What’s a little difference in skin tone among family members, right?
Everything. Latinos report that they and their family members are often treated with more or less discrimination based entirely on their skin tone. The lighter the skin tone of the Latino, the less discrimination he or she is likely to face. The opposite, of course, is true for Latinos that happen to favor their darker-skinned relatives.
Colorism is just now becoming part of the conscious understanding of how racism works among blacks. Essentially, they face the same problems as Latinos, with light-skinned blacks being treated more favorably and with less discrimination than dark-skinned blacks. However, colorism hasn’t yet been much of public discussion among the Latino community — even though many are aware it exists.
Many light-skinned Latinos believe that their lighter appearance makes them more acceptable to whites — and ultimately helps them advance in their chosen professions. Darker Latinos, on the other hand, often report being treated as suspects or potential thieves the moment they walk into a bodega or an upscale building.
Couple the issues with colorism with the fact that hate crimes against Latinos are rising and that merely speaking Spanish in the wrong place can get you detained by a Border Patrol agent, and it’s easy to understand why Latinos say that assimilating into American culture and workplaces has never been a problem — racism has.
Many say that whites assume that all Latinos are basically new to the country — and darker-skinned Latinos get that treatment more than their lighter-skinned relatives (who may pass for white).
Many times, attitudes about skin tone and racial identity will affect how a person is perceived in the workplace and how they are treated. If you are subject to remarks that disparage your racial identity, told you “look illegal,” told to go “back to Mexico” or otherwise discriminated against on the job because you are Latino, find out more about your legal rights.