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Partners or Rivals?

Power and Latino, Black, and White Relations in the Twenty-First Century
Betina Cutaia Wilkinson

BUY Cloth · 248 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813937731 · $39.50 · Nov 2015
BUY Ebook · 248 pp. · ISBN 9780813937748 · $39.50 · Nov 2015

The emerging demographic and political presence of Latinos in the United States has moved the discussion of race relations beyond the terms of black and white. Using a variety of theoretical approaches, Betina Cutaia Wilkinson assesses Latinos', blacks', and whites' perceptions of commonality and opposition in order to reach a more nuanced understanding of the factors affecting political competition versus cooperation among these groups. In the most comprehensive analysis of Latino, black, and white relations to date, Wilkinson explores the extent to which these groups regard each other as partners or rivals and uncovers the motivations that contribute to those views.

Relying on national survey and focus group data, the author examines how social interaction; feelings of identification with members of their own group and others; and individuals’ sense of power as established by their racial, economic, and political surroundings impact interracial attitudes. Her findings, like the complex racial dynamics she studies, are not easily reducible to simple formulae, yet they have strong implications for the formation of interracial coalitions. For example, even if social contact generally decreases racial and ethnic hostility, the disadvantaged status of Latinos and blacks tends to impede cooperation and ramp up rivalry, leaving members of both groups more inclined to form coalitions with whites than with each other. Yet contextual factors in particular jurisdictions, such as the availability of quality education and higher wages overall, can mitigate antagonism and increase the likelihood of cooperation.

Ultimately, Partners or Rivals? provides a timely account of contemporary race relations and the prospects for interracial and interethnic cooperation, pinpointing the sometimes surprising factors that have a realistic chance of improving those prospects.


Wilkinson’s book addresses an important subject, providing us with a deeper understanding of race relations for the three major ethnic/racial groups in the United States. Her nuanced theory and careful analysis offer much-needed insights into the prospects for both conflict and cooperation in our nation’s increasingly multiracial society.

Marisa A. Abrajano, University of California, San Diego, author of Campaigning to the New American Electorate: Television Advertising to Latinos

Wilkinson grapples with one of the most vexing problems facing America: intergroup conflict along ethnic and racial lines. She develops an ambitious and creative analytical approach to understanding the American dilemma of the twenty-first century. Scholars and ordinary citizens alike will have a better grasp on this issue after reading this important book.

Vincent L. Hutchings, University of Michigan, author of Public Opinion and Democratic Accountability: How Citizens Learn about Politics

Wilkinson’s award winning book, Partners or Rivals? Power and Latino, Black, and White Relations in the Twenty-First Century is a timely source of knowledge for understanding contemporary ethnoraciality in the era of Trump.

This work would be useful to scholars who are interested in cross-comparison research that focuses on power relations within and among these populations.

Jasmon L. Bailey · Ethnic and Racial Studies Journal

"It is a thoughtful and well-executed study that is a useful guide to how we should approach the study of the politics of intergroup relations and their impact on national politics."

Rodolfo O. De La Garza, Columbia University · Political Science Quarterly

About the Author(s): 

Betina Cutaia Wilkinson is Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University.

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