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

Book Summary

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 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.

New! Spanish Version


Table of Contents

  1. Racial innocence and the customary law of race regulation
  2. Spanish America whitening the race - the un(written) laws of "blanqueamiento" and "mestizaje"
  3. Brazilian "Jim Crow": the immigration law whitening project and the customary law of racial segregation - a case study
  4. The social exclusion of afro-descendants in Latin America today
  5. Afro-descendant social justice movements and the new antidiscrimination laws
  6. Brazil at the forefront of Latin America race-based affirmative action policies and census racial data collection
  7. Conclusion: The United States - Latin America connections

Book Reviews

"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 Katerí Hernández 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 Hernández 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 Hernández 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. Hernández 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."

Edward E. Telles
Professor of Sociology

Princeton University

Racial Discrimination in Latin America and the US