Racism Not Always Black and White

Also, black-Latino tension has led to violence in the Los Angeles schools; in El Monte, Calif., a Latino gang targeted African-Americans in what some reports described as "ethnic cleansing."

Last year, an estimated 191,000 hate crimes occurred in the United States, according to a survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center, although there's no breakdown by the races of the perpetrators. At the same time, the number of hate groups has jumped 47.5 percent from 602 in 2000 to 888 in 2007.

"There is very little question that we are seeing a growing animosity, at least in some groups," said Mark Potok, director of the center's Intelligence Project.

"That rise is almost entirely driven by an increase in the rancid debate on immigration, and hate groups see it as an issue that works for them and they exploit them successfully," he told ABCNEWS.com

"If there is one thing that is clear about hate crime, no ethnic group is excluded," Potok said. "They travel in all directions."

Still, the center reports that crimes against Latinos are up 35 percent nationwide — more than 50 percent in California, although, again, with no breakdown by the races of those who commit the crimes.

Tensions Have Nothing to Do With Gangs

In a June editorial in the Los Angeles Times, Sheriff Lee Baca, a Latino, argued that the interracial violence in his city has nothing to do with the gang crisis and everything to do with bigotry.

"The truth is that, in many cases, race is at the heart of the problem," Baca wrote. "Latino gang members shoot blacks not because they're members of a rival gang but because of their skin color. Likewise, black gang members shoot Latinos because they are brown."

In Princeton, N.J., tensions between rival Latino groups — Colombians, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans and Ecuadorians — have somewhat subsided because of effective community action. But in this small university town, dependent on unskilled labor, blacks and Latino immigrants still maintain a guarded and sometimes volatile relationship.

Undocumented immigrants, who often carry cash, are victims of robberies. "These are opportunistic crimes," according to Maria Juega, chair of the Latin America Legal and Education Defense Fund.

Still, Juega said, "There's still a lot of immigrant rage."

Last year, three black college students were slain and a Latino immigrant was charged with the hate crime in Newark, N.J. Two years earlier, Latino men were robbed, beaten and even murdered in Plainfield, N.J., Jacksonville, Fla., and Annapolis, Md., according to press reports.

In Indianapolis, seven members of a Latino family were murdered by young black males. The victims were mostly undocumented workers, and police speculate that the attackers regarded them as easy prey for robbery since they would be reluctant to report the attacks to the police.

But Jack Levin, a criminologist and hate crime expert from Northeastern University, told ABCNEWS.com that victimization across communities of color is "as old as time."

"Newcomers to the U.S. often feel in competition with minority groups who have been here somewhat longer or whose members have also suffered economic deprivation," said Levin, author of "The Violence of Hate" and "Serial Killers and Sadistic Murderers."

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