Sunday, April 17, 2011
Why don't we care?: Racism and the Drug War In Mexico
Recent news about the second mass grave -- with 145 bodies and counting -- found in recent months the Tamaulipas town of San Fernando (article here) and others things I've been reading have gotten me interested in why we are not talking about the 40,000 people who have died in the drug violence in Mexico in the past 5 years. How is it that this massive humanitarian crisis literally on our borders -- many of the causes of which lie squarely in our own country -- is not at the forefront of our national discourse? I'm not saying that there is no coverage of the drug war in the press -- there is, and some of it is really good -- but more so I am trying to understand why there seems to be an larger apathy and shirking of responsibility by our government and by ourselves as citizens. Part of the answer, which is especially relevant to this course, is how the violence and its victims are framed as racial/ethnic other. I think there is a really important link between the ways in which stereotypes about Latin American people, ( particularly in this case, people of Mexican descent) which is perpetuated in our discourse on immigration and the interest (or lack thereof) in the drug violence. One stereotypical image is the macho, Latin american drug cartel leader -- the American War on Drugs in countries such as Colombia, Bolivia and Mexico over the past decades has linked Latin American people with drug cartels and violence in a very powerful way. Perhaps part of the story is that this general association of drugs with non-white peoples makes it easier to devalue and ignore the thousands being killed by drug violence. It creates a distance between "us" and "them" because this violence, criminality, and drug trafficking are have been linked with Mexican people. The types of racist logic which are so blatantly seen in our public discourse against Mexican and Latin American people make it easier to shirk American culpability in the violence across and on the border. Our drug consumption, our drug policies, our weapons, our money. Racism is one of the reasons (but, by no means the only reason) why these glaring facts about American contributions to the violence in Mexico keep going unrecognized.