by Moraima Flores
“We don’t have races here. We don’t have racism here.” (Bonilla-Silva & Dietrich p. 40) is how Latin America is described. Coming from a Latin American country I felt identified with this statement, because, as I see it, someone born in Paraguay is Paraguayan not matter the color of their skin or the roots of their family. In comparison with the United States division of races (white-black) Latin America has a more complex way of looking at “race.” We define “race” as color, meaning that it doesn’t matter if your parents have roots in Africa and Europe (black-white), if you are light-skinned you are white, or maybe the other way around. There are also more complex ways of defining color, because we don’t divide everything in “black and white;” but we also make differences between lighter and darker. By “making differences” I refer to recognizing, not discriminating.
As Bonilla-Silva and Dietrich pointed out, Latin America is color-blind. With my background, I have to recognize that I always thought of the United States as a racial discriminating country. Why? Because, while Americans openly talk about race and make differences (racism 1.0), we don’t openly talk about or pointed out (racism 2.0). I guess I was fooled by this because color-blindness sounds liberal, not discriminative, and equal (in the end, we are all Latin Americans!). We fail to recognize something important in this theory: the human being always makes judgments.
Once someone asked me “how long do you think it takes for a person to judge another one?” Needless to say I have no idea, but many people say it takes less than 30 seconds. Now I ask you, what do you think we measure when we make these judgments? If we only have 30 seconds from the moment we meet someone, looking at how we dress, how we walk/talk/smile and of course the color of our skin is not a crazy idea, is it? We base all these judgments on appearance, including skin color, color of hair and eyes, bone structure, etc. (phenotype); the rest comes later. With this I only mean to point out that we are all “racist” in some level, whether we are aware of it or not.
From a Latin American point of view, I have trouble understanding the American division of race. Race is not something visible, color is; and although I am not saying we should forget about race and make differences based on skin color, as I said before, it’s something we already do unconsciously. However, maybe we should keep making differences in a way of positive discrimination.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo and David R. Dietrich. 2009. “The Latin Americanization of U.S. Race Relations.” Pp. 40-60 in Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by E. Nakano Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press