Under European, Spanish-speaking colonialism — primarily of indigenous origin, with African, and European intersections — a hybrid demographic becoming a “Spanish speaking” group in Mesoamerica was an evolution toward Mexicanos, the social, and Mexicanidad, the identity. Let it be understood, this social evolution is complicated with contradictions aplenty, initially related to its multiple ethnic decendencies and its diverse social-economic circumstances. Even as a partial contestatory response to the colonial experience, the social evolution entails the germs and evidences, the pathologies of the colonial — including racisms, authoritarianisms, and elitisms.
In the anglophone sphere, among the literate, perception of Natives is affected by the so-called colonialistic “Black Legend,” whereby Spanish colonialism is decried and English colonialism, by contrast, is upheld. This “legend” is a prejudiced and concocted propaganda. This dialogue deteriorates into an “Anglo-Hispanic” exchange of negatives — Protestantism versus Catholicism; Shakespeare versus Shakespeare. The “legend” could be judged a colonialist distraction promoted by elite serving intellectuals of both England and Spain who, watchful of another’s colonialist methods, ignores the racist and supremacist consequences of their own colonialism over Natives and Africans and their treatment of the descendants of both groups. Thus, racism is reduced as a mere byproduct of inevitable colonial technologies, when in fact the racialization of Native Americans is a central premise of European colonialism and one corollary to the subordination of Africans.
More specifically, the deep historical record of anti-Mexicanism at its basis is a result of the domination of Indians and enslavement of Blacks. This includes the North American invasion by English whites in their perennial quest for wealth, status and power at the expense of others. A multi-faceted white supremacism arises as the rationalization to secure these wants. One can start with whites arriving in Massachusetts and Blacks in Virginia, and early persecutions of Native Americans anywhere. Overtime, Indio, Africans, Afro-Mestizos and Indio-Mestizo Spanish-speakers joined the ranks of those subordinated by English colonialists. Indians and Africans are the human resources for the empowerment of white colonialists, according to 17th and 19th century conditions and terms, empowering the colonialists’ maintenance of power over territories and localities.
The historical record of U.S.-Mexico relations is a narrative of subordination justified on racist and supremacist bases. To be sure, these are multifaceted and changing and not necessarily representationally inclusive of all whites. However, in fact, the record indicates U.S. citizens as the aggressors in the relation, not Mexicans. U.S. citizens are the perpetrators of negative views, invidious-distinctions and the domineering actions, according with these views. In contrast to U.S. negativity, Mexico — as a state and economy — has been useful to U.S. ambitions, where Mexican people have been serviceable to U.S. needs. Rather than respect, there are argued explicit reasons by U.S. whites from early and later negative characterizations of Indio-Mulatto-Mestizos related to whites’ quest for wealth, status, and power within the aegis of their culture and values. In sum, specifically, they take from Mexico’s land, resources and labor by whatever means are viable. The social views and territorial ambitions of President Thomas Jefferson, a Southern slaver, are early expressions of these wants which for long were related to benefits first derived from slaves and later racialized disempowered laborers summed in the observation: “the desire for possession is a disease with them.” There is a historical and ideological context to this quest.
In many studies, “race” applies when ethnicity is judged unchangeable and so is the assigning of place in the hierarchical order of a general society co-inhabited by supra-ordinates and subordinates. These judgments or claims are academic myths. Racism is more complex, more fluid and perennial. For Mexicans in the United States, their mixed heritages of Native American concurrent with those heritages from Africa or Asia and some occasional European descendancy, intertwine the ethnic and racial. Among and between these of formative importance are Native American and Mexican American relations. These all encounter the age-old racial perceptions of Euro-Americans and their racialized practices. For Mexicans, thus, the social science truism applies — race is not real, but racism is — and the pressing concern is white supremacism.
Hierarchy and even ethnicity are indeed subject to change. A happenstance is that some, or many, of the oppressor and oppressed hold (and held) “racialist” notions of themselves, as well as the “other,” whether near or across the globe. Their worldviews are racialized and this should change sometime in the future, hopefully through concerted actions. White supremacism is a further question. Supremacism can be changed through counter empowerment actions as the micro and macro elements of the paradigm of white supremacism pinpoint. Yet, supremacism remains.
The practice of a particular social consciousness can be quite mobile and practical in the pursuits of chosen ends. Analysis of white supremacy requires interpretive elasticity and decisively diverse counter measures to encourage progressive change. One hindrance to this end, a major obstacle, is that whites have been saturated with false history(ies) of themselves; a history which supposedly has been made possible through the practices of white supremacism. Moreover, it’s the fact that this false history and avowed utilitarianist, white supremacism are but two heads of a multi-head monster — a living, breathing real Hydra, an overarching hegemonic, and structured system that requires integral changes.
The U.S. Mexican “ethnic” is visualized as being socially within a historical collectivity descended from a common set of mainly native ancestors. Consciousness of these living legacies is formatively important, as one source of inner strength to counter anti-Mexicanism. True, the perception of outsiders bearing on this is important, but the struggle is also formidably internal. Particularly important is the extent that these influence the self-consciousness of young and adolescent Mexicans. Indeed, the consciousness of Mexicans needs change. In any case, Mexicans evolve socially, as does their consciousness.
Most U.S. Mexicans understand social change intuitively and counter instructively. Mexicans are likely to have some awareness of family social changes in relation to family culture and descendancy, more so than Euro-Americans who resist change — even though, as stated in any case — they also undergo changes. A revised, enriched, shared, Mexican political critical awareness can be an asset in thinking and actions to bring about positive changes. The positive and the negative need to and can be sorted out. Consciousness is an important step to counter oppression. However much complicated, the literature, concepts, and application of the terms race, racism and racialism, the cutting blade is that these are empowered through and by white supremacism beliefs and practices.
Mexican Americans are a bottom ethnic group and unless there are changes, Mexicans will remain so, even in a multi-ethnic and pluralist society, including below white Latinas/os. This may be the case even if the United States becomes a significantly demographically non-white society. This is a consequence, in part, to the diffusion of anti-Mexicanism to all sectors of U.S. society. It is not only taught to whites. Tragically, Mexicans also consume anti-Mexican propaganda and, in turn, produce and diffuse it consciously or unconsciously.
Thus, anti-Mexicanism must be challenged for the sake of the future, not the past. It must be challenged.
Notes: An extended version of this abridged essay — edited and circulated by Dr. Alvaro Huerta (also raised in Boyle Heights) — will soon be published with references, footnotes, sources, etc. Dr. Huerta aims to publish/circulate this exceptional essay/paradigm in as many outlets possible.
- Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones is a professor of history at UCLA, specializing in the fields of political, labor, intellectual, and cultural history.
Reprinted with permission of our compas at LatinoLA.com