Discrimination against Latinx communities in the United States is a pervasive and longstanding issue. Throughout history, Latinx Americans have been subjected to oppressive policies, racial profiling, and systemic marginalization. This discrimination has led to limited economic and educational opportunities, leaving Latinx communities far behind their white counterparts regarding resources, power, and privilege. Despite these challenges, Latinx Americans have continued to fight for their rights and recognition in the United States. In his book Harvest of Empire, historian Juan Gonzalez examines the history of Latinx people in America, analyzing the policies and practices that have excluded them from the American dream. Gonzalez’s work is essential to our understanding of discrimination against Latinx communities in the United States, and his insights provide a crucial foundation for the ongoing struggle for justice and equality. Despite progress in recent years, Latinx communities continue to face systemic discrimination in the United States that is rooted in a history of colonization, oppression, and racism; the paper will explore the history of discrimination against Latinx communities and discuss the impacts of this discrimination, as well as strategies for combating it.
History of Discrimination Against Latinx Communities
Discrimination against Latinx communities has a long and complex history in the United States. Latinx communities, composed of people of Latin American and Spanish descent, have faced discrimination and marginalization for centuries. During this time, Latinx individuals were subject to laws and policies restricting their access to education, employment, and other opportunities. For example, in the late 17th century, the colonial government of New Spain passed legislation that restricted the presence of Indigenous Americans in certain areas and prohibited Native Americans from receiving an education. This legislation aimed to prevent Indigenous Americans’ assimilation into colonial society (Gonzalez, 2011).
Though many Latinx communities have been present in the United States since the colonial period, anti-immigrant sentiment during the late 19th and early 20th centuries created a hostile environment for many Latinx people (Gonzalez, 2011). This discrimination has manifested itself in the form of government policies and institutional practices, as well as in how Latinx people are treated by the general public. The earliest formal discrimination against Latinx communities in the United States dates back to the early 1800s when the federal government passed laws targeting Spanish-speaking immigrants.
One law, the Naturalization Act of 1802, specifically excluded Spanish-speaking immigrants from naturalization, meaning they could not become American citizens. This law was later replaced by the Naturalization Act of 1819, which extended naturalization rights to all immigrants but still excluded Spanish-speaking immigrants (Gonzalez, 2011). This law was overturned in 1868 when the Fourteenth Amendment was passed, and naturalization rights were extended to all immigrants regardless of race or language. In addition to laws explicitly targeting Latinx immigrants, the federal government also passed laws that indirectly affected Latinx communities.
For example, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibited Chinese immigrants from entering the United States, which had the unintended consequence of making Latinx immigrants the primary target of discrimination. This act was repealed in 1943. The federal government also passed laws that sought to limit the rights of Latinx communities (Gonzalez, 2011). The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, for example, allowed the government to deport any immigrant suspected of being “dangerous” to the public. This law was later expanded in the Immigration Act of 1917, which prohibited immigrants from certain countries from entering the United States.
These laws targeted immigrants from countries with large Latinx populations, such as Mexico and Central America (Gonzalez, 2011). Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Latinx communities faced discrimination in the form of institutional practices. Schools, for example, often segregated Latinx students from their peers, and Latinx students were often given different and less rigorous curricula than their white counterparts. Latinx students were also more likely to be disciplined and punished for minor infractions than their white counterparts. In addition to government policies and institutional practices, Latinx communities also face discrimination in the form of public attitudes and behavior. For example,
Latinx people are often the targets of hate crimes and are often stereotyped and portrayed negatively in the media. Latinx people are also more likely to be the victims of police brutality (Vargas et al., 2021). Discrimination against Latinx communities is a complex and longstanding issue in the United States. This discrimination has manifested itself in the form of government policies, institutional practices, and public attitudes. Though some progress has been made in recent years, much more must be done to ensure that Latinx communities are treated with dignity and respect.
Impacts of Discrimination
The arrival of Latinx people in the United States can be traced back to the mid-19th century, when a wave of Mexican immigrants began to arrive in the United States due to several factors, including the disruption of their lives in Mexico due to the Mexican-American War, as well as the lure of a better life in the United States. Mexican immigrants found a hostile environment in the United States, characterized by racism and discrimination (Gonzalez, 2011). For example, Latinx people were excluded from many economic opportunities, such as owning land, and were often subjected to discrimination in the workplace. This economic exclusion of Latinx people often led to poverty and instability in their communities.
Discrimination against Latinx communities in the United States has had a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals and their families. In the mid-1900s, the Latinx population was met with several challenges, including limited access to educational and economic opportunities and a lack of representation in political and social spaces. While the overt forms of discrimination that Latinx individuals experienced have lessened in recent decades, discrimination remains a persistent issue in the U.S.
In the past, Latinx communities in the U.S. were met with several discriminatory practices, such as segregation in schools and housing, job discrimination, and language barriers. Segregation in schools and housing was one of the most prominent forms of Latinx discrimination individuals faced in the mid-1900s (Gonzalez, 2011). African-Americans and Latinx individuals were barred from living in specific neighborhoods and attending certain schools, which resulted in a lack of access to quality education and resources. This, in turn, led to a lack of job opportunities and limited economic mobility for Latinx individuals. Job discrimination was another form of discrimination experienced by Latinx individuals in the mid-1900s.
Employers often hired white individuals over Latinx individuals, regardless of qualifications, which resulted in a lack of economic opportunities for Latinx individuals. Language barriers were also a significant issue in the U.S. at this time. Many Latinx individuals spoke Spanish as their primary language, which resulted in a lack of access to resources and services (Gonzalez, 2011). As a result, Latinx individuals often could not access healthcare, education, and other essential services. The discrimination experienced by Latinx individuals in the U.S. has hurt their lives and their families. Discrimination has led to a lack of access to education and economic opportunities, which has resulted in a lack of upward mobility and increased poverty in Latinx communities.
Additionally, discrimination has hurt the mental health of Latinx individuals, as they often experience feelings of alienation and isolation due to their minority status. Discrimination has also led to a lack of representation in political and social spaces. Latinx individuals are often underrepresented in positions of power, which has led to a lack of representation of their views and interests in policy and decision-making (Gonzalez, 2011). This lack of representation has resulted in a lack of policies and initiatives to address the needs of Latinx individuals, which has further exacerbated existing issues of poverty and inequality. Discrimination against Latinx communities in the U.S. has profoundly impacted the lives of countless individuals and their families. Latinx individuals have faced a range of discriminatory practices, such as segregation in schools and housing, job discrimination, and language barriers.
These discriminatory practices have led to a lack of access to education and economic opportunities and a lack of representation in political and social spaces. Additionally, discrimination has hurt the mental health of Latinx individuals, as they often experience feelings of alienation and isolation due to their minority status (García et al., 2018). Discrimination continues to be a significant issue in the U.S., and it is essential to recognize the negative impacts it has had and continues to have on Latinx communities. We can create a more equitable and just society by recognizing the issue and taking action to address the underlying causes of discrimination.
Strategies for Combating
The first strategy for combating discrimination against Latinx communities is to increase public awareness and understanding of their history, culture, and contributions to the United States. Latinx people have been present in the United States since the colonial period and have made significant contributions to the nation’s history, culture, and economy. However, their history and contributions have been largely overlooked and underrepresented in mainstream media and public discourse (Seider et al., 2019). Increasing public awareness and understanding of Latinx people and their histories and contributions can help to reduce discrimination and xenophobia against them and can also help to ensure that their stories, perspectives, and experiences are included in the nation’s narrative. Also, promoting greater understanding and respect of the culture, history, and contributions of Latinx people in the United States. This should include education initiatives that focus on the history and culture of Latinx people and efforts to highlight the many positive contributions that Latinx people have made to American society. Additionally, it is essential to recognize the unique challenges and needs that Latinx communities face and to ensure that resources are available to support them.
The second strategy for combating discrimination against Latinx communities is strengthening policies and legal protections. Latinx people are disproportionately affected by policies and laws denying them fundamental human rights, such as the right to vote, education, and healthcare (Vargas et al., 2021). Strengthening policies and legal protections for Latinx people can ensure they can access the same rights and opportunities as other citizens. It can also help to reduce the unequal treatment they often face in the criminal justice system.
The third strategy for combating discrimination against Latinx communities is to support organizations and initiatives working to advance their rights and improve their quality of life. A number of organizations and initiatives are working to protect Latinx people’s rights and improve their quality of life, such as the National Association for Latinx and Hispanic Rights and the Hispanic Federation (Abreu et al., 2021). These organizations are working to promote and protect the civil rights of Latinx people, to ensure that they have access to resources and opportunities, and to ensure that their voices are heard in the public discourse. Supporting these organizations and initiatives helps ensure that Latinx people can access the same rights and opportunities as other citizens and can help reduce discrimination against them.
The fourth strategy for combating discrimination against Latinx communities is to promote diversity and inclusion in all areas of American life. Latinx people have often been excluded from many aspects of American life, such as education, employment, and politics (Seider et al., 2019). Promoting diversity and inclusion in all areas of American life helps ensure that Latinx people can access the same rights and opportunities as other citizens and can help reduce discrimination against them.
Another effective strategy for combating discrimination against Latinx communities is ensuring fair and equitable access to education. This includes providing affordable access to higher education, removing barriers to college attendance, and expanding opportunities for bilingual education (Abreu et al., 2021). Additionally, Latinx communities should be more represented in educational decision-making processes. This will help ensure that their voices are heard and can help ensure that their needs are considered.
Finally, the fifth strategy for combating discrimination against Latinx communities is to support the continued advocacy and activism of Latinx people (Vargas et al., 2021). Latinx people have long advocated for their rights and the advancement of their communities. This advocacy and activism have been critical in helping to advance Latinx people’s rights and reduce discrimination against them. Supporting the continued advocacy and activism of Latinx people can ensure their voices are heard, and their rights and interests are protected.
In addition, creating and supporting more Latinx-owned businesses can help to combat discrimination. This can include providing access to capital and other resources to help Latinx-owned businesses succeed. Additionally, providing incentives for Latinx-owned businesses can help to encourage more individuals to start their businesses, which can create additional economic opportunities for Latinx communities (Abreu et al., 2021). Finally, it is crucial to create a supportive environment that is conducive to Latinx success. This includes combating stereotypes and negative attitudes towards Latinx people, promoting positive images of Latinx people in the media, and encouraging cross-cultural understanding. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure that Latinx people have access to the same opportunities as other communities. This includes providing resources for job training and employment, fostering access to affordable housing, and increasing access to healthcare.
The history of discrimination against Latinx communities in the United States is long and complex. From the early days of colonization, Latinx people have faced various forms of mistreatment, exclusion, and oppression. This discrimination has manifested in economic exploitation, political disenfranchisement, cultural erasure, and physical violence. As documented by Juan Gonzalez in his book Harvest of Empire, the legacies of discrimination against Latinx communities continue to be felt today, from immigration policies to educational inequities and police brutality. Latinx communities in the United States have faced and continue to face systemic discrimination. This is an issue that deserves more attention and action. We must examine the structural and institutional factors that lead to discrimination and work to address them. This includes advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, ensuring that Latinx people have access to quality education, and fighting against police brutality and racial profiling. People must also recognize and celebrate the resiliency and strength of Latinx communities in the face of discrimination and work to create a society where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.
Abreu, R. L., Gonzalez, K. A., Capielo Rosario, C., Lockett, G. M., Lindley, L., & Lane, S. (2021). “We are our own community”: Immigrant Latinx transgender people community experiences. Journal of counseling psychology. https://psycnet.apa.org/psycarticles/2021-43901-001.pdf
García, O., & Sung, K. K. (2018). Critically assessing the 1968 Bilingual Education Act at 50 years: Taming tongues and Latinx communities. Bilingual Research Journal, 41(4), 318-333. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15235882.2018.1529642
Gonzalez, J. (2011). Harvest of empire: A history of Latinos in America. Penguin.
Seider, S., Clark, S., Graves, D., Kelly, L. L., Soutter, M., El-Amin, A., & Jennett, P. (2019). Black and Latinx adolescents’ developing beliefs about poverty and associations with their awareness of racism. Developmental Psychology, 55(3), 509. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2019-08939-007
Vargas, E. D., Juarez, M., Stone, L. C., & Lopez, N. (2021). Critical ‘street race’praxis: advancing the measurement of racial discrimination among diverse Latinx communities in the U.S. Critical Public Health, 31(4), 381-391. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09581596.2019.1695040