They call me “Güerita” which means ‘Blondie’, even though my skin colour is far from being white. This word shows how the idea of being white and blonde is tied to the idea of privilege. Which is used as a complimentary phrase and signals you are valued as a customer, mostly in the markets or streets in Mexico.
When I was growing up, and particularly during my teenage years, I used to watch soap operas the famous ‘Mexican Telenovelas’. It soon became apparent that the richer characters were white or had lighter skin, whilst the poorer characters were represented by the dark skin with indigenous Mexican look. TV Commercials were always filled by blonde and white models. I don’t have memories of playing with black or even dark skin dolls. From this I, as well as many others, grew up with this image as an aspirational idea of beauty and sense of belonging.
If you want to offend someone just call him ‘indio’ which is a slur that refers to Native Mexicans and Indigenous people. We have been raised in a society where indigenous people have been disadvantaged for many years. Racism in Mexico is very weird topic to talk about because it is that deeply rooted that many Mexicans cannot even describe it or simply don’t want to.
In my point of view, growing up and even now, in Mexico the colour of your skin gives you advantages or disadvantages, alongside perceived value within society. Whilst I’m not pointing at anyone or judging, I feel kind of guilty because it’s simply the way all Mexicans were unconsciously educated, in the way our parents learnt it from their parents, it is a historical racism which has been around since the Spanish colonization. The system appears to work exactly how it was built, in which it is more advantageous and benefits certain groups of people over others. But new generations have the power to change this, and this change desperately needs to occur.
The killing of George Floyd in the United States last week has unlocked a door that reveals how the USA, as well as many other countries, is built on a systematically racist system. People worldwide are recognizing this injustice, and beginning to act in ways to combat this inequality. Petitions, protests and marches are taking place worldwide. Just days after the awful killing of George Floyd, the same happened with Giovanni Lopez, a 30-year-old Mexican laborer who was killed by the police for not wearing a face mask, or I would say because he belongs to the Mexican racialized underclass.
It is not just a problem within the United States, but is a problem happening all over the world. Most countries do not want to speak out or list systematic racism as a priority, when often it is the root of many problems including inequality, poverty and police brutality. It has been pushed aside for too long, and now is the time to talk about it, and recognize the inequality within our societies, which is wrongly determined due to the colour of your skin.
Now is the time when voices from everywhere need to be heard. Nobody is born racist, it is a behavior that is learned, meaning the only way to win is through education and educational reform that should start from home. I believe it is on ourselves to educate our children and future generations on the problems we’re currently facing to ensure that change comes about.
What is happening in America is just the beginning of a movement that has opened a door into a world built on racist ideology. I would personally like to foster a culture of inclusion, equality and equity, diversity and acceptance. This is what we need to fight for.
I hope we can keep spreading our voices and experiences, as well as educate ourselves – the world needs to start breathing together.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can watch some videos using the link below which tells the story of some Indigenous communities that Koua has worked with.
Indigenous women in Nachig, Chiapas.
Education is the main tool to fight against racism. For extra reading around the topic, also take a look at our recommended sources:
- So you want to talk about race – By Ijeoma Oluo
- How to be an anti-racist – By Ibram x. Kendi
- White Fragility – By Robin Dinagelo