Legacy media outlets are driving a dangerous narrative that will inevitably lead to the targeting of Black and Latino communities. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Crime Data Explorer, anti-Black hate crimes continue to dominate statistics. While the FBI says attacks fell significantly from 2020 to 2021, it points out that law enforcement agencies that didn’t transition to reporting data through the new National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) were not able to submit hate crime statistics to the FBI. Hence, the lower numbers.
Typically, crime reporting to the FBI is voluntary. Meaning, the latest statistics are based on data received from 11,883 of 18,812 (65%) law enforcement agencies. Despite nearly 7,000 agencies not reporting numbers, anti-Black attacks still represented 31% of all hate crimes. Anti-trans and anti-Latino statistics both came in at 6% respectively and anti-Jewish attacks represented about 4% of all hate crimes in the NIBRS database.
Anti-Black hate crimes remain at the top as rising anti-Latino bigotry is evident across the country. From New York City Mayor Eric Adams’s xenophobia to that of Governors such as Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, the disdain for immigrants speaks volumes. But bigotry is always misinformed. And while political attacks on Latinos continue, elected officials ignore that many different ethnicities, races, and cultures are present at the US-Mexico border.
Using language such as “invasion” and “surge” while referring to asylum-seekers as “illegal” is all over mainstream media. What they don’t discuss is how Cubans and Venezuelans have been largely exempted from Title 42 while other asylum-seekers are removed from the country denying their right to due process.
Similarly, Haitians aren’t just being expelled but sent back to Haiti where the country is much worse than Cuba, Venezuela, and virtually all of Latin America. Yet, no one is talking about this blatantly racist policy decision.
Most in the US equate the Southern border with “Mexicans,” a catch-all term for non-white Latinos. Even though the number of Latinos at the US-Mexico border is down and numbers from countries like India, Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine are up, political leaders continue to show their disdain for immigrants of color as they stay silent about lighter-skinned or white asylum-seekers.
For many, it’s clear that policies at the border are meant to target non-white migrants. Nearly 2.5 million asylum-seekers have been expelled from the US since former president Donald Trump’s implementation and President Joe Biden’s upholding of Title 42. This dubious selection of people from certain countries feels like the justification behind the Chinese Exclusion Act or the denial of entry for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany by the US government.
Not that the plight of these groups are the same or should be compared. But the suspicious reasoning behind our previous and current leadership to deny certain people entry into the US reeks of all the same ideas. Ideas so pervasive that even many immigrants, or the children of immigrants, have become more xenophobic than at any other time in recent history.
Xenophobia tying immigration, child trafficking, and drug smuggling to Latinos has invaded many marginalized and non-white spaces. A view that became more mainstream with former president Trump in office. However, true motivations are often exposed when you pay attention to how individual Latino groups attempt to reason with xenophobia against their own people.
But anti-Blackness and colorism aren’t alien to Latino communities either. When people in the US wonder how Latinos can be racist, it shows a lack of knowledge of how much colonialism still impacts Latin America and the Caribbean today. There are myriad examples that shine a light on just how ingrained the ideologies of colorism and racism are. All over the region, Black and Indigenous people are treated as “lesser than” white people.
Those same views are brought to the United States. A good portion of the Cuban conservative community, for example, doesn’t want non-white Cubans coming to the US. So they often make the same arguments racists do in linking asylum-seekers to crimes. That same anti-Blackness stems from what I refer to as the “white flight” from Cuba shortly after Castro’s revolution. They came from a heavily segregated Cuba that no longer exists.
For most of them, their views never changed and like racist white people in America, they pass those views down to younger generations. Even the Dominican Republic, an island nation of afro-Latinos, treats their neighbors from Haiti as inhumanely as the US government does. The situation is so bad that the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic issued a travel warning to Black US citizens saying they risk getting caught up in sweeps targeting Haitians.
“Travelers to the Dominican Republic have reported being delayed, detained, or subject to heightened questioning at ports of entry and in other encounters with immigration officials based on their skin color,” said the alert published on November 19.
There are cases like this all over Latin America and the Caribbean. There’s racism in Mexico that manifests itself here. One has to look no further than the racism and colorism that recently rocked L.A. City Council and forced Nury Martinez to resign. One of the other people who made racist remarks, Kevin DeLeon, has refused to step down despite his anti-Black racism. People in power who hold racist beliefs do real harm to people in their communities.
Racism and colorism from Latin America have been quietly setting roots in the US for decades and are often bolstered by media narratives. What may seem benign due to deeply ingrained implicit biases about non-white groups is actually how colonialist ideas permeate all levels of society today. Efforts to whiten Latin America by oppressing Indigenous people echo the same tactics the US used to colonize the country to extract its resources.
When the media promotes the same language racists on the far-right use they’re not just driving xenophobia among racist white people. They’re promoting the same colonialist ideas that have infested Latin America at the highest levels of government. When the media can find people of color that are willing to call humans “illegal” and link them to everything wrong with US society, they jump on it. We see it in liberal media almost as much as we see it in conservative media.
The only difference is you find subtlety among liberals while conservatives are much more overt.