Colorism in Latin America; Not about Race

by Oscar Manzano

If you are reading this blog about colorism and you already have prior knowledge on the subject, chances are that you don’t agree with the title of this piece. This may be because Latin America’s preference, or more specifically the preference in México and Brazil, to talk more freely about a person’s skin color as opposed to race may seem like a contradiction to you. Why? I suppose it is because many believe that skin color or other characteristics that we attach to race, in order to be able to identify and categorize people, are indicators of race. It is this idea that I believe is incorrect, which leads me to believe that when Mexicans or Brazilians talk about skin color they are not talking about race as an American might see it. In this context I believe that color talk in México and Brazil is not the equivalent of race talk in America.

My reasoning for questioning color talks being the same as race talks draws upon human history and humans themselves. Humans have always had a history of migration and settlement. This alone prevents us from applying skin color or other characteristics to a certain racial group. So, unless we believe that Whites with certain characteristics grew out of the ground in Europe, and Blacks in Africa and Browns in Latin America and they all remained stationary, then can one possibly make a correlation with race and physical characteristics. However this is not so, and when we hear Mexicans and Brazilians talking about skin colors so nonchalantly, we believe that they what they are really talking about is race.

So if Mexicans and Brazilians are not talking about race, then what are they talking about when they refer to skin color? I believe that when Mexicans and Brazilians refer to skin color, they are acknowledging the great diversity and mixture of physical characteristics that have been as a result of human migration. Not physical characteristics of race but characteristics of human diversity. In saying that color talk is not a talk about race does not mean that colorism is preferred or more desirable over race talks, or that it is immune to social and moral problems that race deals with. On the contrary, the problems that color ideology faces are similar to those that race ideology faces. But the problems are not similar because racism and colorism are the same thing; rather, the problems stem from the fact that we have been socially trained to see physical differences and categorize them under a racial stereotype, confusing color and race.

A second reason as to why racism and colorism share similar social problems is because both are the result of global inequality. This brings up the issues of colonization. Why were White European countries the ones able to colonize? It would be difficult to say that Europeans were able to be the colonizers simply because their skin was white or their race was a certain specific one. It goes beyond that, and the ‘why was Europe the colonizer’ question involves a multi-sided understanding to find the answer to. Possible reasons include the amount of wealth, resources or strength those countries had and as a result, once colonization was achieved, the aggressors implanted various forms of discrimination based on race and color. In this sense it is possible that racism or colorism didn’t create inequality but inequality created racism and colorism.

Mestizaje and the social gap

by Yuan Mingyang

Villarreal (2010) conducted research on social stratification by skin color in Mexico, and found that people with lighter skin usually have higher education than people with darker skin. Villarreal also found that people with lighter skin usually have occupations with better social status and higher salary. Navarrette (2012) also noticed that the jobs with higher salary are usually for people with lighter skin. The author suggested that people can see people with lighter skin “on television, in politics, and in academia”, while people with darker skin are often found “on construction sites, in police forces and in restaurant kitchens” (para. 11).

What’s more, the ideology of mestizaje in Veracruz, which makes people try their best to “clean the race” and lighten their skin color (Sue, 2009), may further enlarge the gap of education, financial power and social status between people with lighter skin and people with darker skin in Mexico. According to Sue, many people in Veracruz prefer lighter skin and European body features, even for those who are dating people with darker skin. Therefore, a large proportion of people in Veracruz would choose people with lighter skin as their partners. The author also mentioned that it is not acceptable for everyone to marry someone with lighter skin. The author claimed that many partners of men with darker skin who are rich or have high social status usually have lighter skin.

Since Villarreal (2010) argued that there is a stratification of skin color in Mexico, it is a reasonable conclusion that the number of poor people with darker skin is larger than the number of wealthy people with darker skin. Therefore, the descendants of this relatively small proportion will leave other people with darker skin behind, who are expected to be poor, and become people with lighter skin. As a result, the financial gap between those who have lighter skin and those who have darker skin will be enlarged. The situation in Mexico is not like that in the US where White people tend to get better jobs.

In Mexico, two trends of force enlarge the gap. People with lighter skin can get better jobs in Mexico, which means that they are wealthier. In the same time, the skin color of wealthy people is getting lighter and lighter. The ideology of mestizaje gives no chance to most of people with dark skin color in Veracruz, who are treated unequally while still believing there is only one Mexican, since there is race blindness in Mexico, according to Sue.

References

Navarrette, R. (2012, November 20th). In Mexico, racism hides in plain view. CNN. Retrievd from http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/20/opinion/navarrette-mexico-racism/

Sue, C. A. (2009). The dynamics of color: Mestizaje, racism, and blackness in Veracruz, Mexico. In E. N. Glenn (Ed.), Shades of difference: Why skin color matters (pp. 114-128). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Villarreal, A. (2010). Stratification by skin color in contemporary Mexico. American Sociology Review, 75(5), 652-678.

The preference for lighter skin in Mexico and Asia

by Han Si Hun (Jake)

In the book Shades of Differences, Christina Sue talks about the categorization of the color in Mexico (especially in Veracruz), and I believe that this categorization of color in Mexico is similar to the discrimination of races. As Sue argues, “Veracruzanos do not embrace their mixed-race status in and of itself: instead, they strive to ‘whiten’ themselves and their progeny.” It can be said that Veracruzanos have a strong preference for white. Sue also argues that Veracruzanos are looking for partners who have whiter skin for the possibility of the next generation coming out with lighter skin, and that Veracruzanos have strong images of black people related to the history of slavery.

This kind of discrimination and the preference of lighter skin color actually happened to my friends when I was staying in Singapore. I never really had an issue with the light skin or dark skin thing in Singapore. However, I went to of those middle schools where most of the black friends (Malaysian and Indians) dated either light-skinned black women or people of another race (lighter skinned people). I did not have a problem with people preferring light skin but sometimes I feel it people are sort of implying “darker” skin is worse. I used to be able to see people’s preferences for things as simple as that. But I remembered the question that I raised to my friend “why are you preferring to meet lighter skin than you?” and my friend was saying, “It is because I want my kids to be lighter than me.” This can be said that the preference of lighter skin is not only happening in Veracruz, but also in Asian countries.

I found out a report from The Asia Market Intelligence (AMI), which showed that the 68 percent of Hong Kong men are more appealing to lighter skin women (Schwartz 2012). In the case of Korea, white skin is also one of the important points for a beauty of women and it is also a part of men`s preference for their partner as well. We Koreans are also having stereotypes of darker skinned people as the people from the countryside. This can be said that the color discrimination on people is not only happening in Mexico but it is also a problem happening in Asian countries as well.

Works Cited

Schwartz, S. (2012, July). Men find fair skin more alluring. South China Morning Post. http://www.scmp.com/article/374509/men-find-fair-skin-more-alluring

Immigration, Development, and Human Rights

by Mei Satoi

In the documentary film of our class (The New Americans), we could see an immigrant family from Mexico. This family’s father worked in the United States separated from his family in Mexico. This situation made the Mexican family feel sad and uncomfortable life. Therefore they decided to move on the legal way to the U.S. On the other hand, the number of immigrants from Mexico is decreasing. As Mexico has been developing its economy and the U.S.’s development has slowed. So, Mexicans choose to get job and life in their homeland. It shows that economic development helps decrease immigrants. When you and your country want to decrease immigrant number, you should support the economic development.

In the Japan, there are some troubles between Korean schools and the government, or Korean schools and citizens. One example is that the Japanese government decided public high school in Japan will be free. However some people have insisted that Korean school do not have to be free and do not need support from the Japanese government. The reason why is that Korean school has settled under the North Korea system. So Japanese government said to make an exception so that Korean high schools will not be free. It means that only Korean school cannot get support from the Japanese government. However, the purpose of the free of high school law includes Korean schools. In the human rights view, Korean schools also should be free. However a lot of citizens have rejected this. This idea comes from discrimination, misunderstanding, and prejudge. The purpose of the free of high school law is protecting and respecting the children’s right to study. The Japanese government and citizen do not have the right to take the opportunity of education from children because of prejudice. In addition, the Japanese government is trying to produce more multicultural and global talented people in the Japanese educational system. Korean people help to feel and think what is multicultural to children.

There are some immigrant and Zainichi people in Japan. If Japanese wants to eliminate them, they should support their homeland’s economic situation. Then the number of immigrants would decrease. In the now, Japanese government has stopped economic support to the North Korea. Before Japanese complain about free Korean schools, they should help the North Korea situation. In addition, Japanese should protect and respect immigrant. To establish brush up education system with Japanese, immigrants, and Zainichi each other, talented people and high quality people are given from Japan.

Immigration and the U.S.

by Ayaka Kondo

The problem of illegal immigrants has troubled the U.S for a long time, but now the U.S has very strong social and economic ties with them, and it can be asserted the influence of illegal immigrants become so important that it cannot be ignored.  However, the situation over immigration gradually takes different color compared to the past; the number of immigrants from Asia and Mexico continues to go down recently.

It is said that the number of immigrants from China dropped by 87,000 to 70,863 from 2006 to 2010. Moreover, from the data of Pew Hispanic Center, the number of Mexican immigrants used to grow rapidly from the 1970s to 2000s, but since 2007, Mexican immigrants have been decreasing every year. Nevertheless the effect which Hispanic immigrants can give is thought to be still much stronger in the U.S because about 11 million people stay in the U.S illegally and more than 60% of illegal immigrants are Hispanics, mainly Mexicans, and most of them engaged in jobs such as agricultural industry, food service industry and cleaning service industry. In the long run, this tendency will probably give a great impact on American society.

Then, what makes the number of immigrants decrease? The U.S. might become less attractive to immigrants than it used to be in following two points: increasing discontent against immigrants and the depression in the U.S. First, it seems that anti-immigration movement gradually spread out every part of the U.S. For example, in Arizona, near the border between the U.S and Mexico, the state law to crack down on illegal immigrants was enacted in 2010 by conservative people. They have been regarded as those who disturb the peace of the U.S or can be a burden for American citizen, while they contribute to American economy as farmers or low-income workers. Obama announced that it can foster racial discrimination and order an injunction, but Arizona still maintains that stance, and to make matters worse, similar tendency can be seen in the other 23 states.

Now, immigrants are indispensable part of the U.S and they play an important role in American society from perspective of economy and politics, and how make them stay in the U.S might be a significant issue in the near future. Therefore, the government of the U.S has to look for a solution to make its nations and immigrants cooperate although it will be the hardest way.

References

Huhou Imin ga Gensho Bei Keizai heno Eikyou ha?, [Illegal Immigrants Decrease in the U.S and How Does It Affect American Economy?], retrieved from http://www.nandemo-america.com/mobile/?p=23313

NHK Online, 2012, Huhou Imin no Wakamono ni Zairyuu Shikaku, [The Status of Residence for Young Illegal Immigrants], retrieved from http://www.nhk.or.jp/worldwave/marugoto/2012/08/0817.html

Yasui. A, 2012, Nikkei Business Online, Keikikoutai de Beikoku deha Mekishiko Imin ga Ryuunyuuchou ni, [The Decrease of Mexican Immigrants in the U.S Due to The Depression], retrieved from http://business.nikkeibp.co.jp/article/money/20120518/232294/

The Wall Street News, 2011, Amerikan Dori-mu no Syuuen? Chuugoku Kara no Imin ga Gensho, [The End of American Dream? Immigrants From China Decreased], retrieved from http://wstreetnews.com/2011/11/16/アメリカン・ドリームの終焉?%E3%80%80中国に引き上げ/

Can “color talk” be a proxy for “race talk”?

by JeeJee Yoon

Throughout the centuries, the world has evolved to become closer and smaller society, as trade between countries and the world population have increased. People share each other’s cultures and economical interests in daily life within this global village. The number of immigrants and migrants occupies a large percentage, so it is easy to find people who look different from the local people in many places (except some closed societies such as North Korea). As situations are changing in this way throughout the world, it is not an abnormal situation to see people with different outlooks anymore.

As the world becomes more and more diversified by having all different types of people, however, the category has been created to divide people into superiority of haves and have-nots. Because of the long history of colonization and African slave era, whites take up the higher part of the stratification of the category while blacks occupy the bottom part. With the appearance that one possesses, whether the person has bright skin color, pointed nose, or oval facial shape of white features became a criteria of racial categorization.

Talking about race, however, can hurt people as it reminds them of their history of the past being oppressed and ruled by the invaders (mostly whites). Thus, some places are trying to avoid talking about  race and rather, talking about how one’s skin color looks. In Veracruz, Mexico, people freely express the darkness or whiteness of one another’s skin color. When Veracruzanos are asked to speak about race, they hesitated and tried to avoid the question. Instead, Veracruzanos brought “color” talk, just saying that their skin is brown, light brown, or dark brown. One reason of this color talk is that Veracruz was one of the largest importers of African slaves in Spanish America where their ancestors were suppressed. Therefore, people in Veracruz avoid speaking out of the race that hurts the feeling and reminds of the oppressed history of their ancestors.

As we can see the case study of Veracruz, Mexico, it is hard for people to say about the race directly because of the history. However, it seems much easier for people to indicate how the color of skin looks like. Raising the issue of skin color seems less aggressive to others and less sensitive to listeners than bringing up the race. Not only the feeling of the people, but also “color talk” is efficient for today’s globalized world. It is unclear to trace one’s race for some people as they have complex mixed family tree. Moreover, there is no clear dividing line on indicating one’s race in many nations. It is not easy to understand one’s race fully because it can hurt people and also the society itself does not have clear boundary lines on race. Thus, I believe “color talks” can replace the realm of “race talk”, which is happening in Veracruz.