Racial Subordination in Latin America

Racial Subordination in Latin America: The Role of the State, Customary Law, and the New Civil Rights Response

Book Description

Publication Date: October 8, 2012

There are approximately 150 million people of African descent in Latin America yet Afro-descendants have been consistently marginalized as undesirable elements of the society. Latin America has nevertheless long prided itself on its absence of U.S.-styled state-mandated Jim Crow racial segregation laws. This book disrupts the traditional narrative of Latin America’s legally benign racial past by comprehensively examining the existence of customary laws of racial regulation and the historic complicity of Latin American states in erecting and sustaining racial hierarchies.


Tanya Katerí Hernández is the first author to consider the salience of the customary law of race regulation for the contemporary development of racial equality laws across the region. Therefore, the book has a particular relevance for the contemporary U.S. racial context in which Jim Crow laws have long been abolished and a “post-racial” rhetoric undermines the commitment to racial equality laws and policies amidst a backdrop of continued inequality.


About The Author

Tanya K. Hernandez is a professor of law at Fordham University School of Law, where she teaches Comparative Employment Discrimination, Critical Race Theory, and Trusts & Estates. She received her A.B. from Brown University, and her J.D. from Yale Law School, where she served as Note Topics Editor of the Yale Law Journal. She has served as a faculty fellow at the Institute for Research on Women at Rutgers University, and as a scholar in residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 2009, Professor Hernandez was elected to the American Law Institute and in 2007, Hispanic Business Magazine selected her as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics. Professor Hernandez serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Legal Education, and the Latino Studies Journal published by Palgrave Macmillan Press.


Professor Hernandez’s scholarly interest is in the study of comparative race relations and anti-discrimination law, and her work in that area has been published in the California Law ReviewCornell Law ReviewHarvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal amongst other publications. While at Princeton, she will conduct the research for her next book, which is focused on the topic of Latino inter-ethnic racism in the workplace and its implications for the enforcement of employment discrimination laws.


“A hard-hitting, tightly argued examination of present-day racial inequality in Latin America, the roots of that inequality in 19th- and 20th-century state policies, and current efforts to overcome that historical legacy. Hernández definitively lays to rest the notion that Latin American states played no role in the construction and maintenance of white racial privilege.”


–George Reid Andrews, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of History, University of Pittsburgh”Tanya Kateri Hernandez traces the ‘myth of racial innocence’ in which Latin America shrouds itself, and then she shatters it. This book is a crucial corrective for anyone interested in race in Latin America. Or in the United States, which increasingly proclaims its own mythical innocence.”


–Ian Haney Lopez, John H. Boalt Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley”Finally we have a serious, comprehensive, and accessible book on racial matters in Latin America. Professor Hernandez skillfully shows how ‘customary law’ has been used by states in the region to maintain racial order (i.e., white supremacy) since independence. This is a major contribution and, from now on, no one can believe anymore that racism is not part of the Latin American experience. Bravo Professor Hernandez for a job well done!”


–Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Professor of Sociology, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Duke University”Racial Subordination in Latin America reveals the folly of post-racial thinking in the United States, where a legal system of segregation and classification are thought to underlie racial difference, inequality, discrimination and segregation. In the minds of post-racialists, such divisions have been presumably laid to rest with the civil rights revolution and the recent election of a black president. By contrast, Latin American countries have rarely used explicit race-based laws to structure their societies. Thus, one could say that ‘postracial’ societies existed south of the U.S. border long before they did in the U.S. However, racial discrimination and inequality have been rampant throughout that region. With this book, legal scholar Tanya K. Hernandez now compels us to rethink how apparently progressive national ideologies and cultural norms continue to structure deep-seated racism and inequality in modern societies, despite the absence of legal structures.”


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