by Kaoruko Sorai
To talk about race and color in Mexico, we need to understand the concept of race blind ideology first. Race blind ideology means talking about race, racial differences or racial hierarchy is considered taboo and deemed inappropriate. Furthermore, only a small noticing on racial differences makes you immediately a racist. People in Mexico are extremely reluctant to talk about race issues. Why and how was this ideology of race blindness built in Mexico?
Christina A. Sue did case studies in the twin cities of Veracruz and Boca del Rio, where this ideology appears remarkably. Due to its history of being a major port of entry and incorporation of African slaves, there is diversity among the population, ranging from güero/blanco (white), moreno claro (light brown), moreno (medium brown), moreno oscuro (dark brown), and negro (black).
Because of their history of having African slaves in their region, they conceive blackness as something different and foreign to people living in Veracruz. Therefore they are unconsciously distancing themselves from blackness. It is very common to marry someone in order to “clean their race” (limpiar la raza), in other words, to get the “refined” features. Though people care about their appearance so clearly, especially their skin color, they think that they are not racist, and talking about color is not considered as taboo, what is surprising about this is that people talk about their color frequently in their daily lives.
By these Christina A. Sue’s case studies, we observe that Mexicans think of race and color as distinct folk categories. For them, race connotes categorization and creation of hierarchy as once it was, but color does not. They think of color only just a descriptive marker. They do not realize that they are still fixed to the old fashioned idea of white superiority and black inferiority. People in Veracruz believe that there are no black people, that people in this town are black because of the sunlight, not because of their African ancestry.
However, in my opinion, people in Veracruz are actually racist because they differentiate from black people. This phenomena clearly shows that they think black are inferior to others, therefore they do not want to be in that group.
A Mexican columnist once said in the LA Times that “Although subtle, discrimination has become something invisible in our (Mexican) society. We no longer see it, or we consider it normal”. I totally agree with her. Race blind ideology is, in fact, that discrimination, like the social classifications along their skin color, became so normal that it has become something invisible. And it resulted into the paradox of race blindness and people’s desire to whiten their skin color.