Hispanic Americans Facing Discrimination

Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group in the US after African Americans. This population includes people who trace their ancestry to Spanish-speaking countries throughout Latin America, as well as some with links to Spain, Africa, and southwestern regions of the United States (Turner, 2002, p. 23). Currently, an estimated 35.3 million Hispanics live in the United States, which is a representation of about 12 percent of the total US population.

It is further projected that, between the years 2000 and 2050, Hispanics will account for the majority (51 percent) of the nation’s population growth. Basically, the Hispanic American population is highly concentrated in southwestern regions of the United States, and within the group, there exists Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, and Cubans Americans as main categories of Hispanic Americans (Turner, 2002, pp. 23-24).

Hispanic American families, much like African American families and other minority groups, tend to experience high levels of poverty. This is due to the fact that Hispanic Americans have less education, lower incomes, and experience higher rates of unemployment than the white population. They also face discrimination in housing, schools, and obtaining jobs and promotions (Turner, 2002, p. 24). Although the percentage of Hispanic Americans in white-collar occupations has grown in recent years, they still tend to work in low-paying and semi-skilled jobs. Additionally, many are employed in economic sectors susceptible to cyclical unemployment.

In recent years, there has been an upswing in the number of households maintained by women, a trend that has greatly increased the economic susceptibility of Hispanic American families. Hispanic American families are more likely to be a single-parent or female-headed than are white families. Indeed, about 24 percent of Hispanic American families are female-headed, which is almost double the percentage for whites and Asian Americans (Turner, 2002, p. 24). Moreover, economic disadvantage among Hispanic Americans has been attributed to retreat from marriage, premarital childbearing, and marital dissolution, each of which contributes to female family headship.

Theories and Research Methods among the Hispanic Americans

Many social sciences researches have rarely featured research on ethnic minority populations; they have also paid inadequate attention to the cultural variables in the research (Bernal, 2003, p. 198). This has come to constitute the significant problems facing the social sciences. With no adequate research in these particular areas, people cannot be in a position to understand the condition of these populations and their needs.

Largely in social sciences, there is a consensus that exists over the importance of accurately understanding the experiences of ethnic minority populations through both qualitative and quantitative ethnic minority research (Bernal, 2003, p. 198). Research on ethnic minority continue to remain scarce and although all researchers have to grapple with theoretical and methodological issues in research, ethnic research will need additional considerations because theoretical models, assessment instruments and methodologies have largely been developed on one population-namely the White Americans (Bernal, 2003, p. 198).

This means that investigators cannot simply presume that the existing theories and measurement instruments have validity with the ethnic minority populations, thus they must spend some efforts in validating instruments or testing the applicability of existing theories before the examination of target research questions. They need to take into account the cultural considerations in every phase of the research, which include: planning research, defining variables, selecting valid measures, sampling research participants, gaining cooperation from research participants, designing research, and interpreting the findings. In all these phases, special challenges are always posed for ethnic minority research (Bernal, 2003, p. 199).

The relative negligence to external validity means that researchers are not principally motivated to test the generalization of their research findings, in which case generalization is simply assumed. In such a situation, researchers may be less concerned with assigning resources to study ethnic groups. The assumption of generalization is actually negating to science because conclusions in science are built on facts and evidence, rather than on assumptions or biases. Scientists should be skeptical and must base conclusions on research findings or logical deductions; however, in absence of evidence, beliefs or hypotheses should be tested (Bernal, 2003, p. 205).

Consistency with rigorous science is the careful testing of theories and their generalization, especially because there are many instances when theoretical formulations based on one population fail to be validated with another population (Bernal, 2003, p. 206).

It is true that requiring the cross-validation of theories with different populations will entail much effort. However, even if not all populations can be subjected to research, the goal is to construct a nomological net that supports a theory in question. It is through research that one can increase the probability of being theoretically sound. The real task is in studying different populations, form a nomological net, and increase one’s confidence in the validity of a proposed theory.

Furthermore, cultural considerations are critical in all phases of research and hence, the training of researchers with expertise in ethnic minority and cross-cultural research is important. Training programs should offer opportunities in learning about the methodological and conceptual problems in ethnic research and the means to conduct rigorous ethnic research and that, the importance of ethnic and cross-cultural research invalidating the universality or applicability of theories, methodologies, and measures should be emphasized (Bernal, 2003, p. 206).

Ethnography research approach

Ethnography is a scientific approach to discovering and investing social and cultural patterns and meaning in communities, institutions, and other social settings (Schensul, Schensul and LeCompte, 1999, p. 1). Ethnographers discover what people do, and why, before they assign meaning to behaviors and beliefs.

This approach is appropriate when studying Hispanic-Americans in this context. People’s perspectives form the groundwork for building local theories that can be tested, linked to scientific literature, and adapted for use elsewhere. Ethnography depends on the researcher as the primary tool of data collection, so ethnographers pay special attention to issues of bias and ways of ensuring the accuracy of data (Schensul, Schensul and LeCompte, 1999, p. 1). In conducting ethnography research, the approach adopted is based on four principles:

  1. ethnography research is guided by and generates theory;
  2. ethnography research is both qualitative and quantitative;
  3. ethnography research is conducted locally;
  4. ethnography research is applied.

Researchers begin with an early or rudimentary version of a formative theory and a research model and that, a formative theory can be generated from: preexisting information on the research community and topic; literature on the study topic; researcher’s experience; popular and media sources; and the experience of the study community.

Theory development is the first step in the research process (Schensul, Schensul and LeCompte, 1999, p. 2). The researcher needs to develop a formative theory that is as accurate as possible and based on the most complete view of the available information, more so the researcher should:

  1. expand and fill in the model,
  2. discover the qualitative and quantitative associations among domains or variables,
  3. match the expected results derived from the formative theory with the observed results that accrue from the data collected.

Culture influence among Hispanic Americans

Culture involves values, norms, and beliefs shared by a particular group. Ethnic groups are often defined as belonging to a specific culture which distinguishes them from others in society and binds them together through common symbols and traditions. It is through a culture that persons learn their roles and expected ways of interacting (Cox, 2007, p.174). Basically, cultural expectations are conveyed through norms that govern behaviors and that are often most apparent in the ways social roles are enacted. Thus, men may be expected to be the main providers in the family, make the decisions, and discipline children, while women are expected to adhere to these decisions and focus on the home (Cox, 2007, p.174).

Ties to cultural values and norms alter with generations, acculturation, and assimilation. Although the Hispanic American constitute an eclectic and diverse ethnic group, most of this group is of Mexican ancestry, and the most significant unifying background characteristic among all Hispanics is the historical and present connection to the Spanish language and ultimately Spanish and Portuguese exploration and colonization in the Western hemisphere (Merrell, 2003, p. 379).

Holding onto their cultural identity remains very important for the Hispanic Americans because of a history of oppression, discrimination, and conquests within their own lands (Kaslow et al, 2002, p. 166). Another significant historical commonality among Hispanic people is the influence of the Roman Catholic religion. According to Merrell (2003, p. 379) “Hispanic culture developed as a result of the fusion of Spanish culture, which was brought to the Americans by missionaries and conquistadors, with American Indian and African, as the result of the slave trade culture”. The culture reflected in this ethnic heritage is eclectic.

Historically, the nuclear and extended family and the dominance of fathers and other men, along with a family-centered and home-centered role for women, has played an important role in shaping Hispanic cultural characteristics (Merrell, 2003, p. 379). Group identity is more important to most Hispanic Americans, with the extended family taking priority over individual in many cases. According to Merrell, (2003, p. 379), “most Hispanic Americans tend to place a high value on human relationships, identify strongly with their families and feel comfortable with open displays of affection and emotion”. They also value spiritual pursuits over material gain (Bloomquist and Schnell, 2002, p. 345).

Many Hispanic Americans coming to United States for a better life are discouraged by the sociopolitical and socioeconomic oppression they experience. Families undergo significant distress because of a lack of secure foundation culturally, socially and financially (Kaslow, et al, 2002, p. 166). These experiences have had significant impact on Hispanic Americans youths, who have to negotiate their identities within a context that reinforces negative stereotypes, racism, classism, poverty and limited educational and occupational opportunities. For a long time the Hispanic Americans youth’s behaviors, values and other interpersonal relations aspects are shaped and dictated by the following contextual experience:

First, the family signifies a cultural value whereby family relationships are held in highest regard with one’s individual identity considered being a function of those family relationships. The family provides a strong sense of support and resources, with the family unity and tradition perceived as important aspects of one’s life; loyalty to family and family relations takes precedence and this is seen in children being kept home from school to take care of family obligations (Kaslow et al, 2002, p. 166). Interpersonal associations are negotiated within the milieu of a larger network of family, friends, godparents and informally adopted children, with family members having very different roles. Therefore, the behaviors of the people are manifest of the structure of the family, the hierarchy within the family roles and the role of the youth within this context (Kaslow et al, 2002, p. 167).

Secondly, the immigration context indicates that Hispanic Americans migrated to USA for various reasons ranging from escape from oppression, economic depression and to obtain social and economic power in the “land of opportunity” (Kaslow et al, 2002, p. 167). They come to USA as refugees, illegal aliens or political exiles and the reasons for migration, nature of migration, sociopolitical climates, and nature of oppression, all become important factors in determining behavior in this population.

Unfortunately, their skin color, language, culture, and the essence of their identity become reasons for discrimination. These discriminatory practices have become evident in frequent lack of employment and financial resources, language barriers and confinement to substandard housing. These depleted family, economic and social supports and discriminatory practices have generated high levels of stress for Hispanic Americans (Kaslow et al, 2002, p. 167).

Problems faced by the Hispanic Americans

Hispanic-Americans have a disproportionately high prevalence of disease conditions and other risk factors including but not limited to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV/ AIDS, diabetes and obesity (Galarraga, 2007, p. 5). On broader look the Hispanic-Americans continue to face serious health challenges (Latin in America, N.d). For example, Hispanic-Americans aged over 20 years old, 10.4 per cent of them are living with diabetes and the rate is higher as compared to the non-Hispanic whites’ counterparts. On cervical cancer, the Hispanic-Americans have higher rates which are estimated to be “one in seven and are less likely than other women to have regular Pap screening” (Latin in America, N.d).

HIV/AIDS is four times more common among the Hispanic-Americans women that the non-Hispanic women and further, the Hispanic-Americans are the least among the Americans ethnic to use condoms. More so, the incidents of Chlamydia among the Hispanic-Americans in 2007 “were estimated to be three times higher than that of the whites and gonorrhea rates are higher as compared to the whites” (Latin in America, N.d).

Also rampant among the Hispanic Americans a disorder known as the lupus, which is an auto-immune imbalance and the disease affects Hispanic-Americans women more often than the non-Hispanic white women and at an earlier age. Depression continue to manifest itself in Hispanic-American community more than in non-Hispanic white community and the Hispanic-American teenagers are characterized as having the highest rates of attempted suicide as compared to other teenagers in USA. Cancer is also taken as having a more fatal effect on the Hispanic-Americans than the whites, more so due to lack of adequate resources to overcome the problem (Latin in America, N.d).

Most Hispanic-Americans are believed to suffer from arthritis than the whites and the chronic liver ailments have been found to kill more Hispanic-Americans women more than any other group of non-Hispanic women in USA (Latin in America, N.d). The Institute of Medicine has reported four main areas that have contributed to health disparities among the Hispanic-Americans. The areas include; inadequate health coverage, the language barrier, a lack of minority physicians and the healthcare biases (Galarraga, 2007, p. 6). In general, it is estimated that, Hispanic Americans have less formal education than the national average. Only 56 per cent of Hispanic Americans over 25 years of age have graduated from high school and only 11 per cent, have graduated from college (Giger and Davidhizar, 2004, p. 224),

Many Hispanic Americans continue to retain their “cultural uniqueness” and strongly identifies with the cultural values. Unfortunately, because of the desire to retain cultural identity, many Hispanic Americans continue to experience discrimination in education, jobs and also housing. Skin color, language differences and sometimes Spanish surnames have all contributed to discrimination (Giger and Davidhizar, 2004, p. 224).

Hispanic Americans are generally below average on all measures of socioeconomic status and are largely element of the American poor. They are in a less developed stage of political participation when compared to Africans Americans; hence continue to be underrepresented in top positions in all institutional areas. The level of prejudice to Hispanic Americans has been crueler than that suffered by Euro-American ethnic groups.

Professional Competences when working with Hispanic Americans

According to Carson (2008, p. 2), Competence is “a set of skills or attributes that allow one to effectively intervene on the demands of a particular situation or circumstance”. The problem that has been identified among the Hispanic-Americans is the problem of language. Therefore, to ensure the group get access to healthcare more effectively there is need for medical professionals to promote effective physician communication with Hispanic-Americans patients. Secondly, the professionals need to engage in Hispanic American communication that is culturally competent, in order to avoid adverse medical outcomes (Galarraga, 2007, p. 7).

Thirdly, the professionals working among the Hispanic-Americans need to be impartial and non-biased in their judgments or conclusions. For example, most Hispanic-Americans are compounded with psychological problems due to harsh environment they operate in and hence, they are likely to be aggressive. It upon the professional to analyze individual cases impartially and without any bias. Skills in gender differences are also important for the professional working with Hispanic-Americans. For instance the women, men, youth and young children are affected differently and hence, adequate knowledge of gender in relation to degree of facing challenges is necessary, especially in communication. Another competence skill required for the professional is to understand the family structure of Hispanic-Americans.

The need to be warm, friendly and interested in the people’s lives is necessary when working among the Hispanic-Americans (Galarraga, 2007, p. 8). And lastly, as a professional any suggestion, alternative or example used to clarify something it needs to be within the context of Hispanic-Americans culture. This will avoid instances of anger, or aggression.

As a professional working with Hispanic-Americans, it necessary to consider the words of Klein and Chen (2001, p. 38-39) “to develop cross-cultural competence, you must start a process of self-reflection, gather information about your own culture and that of others, appreciate cultural similarities and differences, use cultural resources and acknowledge the value of all cultures and that, to begin this lifelong process, you should have a sense of self, a degree of maturity and a commitment to providing culturally responsive programs”.


Hispanic Americans have largely been the victims of discrimination that has been manifested in employment, education, housing, political representation, and other areas. These have greatly modified their behaviors, perception, and attitude and even, to large extent dictate their interpersonal relations. Therefore, it becomes important to any professional interested in working with the Hispanic Americans to have decisive historical information of the people, their cultural setting, problems they experience and also the context of their everyday living and interaction.


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