The Politics of Race in Latino Communities

Walking the Color Line

By Atiya Kai Stokes-Brown

© 2012 – Routledge

166 pages

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pub: 2014-11-10
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About the Book

Latinos are the fastest growing population group in the U.S. and have exerted widespread influence in numerous aspects of American culture from entertainment to economics. Unlike Asian, black, white, and Native Americans who are defined by race, Latinos can be of any race and are beginning to shed new light on the meanings and political implications of race. As the Latino population grows, how will Latinos come to define themselves racially given the long standing social order of black and white? What are the political implications of their chosen racial identities? How does Latinos’ racial identity influence their political behavior and motivation for participation?

The Politics of Race in Latino Communities is an innovative examination of development and political consequences of Latino racial identity in the U.S. Drawing on a national political survey of Latinos and focus group interviews, the book shows that development of Latino racial identity is a complex interaction between primordial ties, institutional practices, individual characteristics, and social interactions. Furthermore, the book highlights the political relevance of identity, showing that racial identity has meaningful consequences for the political attitudes, opinions, and behaviors of Latinos. An important piece of research propelling new discussions and insights into Latino politics.


"The Politics of Race in Latino Communities offers important new analysis, exploring how Latinos conceptualize racial identity, how their racial attitudes—about themselves and others—influence political behavior and incorporation, and how scholars can best understand the realities of Latino racial identities, within the framework of Latino panethnicity. Thought-provoking, sometimes controversial, and always well-reasoned, this book should be read by anyone interested in the complex dynamics of contemporary Latino politics. Stokes-Brown reminds us that for Latinos, as for American society more broadly, race matters."

—Tony Affigne, Professor of Political Science and Black Studies, Providence College

"Stokes-Brown explores a critical set of questions around Latino racial self-identification and how these might matter in politics. Her nuanced unpacking of what race means for Latinos suggests that the choice of racial labels—as well as Latinos' interpretations of what these labels mean—is correlated with significant differences in political orientations and behavior. This is a subtle and powerful piece of scholarship."

—Michael Jones-Correa, Cornell University

Table of Contents

1. Introduction Part 1: The Formation of Racial Identity 2. The Meaning and Measurement of Race 3. The Foundations of Latino Racial Identity Part 2: The Political Significance of Latino Racial Identity 4. Explaining Latino Political Orientations: The Role of Racial Identity 5. Racial Identity and the Politics of Latino Partisanship 6. The Impact of Race on Latino Political Participation 7. Latino Racial Identity and the Dynamics of Public Opinion Part 3: Conclusions and Implications 8. The Study of Latinos, Race, and American Politics: Where Do We Go From Here? Appendix A: Select Variables from LNS Questionnaire. Appendix B: Focus Group Questionnaire

About the Author

Atiya Kai Stokes-Brown is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Bucknell University, USA. Her research focuses on the political incorporation of women and racial/ethnic groups into the American political system, and issues of representation.

About the Series

Routledge Series on Identity Politics

Group identities have been an important part of political life in America since the founding of the republic. For most of this long history, the central challenge for activists, politicians, and scholars concerned with the quality of U.S. democracy was the struggle to bring the treatment of ethnic and racial minorities and women in line with the creedal values spelled out in the nation’s charters of freedom. We are now several decades from the key moments of the twentieth century when social movements fractured America’s system of ascriptive hierarchy. The gains from these movements have been substantial. Women now move freely in all realms of civil society, hold high elective offices, and constitute more than 50 percent of the workforce. Most African-Americans have now attained middle class status, work in integrated job sites, and live in suburbs. Finally, people of color from nations in Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean now constitute the majority of America’s immigration pool.

In the midst of all of these positive changes, however, glaring inequalities between groups persist. Indeed, ethnic and racial minorities remain far more likely to be undereducated, unemployed, and incarcerated than their counterparts who identify as white. Similarly, both violence and work place discrimination against women remain rampant in U.S. society. The Routledge series on identity politics features works that seek to understand the tension between the great strides our society has made in promoting equality between groups and the residual effects of the ascriptive hierarchies in which the old order was rooted.

Some of the core questions that the series will address are: how meaningful are the traditional ethnic, gender, racial, and sexual identities to our understanding of inequality in the present historical moment? Do these identities remain important bases for group mobilization in American politics? To what extent can we expect the state to continue to work for a more level playing field among groups?

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General