Racism and classism, two important issues forgotten in Mexico
Mexican cultural icons have used their social media accounts to raise awareness on two subjects rooted in Latin American culture that have segregated indigenous communities since colonial times
The debate against racism has raged around the world since George Floyd’s death at the hands of police brutality. Mexico, as many other countries, joined the movement while ignoring the racial issues that exist in the country.
Mexicans got involved in the protests forgetting the racial problems that continue to be unsolved in the country, such as the death of Giovanni Lopez in Jalisco a month ago.
According to a common misunderstanding, racism is not a real problem since Mexicans are all products of the racial mixing that took place during its conquest.
To this, Milena Dovali, coordinator of OXFAM Mexico, argues that “pigmentocracy” is real because, as she explains, “it assigns social positions based on people's physical appearance.”
Among the actors who have raised their voices on this issue is Maya Zapata, winner of the Ariel Prize (De la Calle, Gerardo Tort, 2002).
“We are not specialists. We are simply opening a gap for the most affected voices to be heard,” said Zapata to Sin Embargo MX.
Toward these initiatives, white and privileged people have argued they have also suffered what they’ve called “reverse racism.” In other words, racial segregation for their light skin color.
Acá para que lo manden al chat de tíos: pic.twitter.com/Ax7Fao1Jtp
— Eréndira Derbez (@erederbez) June 22, 2020
In his book Mexico Racist (Grijalbo, 2016), anthropologist and historian, Federico Navarrete explains that it is a “wrong concept,” because it could only be valid if “the positions of power were occupied by non-white people”.
Racism is a systemic and structural phenomenon that subjugates whatever doesn’t follow the social norms. In the case of many Latin American countries and Mexico, that is anything related to indigenous cultures.
“The fact that white people are charged more than indigenous people whenever they go to the supermarket is not an act of reverse racism, [it] is an attempt to take away some of their inherent privileges,” writes in Verne language activist, Yasana Elena Aguilar.
Another initiative that has been presented is a documentary by El País, called The Racism Mexico doesn’t want to see. The documentary is narrated by actor Tenoch Huerta, known for his role in Narcos Mexico (2018), and talks about the ethnic-racial problems that are reinforced by everyday social dynamics.
“Una vez, una maestra me dijo: ‘¿A tus papás no les da vergüenza haberte puesto ese nombre de perro?’, refiriéndose a mi nombre. Y es que nos enseñaron a sentir vergüenza de ser quien somos”, dice @TenochHuerta #Hemerotecahttps://t.co/yprPsMHFLG
— EL PAÍS México (@elpaismexico) June 9, 2020
“In Mexico, it is easier to talk about politics, soccer, or religion, before racism,” states Huerta in an attempt to highlight and expose the problem.
The film presented by El País is available on Youtube and provides statistics on the increasing discrimination against people because of the color of their skin and heritage.
“One of the areas where anti-discriminatory practices need to be developed is in the popular culture, where there is a desire to reproduce white models that do not represent the country's social reality,” sociologist and researcher Patricio Solís notes for El País.
The aim of these initiatives is to turn issues such as racism or classism into public debates so people can question privileges certain groups have, and stop reproducing these actions.