Published On: Thu, Jun 22nd, 2017

OPINION: México, a racist and status-based country

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Sergio Negrete Cardenas writes in Alto Nivel that Mexico’s paradox is that we show-off our “mestizaje” (miscegenation) as a type of a superior fusion, but we are ashamed of it if it is inclined towards the Oaxacan’s than the Madrilenian one.

“He looks Oaxacan”, “bronze race”, “rim color”, “Indian with a cut foot” (expression used towards people who live in marginalized communities), “Thankfully they are white(-ish), we’ve improved our breed”. “The Indian is not to blame, but the one who trusts in him (used in this context, the saying states that it is not the person to blame, but their parents for ‘making them brown’)”, “he was taken from the hill to tamborazos” (said to people who live in poor areas and move to the city to live), “he’s a ranch white” (stating that the person lives in a poor area but has a lighter skin tone), “they are brown-ish, but pretty”.

Servants are usually dark-skinned, being the homeowners less darker, or naturally white-skinned. Soap operas or “telenovelas” and newspaper sections dedicated to high-class events are full of people who could easily pass as Europeans. The wealthy class –the one dominant in many ways– has little to no brown nor indigenous heritage. The spectrum of national beauty has one essential component: skin pigmentation; the closer you are to the Scandinavian –and with blue eyes– the better.

Photo: Google

Photo: Google



Mexican racism and classism are clearly tied, they practically go hand-in-hand. However, there is another element, to say the least, ‘peculiar’: a lot of Mexicans will get offended if they are told that their society is deeply racist and status-based. Many, in fact, will angrily and furiously claim that racism does not exist in Mexico.

The first thing that comes up to the Mexican mind is the American racism. In a country like the United States, with a small indigenous population, and a mixture of them with other races equally unimportant, the contrast made is between the descendants of European settlers and those of African slaves. Nonetheless, as many Mexicans say, because there are no black people (which is incorrect, of course), then there is no racism. It is as simple as it is false.

Therefore, it is not surprising the storm that a tweet from the president of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), Julio Santaella, unleashed in social networks. The brief message (forcefully short given the limitation of characters imposed by Twitter) simply presented one of several conclusions of the Intergenerational Social Mobility Module (MMSI). However, it turns out that the message was, for many, treacherous: the lighter the skin tone, the person had a higher labor category. The paradox was that these critics accused Santaella of sending a racist message, when he simply described what causes so much stinging: racism in Mexico. That was a clear example of “shooting the messenger”:

Photo: Julio Santaella's Twitter

Photo: Julio Santaella’s Twitter



The MSSI is an innovative product, apart from extraordinary, from the INEGI. For the first time, they present information considering the sociodemographic characteristics of the population aged 25 to 64 and their educational and work levels. Such being based on their socioeconomic situation of origin, that is, when the respondents were 14 years old.

The MMSI applied a chromatic scale, used in the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA), which classifies the skin tone into 11 shades so that the interviewees identify their skin color. Out of the people who self-classified themselves in the lighter skin tones, only 10% had no education level at all. That number doubled (to 20.2%) for people who self-classified themselves in the darker skin tones range. Meaning that, the darker the skin color, the percentages of people working in activities of higher qualification were reduced. Therefore, when the skin tones were lighter, the percentages of people working in activities of medium and high qualification increased.

With this information, the INEGI brings harsh data to the already-known reality that saddens to recognize: Mexico is a racist and status-based country. In a way, it is the worst racism that could exisit. Firstly, it is targeted to ourselves (by ourselves); American racism may also be among the worst, but there is a clear differentiation. In Mexico, a light brown-skinned person (a mestizo) can already have a (racial) bias to feel “superior” than the person who was born with a darker skin color (being the latter equally a mestizo).

The paradox here is that Mexico shows off this miscegenation as a kind of a superior combination: the one between Europeans and indigenous people; which nowadays explain the reality of our country. However, that same miscegenation hides a darker secret, which is being ashamed if one looks more like a Oaxacan than a Madrilenian. Therefore, it is okay to be a mestizo, but it is way better if you have a lighter skin tone because it enhances our “breed”.

The INEGI’s MMSI provides hard information of a raw reality. It must be an element that contributes not to the annoyance, but to reality’s confrontation. To achieve equality of skin tones is in the future, but to seek greater equality for all Mexicans, from the black people that “do not exist”, to the indigenous people who are being discriminated against and despised, openly or in secret. Hopefully, INEGI and more people keep portraying this sad reality, as it provides a search for answers to a problem that a lot of people claim does not exist.

SOURCE: Alto Nivel

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