group. Groups of people are made up of individuals; there are few (if any) characteristics that can be applied of everyone in a group uniformly. This stereotyping has hindered the Hispanic’s overall ability to obtain equal opportunity employment. Employers often make assumptions on their abilities and force them toward specific jobs; such as construction, custodial, or housekeeping services.

    This stereotyping may limit access to better opportunities in both careers and in training and development. Many economists know this unfair practice as the dual labor market. Puerto Ricans have endured inequalities and injustices ranging from segregation to racial discrimination and redlining; however there are injustices that they face in the home island. In 1941, the United States military seized land on Vieques Island, a small island off the coast of the Puerto Rico mainland, for the establishment of military bases (Ruiz-Marrero, 2001).

    Ruiz-Marrero, a Puerto Rican journalist reported: “In the 60 years that have followed, these stolen lands have been used as a munitions depot and a firing range” (Para. 3). The Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, released statements announcing: “Vieques is the best example of destruction and environmental injustice in the Americas” (Ruiz-Marrero, 2001, Para 9). Crabs caught and tested near the military base show increased cadmium, a carcinogenic and known cause of kidney damage and hypertension, then crabs elsewhere. The Puerto Rico Health Department revealed that, “the cancer rate in Vieques is 26. % above Puerto Rico’s average. Apart from cancer, Vieques epidemiologist Rafael Rivera-Castano also reports unusually high rates of other diseases, such as scleroderma, lupus, thyroid deficiencies and asthma” (Ruiz-Marrero, 2001, Para 13).

    Sharon Bathory, the Director of Human Resources of the W Vieques Hotel has also seen firsthand the harm caused by the military base. In your position, she deals with the associates of the hotel and with their medical benefits. “Over 50% of our associates have a form of cancer” (Sharon Bathory, personal communication, 2010). We get used to dealing when an unexploded munitions washed up on shore, but the after-effects of the military base on the people who live here is an injustice” (Bathory, personal communication, 2010). Change is inevitable. History has shown that individuals and groups adapt to the current situations over time, changing their perceptions, traditions, and in some cases their culture. Puerto Rican Americas have endured much inequality and injustice based upon the stereotypes of being Hispanic, despite being born as United States citizens.

    This may be the United States Government’s fault by attempting to streamline a name for all Hispanics into one all-encompassing label despite distinct differences. If Puerto Rican Americans endure this, despite being citizens of this nation, the discrimination and inequality experienced by those who were not born citizens must be greater. The fight for the solution to this injustice is ongoing. There are those within the government who fight to protect the rights of all, as we noted with EEOC and the National Fair Housing Alliance, who fought for the rights of Hispanics against large corporations.

    The United States was founded on the principle of we are one nation of individuals, a melting pot. There will always be those who will retain those hardline views with racial tendencies. Their discrimination will be present, but overall the nation is moving into the right direction by recognizing this and working through it. (Hernandez C 9 Old and New Stereotypes of Hispanics)


    1. (Fortuno L G 20070327 Oral Statement)Fortuno, L. G. (2007, March 27).
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    3. On Hostile Ground. People Weekly, 42, n23. p. 21(2). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from General OneFile via Gale: http://find. galegroup. com/ips/start. do? prodId=IPS Jones, J. (August 1997).
    4. Let the Home Buyer Beware: Insurance Carriers Come Under Fire for Racial Redlining and Price Disparities. Black Enterprise, 28, n1. p. 19(2). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from General OneFile via Gale: http://find. galegroup. com/ips/start. do? prodId=IPS Macionis, J. J. (2006).
    5. Society: The basics (8th ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Parham, M. (May 5, 2008).
    6. BJ’s Wholesale Club to Pay $100,000 in Discrimination Suit. (BUSINESS)(Brief article).Jet, 113, 17. p. 40 (1). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from General OneFile via Gale: http://find. galegroup. com/ips/start. do? prodId=IPS Ruiz-Marrero, C. (Summer 2001).
    7. Puerto Ricans Battle US Navy in Vieques. Synthesis/Regeneration, 25. p. 17. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from Academic OneFile via Gale: http://find. galegroup. com/gtx/start. do? prodId=AONE&userGroupName=apollo (US Diplomatic Mission To Germany 200805 U. S. Society: Hispanic Americans)U. S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany. (2008, May).
    8. U. S. Society: Hispanic Americans. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://usa. usembassy. de/society-hispanics. htm

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