Tuesday, May 17, 2005

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (3)

So how do Mexicans view African-Americans?

While Latino critics in the United States have their hands full combating discrimination in the Star Wars movies (link via Glenn Reynolds), Latinos south of the border have a slightly bigger problem.... dealing with their own racial prejudices. Traci Carl explains for the Associated Press:

President Vicente Fox reversed course Monday and apologized for saying that Mexicans in the United States do the work that blacks won't.

Despite growing criticism that included a stern U.S. response, Fox had refused repeatedly to back away from the comment he made Friday, saying his remark had been misinterpreted.

But in phone conversations with Jesse Jackson Sr. and Al Sharpton, Fox said he "regretted" the statement....

Fox agreed to set up a visit to Mexico by Jackson, Sharpton and a group of American black leaders.

Many Mexicans hadn't considered Fox's remark Friday offensive.

Blackface comedy is considered funny here, and many people hand out nicknames based on skin color.

"The president was just telling the truth," said Celedonio Gonzalez, a 35-year-old carpenter who worked illegally in Dallas for six months in 2001. "Mexicans go to the United States because they have to. Blacks want to earn better wages, and the Mexican--because he is illegal--takes what they pay him."

But Lisa Catanzarite, a sociologist at Washington State University, disputed Fox's assertion. She said there is intense competition for lucrative working-class jobs like construction and that employers usually prefer to hire immigrants who don't know their rights.

"What Vicente Fox called a willingness to work ... translates into extreme exploitability," she said.

Fox made the comment at an appearance in Puerto Vallarta: "There's no doubt that Mexican men and women--full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work--are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States."

The issue reflected Fox's growing frustration with U.S. immigration policy.

Even Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the archbishop of Mexico City, had defended Fox's comments: "The declaration had nothing to do with racism. It is a reality in the United States that anyone can prove."

....While Mexico has a few, isolated black communities, the population is dominated by the country's native Indians and descendants of its Spanish colonizers. Comments that generally would be considered openly racist in the United States generate little attention here.

One afternoon television program regularly features a comedian in blackface chasing actresses in skimpy outfits while an advertisement for a small, chocolate pastry called the "negrito"--or little black man--shows a white boy sprouting an afro as he eats the sweet.

An intriguing angle about this story is the ability of Jackson and Sharpton to go global with.... that thing they do (though in this case they have a pretty valid point).

Readers are heartily encouraged to predict the next world leader who will be required to mau-mau kowtow to Jackson and Sharpton for something they say. I think it's a toss-up between Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin.

[What about the "extreme exploitability" meme the sociologist is pushing?--ed. Some blogs are stressing that this is the important takeaway message from this story. But Tyler Cowen links to a paper by Berkeley economist David Card that concludes:

Does immigration reduce the labor market opportunities of less-skilled natives?.... Looking across major cities, differential immigrant inflows are strongly correlated with the relative supply of high school dropouts. Nevertheless, data from the 2000 Census shows that relative wages of native dropouts are uncorrelated with the relative supply of less-educated workers, as they were in earlier years. At the aggregate level, the wage gap between dropouts and high school graduates has remained nearly constant since 1980, despite supply pressure from immigration and the rise of other education-related wage gaps. Overall, evidence that immigrants have harmed the opportunities of less educated natives is scant.

Card also provides evidence that contradicts the Huntington thesis on Hispanic assimilation.]

UPDATE: Brad DeLong objects to this post without saying why he objects. From his comments section, I gather it was my use of the phrase "mau-mau," which some argue is a racially offensive term.

Wikipedia backs them up (though they treat it as a noun and I used it as a verb) -- so let me take the opportunity to apologize for using the term.

posted by Dan on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM


so the mexican govt buys off jackson/sharpton w/ a free vacation to mexico? freeloaders like that will give mexicans a much better image of african-americans.

posted by: david on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Fox's statement, while insensitive and politically incorrect, did not really cross over into the blatantly racist arena. Compare that to the Japanese PM's comment a few years back.

Still, it's a silly thing to say. For one, Mexican Americans are trying to forge electoral alliances with African Americans in California, Texas, New York etc. This doesn't help that.

Professor Drezner -- what are your thoughts on US immigration policies in general ? You support free trade, but what are your views on immigration, both legal and illegal, economic and social impacts thereof.

We know this is a wedge issue among Republicans, with opinions ranging from the WSJ's editorial page ('there shall be open borders') to the 'populist' conservatives who oppose it. The Pew Charitable Trust's poll found a lot of self-described conservatives who oppose immigration.

A similar splits exist in liberal circles with liberal 'elites' supporting immigration, but with poorer liberals (especially African Americans) generally opposed. -

posted by: erg on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

"Fox's statement, while insensitive and politically incorrect, did not really cross over into the blatantly racist arena."

But why single out *blacks*? Fox's statement would be just as applicable to American whites, for the most part. Mexican immigrants do the work that white people don't want to do, either.

posted by: Jon H on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

DeLong is bashing you over on his site.

posted by: Ugh on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Dan, I don't think you know what "mau-mau" means. You seem to think it means to suck up to, when in fact it means to intimidate.

posted by: JR on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Fox's statement, while insensitive and politically incorrect, did not really cross over into the blatantly racist arena.

Mexico is a racially-stratified society, so, in the "proper context", it's not blatantly racist.

Another data point is the phrase 'mejorar la raza' ("improve the race") search.

As for the larger picture, see this: "all the net growth in jobs [between 2000 and 2004] went to immigrant workers. In fact, while the number of unemployed adult native-born workers increased by 2.3 million over this time, the number of employed immigrants rose by 2.3 million."

The DeLong link is here. As a courtesy I used the nofollow attribute.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Oh, so many things wrong with this post and the paper it linked to.

1) The long newpaper quote trivializes the issue, with its bit about the 'negrito' cookies. This coming a few weeks after race riots in the LA school system between blacks and hispanics. Very very shallow. BTW, these race riots go to the supposed wrongness of Huntington's thesis.

2) Borjas is *the* expert on this. Borjas has found that immigration depresses wages, just like we learn in econ 101.

3)Card takes only the lowest educated native workers into account. But I didn't see (admittedly I skimmed) what percentage of Americans fall into this category. I suspect its fairly small. But here is Card

"In contrast, the college-high school wage
premium has varied a lot more, rising by about 12 log points in the early 1980s, and nearly 22 log
points over the past two decades. "

But in many fields the native born highschool grad is competing against the immigrant. I used to work construction during the summers. Most of the framers, etc. were highschool grads. Heck, high schools even had 'construction technology' courses. So by focussing only on the lowest educated workers, Card is stacking the deck in his favor (pun unintentional, really!). His finding above shows that immigration is hitting the guys who stuck through highschool on the 'vocational tech' track.

(3) Jon H, if you go to Utah, or New Hampshire, you find Americans, indeed white Americans, mowing lawns, working in kitchens, high school kids washing cars, etc. Even in California, you can go into an 'In-n-Out' Burger and see a workforce that looks like America, whites, blacks, hispanics, in contrast to McD's which has become exclusively Mexican. Give Americans a decent wage, decent working conditions, and they will do the job.

(4)Finally, why is "the sociologist's" comment a 'meme' when respect is given to Card's *unpublished* paper? Here is an abstract of a 2003 paper by Dr. Catanzarite. While the article is not specifically about immigration, it does indicate she knows a thing or two about ethnicity, labor markets, and pay structure.

Race-Gender Composition and Occupational Pay Degradation

Lisa Catanzarite (Social Problems, 50,1)

This article investigates the influence of race-gender composition on pay deterioration in occupations. The analyses use occupation-level data derived from Current Population Surveys to model wage changes from 1971-1981 and 1982-1992. I demonstrate wage erosionfor white men and other incumbentsin female-dominated fields, and show the effect to be driven by white women's representation. Pay also eroded in occupations with a large share of African American men. These longitudinal investigations provide much-needed context for crosssectional studies, which cannot discern temporal dynamics in the pay-composition association. The results here provide clear evidence of a causal relationship: occupational composition influences wages. I suggest that composition-related wage degradation is due to the greater vulnerability of occupations where subordinate groups are overrepresented and may become manifest via diverse mechanisms related to incumbents' low social status. This discussion pushes beyond the assumption that pay penalties are due only to cultural devaluation.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

I think Dan means kowtow; "mau-mau" is what Sharpton and Jackson do, not what their targets do in response.

posted by: Mitch on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Mitch: you're right -- I've fixed it.

posted by: Dan on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

The verb, to mau-mau, means to place oneself on a morally higher plane by tacitly asserting the virtue of one's African heritage vis a vis whatever culture or ethnic group one's interlocuteur happens to represent. The implication is made that criticism offered by the second party of the first party is tainted by the cultural stains of past collective crimes.

Objective revelation of this strategy by the second party can be prevented by displays of cultural esoterica with mutually understood taboo limitations, or by actual verbal assertions of personal prejudice (see "race card").

The practice can be adopted by members of other groups with appropriate cultural modification, but is not usually called by the same name.

Some people claim that the term is used by racists as a club to attack black people. The more charitable interpretation is that the term is used to expose a social strategy often deployed to avoid honest conversation.

posted by: jj on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Okay, sorry for the slightly off-topic post, but that article about racism in star wars is the most blindingly stupid article I've ever read, and I'm a political junkie coming out of the 2004 election. First of all, how do you mention negative racial portrayals in Star Wars without mentioning the three most egregious errors in the series?

1. Nien Nunb, the Puerto Rican copilot of the Falcon in Jedi.

2. Nute Gunray (newt gingrich). The only way he could have been MORE of an Asian stereotype would be if he was one of the Japanese businessmen from the chinpokomon episode of South Park ("American penis soo big, Japanese penis so smar").

3. The group with the biggest axe to grind: the british. In the OT, 4 5 and 6, who's ruling the galaxy? Guys with British accents. and they're wrecking shop, building this giant moon that can blow up planets--just for the hell of it! Are the British really like that? No.

So along comes some hillbilly kid, a crook, and some old money chick who thinks she's hot shit because her dad worked in government. And what do they all have in common?

1. They're "rebelling" against their colonial masters.
2. They're all Americans. The chick tries to put on a British accent, but she succeeds as well as Kevin Costner.

So in comes some tiny posse of cowboy Americans ready to rustle up some shit with their colonial overlords, and they whip their hopelessly incompetent British rulers' asses. A handful of one-seater ships armed with lasers and a smart-assed beeping robot blow up the most powerful weapon ever created, and take a large chunk of Brits with them.

I'm winking so hard right now it looks like I'm having a stroke.

posted by: jim dandy on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

"I saw Mau Mau kissing Santy Claus." -- Screamin' Jay Hawkins

posted by: Paul Zrimsek on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

I guess you wouldn't invite DeLong to a Thomas Wolfe book signing.

posted by: john perulfi on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

3. The group with the biggest axe to grind: the British. In the OT, 4 5 and 6, who's ruling the galaxy? Guys with British accents. and they're wrecking shop, building this giant moon that can blow up planets--just for the hell of it! Are the British really like that? No.

Actually, we are a bit.

And I'm sure all the Anzacs out there will be gloomily unsurprised that the Stormtroopers are all clones of a Kiwi, while all their officers are Brits. "March slowly towards the enemy's guns, my colonial subjects!"

In any case, we also had Alec Guinness as Obiwan, the only character who was a) on the side of right and b) not an irritatingly cocky little shit.

Also: Puerto Rican? WTF?

posted by: ajay on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Listen to him talk--he's a puerto rican-american stereotype if I've ever seen one.

posted by: jim dandy on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Sorry to interrupt by talking about something of economic substance.

Employers hiring illegals do not necessarily hire them because Americans will not take the work. There are plenty of American citizens to do carpentry and roofing, for example.

Employers hire illegals because they can:

hire cheap
ignore payroll taxes
ignore workers compensation premiums
ignore OSHA

The Bush administration knows this and encourages the practice, because campaign contributors want cheap labor, especially in boom towns in the southwest. The Dems aren't much different, they think the illegals will all become Dems someday.

Do 8 or 9 million illegals in the economy depress wages for Americans - of course.

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

"The only way he could have been MORE of an Asian stereotype would be if he was one of the Japanese businessmen from the chinpokomon episode of South Park ("American penis soo big, Japanese penis so smar")."

Have you seen the 'erectile enhancement' ad that plays on that stereotype? The one with an American businessman at one end of a table, with a big, big smile, and a bunch of Japanese businessmen at the other end, looking a bit envious.

posted by: Jon H on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Wasn't a popular Tom Wolfe article from the 60's titled "Mau Mauing the Flak Catchers?" I don't recall he ever caught any flak for it.

posted by: George C. on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Kudos to save_the_rustbelt.

Migration in general is one of the biggest issues facing the world, especially the developed north but also the south. It is far more important for Americans than what happens in Tashkent or Ulan Bator, or even Baghdad and Riyadh. The demographic changes, the changes to the economic and political structure of the US caused by permanent mass immigration (which is what we have now) have far more important consequences to ordinary US citizens than anything having to do with foreign policy, barring some sort of all-out nuclear war.

It's too bad the rare DD thread that addresses the issue has become a colloquium on the origin of the term 'mau-mau'.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

"Mexico Protests to US In Immigration Furor" (Reuters)

President Fox is protesting because ILLEGAL Mexican immigrants will not be able to US drivers licenses.

The Foreign Minister sent a note of protest to the State Department.

The State Department advised the US to surrender immediately and beg for mercy (oh, just kidding).

MAD Magazine could not write a plot so absurd as this.

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Anyone who gets upset about "mau-mau" probably was not over the age of 10 during the sixties.

Black Panthers gave interviews on the best ways to kill cops (aka pigs) and the Chicago cops used hippies for billy club practice.

Going to college was dreadful because every other class we either read Soul On Ice or Manchild in the Promised Land (and this drove me to the College of Business for graduate school, thank God).

Is Prof. DeLong from Berkley? That would explain his rant about Dan-o.

Chill out everyone, get groovy.

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

From a Mexican newspaper (en ingles): Analysts say racism unrecognized.

And, regarding assimilation, you might want to read up on the near riot that occured near L.A. on Saturday. There's additional video here.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

And I always thought "mau-mau" was some Hawaiian expression. Who says you never learn anythig from blogs?

posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 05.17.05 at 10:51 AM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?