National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP)

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Board of Directors
José R. Sánchez
   Chair
Edgar DeJesus
   Secretary
Israel Colon
   Treasurer
Maria Rivera
   Development Chair

Hector Figueroa

Tanya K. Hernandez
 Angelo Falcón
   President


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NiLP Leadership Survey Findings
Latinos Leaders on
Sexual Harassment
By Angelo Falcón
The NiLP Report (January 8, 2017)
 
"I want all the girls watching to know
a new day is on the horizon,"
---Oprah Winfrey,  018 Golden Globe Awards 
     (January 7, 2018)
 
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements to end sexual abuse and harassment has become a major force for change in the United States. It has raised not only the issue of this problem in the workplace but in a more general sense, the role of women in American society. In this sense, it connects with the broader agenda for women's rights and social justice being embodied by the upcoming January 20th Women's March around the world.
 
These movements and developments will hopefully have a positive impact on the Latino community. It is good to see Latinas in the forefront of these campaigns, such as Carmen Perez and Paola Mendez as some of the leaders of the Women's March and the 27 Latinas who signed the #TimesUp statement.
 
Given the transformative potential of these movements, NiLP was interested in learning how Latino leaders viewed the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace within the Latino community. We conducted an online survey on December 18-22, 2017 of 162 Latino opinion leaders from across the United States. The respondents were divided into four groups: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Other Latinos.
 
How Big a Problem 
in the Latino Community?
 
We first asked the Latino opinion leaders how big a problem sexual harassment in the workplace was in the Latino community. There were marked different responses to this question by each of the three groups of Latino opinion leaders. A majority of the Mexicans (55 percent) thought the problem was the same for Latinos as the rest of society, while 50 percent of the Puerto Ricans and 38 percent of the Other Latinos agreed. On the other hand, About a third of each thought it was a bigger problem in the Latino community (31-38 percent). Almost none saw it less of a problem in the Latino community (0 to 3 percent).
 
For all three groups of Latino opinion leaders, the women thought that sexual harassment was a bigger problem in the Latino community than the men. For the Mexicans, the difference was 43 to 25 percent; for the Puerto Ricans, 38 to 24 percent) and for the Other Latinos it was 38 to 33 percent. As you can see, this problem was seen as bigger in the Latino community by the Mexican female opinion leaders.
Why So Few 
Latino Men Exposed?
 
As the names of the high-profile sexual harassers came to light in the news, it was widely noticed in the Latino community that few were of Latinos. However, since we just saw that Latinos saw this as a problem in the Latino community (and a good number saw it as a bigger problem among Latinos), we were curious to found out why so few Latino men fell into this category. At the same time, we recognize that this may seem like a strange question to ask. As one respondent commented: "Question seems to be biased. Why would I think more Latinos should have been publicly accused?" The reason we asked is that this question did come up because, we believe, the expectation was that this was also a problem in the Latino community that somehow was being unreported. So we decided to ask this odd question anyway.
 
The largest percentages of all three groups of Latino opinion leaders replied that it was because of less reporting of Latino men harassers since "Latina women feel more vulnerable to retaliation if they report incidents because most are in working-class jobs and manual work." This was the position of 31 percent of the Mexican opinion leaders, 43 percent of the Puerto Ricans, and 57 percent of the Other Latinos.
 
The next largest response was that "This just reflects how politically marginal Latino men are." This was the position of 33 percent of the Mexican opinion leaders, 20 percent of the Puerto Ricans and 11 percent of the Other Latinos.
 
Very few of the Latino opinion leaders supported the views that "The problem in the Latino community is mostly among lower-wage Latino workers" (5 to 11 percent) and that "Latino men are more respectful of Latina women than non-Latino men" (4 to 8 percent).
 
On the reason why there were fewer Latino men in the news on this problem, there were major differences among the Latina opinion leaders. The largest percentage of the Mexican women opinion leaders (44 percent), felt it was because Latino men were so politically marginalized, while the largest percentages of the Puerto Ricans (47 percent) and most of the Other Latinos (75 percent) thought it was because Latinas feel more vulnerable to retaliation.
 
Among the three groups of Latino male opinion leaders, the largest percentages felt that the reason was that Latina women were more vulnerable to retaliation. This was the view of 30 percent of the Mexican opinion leaders, 39 percent of the Puerto Ricans and 50 percent of the Other Latinos.  
Latino Opinion Leaders' Comments
 
The Latin opinion leaders were asked to comment on this question. Most provided cultural explanations, with fewer pointing to the marginal Latino men argument. Here are a few representative comments:
 
Cultural Explanations
 
"I think that there is a perception from many ethnic groups that Latinas are 'sensual' and should be viewed as 'sex objects.' Hence, if the belief is one where Latinas are like that, then the assumption is that there might be less harassment."
 
"Latino men are more disrespectful to women than others."
 
"They were raised by strong parents who would not tolerate having a son or daughter that disrespect another human behavior.  Most Latino men become intolerable during their golden years."
 
"Because harassment is perhaps more expected or predictable from a Latino man. Women may think that Latinos don't know better, so we refrain from making a big deal out of it, unfortunately."
 
"Latino men and women have less power generally within the society, and sexual harassment is an abuse of power. History and country of origin are also factors. Chileans, Argentinians and Spaniards are culturally/historically less sexist and less homophobic."
 
"There is also the Latino culture of 'silence' - you don't talk about these things, they are a part of life."
 
"Latino women tend to accept a lot more than their counterparts in other ethnic groups.
 
"Latinos DON'T EXIST IN A 'WHITE&BLACK ONLY CENTERED AMERICA.'"
 
"One possible reason is that 'man/woman' cultural dynamics are such that Latina women defend their boundaries much more readily and unequivocally."
 
"Perhaps there is less discussion of these problems in our communities, and we are less likely to report as women."
 
"Some flirting or relajo which is typical of Latino men is experienced as harmless and might not be so in the Anglo sphere. But actual harassment is something else."
 
"There is sometimes a fine line between culturally-accepted attitudes (jokes, for example) and harassment. There may be moments that are difficult to 'read' as harassment. Also, perhaps Latinas feel more sympathy towards Latino men."
 
"There is still a feeling in the Latino community that this is 'internal' or 'family' problems, so the police or the larger society does not need to interfere.  There is not a culture that supports women making claims of harassment."
 
"Latina women are more 'accepting; of this behavior because it is so ingrained in the culture."
 
"Latino men are more sexist/inappropriate than general population and Latinas are 1) more fearful of consequences and 2) acculturated to men being sexist & inappropriate (even though Latinas hate those behaviors)."
 
"There is also the Latino culture of 'silence' - you don't talk about these things, they are a part of life.
 
On the marginal Latino men argument:
 
"There's disproportionately lower representation on the national stage for Latinos and therefore less attention. I wouldn't say that means the 'backstage' Latinos are also likely to have committed sexual harassment because I feel that many who have committed sexual harassment are also in a position of power which has made them less fearful of repercussions in the past. Therefore, anyone in a low-level position (if they were to harass someone) is less likely to harass someone else in the workplace. With more Latinos being in low-level positions than not, that can explain the lack of public accusations."
 
"There's disproportionately lower representation on the national stage for Latinos and therefore less attention. I wouldn't say that means the "backstage" Latinos are also likely to have committed sexual harassment because I feel that many who have committed sexual harassment are also in a position of power which has made them less fearful of repercussions in the past. Therefore, anyone in a low-level position (if they were to harass someone) is less likely to harass someone else in the workplace. With more Latinos being in low-level positions than not, that can explain the lack of public accusations."
 
"Few Latino males in Hollywood, as TV personalities and where they are a relative force, like the California statehouse, there you have evidence of their abuse of power."
 
"I suspect Latino men in power are mostly inappropriate towards Latinas and both victim and victimizer culturalize the behavior."
 
"Latino men are not only politically marginalized, but the community, in general, gives them more respect & leniency when it comes to sexual harassment or bullying of women. Take the case of Gladys Ricart whose abuser headed up a CBO. Or even [former NYS Senator] Monserrate who slashed his girlfriend. If it weren't for mainstream media picking this up, he would've gotten away w/ it."
 
Angelo Falcón is President of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP). He can be reached at afalcon@latinopolicy.org.
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The NiLP Report on Latino Policy & Politics is an online information service provided by the National Institute for Latino Policy. For further information, visit www.latinopolicy. org. Send comments to editor@latinopolicy.org.