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.


  1. Kimberly,

    You pose an intriguing question here. I agree that racism is certainly partly to blame in our general apathy toward the drug violence in Mexico. Unfortunately, it's likely also the case that with so much else on our minds (two wars, the budget debate, revolutions in Africa and the Middle East, etc.) Americans simply don't have the energy to care about deaths in Mexico. Although, as you suggest, racism makes it easier for many of us to ignore the violence across the border.


  2. Its as if we regard these individuals outside our boarders as less than human. This seems to become especially evident when we consider that it takes an American getting killed by these circumstances to get our own government to address the issue in any capacity.

  3. I feel like we as Americans are still holding that idea that we are above everything else. We are the best "klind" and all other "kinds" are always at fault. I agree with this post, and this is a very intriguing question. I think that I agree with Colin in that America is much more focused on other things that we fail to realize that la huge issue like racism is playing a big part in many of the deaths in Mexico. I think people need to be more aware of these situations, and how America is playing out the wrong role. We as Americans only get the sugar coated version of the story, or the colorblind side in which we automatically assume that someone of a different ethnicity holds the wrong. I was unaware of the big role America is playing in the increase in deaths.

  4. I really do think that American should be more concerned about the matters concerning the drugs wars because it is not only affecting non-whites in Latin America, but also non-white in America. While Mexicans find clever ways to traffic drugs into America, they end up in the hands of non-whites in America who are left with the stereotypical job of being drug dealers adding to the type of violence mainly associated with African Americans adding to not only the deaths in Mexico to even get the drugs over here, but even deaths in America. I believe that even if it is not for the Mexicans, then American should step in and do something about the situation for America.

  5. I believe that when people hear about the drug wars, the last thing they think about is race. Even though we live in a racist society, people do not want to believe they possess such qualities. However, I agree that race plays a huge part in our lack of attention/concern. Like you said, the "us" versus "them" dichotomy enables people to overlook the out group.


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