Updated May 7, 2022 - World

New study shows complexities of the Afro Latino experience

Afro-Latino adults who say their race is...
Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Over 6 million Americans — many more than previously known — identify as Afro Latino, according to a Pew Research Center study released this week.

The big picture: The results of the survey show the nation’s evolving diversity and the complex racial and ethnic makeup of Latinos in the U.S.

  • Nearly 30% of respondents who identify as Afro Latino also said their race is white, illustrating the complicated perspectives Americans have on race and ethnicity.
  • Afro Latinos are of African descent and from Latin American or Caribbean heritage.

The intrigue: Pew Research Center asked people directly whether they identify as Afro Latino, a different approach than other surveys.

  • The Census, for example, asks people if they are Hispanic and then, in another question, whether they are Black.
  • This two-step question approach netted a much smaller number (1.2 million) of people who identify as Afro Latino than directly asking how people identify, Pew researcher Ana Gonzalez-Barrera said.

By the numbers: Afro Latinos are 2% of the U.S. adult population, Pew found by surveying over 68,000 adults in the U.S. from Nov. 19, 2019 to June 3, 2020.

  • They make up 12% of Latino adults.
  • Overall, Afro Latinos report similar levels of discrimination as other Latinos, but were more likely to report discrimination during police interactions and when speaking Spanish in public.
  • Having darker skin is also associated with an increased chance of experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment from other Latinos, per a separate Pew study.

Between the lines: The history of slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean and Latin America plays an enormous role in how Latinos and Afro Latinos think about their identity, experts say.

  • Fifteen times as many African slaves were taken to Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Latin America than the U.S., data shows.
  • About 130 million people of African descent live in Latin America.
  • Colorism, or discrimination based on skin tone, runs deep in many communities of color but especially in Latin America.
  • "Latino identity is very broad. I think it goes beyond the typical concepts of race in America," Gonzalez-Barrera said.

What they’re saying: Latino identity "is understood in the United States as non-Black," said Janvieve Williams Comrie, founder of the nonprofit Afro Resistance and a professor at New York University. Much of that is due to a lack of education around Blackness in Latin America.

  • “As a result, white Latinos may self-identity as Afro Latino, but that’s a form of appropriation," she said.
  • The term in the U.S. doesn’t center Blackness, she said. But Latinos who are Black can’t escape the racism and violence they experience because of the color of their skin, she added, pointing to police brutality and deportations that disproportionately impact the community.”
  • Williams Comrie says she has has moved away from using the term Afro Latino in recent years, choosing instead to identify as Latina and Black. "I think it's necessary to have a Black identity and to actually be Black, yes."

Methodology: The Pew Research Center survey was conducted between Nov. 19, 2019 to June 3, 2020 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus .23%.

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Editor's note: The chart in this story has been corrected to reflect 68,000 U.S. adults were surveyed, not 8,660. This story was originally published on May 3.

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