We, as Americans, have a distorted view of our Southern neighbor. Mind you it’s not just one Southern neighbor but a chain of diverse and exquisite countries. Culturally we lump them into a pile.
I read this quote from the late Anthony Bourdain that really struck me:
“Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes [and] look after our children…
Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people — as we sure employ a lot of them . . .
We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we,” as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them — and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films…
So why don’t we love Mexico?”
To Bourdain’s point on one hand we openly embrace tacos, tequila, and tortilla. We love wearing sombreros and mustaches on Cinco de Mayo. We love sugar skulls around Halloween. We love speaking Spanglish to movies and friends. We use wonky “Mexican” accents to mock and make humor. We don’t mind vacationing on their beaches and visiting their monuments.
Yet, when it comes to the people, we care less.
When it comes to the insensitive nature of our cherry picked love affair, we care less about the people and more about our personal advantages.
The fact that we are tearing families apart at the border is a prime example of this. Yet it breathes to deeper racist roots. It breathes of a deep history in this country of people being torn apart. Maybe the face was a slave master. Maybe the face was an oppressive native reeducation.
Today, the face is the newly implemented “no tolerance” policies for families seeking asylum, backed by Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. Another outreach of a culture that prays on the vulnerable to make a point, to spin a political fire storm. It’s an act to discourage people from coming, an act that has likely not reached the hundreds of people fleeing for their lives across borders, thousands of miles north from the home they know.
For decades undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and other Latin American countries, have been coming to this country. Once here they are often treated with distrust, hatred, and spitefulness. Yet, they are the ones that are picking our food, raising our children, building our homes, and they are active members of our society.
Around 50% of undocumented immigrants pay taxes, their children are educated with “our” children, their children go onto college and build lucrative careers. In fact, there is ample evidence to show that immigrants maybe participate more in our economy than those that are native born or with native born parents.
Still, we have no problem kicking the most vulnerable when they are already down.
Documented immigrants, refugees (asylum seekers) included (like the ones being separated at the border) are also part of the fray.
We rarely differentiate in our attitude. The other question is, should it matter how these children and others got here if they are desperate? Should they be treated this poorly by border officials? Are they not all people?
Ignorance, hatred, and racism asks questions on “WHERE is someone from?” “Are you here legally?” “Why don’t you speak English?”. Often all brown people from another land are looked on as lesser, as a burden, as someone taking. Even though ample evidence shares a different story.
This attitude stretches far beyond how we see those in the Americas.
When we visit the southern land(s) we often stay on fenced resorts, only venturing into the unknown for shopping or monuments. We rarely delve beyond a veiled surface to understand whose land we walk on. I am also guilty of this.
When we visit Mexico we don’t bother much to speak Spanish, and we demand that others speak English. When they visit us, or move here, we use slurs and condemn. We expect, once again, for English to be used.
We don’t mind using the land, the inexpensive vacations, the tasty food. We don’t mind the cheap labor and the exploitative nature of Colonialism. It’s for the benefit of Americans, so it must be okay. Right?
Yet the problems that cause people to flee, and beg for sanctuary, are related to our own bad choices. We directly perpetuate the drug cartels power in Latin countries due to our consumption of illicit substances. Even our heroin problem can be traced to cartels losing out on cannabis profits and flooding the markets with cheap heroin.
Yet, even though we are active participants, and problem makers in the system, we close the door and pretend the desperate masses are just not there. We have done it for years, and as far back as 2013 we were housing children that were running from cartels independently. Yet, this new wave is meant to punish the most vulnerable, and exploit the voiceless for vile policies, all pawns in a political power struggle.
When we have a leader that speaks about these peoples with such distaste, it’s easy to see that this feeling has deeper roots than “just a few haters”. In fact, the leader of the United States actively campaigned on this hatred, and building a wall, and he fucking won over it. So is it honestly a surprise that he has no problem vilifying and traumatizing desperate families?
I end with this question: if you dealt with the horrors that many of those fleeing North do, would you stay put? Would you allow your child to be killed by a cartel? Would you stand by while your wife was threatened? Would you want your children to possibly end up in these cartels?
I guarantee most of you would run if given the chance, because the small glimmer of hope in a distant land, is far better than no hope at all.