Racial profiling and Mexico—Minus Major Platitudes on SB 1070

It’s good to be white in Mexico. It takes a few days to register, but pretty soon you realize that you’re welcome in pretty much every fancy, sophisticated establishment–even though you have no connection to the place. No reason to be there. Or perhaps you’re not even dressed appropriately. (Or you’re unemployed and wouldn’t dream of spending whatever the chic restaurant/hotel/bar expects from you.)

Hey, your body’s wearing the right skin. Step right in.

I’ve never before lived in a place where I feel so privileged for being white. I don’t embrace the attitude. It’s just undeniable.

This is, of course, racial profiling of the highest order. You can’t really talk about race + Mexico right now without mentioning Arizona SB 1070. So there, I just did it. That law’s bad. But it’s bad in such an obvious way: segregation-bad; gay marriage ban-bad; japanese interment camp-bad. And I don’t want to create a hierarchy of badness here–I’m just saying they’re all clearly discriminatory. Plenty of Americans feel ashamed about SB 1070, and it just passed. (None of that qualified as a platitude, I don’t think? Right?)

Mexico’s racism is so pervasive, it’s hard to even know where to begin with fixing it. And, just as a point of explanation: Racism here is seen in the context of lightest skin to darkest (indigenous) skin.

Two recent articles I’ve seen back up this point: One followed two dark-skinned women dressed in traditional indian clothing on shopping trip through tony Polanco.

I’m assuming El Universal set up the scenario to observe it and then write about it. Salespeople and security, as expected, treated the ladies poorly—there were radio calls to throw them out of a mall.  Salesladies followed them around stores. But some cold, hard stats struck me more: 42.8 percent of Mexicans have felt discriminated in their jobs because of their ethnic origin, and nearly the same amount felt “relegated.” That’s a direct translation, which I don’t fully understand.

And then, there was a recent Amnistia Internacional report about the illegal immigrants that cross Mexico, most of whom hail from Central America. In a nutshell, it said: all sorts of crazy, awful things happen to them while here. There were reports of kidnappings, disappearances, robberies and extortions, and one statistic claiming that six out of ten illegal female immigrants passing through Mexico are sexually  abused.


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