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Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Roberto Rodriguez: 'Mexican as a slur and epithet'

Loving and Hating "The Mexicans"

by  Roberto Dr. Cintli  Rodriguez
Censored News
Photo: Professor Roberto Rodriguez being searched at Tucson Unified School District meeting

For many people in the United States, the very name "Mexican," is considered a slur or a racial epithet. No expletive is required. It is not to be used in public or uttered in polite company. And yet today, more than ever, it has become part of the national discourse, compliments of the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
Funny thing is, if a Mexican wanted to insult someone, usually it would include an expletive in front of the name or after it. But in this case, Mexican is its own expletive.

One has to keep in mind that due to the manifest destiny ideology of the United  States, Mexico and Mexicans have actually been part of the national  discourse since the 1800s, when early American politicians set their sights on its territory. Either through war or threat of war, from the 1830s through the 1850s, the United States took half of Mexico's territory. While this is probably the source of the majority of the enmity between the two nations, the latter half of the 19th century, and the 20th century, were  also very violent and conflictive, which included further land theft and much blatant segregation and discrimination.
Those are the roots, but the majority of the enmity since the 20th century and into the 21st century, have been caused by immigration-related issues. Americans love to exploit and benefit from their cheap labor, even love their food and culture, but when times have gotten bad, they've been sent back in massive and periodic repatriation campaigns, most famously "Operation Wetback" of the 1950s.
For various reasons, this war against Mexicans has continued this past half century, but generally without attacking Mexicans and Mexico directly. Keeping up with the coded racism of the times, in the public's mind, "illegal immigration" has become code for Mexico and "illegal immigrants" or "illegals," the new code for Mexicans, and also nowadays, Central Americans.
However, as a result of this presidential election cycle, in effect, we have now seen a blatant return to the days before those codes.
To be sure, today, in this country, "Mexican" apparently connotes something un-American, not white, but brown and someone who speaks Spanish, essentially, someone that does not belong in this country. This is not even in reference to being denigrated as "drug dealers" or "rapists."
Because of that historic vilification of Mexican peoples, even people of Mexican origin living here often are embarrassed of their heritage and deny being Mexican. In recent history many claim to be Hispanic, but not Mexican. As the book title on this topic by historian Rodolfo Acuna connotes: Anything but Mexican. Something tells me that deep in the psyche for this denial is collective memory, something about not wanting to "be treated like a Mexican." In a previous era, Latin or Latin American or Spanish or Spanish American is what Hispanic has become today. The shame through the eras has been so extreme that many have Anglicized their names altogether to avoid the accompanying racism.
And the hate has been equally intense. In writing this, I remembered two incidents from my elementary school in East LA in the early 1960s, The first  was about a Kindergarten classmate informing another classmate that I was a "Mexican." I can still  remember the vicious hate and utter disdain, this from a  5-year old. My crime? Having been born in Mexico. The second memory was of an anti-Mexican rally at my school about 2-3 years later, led by a charismatic Mexican American 6th grade "leader." He sounded like the way Arizona politicians sound today. As a second or third grader, I feel like I barely escaped a lynching that day as I was singled out by one of my classmates as that "leader" railed at how the Mexicans were taking over.
Perhaps there is one exception to Mexican as a stand-alone slur because the adjective "dirty" always seemed to precede it every time I heard it as a child in the 1960s, By itself, it should not be a slur, but in this country it is, and the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is keenly aware of this and has exploited it to its fullest extent during his presidential run.
To be sure, this anti-Mexicanism did not start and won't end with this presidential campaign. This candidate has simply unmasked it and has unleashed what is known in psychological terms as: primary process. It is the equivalent of a political volcanic explosion. Feeling long-aggrieved, his supporters have had it. One can see this at his rallies where his supporters are permitted to explode with unprecedented fury, with "Build the wall!" as their preferred rallying cry. They also seem to be overcome with a feeling of being unrestrained, no longer feeling compelled to use "politically correct" speech in public (in other words, public displays of racism and mysogyny are now Ok).
"Principio" is a corrollary term: the desire to return to the root. In this case: "Make America Great Again," beckons to a time when all was great here for all Americans (please fill in the year if you know it).
Incidentally, the hate this candidate foments is not restricted to the name Mexican, which is an Indigenous name, derived from the ancient pre-Colombian Mexica from the Mexico City-Tenochtitlan area, with purported roots in El Norte.. His hate is directed at the people themselves. And it doesn't matter whether it is political shtick or not.
In a normal year, any candidate lashing out in the same way against any group would have been disqualified immediately. But when he first attacked Mexicans, there was no pushback from mainstream America. Instead of repudiating him as an American fascist, the media went gaga over him, falling over each other to see who could line up an exclusive interview with him, whether it was CNN or ABC, or an appearance on late night TV or SNL. He was treated, not as the international pariah that he had become, but as a star. As an aside, when he has attacked Mexicans by name, the media generally will speak about his attacks against Hispanics… not willing to say Mexicans over the airwaves.
That he was not instantly repudiated continues to be disconcerting because if he had denigrated any other group and called for the mass expulsion of say Jews or African Americans, his candidacy would have never even gotten off the ground.
Perhaps Muslims have now become the new Mexicans because this same  presidential candidate has called for keeping them out of the country, though when he first did so, there was near universal condemnation of him by pols across the political spectrum. Yet it did not hurt him in the polls, and he understood that. But when he called for the wall to be built along the U.S.-Mexico border, and when he called for the deportation of 11 million migrants, and for a special deportation force to carry it out, there were crickets. And when he called for the elimination of birthright citizenship and the overturning of the 14th Amendment, again, more crickets.
Not sure what the mainstream pols were waiting for as the forced removal of 11 million people, especially when targeting Mexicans, is unprecedented in  human history. That's the definition of ethnocide and is illegal to even advocate for it under international law.
And while conservative and liberal politicians have been unsuccessfully calling for comprehensive immigration reform for a generation, they also have been calling for many of the same restructionist and militaristic proposals as the loudmouth GOP candidate, minus his large megaphone. One has to remember that "the world's worst sheriff," Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, has enjoyed the same national notoriety and adulation as this candidate, long before he first announced his candidacy. And on the other side of the political aisle, there's a reason President Obama is referred to as the "Deporter in Chief" (3 million deportations).
It was only when this candidate referred to Judge Gonzalo Curiel as a "Mexican" did he apparently go way too far per U.S. political sensibilities. Oh the outrage! How dare he call the Indiana-born judge a "Mexican?" The reason this deed finally crossed the line is probably because many Americans  themselves have used it, politicians included, as a slur.
That was a truly revealing moment. Lots of tolerance by the U.S. body politic for anti-Mexican proposals, behavior and attitudes, but undeniable outrage for calling the judge a "Mexican." The typical response from both sides of the political aisle: "No. He's a decent American."
So what is it about Mexicans that Americans don't like? Perhaps Mexicans  constitute  a reminder of the failure to complete a conquest. Deep down, it is probably a racial sense that Mexicans belong but south of the proposed wall, not north of it.
One can possibly see [sick] humor in all this, but the truth is, this hate is unprecedented and the media is essentially obfuscating it. For example, I inadvertently stepped into one of his rallies in Tucson, and from start to finish, it was a 100% anti-Mexican hate-fest, starring former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Sheriff Arpaio, and of course, the failed businessman and great con artist himself. The anti-Mexican message was unmistakable and his supporters ate it up. Yet, what did the media report? One of his Black supporters punched a white protestor at the rally, and that was all.
It appears that unless this candidate manages to stir up more bigots, the kind that do not normally vote, he will be remanded into the ugly pages of U.S. history, and his brand will also forever be damaged. However, it is not certain that the anti-Mexicanism will also be remanded into those same pages, considering that the continued "browning" of the nation will soon cause the United States to cease being a majority white nation. Principio?
At least we can be reassured that this candidate  loves "the Hispanics." Can he also say that he loves "the Mexicans?"
Rodriguez, a life-long columnist, is an associate professor in Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona. He is unquestionably Mexican and can be reached at:


Ofelia Rivas, O'odham:
Wow! a legitimate comment with all the proper accreditation's and letters behind the name.
However, there is major historical neglect to mention of the original peoples of the land pre-Mexico, pre-United States and pre-Americas. The original peoples are still here.
Not only is our original food labels as “mexican” such as corn and beans and chili but our lands suffer the labels of the conquistadors such as Columbus, Cortez, Santa Ana, amd Kino.
Also, forgot to mention generations the non-profits making careers off the immigration issue, the “indigena” numbers in these non-profits counted under “Mexicans," and still without any successful interventions to reform the inhumane U.S. policies.
Yes, who else will ride the politically incorrect saga into a political position to continue the legacy of the United States fascist system and continue "Manifest Destiny".

What is the point of this article?

1 comment:

DrCintli said...

Ofelia: Hope this finds you well. Don't disagree with what you are pointing out here. The purpose of this column was to point out that for many people, the word Mexican is in and of itself considered a racial slur. And in the political climate we are living, in which politicians are calling for the deportation of 11 million people and the construction of a wall, and the revocation of the 14th amendment etc, etc, people seem to feel free to attack Mexicans for any reason. That doesn' contradict what you are noting. thanks for your comments.

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