Friday, January 23, 2009

Some Countries Never Learn

Thanks to Barry for alerting me to El Blog de Joy.

Joy reports that El Universal Gráfico, a Mexican tabloid, puts a picture of Obama on the front page with a gynormous headline reading:

"¡A trabajar, mi negro!"

Meaning roughly, "Let's get to work, my negro/black man." Or if you want to be uncharitable, "get to work, my blackie".
Of course Mexicans will never admit there is anything wrong with this. They think it's very endearing.
They love to make fun of people of other colors and races and sexual orientations and religions, but God forbid one of those should make fun of them.
Mexicans will always deny they are racists because they think being a racist is against Blacks or Chinese or Jews or gays. It doesn’t occur to them that they are first and foremost racist among themselves (see brown v. white) and about everybody else, they insist on being simply, stubbornly unevolved.
The problem with this condescending yet not unfunny headline is not in the use of the word "negro", which is not offensive in itself to describe a Black person or an African American (although in typical racist fashion, many people think it is).
It’s the entire headline, and particularly the “a trabajar”, which brings back memories of plenty of work during slavery. In Mexico they still use the expression “trabaja como negro” (to work like a black man), so I don’t think this was unintended. As some people have commented, the "a trabajar" is, to add insult to injury, a command.
“Mi negro” is indeed a term of endearment (more often than not, the endearments simply help to mask and soften prejudice), and the peeps at the paper probably meant the whole thing that way, but if it sounds iffy, it’s because it is, at the very least in very poor taste.
Coño, it’s the freaking leader of the free world we’re talking about here. Más respeto por favor.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha would say.
I wonder what Mexicans would think if they saw an American headline along the lines of:
“A trabajar, mis nacos”, “O quédense en su tierra, mis prietos” ("stay home, my brownies").
Do they like being referred to as mexicanitos, even if they are adults? Would they find it so charming and endearing?
I don't think so.


  1. Thanks for the insight! (I was waiting for someone to finally point out that "trabajar como negro" phrase, so I'm glad you did!)

  2. Alice6:46 PM

    I bought the paper that day because I couldn't believe what I was reading. Thought maybe it had some other cultural implications besides the literal--thanks for the insight.
    Then there was more...the gorey picture of a man who died by having both eyes gouged out by two steel poles was even more evidence of this paper's complete lack of respect.

  3. Anonymous7:49 AM

    Most Mexicans don't even realize/admit/care that they are racists! I do think Americans tend to take the whole PC thing a little to far to the point of ridiculous, but this headline has no excuse. I'm sure they didn't even think twice about this, no meetings about the pros and cons of going with it. They tried to be funny and it turned out totally tasteless.
    It reminds me of Fox's comment a few years back about Mexicans in the US doing the work not even blacks want to do. Worst of all, I don't see this kind of attitude changing anytime soon.