6 July, 2005
When the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. admonished the United States of America and the world to judge people based on the content of their character, rather than color of their skin, the message fell upon deaf ears in Mexico where color matters much more than character. So you know how this author feels on the issue of color, I offer you my personal philosophy on the subject: "Everyone is potentially your friend. Friends are like free Ferraris. Does it really matter what color your free Ferrari is? After all, it is a free Ferrari." And, to extend the motoring metaphor, "Lemons come in all colors." That's how I feel about that.
So, forty years after Dr. King, why are we being forced to address anti-black racism again? Because racists have been migrating into the US by the tens of millions, bringing their racist cultural attitudes with them when they come. Now, I grant you that there are still some homegrown racists alive and well and living in the good old USA, but their numbers are small and steadily shrinking. But the new racists -- La Raza de Bronze (The Bronze Race) -- AKA, "the Klan with the Tan" -- is growing steadily in numbers and their attacks on black Americans are growing steadily and proportionate to their numbers.
My first introduction to the subject of brown on black racialism came by way of jury duty in the latter half of the 1990s. Boy, did I get a lesson in the Hispanic gang culture that is seeping into my neighborhood like so much raw sewage! I had thought that killing black Americans just because they were black was a thing of the past and limited only to areas of the country where Jim Crow laws had been in effect decades ago. This type of abuse really didn't happen in cosmopolitan, color-blind Los Angeles, California at the turn of the millennium. I was wrong, and because Hispanics are categorized as "white" all that "white" on black crime going on in L.A. is really being perpetrated by "the Klan with the Tan" as they take over more and more of the traditionally black neighborhoods and economic opportunities.
Where are these new racists coming from and why are they so racist to begin with? Mostly, they are coming from Mexico where the color of one's skin is everything and character counts for nothing. While Mexico does not categorize their citizens by race (they consider themselves to be a homogeneous "mestizo" nation) they still have a hierarchical culture based on skin color. The lighter skinned the person the more opportunities available to them and, conversely, the opposite is true -- the darker the skin color the fewer the opportunities. Just look at the Mexican media news readers and all the Nordic-types with blue eyes and blonde hair in their telenovelas. The darker one is in Mexico, the more marginalized that person is and Afro-Mexicans are the most marginalized group of all. But Mexicans do not consider this to be racism, they are all "mestizos" after all. In fact, racism in Mexico is so endemic that it is considered unpatriotic to even mention it.1
So, when Mexico's Irish president remarked that Mexican illegal aliens were doing jobs "not even blacks" in the US would do, he didn't see the racism in his statement and refused to formally apologize. Marginalizing statements come easily to Mexico's white elite. Take, for example, the words of the Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska, "The people of the poor, the lice-ridden and the cucarachas are advancing in the United States, a country that wants to speak Spanish because 33.4 million Hispanics impose their culture."2 Can you imagine the hue and cry if an American author referred to illegal aliens as "cockroaches"? But this is exactly what the Mexican elite thinks of their darker skinned countrymen. Elena, by the way, is a Pole from Paris who migrated to Mexico as a child and was educated in both Mexico and the US.
Mexican racism even infects Mexican-Americans north of the border. The classic example came to us in early 2001 by way of racist MEChA member, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante of California. In a Black History Month speech before several hundred members of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Cruz referred to their group as the "nigger" labor organization and kept on going for ten minutes, not noticing that he had used a racial slur -- until folks started making for the doors in large numbers, that is. He apologized, but his audience noted that the word came trippingly off his tongue -- like he used it quite frequently. 3
Mexico just gave us another example of their deeply ingrained racism -- Memin Pinguin, the postage stamp -- a Jim Crow pickaninny 4 caricature if ever there was one! Now, the Mexican government is quick to tell you that Memin has been a favorite character of comic book fame since the 1940s. But, what they don't tell you is that in 1963 Memin was given a "new look" with more exaggerated features by cartoonist Sixto Valencia Burgos and he was used to bash the US over our racist attitudes. 5 Kinda like the pot calling the kettle black, don't ya know. (Sorry, but somebody had to say it). The question is, since the stamps have sold out and they are selling like Aunt Jemima's hotcakes on E-bay, will the government of Mexico keep issuing the stamps?
So, we have looked at how Mexicans view color and racism, now comes the question of character (or lack there of). Does it take character to sneak over the border in the dead of night? No! Does it take character to sell drugs to US school children? No! Does it take character to steal jobs from America's most vulnerable citizens? No! Does it take character to defraud hospitals of their services? No! Do illegal aliens from Mexico have character worthy of our respect? Absolutely, unequivocally, no!
And, what is the cartoonist who gave Memin Pinguin his "new look" doing right now? He is collaborating with a Los Angeles-based lawyer and open borders advocate on a new comic book aimed at the Mexican illegal alien population to help them negotiate "the ins and outs" of living illegally in the United States of America. What does that tell you about the content of the Mexican character?
So, have you figured out yet which Mexican in the picture is the boss? If you guessed the lighter skinned "gentleman" behind the metal post, you would be right. He is observing his other "employee" selling oranges on the median across the street.
Janet Conroy is an immigration reform activist in the Los Angeles area.
6 July, 2005