Racism in the US vs. Latin America
If you travel to and live in both the Latin and the "Anglo"- America, you will notice that the problem of racism in both parts of the world is expressed differently. In the US as a rule, the poorer the strata of the society, the more racism there seems to be in their general attitude in dealing with other groups. The worst place to be different in color or in nationality in the US would be some trailer park or some poor neighborhood. As one becomes more educated, it seems that it becomes easier for one to mingle with other people, as richer, more knowledgeable Americans seem to be more open-minded than the lower, less informed classes. Therefore, rich blacks will have much better time among rich whites than among poor ones. The same would go for Asians and Hispanics if one observes how they integrate into the US society. The poorer they are, the more discrimination they have to face from both poor whites and poor blacks. Lower classes in America are segregated into somewhat "angry" ethnic neighborhoods where each one associates with his own kind. Not so with the higher classes. One only needs to look at the US government to see how many minorities there are in power. People like Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powel come to mind, as well as people with all kinds of exotic and ethnic names who have come to occupy high positions in US politics.
In addition to that, America divides its population into five "tribes" - Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans. These are arbitrary definitions for all intents and purposes, but people seem to take them very seriously and they form their personal identities based on those. Foreign visitors sometimes remark that while America is diverse, "the white guy", "the black guy" and other such "guys" seem to be very stereotypical models into which the US population is expected to fit in. Whites are supposed to act a certain way, blacks- another way, etc.
In Latin America things are slightly different. The first thing that catches one's eye is that the poor classes there are the least prejudiced. If one goes to places such as Panama, or Puerto Rico or Colombia, one will notice that there is almost no racial segregation among the lowest echelons of society. In addition to that, a Black person does not speak a certain "black dialect" as in the US, and you cannot tell on the phone if a person is Black or White ( same in Britain, by the way). There are not many cultural stereotypes of behavior that one needs to fit into. People seem to behave just like what their nationality dictates they should behave. A Colombian behaves as a Colombian. A Brazilian behaves as a Brazilian should. Not as a "Black Brazilian". Just Brazilian.
The Spanish ( or Portuguese) language spoken by the darkest African-looking person and the whitest- Northern Spanish/Euro-looking person is generally the same. One may notice that there are sometimes black neighborhoods in Latin America, but they are often such because slaves that worked in certain areas simply remained there- such as around the coast and the former plantations. Social interactions among poor working classes are very harmonious, and people of all colors mingle and make friends easily. Intermarriage between poor people of all races is very much accepted. However, once one begins going up the social ladder, this is where prejudice starts getting stronger and stronger. Whereas in the US you see many blacks in positions of power, you will be hard pressed to see them occupying such posts in Latin America. The higher you want to go, the whiter you have to be and the more you need to look like a European immigrant. There have been exceptions to the rule, such as Alberto Fujimori of Peru, but the Japanese are in many circles seen as "honorary whites" anyway .There has been an Argentinean president of Arab descent- Menem, but again, he looked very European, physically, and "acted" in a European way, too. Generally, to get a good job and to move up, being as white as possible helps a lot. That is the reality of life there.
It is like that in the US, too, you may argue, but, again, the US does have Affirmative Action and one can see all these Black judges and mayors and quite a few rich Black people who are very well integrated. College professors with Ph. Ds who are Black are quite common. Nothing like that can be seen in Latin America. Very strange, indeed.
In addition to that, within Latin America, racial definitions are somewhat different, too. Generally, a person who is part European and part Indian with a name such as Gomez, Lopes or Rodriquez will be considered “white” there. The "Hispanic" qualification naturally does not exist in that part of the world- they are just Peruvians or Mexicans. This creates confusion on the part of Latin American immigrants to the US whose identity changes to "Hispanic" as soon as they arrive. People of French and Italian descent from Argentina suddenly become "non-whites" in the US. However, a person of the same origin coming from Paris will be "white". Again, it shows how ridiculous the whole thing is and how arbitrary those definitions are.
Many Black people who came from Latin America to live in the US have felt that now they had much greater opportunities to advance and make something out of themselves. So did many people of Amerindian descent ( such as poor Mexicans and Guatemalans) who were able to benefit greatly from the equal opportunities awarded to them by the consitituon of this country. However, they all complained of one thing- it is so hard to make friends with the poorer classes of Americans who seem to be very prejudiced and angry as a whole.
The " white" people from Latin America such as Argentines or Chileans would, on the other hand, often bemoan their loss of status here and the fact that they are now no longer "white", but "Hispanic". This is probably the reason why if one sees people from Latin America in the US, most of them are not European-looking but either Native South American or a mixture of various races, because the States, after all is the best place for them to develop and grow, albeit not socially.At least not aslong as they are poor by US standards But, who cares?- social acceptance may not necessarily be on their priority list, anyway. At least, not immediately.
A brain is a terrible thing to wash!