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 North Carolina
 Central University

Robert Wortham,
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 Central University

Rebecca Adams,

Bob Davis,
 North Carolina
 Agricultural and
 Technical State

Catherine Harris,
 Wake Forest

Ella Keller,
 State University

Ken Land,
 Duke University

Miles Simpson,
 North Carolina
 Central University

William Smith,
 N.C. State University

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John W.M. Russell,

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Volume 9, Number 2

Fall/Winter 2011

Book Review of:

Cameron D. Lippard and Charles A. Gallagher, eds., Being Brown in Dixie: Race, Ethnicity, and Latino Immigration in the New South. Boulder, Colorado: FirstForumPress, 2011. 

Reviewed by Rachel Madsen

    Latino immigration in the southern United States has had many effects on race relations and institutions in this region’s society. Moving with the prospect of employment in the US, there has been an influx of migrants from Latin America since the 1990s that has introduced many populations in the South to unfamiliar neighbors. Consequently, a dimension has been added to the long-existing racial turmoil between whites and blacks in these southern states: a "brown" dimension. As such, the social construction of race has altered societal order to include a new groups in the ranks, with practical implications for the social, economic, and political systems in this region.

    In their edited collection of case studies and content analyses entitled Being Brown in Dixie: Race Ethnicity, and Latino Immigration in the New South, Lippard and Gallagher document the impact of Latino immigration on states located in the US South. The book draws from a variety of factors (theoretical explanations, institutional shifts, policy changes, and labor) to present three main issues regarding changing race relations in southern US states: first, how the influx of Hispanic/Latino populations in the South may affect the conceptions of race, ethnicity, and racism throughout the country; second, how various racialized social institutions will be affected by these changes; and third, how Latinos’ experiences of prejudice and discrimination resemble and differ from those of whites and blacks in the South. The book is a volume of fifteen chapters which begins with theoretical explanations of the reconceptualization of race, ethnicity, and racism in the South, then moves to examine the institutional shifts and policy changes that have occurred, and finally concludes with the effects of Latino integration into labor and politics in the South and the implications for policy changes on a national level. 

    Setting a tone of tension in their introduction to the book, the editors begin Chapter 1 by first recalling the 2006 demonstrations regarding Latino immigration in Atlanta, GA, followed by a brief history of Latino immigration in the South which led up to that point. Along with an overview of the volume, the editors also provide a conceptualization of the "New South" in their introduction. In Chapter 2, Jackson then continues the discussion of the changing race relations in the New South and emphasizes the shift that has occurred in the portrayal of racism. She points out that there has been a shift over the past few decades in how films, media, and literature now increasingly depict horizontal racism among minority groups, not only vertical racism of white suppressors. She finds that African Americans have also been shown as suppressors, but that there has not been adequate recognition of how white tolerance "is contingent on acquiescence to white privilege on the part of Latinos" (p. 47). Moreover, she notes how contemporary "racetalk" works to obscure the power relations that have been built on white supremacy (p. 47). In Chapter 3, Marrow also examines the changing nature of discrimination in rural southern society as she describes her ethnographic study of Hispanic newcomers' interactions with whites and blacks in eastern North Carolina. She observes that the exclusion of Hispanics seems to stem from the shared perspective of whites and blacks that they are "undeserving outsiders," but that blacks generally hold more resentment towards them than whites because they have not had to struggle for inclusion into American society as blacks have for centuries (p. 54). She notes that blacks also view Hispanics as economic competition more so than whites, while whites were seen to be more accepting of their foreign culture and more helpful to them in assimilating into the communities. However, Marrow also points out that Hispanics and blacks are able to create racial solidarity from their non-white identities and form bonds because of their similar experiences of racial discrimination by whites. 

    Historical contexts and structural dynamics are then added to the discussion of theoretical explanations for changing race relations in Chapters 4, 5, and 6. In Chapter 4, McConnell uses a historical context of Latino immigration into the US in order to examine how population dynamics are influenced in cities and towns that have historically been all-white on purpose. Through her analysis of newspaper articles dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, McConnell examines the exclusionary practices used by whites to keep non-whites out of these areas and suggests how they may provide insight into similar practices to keep Latino populations out of these cities and towns today. She finds that the areas that have used the most extreme exclusionary tactics were still almost all-white as of 2006, which shows how archival research of newspapers and historical census data could be utilized to see how past racialized histories may influence present racial/ethnic population dynamics. In Chapter 5, Bohon and Parrott highlight how the social construction of problems also has an effect on race relations. They emphasize how the influx of Latino immigrants in Georgia has had both real and perceived social problems, particularly in how Latinos are used as scapegoats for rising crime rates, blamed for people’s frustrations with language barriers, and accused of benefitting from the government while living illegally in the country. The authors also note how the "problem" of immigration has been exacerbated by the "inflammatory language" (P. 105) employed by the media to present these claims, in addition to the overreporting of state numbers of immigrants while underreporting the national numbers in order to present the issue as a serious condition with which locals have to contend. In Chapter 6, each of the previous chapters' themes of changing race relations, historical contexts, and perceptions of immigration is examined in Lacy’s study of "Latino immigrants' economic and social incorporation in South Carolina society" (P. 116). In her interviews with Latino immigrants and native South Carolinians, Lacy finds that the lack of exposure that South Carolinians have had historically to immigrants has combined with negative publicity about their presumed legal status, which has only worsened with the state’s economic downturn. Although the benefits of immigrants to the economy has been touted by some, Lacy finds that these factors continue to perpetuate the exclusion of Latinos in the state's society. 

    Exclusionary practices are further examined in the next several chapters, particularly in their relation to institutional shifts and policy changes. In Chapter 7, Sills and Blake lead the discussion by looking into the institutional shifts present in housing practices in Greensboro, North Carolina. Despite fair housing laws, the authors find that housing-related discrimination continues to segregate both Latino immigrants and African Americans from white neighborhoods in the city. In addition to the exclusionary practices mentioned in previous chapters, they also point out how other furtive practices such as "steering" home seekers "away from particular neighborhoods or toward others on the basis of race" perpetuates not only residential segregation, but disparities between whites and nonwhites in the jobs, public services, and education available (p. 137). In Chapter 8, Wainer then delves deeper into the education issues that have arisen with fast growing Latino populations in the South. Highlighting a model school in Atlanta, Georgia, Wainer first points out how a principal has made Latino integration a priority for her school district. By establishing a community center, enrichment programs, and seminars for Latino families, this principal has taken a proactive approach in building trust and cooperative relationships with the students as well as their parents. Thereafter, Wainer observes the major barriers that many schools in the South continue to face with the influx of Latino immigrants, most notably concerning dropout rates, parental involvement, teacher training, students’ immigration status, and discrimination. In Chapter 9, Rodriguez examines immigration status and discrimination as well, but in light of the criminal justice system in the South. In comparison to the national rates, Rodriguez finds juvenile custody rates in southern states to be uneven by ethnicity; while Hispanic custody rates have decreased in the rest of the country over the past five years, they have continued to increase in this region. Rodriguez attributes this discrepancy to several factors involved with Hispanics, including the discrimination they face due to skin-color and real or perceived legal status, culture conflicts with southerners, and the increasing number of second generation immigrants that contribute to the juvenile crime rates.

    Shifting from institutional changes to labor and politics, the remainder of the book focuses on racialized hiring practices and anti-immigration sentiment in the South, as well as the challenges that these traditions face with Latino integration.  In Chapter 10, Lippard sparks the discussion about discrimination in hiring based on racial/ethnic stereotypes, as he recounts his study on the construction industry in Atlanta. Through his interviews with black, white, and Latino contractors, Lippard observes a proclivity for hiring Latinos over whites and blacks because of their willingness to "work hard for long hours at a time without complaint" (p. 202). Although many of the contractors claimed that the main qualities they look for are work-ethic and respect for authority, Lippard notes that they often used racial ideologies suggesting that Latinos were "built for" this type of hard labor and that it would be difficult to go back to hiring Americans, black or white (p. 204). The willingness to work long hours for little pay is also explored in Coin's look at the North Carolina agriculture industry in Chapter 11. As the industry has suffered in recent years, many North Carolina growers have turned to hiring temporary migrant workers from Mexico, often paying them less than their contract requires and providing substandard working and living conditions. Following Coin's observations of discrimination and exploitation of the workers, she asserts that there must be action taken, such as grassroots organizing of boycotts and campaigns, against growers and manufacturers committing these acts in order to build a relationship that benefits both the worker and the agriculture industry. 

    In Chapter 12, Luebke addresses how mobilization can influence policy decisions as well, though he notes that the most powerful mobilization in North Carolina thus far has been anti-immigrant. In observing the quick rejection of a legislative proposal that would grant in-state tuition to non-US born children of undocumented immigrants, Luebke points out how the actions of anti-immigrant groups contributed to the media’s distortion of the issue and the subsequent outcome. He notes how such "modern ethnic prejudice" and misrepresentation of facts in the media continue to pit native “taxpayers” against the "undocumented" and "illegal" Latinos, which affects not only public perception of this immigrant population, but also state legislation (p. 275). In Chapter 13, Martinez takes a another look at the political implications involved with increasing populations of Latinos in the South. As demographic reports predict Latinos to outnumber all other ethnic minorities in this region by 2025, Martinez points out how this group will continue to gain more of a presence in politics, whether it is through electoral votes or non-voting participation. While 40% of Latinos currently cannot vote because of their non-US citizenship, they may begin to participate more in "extra-institutional" (p. 290) activities, such as rallies and protests, in order to achieve political representation. Martinez emphasizes that, although it is uncertain how Latinos’ citizenship status, English language efficiency, and education will impact their political involvement, the increasing immigrant populations in the South have implications for political elites to attract Latino electoral or non-electoral participation. To close the discussion on labor and politics, Chapter 14 highlights the success that the city of Dalton, Georgia has had in incorporating their large immigration population over the past 20 years. Authors Baker and Harris show how the city approached the influx of Latino immigrants in the 1900s by balancing numerous outreach programs and integration assistance to the Latino immigrants with a law enforcement task force to monitor their legal status. In doing so, Baker and Harris find that Dalton has been able to adhere to the city’s conservatism while protecting the interest of the immigrant communities, promoting social capital formation, and encouraging the involvement of Latinos in community organizations and civic associations.

    Finally, in the concluding chapter, editors Lippard and Gallagher suggest how the inclusion of "brown" in the racialized social order in the South can provide insight into how race, ethnicity, and racism will continue to interact in American society. By examining the transformation of these concepts, changes in Southern institutions, and the differences in prejudice and discrimination between whites, black, and Latinos, the editors emphasize how the influx of Latino immigrants will continue to shift race relations in the US. Although laws that allow for segregation on the basis on race no longer exist in the South, each of the authors in this volume help to illustrate how racial profiling and discrimination in employment, housing practices, education, crime, and politics continue to persist in southern society. 

    Throughout this volume, the editors provide various studies on how Latino immigration has impacted, and will continue to impact, race relations in the US South. They note how the historical context and structural factors of southern society have presented difficult challenges for Latino integration, as well as how economic downturns continue to fuel animosity toward immigrants who are viewed as competition in the labor force. The editors, though, also provide models of how certain cities have taken proactive approaches to the influx of Latino immigrant populations in order to establish networks and build trust in the school systems, community organizations, and law enforcement. Moreover, the text addresses how race as a social construction continues to change along with immigration and, consequently, the effects that increasing immigrant populations will have on life, work, and politics in American society. As such, this book should be highly useful not only to scholars of race and ethnicity in general, but to social scientists and politicians, as well as community leaders and teachers, involved in issues related to Latino immigration in the South. 

 Return to Sociation Today Fall/Winter 2011 


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