The U.S. has a problem with racism. How do I know this? We argue about it; all the time we argue about it. Our media has daily examples of bigotry and prejudice, our leaders decry division or stoke it for political gain, our art grapples with it and our conflicted natures. This is a good thing, though — the discussion part, not the racist part — because only through recognizing the worst in us can we raise up the best within.
In that push and pull between our highest ideals and basest instincts, America grows stronger. Pity the poor goodhearted citizens of countries that never talk about racism. They find out too late that they are surrounded by friends and neighbors who see a stranger in need and can only respond with hate and contempt.
If you speak Spanish and want to lose your faith in la raza, just check out any news story shared on social media about the recent migrant caravan from Central America. Last week there were physical confrontations in Tijuana as the first group of migrants that made it to the border was met with angry resistance.
On an open Facebook group, commenters trotted out the old anti-immigrant chestnut that, “If I behaved like this in their country ... how do you think they would treat me?”
Some called Hondurans animals, dogs and cockroaches. One commenter requested the Mexican cartels get involved and “send these pendejos back to their countries, in bags or in pieces.”
You may say that emotions were running high after the violent clashes, but even in places where all immigrants were doing was lining up at the ports of entry to be processed as asylum seekers, there were still virulently racist comments.
In Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Facebook comments on a story about Cuban migrants being transported to shelters because of icy overnight conditions included such gems as, “For that they used an ambulance ... have those lazy bastards walk, they make it too easy for them.”
Another commenter shared a long message, which she said was not hers but making the rounds on social media in Chihuahua, that included the following: “Don’t come here to demand ... make demands of your government, of your people, of your place. We will not allow that here. You’ve arrived at the Big State.”
Another story had a chilling suggestion: “I’m up to here of listening or reading about these sons of bitches, what we should do is take down the barriers on the bridge and thrown them off ... or give them dessert with Zyklon B so they eat it and die already.” I’d like to say that name-checking the infamous pesticide used during the Holocaust was the only post with Nazi imagery, but I can’t.
Closer to Tucson, comments on the Facebook page for the northern Sonora paper El Imparcial echoed these sentiments, calling immigrants trash and gang members. They questioned why the authorities were helping them, why the government didn’t care the same way for “our own,” even how the money spent on busing the migrants could be used on fixing the roads.
While there is some pushback on these postings, those comments are few and far between. Mostly, it’s all hate speech directed at immigrants.
There is a gigantic disconnect here, as most of the people posting — statistically speaking — have at least one family member or friend living in the U.S. illegally.
Who, I doubt, they would consider subhuman.
You either laugh or go mad at seeing Mexicans use the same word-for-word arguments and slander used on them.
So, is the upside that xenophobia brings people together? That nationalists throughout the world can start a centralized newsletter? No. But Mexico can hopefully learn from the U.S. on this one, both what we’re doing well and what we keep getting wrong.
It is up to Mexicans who believe in human rights, who understand that prejudice is a cancer, to push back hard and talk about all the poisonous feelings that the migrant caravan has unleashed.
It is as an opportunity to address the racism and classism in Mexican society, which continues to limit opportunity for dark-skinned and indigenous people — and not just on Mexican soap operas.
Mexico should also look at the world’s best fighting force, reduced to installing concertina wire along the border, and reflect on the definition of “overkill” and how silly it all is. Those crazy gringos at it again.
How there’s no need to hate, just understand that there are good people in the caravan and people who want to take advantage of the system. But they are not animals, they are not pests, they are not an invasion. They are just people.
Let’s post that on Facebook.