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Survey: Majority Of San Diego Latinos Feel Some Discrimination

Evening Edition

San Diego celebrates its Hispanic roots through food, music and tourist attractions like Old Town, the city’s original settlement when this was still Mexico. But a recent survey commissioned by KPBS and San Diego Magazine finds that the people who gave us this cultural legacy face discrimination today.

Aired 12/11/13 on KPBS News.

A recent survey commissioned by KPBS and San Diego Magazine finds many Latinos feel they are targets of discrimination and stereotyping.

Four hundred Latinos in San Diego County took the survey by phone earlier this year. And more than one in three said there was “a lot” or “a great deal” of discrimination against Latinos here.

And there were other results that caught the attention of Tom Wong, the UC San Diego political scientist who designed the survey.

Percentage of Latinos/Hispanics by census tract in San Diego County.

One of the survey questions asked Latino respondents to use three words to describe the average Latino.

“We hear things like 'good,' 'kind,' 'caring,' 'hardworking,'" Wong said.

In fact, “hardworking” was by far the most popular response.

Then respondents were asked how they thought the average San Diegan would describe Latinos or Hispanics. And again, “hardworking” was the top response, followed by “good.”

“But some nasty words also came up," Wong said. "Like ‘uneducated,’ ‘lazy’ and some very hurtful words.”

Plus, stereotypes like “Immigrant,” “Mexican” and “illegal” were among the top 10 answers Latinos gave to the question of how they felt Latinos were perceived by the larger San Diego population. And many survey respondents said they had real experiences with these stereotypes.

One in four respondents said he or she had been called “illegal” at some point by someone who knew nothing about the respondent's background or immigration status.

Out in the community, it’s not hard to find Latinos with stories to tell.

On a recent weekend afternoon, Maria Mora was waiting for a client at the hair salon she owns in Normal Heights. Mora was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but has lived in San Diego for 22 years.

The majority of respondents, 89 percent, said they had experienced “a little” to “a great deal” of discrimination.

Mora said she didn’t feel welcome when she first came to San Diego. She recalled an incident where a guy in an elevator asked her if she had a green card.

“I said, ‘excuse me? Are you an immigration official?’” Mora recalled. The man said “no.”

“Then why are you asking?’” Mora asked him.

She said there have been other, similar incidents.

At a recent meeting of the North County Association of Latino Merchants in Escondido, Manny Alvarez played guitar as members ate breakfast and chatted in English and Spanish.

Bill de la Fuente called the meeting to order.

“Good morning everyone. Buenos días a todos. Manny Alvarez came all the way up here from Imperial Beach. He passed all the checkpoints and everything just fine,” he joked.

Everyone laughed.

“That’s sometimes how you gotta deal with hard situations like that,” de la Fuente said after the meeting. “You gotta joke about them a little bit.”

Tom Wong, UC San Diego

About one-quarter of Latino survey respondents said they had been called "illegal."

Asked if he personally had felt discrimination for being Latino, de la Fuente said “not since my hair turned grey.”

De la Fuente said he had felt some discrimination way back when he was a kid in San Francisco. But a few minutes later, he remembered something more recent, when he was starting a bank in Escondido in 1999 that would cater to Latino customers.

“When I showed up to open up the bank, the first day, our opening, we found swastikas, you know, ‘Mexicans go home,’ just a bunch of terrible things right there,” he said.

Many Latinos said they faced less discrimination today than in the past, but that it's still a problem.

Despite this, many in the survey said they don’t let prejudice get to them.

“I’m the type of individual that I feel very confident in myself,” said Oscar Paz, a realtor in Escondido. “I enter any door and I don’t pay attention to see if I’m going to be received with open arms or not.”

Even if some people can brush it off, Tom Wong, the political scientist, said San Diego needed to start talking openly about discrimination, prejudice and segregation.

“We as individuals play a role in building the type of community that we may want, if that community we want is a more diverse and integrated place,” Wong said. “I don’t see how we can improve those things unless we first acknowledge that they exist.”

Wong said he and his team plan to expand the survey to other racial and ethnic groups in San Diego.

Comments

Avatar for user 'noneofyourbusiness'

noneofyourbusiness | December 11, 2013 at 6:55 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Um, isn't it racist in itself to open a bank that caters only to latino's? If I opened a bank and catered ONLY to white people wouldn't I be called the same?

It's not racism to question Mexicans who live in san diego who came here illegally. How can something that is illegal be called racism?

I have lived in Sand Diego 40 years and have seen it go from a nice place to live to being over populated and mostly by immigrants. The day without a Mexican was a rejoicing day for me when it happened. I could actually drive to work without all the lanes being blocked by people doing 60 MPH in them.

Bottom line if you here legally good for you. If not you should be deported back to your home country and try again to enter legally.

To be offended for someone asking for a green card, you should be offended that your fellow countryman from your old country and others are breaking the law and do more to stop it. it is shameful and makes you look bad IF you entered into the country the right way.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | December 11, 2013 at 7:37 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I didn't hear any one say racist when they announce the opening of a center for pacific islanders in the south bay. maybe there will be a bank too.

overall, its probably good to have some things that cater to the needs of groups, being familiar with their culture and way of thinking.

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Avatar for user 'susanbeach11'

susanbeach11 | December 11, 2013 at 8:41 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

"On a recent weekend afternoon, Maria Mora was waiting for a client at the hair salon she owns in Normal Heights. Mora was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but has lived in San Diego for 22 years...." Twenty-two years and she still has to speak in Spanish when interviewed? She will always be an outsider if she doesn't learn English. BTW, did she come here legally? If not, no whinging please.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | December 11, 2013 at 9:17 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

"To be offended for someone asking for a green card, you should be offended that your fellow countryman from your old country and others are breaking the law and do more to stop it. it is shameful and makes you look bad IF you entered into the country the right way."

Are you patrolling the streets of San Diego at night and stomping out all crime committed by our fellow countrymen? What a pathetic comment. You probably are incapable of realizing you just proved the article's main thrust.

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Avatar for user 'Eddie89'

Eddie89 | December 11, 2013 at 9:51 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Race is just a pigment of people's imagination.

It seems our federal government has failed at coming up with a simple and sensible plan for legal immigration. Most of the people that are smuggled into this country pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars to human smugglers to get them into the United States unlawfully.

Why not have these same people pay that money to the United States instead, as a fee and get a work visa. While they live in the U.S. and are working or trying to find work, they will be contributing to our local economy through the food and goods they purchase (local taxes) and whatever they can afford to rent or buy to put a roof over their heads.

If they like it here, then they can apply for a permanent residence status or even become a U.S. citizen. All legally and all while paying local taxes and contributing to the local economy.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | December 11, 2013 at 10:08 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

"Um, isn't it racist in itself to open a bank that caters only to latino's? If I opened a bank and catered ONLY to white people wouldn't I be called the same?"

If it did in fact reject non-latino applicants, then yes it is racist. But a bank is not a voice for the whole Hispanic community, nor is it a justification for racism from anyone else.

"It's not racism to question Mexicans who live in san diego who came here illegally."

It's not racism to question Mexicans. Think about that.

If it's purely about immigration status, then two questions:
1. Why are you focusing on Mexicans?
2. How can YOU tell who is illegal and who is not, assuming you have no authority or ability to verify their documents?

"How can something that is illegal be called racism?"

Racial discrimination IS ILLEGAL in most circumstances. What are you even talking about?

"I have lived in Sand Diego 40 years and have seen it go from a nice place to live to being over populated and mostly by immigrants."

Native Americans could have said the same thing in 1720.

"The day without a Mexican was a rejoicing day for me when it happened. I could actually drive to work without all the lanes being blocked by people doing 60 MPH in them."

This is an extremely racist statement. It's not even about legal or illegal immigrants. You specifically said Mexican. I feel sorry for you.

"Bottom line if you here legally good for you. If not you should be deported back to your home country and try again to enter legally."

America became a country through a hostile takeover. If that's "legal", then the non-violent influx of workers should be, too. Would it be better if they violently took control of the land and called us immigrants? Would that make everything nice and legal?

"To be offended for someone asking for a green card, you should be offended that your fellow countryman from your old country and others are breaking the law and do more to stop it. it is shameful and makes you look bad IF you entered into the country the right way."

I'm offended by ignorant people like yourself. You were born in America only because you were lucky. Now you sit on your pedestal and act like you earned it. Shameful.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | December 11, 2013 at 10:13 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

"Twenty-two years and she still has to speak in Spanish when interviewed? She will always be an outsider if she doesn't learn English. BTW, did she come here legally? If not, no whinging please."

Who says she HAS to speak Spanish? Maybe she chose to.

All these RACIST assumptions! Only serves to reinforce the point of the article.

Go burn your cross elsewhere, Susan.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 11, 2013 at 10:54 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

SUSAN BEACH, having a thick accent or not being fluent in a language is no reflection on a person's intelligence.

There are CBP inspectors at the border, mostly Filipino, one Chinese and one Russian woman, ALL of whom have very thick accents. Hell, I sound more WASP than they ever will even though I too am an ethnic minority, and yet there they are, asking me if I'm a US citizen! It is ironic.

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Avatar for user 'jennlovee'

jennlovee | December 11, 2013 at 11:44 a.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Every culture has their own opinion or experience with racism so I can't further comment BUT "lanes being blocked by people doing 60 MPH in them"...this is very true, lol.

For those of us who live in the South Bay its quite frustrating to drive on the freeway when *every* lane is taken up by vehicles with Mexican plates well below the legal speed limit.

::sigh::

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 11, 2013 at 3:30 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I feel discriminated against by non-whites.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 11, 2013 at 4:58 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

So do I JeanMarc.

But nobody ever does a study about that.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 11, 2013 at 5:53 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

"...Old Town, the city’s original settlement when this was still Mexico."

===

Wow, that is incredibly ignorant. Old Town was founded by Spaniards in 1769. Mexicans occupied Old Town in 1821 for only 25 years until Californians revolted and won their freedom in 1846.

Let's also not forget about Native Americans who have been here for 12,000 years. If anybody should be doing a study about discrimination it is Native Americans. While a sizable percentage of Hispanics are illegal and 100% are foreigners or descendents of, absolutely zero Native Americans are.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | December 11, 2013 at 7:45 p.m. ― 8 months, 2 weeks ago

"Californians revolted and won their freedom in 1846."

When white people overthrow a land and stake a claim, it's "revolting and winning freedom". When Mexicans sneak across a border to work, they're demonized. Where does the discrepancy lie?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 12, 2013 at 4:08 p.m. ― 8 months, 1 week ago

No discrepancy, Anon.

First off, all Californians aren't white.

Second, many of the people who fought to win their freedom in 1846 had been in California for a long time.

Third, Mexicans forcefully took the land from Spaniards and Native Americans 25 years earlier. Their claim to the land was tenuous.

Now some cry discrimination with one eye while looking with disdain from the other.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | December 13, 2013 at 7:08 a.m. ― 8 months, 1 week ago

Anyone who is truly bi-cultural with extensive and deep ties to both countries knows the truth about this: American bigotry against Mexicans is more forceful than Mexican bigotry against Americans. If you don't know this, you don't know what you're talking about.

Here's a little tidbit for the uninitiated: There are wealthy Mexicans living in San Diego who get more done with 1 phone call than all the backcountry hicks can in 10,000. Ladies and gentlemen, this is about class. The lower your socio-economic class, the more bigoted you are. Upper class Mexicans have absolutely no problem mingling with San Diego's white upper class.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 13, 2013 at 8:45 p.m. ― 8 months, 1 week ago

CA OFFENDER claims: Third, Mexicans forcefully took the land from Spaniards and Native Americans 25 years earlier. Their claim to the land was tenuous."

You mean kinda like the American colonists forcefully took it from the British Crown?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 13, 2013 at 8:47 p.m. ― 8 months, 1 week ago

Not necessarily, DLR. You would think, but that is not necessarily so. I suppose you are talking about wealthy Mexicans in Tijuana. There are those that look to the US and there are those whom do not.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 14, 2013 at 5:53 p.m. ― 8 months, 1 week ago

Missionfailed,

Yep.

DLR,

You're proving yourself wrong by using terms like "backcountry hicks". While you can use that derogatory term freely, similar terms for Mexicans would result in immediate censure.

I'll say it again as it is so true:

Some cry discrimination with one eye while looking with disdain from the other.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | December 15, 2013 at 10:04 a.m. ― 8 months, 1 week ago

CD,

I would use a similarly forceful term when describing Latinos who discrimate against whites, or anyone else for that matter. However, the piece is about discrimation towards Mexicans. Once again, it's a matter of perspective. I'm merely pointing that the bigotry towards Mexicans is more forceful these days than it used to be; and, one's socio-economic status has a lot to do with it.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | December 23, 2013 at 8:22 p.m. ― 8 months ago

Went to Denny's Sunday morning. My wife and I were 2 of 4 whites there. I don't think Hispanics are a minority at this point. BTW, I did not hear much English spoken the whole time. Can't wait to see the 2020 census numbers. Maybe the whining will subside.

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