Racism: How do they see you, how do they treat you?

Some 55.3 percent of young people in the Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of Mexico say that the lighter their skin tone, the better they are treated. Despite the efforts coordinated by the United Nations, racism is still not eradicated. The COVID-19 health crisis exacerbated Sinophobia.

Racism: How do they see you, how do they treat you?
Young Mexican woman. Photo by Francisco De Legarreta C. / Unsplash

Skin color influences the acceptance and social mobility of Mexicans. Even among young people, it causes them to define themselves with a lighter tone to avoid being discriminated against, says Natividad Gutiérrez Chong, a specialist at UNAM's Institute of Social Research (IIS).

"Some 80.3 percent of young people say that the statement 'How they see you, they treat you' is true, and 55.3 percent say that the lighter your skin is, the better you are treated. Therefore, they perceive themselves as having a lighter skin color," says the coordinator of the project "Young people with diverse identities in metropolitan dynamics".

For this study, more than 1,200 young people -from Mexico City and municipalities of the State of Mexico that make up the Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of Mexico- between 15 and 29 years of age were surveyed.

The research coincides with the National Survey on Discrimination (ENADIS) 2017 which revealed that the Mexican population tends to self-perceive themselves as having the skin tone and physical appearance of a white person. Among those over 18 years of age, 59.1 percent declared themselves with intermediate tonality, almost five percent lighter and 11 percent darker.

On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination -which is commemorated on March 21-, the specialist in Intercultural and Intersectionality issues explains that this event is an opportunity for educational and governmental institutions to remember and call for the eradication of racism and all forms of exclusion.

The most common segregation is racial segregation, followed by xenophobia, Afrophobia, and during the COVID-19 health crisis, Sinophobia was also exacerbated, as attacks on people of Chinese origin were recorded in various parts of the world. Despite all the efforts coordinated by a global international institution such as the United Nations (UN), it has not been possible to eradicate racism, all these forms of discrimination and intolerance.

In the case of Mexico, the first article of the Constitution establishes that discrimination is a crime. This is an important starting point because it establishes sanctions and measures to prevent it, for example, public policies known as affirmative actions, or policies with an intersectional approach, which recognize an interrelation between variables of class, ethnicity, race, age, and gender.

It is necessary, for example, to have more students of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants in secondary and higher education, as well as in the professional spheres, and to have a presence in the media. According to the study she coordinated in the Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of Mexico, young people perceive racism as an external problem; for example, the marginalization of Afro-descendants is observed outside Mexico.

During the survey, mobilizations were taking place in the United States due to the unfortunate episode of Black Lives Matter, and young people had this situation in their imagination. However, they reflected very little on the exclusion of the indigenous or Afro-descendant population in Mexico.

The results of the study showed that most of the young people do not have indigenous or Afro-descendant, Asian, or European friends. "It is a very urban mestizo environment, the result of different migrations from the interior of the Republic, but their real experience in their daily lives, with people from other cultures and languages, is very scarce."

The ephemeris should serve to mark a day to raise awareness against different forms of intolerance and highlight the diversity of Mexican society that predates the Conquest.

It has often been called a mosaic of cultures and languages, pluralism. The truth is that we are a territory with a great diversity of ways of expressing the world, of languages, and cultures, but all these cultures have been strongly beaten, hostilized because they have been considered of little value, from a Eurocentric vision, and then they have sought to be assimilated into the national culture represented in the mestizaje.

Currently, there is a "flourishing", a work of diverse organizations and young creators -women and men- to make their culture, languages, and ways of interpreting the world visible. This allows diversity, from an intercultural approach, to become a fact that provides great enrichment. It is not about exalting the roots of the past that many would like to see dead, but about recognizing a reality composed of many cultures and there is no one better than another, but all are on equal footing.

Origin of the ephemeris

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is commemorated on March 21 because on that day, in 1960, the police opened fire and killed 69 people in a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid pass law practiced in South Africa.

In proclaiming this International Day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly urged the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate this scourge.

In 1979, the General Assembly adopted a program of activities to be carried out during the second half of the Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination and decided that a week of solidarity with the peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination should be organized every year, beginning on March 21, in all States.