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Do Latinos Consider Themselves Mainstream? The Influence of Region

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Publication Date:
Nov 2019

Drawing from 89 in-depth interviews with Latinos, this article asks how Latinos perceive their relationship to U.S. mainstream society. As regional location matters to racial identity, this comparative study focuses on field sites in California and Kansas—locations with different proportions of Latinos—to investigate how regional dynamics are embedded in racial meaning-making. Showing a region, race, and class intersection, Californians who were poor or working-class in their youth use social distancing strategies and “reactive Americanization” to avoid stereotypes fueled by a dense Latino population. By contrast, most Latino Kansans leave racism undetected, the smaller Latino population in Kansas deflating negative group stereotypes. Region also influences ideas about the mainstream: Californians pointed to local racial heterogeneity to argue for a multiracial mainstream, whereas most Kansans did not make that argument. Regional processes of class-inflected racialization are a contextual factor that shapes Latinos’ sense of mainstream inclusion and their incorporation trajectories.

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