Beacon Press: Racial Innocence
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Racial Innocence

Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality

Author: Tanya Katerí Hernández

Profound and revelatory, Racial Innocence tackles head-on the insidious grip of white supremacy on our communities and how we all might free ourselves from its predation. Tanya Katerí Hernández is fearless and brilliant . . . What fire!”—Junot Díaz

The first comprehensive book about anti-Black bias in the Latino community that unpacks the misconception that Latinos are “exempt” from racism due to their ethnicity and multicultural background

Racial Innocence will challenge what you thought about racism and bias and demonstrate that it’s possible for a historically marginalized group to experience discrimination and also be discriminatory. Racism is deeply complex, and law professor and comparative race relations expert Tanya Katerí Hernández exposes “the Latino racial innocence cloak” that often veils Latino complicity in racism. As Latinos are the second-largest ethnic group in the US, this revelation is critical to dismantling systemic racism. Basing her work on interviews, discrimination case files, and civil rights law, Hernández reveals Latino anti-Black bias in the workplace, the housing market, schools, places of recreation, the criminal justice system, and Latino families.

By focusing on racism perpetrated by communities outside those of White non-Latino people, Racial Innocence brings to light the many Afro-Latino and African American victims of anti-Blackness at the hands of other people of color. Through exploring the interwoven fabric of discrimination and examining the cause of these issues, we can begin to move toward a more egalitarian society.
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“Lucid case studies, diligent research, and the author’s willingness to tackle controversial topics head-on distinguish this distressing examination of racism’s insidious effects.”
Publishers Weekly

“An important book that reveals the many ‘interwoven complexities’ of American racism.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Hernández’s critical investigation of a sensitive topic that is often overlooked by many scholars of racism—and which is often ignored by many Latino Studies scholars themselves—is much needed and commendable.”
Ethnic and Racial Studies

“Hernández has not only written a much-needed book for judges and attorneys; she has also written a book for readers like me… Hernández has written a book where people like me feel like whole human beings rather than bifurcated versions of ourselves."
—Yalidy Matos, The American Prospect

“This is a revelatory book for those surprised by Latino leaders of white supremacist groups, racist comments from Latino Los Angeles City Council members or the colorism of In the Heights. It is painful vindication for Black Latinos and African Americans who, like me, experience Latino racism in their personal and professional lives.”
—Ariana Curtis, Smithsonian Magazine

“A critical race theory tour de force for understanding Latino anti-Black bias, from the most important Afro-Latina voice on civil rights today.”
—Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

“Profound and revelatory, Racial Innocence tackles head-on the insidious grip of white supremacy on our communities and how we all might free ourselves from its predation. Tanya Katerí Hernández is fearless and brilliant, and her work is exactly what we need in this challenging times. And that final chapter! What fire!”
—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“Dr. Hernández is a brilliant scholar who provides critical analyses of the complexities of race and anti-Black bias as it operates throughout the Americas. Her insights are essential for understanding our contemporary sociopolitical landscape.”
—Imani Perry, author of South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation

“Tanya Hernández is one of the nation’s foremost scholars regarding racial beliefs among Latin Americans, here and abroad. With nuance and care, her latest book drags into the light the explosive and critically important topic of Latino anti-Blackness.”
—Ian F. Haney López, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Public Law, University of California, Berkeley

“The racial fantasy is over! In this wonderful yet painful book, Professor Hernández skillfully exposes Latinos’ anti-Blackness. With an impressive command of sources, data, and cases, she stitches together the thick story of racial exclusion, maltreatment, and discrimination against Blacks by people who claim to be racially mixed and ‘color-blind.’ Her book made a Black Puerto Rican man like me cry and get angry (too many memories) but also realize that airing our ‘dirty laundry’ is vital to fight this unacknowledged racism. Bravo, Professor Hernández for daring to address this taboo subject!”
—Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, author of Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States

What Is Latino Anti-Blackness?

No juegues con niños de color extraño”:
Playing and Learning in “White” Latino Spaces

Working in the USA

Oye Negro, You Can’t Live Here”:
Latino Landlords in Action

Physical Violence:
The Criminal Justice System’s “Brown” versus Black Dynamic

Latinos and the Future of Racial Equality in the United States

On Being an Afro-Latina Interrogating Latino Anti-Blackness


See below for a reading guide or download as a PDF.

1. Hernández’s central claim revolves around the existence of a “Latino racial innocence” cloak that, she argues, veils Latino complicity in US racism and thus undermines the ability to fully address the interwoven complexities of nationwide anti-Black prejudice. In what other spaces and identity groups do you believe the theory of the cloak of racial innocence can be applied? What makes this term particularly effective, and, in your opinion, how can a community remove this “cloak”?
2. What does the ethno-racial term “Afro-Latino” reveal about the complexities of identity and identity-based oppression? What was your understanding of the difference between race and ethnicity before reading this book, and how are the experiences of those at the intersection of minoritized ethnicities and races markedly different from the experiences of those who identify firmly as one or the other?
3. On page 7, Hernández makes the claim that “the unequal treatment of Afro-Latinos is invisible in our public discourse with its reference to all Latinos regardless of appearance as ‘brown.’” Where else throughout history or in the modern day, in the United States or in other countries, have colloquially accepted racial markers failed to capture the complexities of intergroup identities. What can be done to remedy the shortcomings of this language?
4. Hernández notes that “the Latino bias against Afro-Latinos is dismissed as merely a part of the hierarchies internal to Latino communities that is not like ‘real racism’” (9). In your definition, what is “real racism”? What purpose does it serve to differentiate interethnic racism from “real” racism, and how does Hernández expand or complicate the definition of “real racism” in this context?
5. Throughout this book, Hernández references legal cases to “help illuminate the contours of Latino anti-Blackness” (10). What do you see as the value of placing the law at the center of this text? How does a focus on law specifically inform your perspective on the issue at hand?
6. What makes the home a particularly influential site for harmful idea formation, and how can the cloak of racial innocence be discarded in this setting? What normalized but damaging sayings were you introduced to at home or by family that have gone unchallenged?
7. Hernández makes a note about intentionally using the term “Latino” as opposed to Latina/o, Latinx, or Latin@. Reflect on Hernández’s careful word choices throughout the book. How does Hernández’s argument here shift or inform your perspective on other recent attempts to reappropriate or revise terminology in the pursuit of more inclusive language (e.g., “womxn,” “queer”). Who are these terms serving? Who do these terms leave out? Who originates them?
8. Hernández points out a number of cases wherein individuals were offered compensation for emotional distress. In what nonfinancial ways might we reimagine a redress of discriminatory harm? What is the effect of monetary reparations, and what are its limitations and advantages?
9. Hernández makes the case that “when confronted with accounts of discrimination, people often respond with expressions of hope that education and the progression of time will effectuate social change” (45). Reflect on passive attitudes toward change. Where have you seen these attitudes promoted in your own life? In media? Why is “time” not enough, and what are effective steps that can, extending beyond good intentions, deconstruct the hierarchies that play a crucial role in US racism?
10. Hernández organizes this book around playing and learning spaces, the workplace, housing issues, and physical violence. Why are these particular spaces and occurrences particularly salient in Hernández’s argument? What other spaces might offer new insight?
11. On page 59, Hernández introduces the story of José Arrocha whose assigned judge made the comment that “diversity in an employer’s staff undercuts an inference of discriminatory intent” (60). What does this example reveal about workplace “diversity,” and how does this book challenge or expand traditional definitions of diversity that don’t take into account all facets of identity? How has the focus on diversity changed in recent history, and how does it still leave room for preferential or discriminatory treatment? How does the language of diversity often operate as a veil around possible racial discrimination?
12. Hernández states that “[i]ntersectional discrimination occurs when multiple sources of bias (such as race and gender) converge for a person as a single experience of discrimination with interactive stereotypes” (62). Where in this book do you see clear examples of intersectional discrimination? How might gender, immigration status, nationality, sexuality, socioeconomic class, or other factors play a role in the narratives in this book?
13. Hernández makes the claim that “[w]hen Latinos are segregated out of White non-Hispanic spaces and fighting for status in limited ‘colored’ spaces, turf defense explodes into interethnic violence” (113). Where else has a fear of replacement or “turf defense” been present in US history? Reflect on the act of excluding others as a device to erect and sustain racial hierarchy.
14. ??The author defines Latinidad as a color-blind vision of a panethnic Latino community (121). Why might a vision of panethnicity be appealing to minority and/or diasporic communities, and how is the vision behind Latinidad crucial in the development of the racial innocence cloak?
15. On page 129, the author goes into depth about shifts in Latino disassociation from Blackness on census forms. What do the fluctuations in Latino census responses signify about the fluidity of racial self-identification? What do they reveal about the forces behind identity formation?
16. Why do you think Hernández chose to craft her argument around individual narratives of discrimination? What effect does this method of storytelling have on your understanding of her central argument?

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Racial Innocence

ISBN: 978-080702013-5
Publication Date: 8/23/2022
Size:5.5 x 8.5 Inches (US)
Price:  $24.95
Format: Cloth
Availability: In stock.
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