Karen: If you’re from Africa, why are you white?
Gretchen: Oh my God, Karen, you can’t just ask people why they’re white.
This iconic scene from Mean Girls makes me laugh and feel sorry for Karen’s ignorance.
Karen is just a character, of course, but she represents a demographic that has been in the news more and more: the uninformed.
Lately, Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has given the uninformed a platform for their lack of knowledge through a steady stream of bigoted and contemptuous remarks. Not understanding a person’s ethnic background — or not even wanting to — has become a socially acceptable practice in the United States.
I see bigotry on a daily basis — mainly toward those of Mexican decent — including toward myself.
Often when I arrive at the checkout line after shopping with my mother, we are met with the same question: “ Are you paying together or separately?”
Yes, my mother is darker skinned than I, but does her having a different skin color not make her my mother?
There have been awkward occasions where the group of people around me begin to make derogatory jokes against Hispanics, more specifically, Mexicans.
These jokes are only funny to those who believe the incorrect stereotypes of who Mexicans are.
Are all Mexicans criminals and rapists?
No. Mexicans have contributed and continue to contribute to society in numerous ways, sometimes without the awareness of the general public. Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu entertain audiences through their films, Cesar Millan helps us to train our dogs, Carlos Slim is the richest man in the world, Louis C.K. makes us laugh harder than we want to. The list goes on.
“Here’s the thing that people don’t understand,” said Louis C.K. “Mexico is just like America; it’s made up of some black people, some white people and brown people, the difference is they didn’t genocide their Indians as well as we did … You meet Mexicans that look like me all the time, but you don’t know they’re Mexican when you meet them.”
Undoing the stereotypes that society has created takes time, but it must begin. We can’t allow roaring demagogues to decide how we view others, especially how we view our friends and colleagues. Don’t let fear hamper what we know to be correct. We can’t afford to build walls around communities which have given us so much.
I am of Mexican heritage. I speak the language of Cervantes, García Márquez and Paz. I too am an American.