Mexicans admit they're racist — if only we could

Mexicans admit they're racist — if only we could
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Stop the presses! There is racism in Mexico!

Ten percent of Mexico is “gachupine” (gah-choo-pee-neh), which is loosely translated as “white” — an Aztec word meaning "a man wearing shoes with pins," or spurs. (There were no horses in the Western Hemisphere when the Spanish arrived, so there were no spurs.) Sixty percent of Mexico is mixed Indian and white, and 30 percent pure Amerindian.

Mexico News Daily published last year an in-depth article about recent studies conducted on Mexican racism.

No honest Mexican can deny the fact of Mexican racism; multiple studies confirm that beyond any doubt. In one, conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, the study determined that skin color directly influences how much education is achieved and what kind of employment an individual is offered.

Yet his is not the only study ever conducted in Mexico that shows that racial differences heavily influence Mexican society.

No study was needed between 1519 and 1821, when the Spanish ran Mexico with racial codes that organized the Spanish Western Hemisphere into more than a dozen different racial classifications starting with those born in Spain, the Peninsulares; they were No. 1. Their children born in the New World, the Criollos, were No. 2; No. 3 was the part-Spanish, part-Indian, the mestizo. The penultimate category was the Zamba, half-black and half-Indian. Last was the 100 percent Indian, or Indio.

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The only people who could own land and conduct government affairs were in the No. 1 and No. 2 classifications; there was no voting as Spain was a monarchy, not a democracy. Governance limited to Spanish-born white men and their male children left much to be desired.

No wonder, then, that a fed-up Catholic priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, enamored with American independence and democratic government, loudly pronounced “Death to bad government, death to the gachupines!” to his parishioners at midnight, Sept. 16, 1810; the churchgoers rushed out and attacked Spanish-owned businesses and government property, starting more than 10 years of war for independence.

In retrospect, his followers included mestizos and Indians who were fed up with the overt racism imposed by the Spanish-born and their children on them and on Africans whom Spain brought to Mexico as slaves. Father Hidalgo was himself a “criollo” without a drop of Indian blood.

One view of modern Mexico is that the racial society Father Hidalgo detested still exists, though it is not official policy, as it was when Hidalgo rebelled.

In 1954, then-U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren and his colleagues on the Supreme Court included in their landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, ruling against “separate but equal” schools, the results of a study that measured black children choosing white dolls over black dolls because the white dolls were considered prettier and nicer.

A similar doll study was done in Mexico a few years ago and is included in Mexico Daily report about the current state of racism there. It found that Mexican children of all colors chose white dolls for the same reason that American black children chose white dolls over black dolls almost 70 years ago in the United States.

Racism in Mexico is not news to Mexicans. The Mexican National Council to Prevent Discrimination has done a study that shows 20 percent of Mexicans are uncomfortable with the color of their skin; 25 percent say they have been discriminated against because of their “appearance,” 55 percent recognized that there is discrimination based on skin color; and 23 percent admit they would not want to live with a person of a different race or culture.

In a similar study in 2016, the National Autonomous University asked whether skin color influenced the way people are treated; 51 percent of respondents answered yes, with 33.4 percent replying yes, in part.

Among the study's respondents, 72 percent agreed that racism exists in Mexico and 47 percent said Indians (and at least 68 Indian dialects are spoken in Mexico) don’t have the same job opportunities as other Mexicans.

Surprise! There is racism in Mexico and the people there recognize it.

Surprise! There is racism in the United States, but people here mostly avoid the subject.

Skin color is important in the U.S. despite widespread denial; it has been since 1619, when the first African slave walked off a boat at Jamestown. But American racism wasn’t always against blacks. A white racist victimizes anyone, even if the victim is demographically white.

American founding father Benjamin Franklin, for instance, set unlimited limits of American racism against people of other races and ethnicities with this observation in 1751: German immigrants “will shortly be so numerous (in British America) as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.”

Mexicans admit to their racism. If only we could.  

Raoul Lowery Contreras is the author of "The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade" (Floricanto Press 2016) and "The Armenian Lobby & U.S. Foreign Policy" (Berkeley Press 2017). He formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times.