General Question

JLeslie's avatar

What do you think when someone says they are Mexican?

Asked by JLeslie (65077points) July 7th, 2009

Do you have any stereotypes or assumptions in your head about their education level, how they look, social class, how they came to the US, or any other thing that might pop into your head?

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79 Answers

2late2be's avatar

What!?!!? Im Mexican. Education level!??! how we look?? what do YOU think about us?

CMaz's avatar

I think they know how to make some good Mexican food.

Jeruba's avatar

I’m not sure I understand. When someone says they’re Mexican, I think they’re Mexican.

I might assume they speak Spanish. But if they’re obviously American, that might not be the case. Not all Americans of Mexican background do. If they’re Mexicans in Mexico, they will speak Spanish, and it won’t take any guesswork to figure that out.

RandomMrdan's avatar

If I had to think of stereotypes for Mexicans, from Mexico…I’d think of old 90’s automobiles with tacky racing wings on the back, racing stripes, all sorts of exotic looking decals, and perhaps a mexican flag on the back window.

Education could vary a lot, I have Mexican friends who have college degrees, but I drive down urban areas and see Mexican’s doing car work for next to free and I’d assume their education would be quite limited in comparison.

I normally think someone who is actually Mexican not just hispanic, would be a bit shorter than most people as well.

How they came to be here, well I don’t know. But I do see videos of “fence jumpers” and things like that. And have heard of it happening that way, though I’m sure there are more that find their way here through legal methods.

qualitycontrol's avatar

I think: a human from another part of the earth…similar to me but with cultural differences which I’m already accustomed to because of the large population of latinos in my area.

DeanV's avatar

I think it’s likely they speak Spanish. That’s about it…

Dog's avatar

I agree with @Jeruba on this.

I make no negative assumptions regarding a persons ethnicity.

cak's avatar

I think they are from or their ancestors are from Mexico. No biggie.

edited to add: Sorry. I’m flighty today. As far as the other things, I wouldn’t assume anything about social class, education level or any other issues. I don’t know the person, why would I assume.

When someone meets me, I would hope they are jumping to any conclusions about my background and I don’t wear a tag with all my information on my shirt for people to read.

loser's avatar

I usually assume that they are from Mexico.

Jude's avatar

I love the Mexican culture—the food, how family is important. My ex was Mexican, and I had the pleasure of spending the American Thanksgiving with her and her family. The food was outta this world, and her family was wonderful. Such a bond, and they had so much respect for their elders. :)

So, I’d think that they’d speak Spanish, have a propensity to ‘gnosh on some good grub and value family (the ones that I’ve met.—family is most important).

SuperMouse's avatar

If I am speaking to my nieces or nephews I think, gosh I love these kids. If I am speaking to others I figure they are probably from Mexico or their parents, grandparents, whoever were probably from Mexico.

RandomMrdan's avatar

Am I really the only person who came up with stereotypes? No one honestly has any stereotypes?

watermelonsugar's avatar

I’m aware of the mexican stereotypes, but I’ve never once considered them when meeting someone new.

SuperMouse's avatar

@RandomMrdan I can come up with stereotypes incredibly easily. I try really, really hard not to hold on to them when I meet someone new.

RandomMrdan's avatar

If I’m driving down the road, and I see a vehicle decked out similar to how I described it, I can likely assume the driver is of Mexican descent, and probably be right 9/10 times.

But, I don’t place these stereotypes on people that I meet in person.

Jeruba's avatar

You can know what the stereotypes are without subscribing to them yourself. I know plenty of stereotypes of various cultures and ethnicities. But I generally base my impressions of a person on that person himself or herself and not on stereotypes. The only thing that would make me wonder about this hypothetical person is the fact that he or she even bothered to say “I’m Mexican.”

Tink's avatar

Well not all Hispanics speak Spanish, but I do : )

Jude's avatar

Well said Jeruba.

JLeslie's avatar

What if you don’t meet them, what if I just tell you a friend of mine or my husband is Mexican, what might you picture or assume about him?

RandomMrdan's avatar

@JLeslie I would assume a hard working man, that is probably employed in the construction field honestly (if he was a husband). My dad is an operating engineer, and he works with Mexican people every day.

If he/she was a friend, I wouldn’t really think much of it. And let myself find out about him/her once I meet them.

Jeruba's avatar

Why are you telling me your friend is Mexican? Is it important to you to tell me that when you talk about him or her? Is it relevant to what you are saying? If yes, then I assume the reason will become apparent in your conversation and I won’t need any stereotypes. If no, it will make me wonder about you.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba I am assuming you are American? I get asked all of the time where my last name is from…which is actually my husbands last name, so it comes up, although his last name is not Mexican, to make things more confusing, but he is second generation Mexican. Or, someone will ask about my husbands accent. It is not that we are advertising it. We are just responding to questions.

I will explain later why I am specifically asking this question…I’ll wait for a few more responses.

dalepetrie's avatar

I think, “You’re from Mexico? Do you know Pepe?”

Seriously, I just kind of add it to my catalog of “known characteristics about this person” like the color of their eyes and hair.

Seems to me you’re asking what our pre-conceived notions are about Mexicans, i.e. how do we pre-judge them, aka what are our prejudices. I think you only really tend to have prejudices about groups of people if you see different groups of people and not individuals. I see individuals.

dannyc's avatar

Envy their weather, especially in the winter.

Jeruba's avatar

I am American, yes, by nationality (not ethnicity). I get asked about my husband’s last name (which is also mine) all the time too because it is unusual. I don’t see what that has to do with stereotypes.

I also used to get asked about my accent by the very people among whom I had grown up from infancy because I spoke more like my parents than like them. Again, what does that have to do with stereotypes?

When I hear “Mexican,” should I think nurse? day laborer? lawyer? police officer? janitor? hair stylist? financial consultant? software engineer? storekeeper? I know Latinos in all those occupations and more. Their jobs were not predicted by their parentage.

@JLeslie, I have an idea that perhaps you did not ask the question you actually want an answer to.

Darwin's avatar

If someone says they are Mexican, then I assume that they are either from Mexico or that they have family ties to Mexico. Depending on how they say it I can sometimes assume that they are proud of that fact. Otherwise, I can’t make any assumptions, other than they can say at least one thing in English but may not speak Spanish.

Down here in South Texas, you basically have to think “neighbor” in one of several senses.

Rsam's avatar

ok. i’ll say it.

you’re an ignorant, probably bigotous, and likely racist (yes, yes you are especially if you have to say things like “im not a racist but…”) person if when you think of “mexican” you think of anything far beyond “s/he’s from a place called mexico at some point in his/her ancestry”.


dalepetrie's avatar

When someone tells me, “I was talking to this Mexican/Black/Indian/Chinese guy,” my first question is, and the thing I look for in the rest of the story is whether or not their race/ethnicity has anything to do with the story that person is telling. If you say to me, “I was talking to this Mexican guy and he told me I should really see the new Transformers movie,” then I think…why did you mention he was a Mexican guy? If you say to me, “I was talking to this Mexican guy and he gave me this really good recipe for Mole that he says has been in his family for 1,000 years,” well then I think, OK now I know why you mentioned he’s a Mexican guy. But when you do the former, it makes me think things about YOU, not about HIM.

Now to be honest, the only thing that occurs to me off the top of my head when I meet someone and find out they are from Mexico is if they are a legal US citizen, and if so, how did they achieve it. And this is not because I’m a “kick out the illegals” kinda guy…to the contrary, I advocate FAR more open borders than we have today (within reason). But I wonder this because I’m friends with a guy from Mexico who came over illegally and it bothered me to know that at first, until I realized that the reason he, and so many others did so, was because the US only allows 55,000 applications for immigration each year, not approves 55,000 new immigrants, but allows 55,000 applications to be filed…in a country of 320 million people! And to top it off, there are 19 countries, Mexico being one of them, whose citizens aren’t even ELIGIBLE to file one of those applications. Short of being hired by a US company who wants to transfer you here on an H1-B Visa, OR marrying a US Citizen without ever setting foot on US soil, there is only one legal way for a Mexican to become a US citizen. And that is to break the law first, sneak over the border, get caught (or turn yourself in), and ask the judge at your deportation trial for an adjustment in status. Then, after a decade and several thousand dollars down the tubes, if you’re lucky (unlike my friend), they won’t make an example of you and ship you back. So, simply because I’m so intimately involved in the details of my friend’s situation, I wonder what that person’s situation is…beyond that, this is all I think.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@jeruba Though I’m sure there is a Latino in virtually every single career, I’d argue that vast majority of them work in restaurants (fast food even), laborers, construction of some sort, or auto shops.

I’m not racist in any way, I’ve dated chinese, white, black, and even hispanic women. I am not racist in anyway, but you cannot deny stereotypes and say you don’t think such things exist, because they do.

Tink's avatar

I think this question turned on a catfight…

dalepetrie's avatar

@RandomMrdan – that is not a condition of being Latino that you describe, that is a condition of being a person who did not have access to higher education in his country, who came here to make a better life for himself and took the labor jobs we train our children to avoid by sending them to college, which we CAN do. People sneak across the border because their lives are hellish in their native country, they’ll gladly do very hard labor because they make enough money to eek out a living doing it, so yes you’re going to find them working in restaurants, standing in front of the Home Depot at 4:30 am looking for someone who needs a building put up cheaply and quickly, etc. It’s not really a racial or cultural thing however, it’s an economic thing. These are the kinds of jobs that say the Irish would have held 100 years ago, or any ethnic group that migrated to the US en masse, they end up in these roles….Mexicans are just the immigrant du jour, and therefore you are going to find them where you find the need for cheap, unskilled labor. But that’s a one way relationship…I’d be more likely to assume that the kitchen staff at Wendy’s is at least 80% Mexican than to assume that a Mexican I meet has an 80% chance of being a kitchen worker. I don’t make any assumptions about what a person does…I ask the person what they do.

tinyfaery's avatar

Well, I am of Mexican descent, so I tend not to have any preconceived notions about what it means. I’ve known every type of Mexican: rich/poor, dark/light, spanish speaking/non-spanish speaking (like me), 1st gens, 2nd gens…

Jeruba's avatar

@RandomMrdan, neither I nor anyone on this thread has denied the existence of stereotypes. They have been openly acknowledged several times. What I and several others have said is that we do not base our thinking on them. It is within my control. I am not so simple-minded that I have to let some cultural “type” replace my own thought process.

JLeslie's avatar

I have to defend @RandomMrdan for a moment, he was just talking statistics, he was not commenting on what Mexicans are capable of. Seems he would take each individual as an individual.

dalepetrie's avatar

@RandomMrdan – per @JLeslie‘s comment, FYI, I wasn’t being critical of your point, just making my own related point.

RareDenver's avatar

_What do you think when someone says they are Mexican? _

Not a lot, am I meant to?

DominicX's avatar


Your comment is interesting. It’s true no one says “I was talking to this white guy”. But I find I do mention race sometimes when I talk about non-white people. Why do I do this? I really don’t know.


I don’t really assume things about Mexicans, to be honest. I have been known to assume that something else was Mexican because of the commonality of it. Meaning that, if someone says a neighborhood in California is bad, I may say “is it a predominantly Hispanic area?” In California, most of the “bad areas” are comprised of Hispanics or African Americans. But I don’t have assumptions about a Mexican person to begin with.

You also mentioned “how they look” and such, yeah, sure if someone mentions a Mexican person, I’ll picture how they look. Same if someone mentions Asian, German, Russian, Black, anything…that’s just what I do.

dalepetrie's avatar

I wonder if people of other ethnicities do that. I admit I used to do that (referring to the race of a person when I was telling a story if they weren’t white like me). I wonder if a black person when talking to a black friend will start a story with “I was talking to this white guy” when the story involves a white person, even if his whiteness has nothing to do with the story, but will say, “I was talking to this guy” if he’s talking about someone who is black? Can any of our non-white Flutherites shed light on this? Is this as strictly white thing, or is it universal to point out the race of a person in a story only if their race doesn’t match your own?

JLeslie's avatar

Here is why I asked the question:

My brother-in-law moved to the US in his late 30’s, he has been here about 10 years. He changed his first name to be less Mexican, and changes the subject when people ask him where he is from. We think this is ridiculous! Upsetting to think that he is embarrased by his country of origin, or that he thinks Americans might judge him based on the country he immigrated from.

Now, I do know that a lot of foreigners don’t understand why American’s are obsessed (obsessed might be too strong of word, let’s say curious) with knowing where you are from or where your family comes from. But, we don’t do it to be malicious, we do it to get to know you. Anyway, my brother-in-law is very inscure about this, so I was curious to see what kind of stereotypes people are holding.

The two places I have lived in the south, Memphis, TN and Raleigh, NC, they use the expression, “get me a Mexican” when you have yard work that needs to get done or some other form of physical labor. Awful I know. I think when they find out my husband is Mexican some of these people who do not know any better are surprised (they have said this in front of us, just goes to show you never know who you are talking to) because he doesn’t fit the stereotype (now I know the majority of you are saying you don’t have a stereotype in your head, but you are still probably aware of what they are). In other parts of our country I think people interact with Mexicans and Hispanics from all walks of life. By the way, I have friends in MI who call all Hispanics Mexicans, and when I try to explain why that makes no sense they don’t really care. I think this points out how people like to mush people into groups. Arabs, Hispanics, Blacks, etc.

I am pretty sure that here on Fluther, since we all are so fabulous (said with sarcasm and jocularity in her voice:)) that nobody here would actually judge someone based on their ethnicity, everyone is an individual, but we still might have stereotypes in the back of our heads regarding groups, or even factual statistics.

It actually is true that Mexicans are the least educated group of Hispanics that come to our country. Average education is 8th grade. It is also statistically true that they work more production, construction and service here is a link my husband is a VP with a masters degree.

About how they look. Mexico had migration from many different parts of the world, just like all of the America’s, so they come in all different shapes and sizes, but I would guess the majority who come here do have Native American/Indian ancestory. My husband is Israeli, Spanish, and French.

But back to my brother-in law who goes to such lengths…I wanted to just see where people were at currently with their presumptions on Mexicans to see if maybe I was not being understanding of what he might be encountering.

Jeruba's avatar

Well, @JLeslie, then you have the question of how representative we on fluther are of the population at large. In general I don’t expect much logic from people. Even if it could be shown that most yard workers are Mexican, it does not follow that most Mexicans are yard workers (just as “most schoolteachers are women” does not equal “most women are schoolteachers”). But people’s perceptions don’t usually accord with logic. His experience of prejudice might be valid no matter what we say.

Incidentally, I think you are being facetious and not sarcastic.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba I think you are right facetious is better, that is a new vocabulary word for me, thank you.

I really think it is all in his head, I don’t think there is a significant incident. What I really think is that he tends to be very judgmental himself about others, so he is projecting (or whatever the correct psych term is for that).

Lightlyseared's avatar

That they are from Mexico.

tinyfaery's avatar

If you live in an area with not too many Latinos, stereotypes and prejudices are probably more likely. I live in L.A. where Latinos are in all walks of life. I KNOW that not all have unskilled labor jobs, or hang out in front of Home Depot. Our mayor is Latino. I’m a bit dismayed by what I am reading.

JLeslie's avatar

@tinyfaery dismayed by which part?

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba I forgot to say that I don’t think that Fluther is very representative of the American population, I wish it was.

Resonantscythe's avatar

Why is it that the majority of race discussions degrade into “I’m not racist/ racial stereotypes ” arguments?

JLeslie's avatar

@Resonantscythe well this question was about racial stereotypes, so I guess it did not degrade, it started there. What is your point exactly?

Darwin's avatar

@RandomMrdan – Where I live, Hispanics (mostly but not entirely Mexican) are in the majority at about 60% of the population. Right now our mayor self-identifies as Mexican, 5 of the 9 city council members have Hispanic names, our city manager has a Hispanic name, and 16 out of 34 department heads have Hispanic names. My husband’s primary care physician is Hispanic (from Guatemala), and there are teachers, lawyers, policemen, judges, CEOs and bankers, as well as yardmen, nurses and fast-food employees who are Hispanic. I don’t really see the truth of your statement.

@JLeslie – Tell your brother in law that if the average education of Mexican immigrants is 8th grade they are ahead of the game. In our town the average education level of the population as a whole is 6th grade.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@Darwin you should visit Columbus, Ohio sometime, you’d understand what I’m saying then.

Darwin's avatar

@RandomMrdan – Perhaps that has something to do with the opportunities people are afforded in Columbus, or who you hang around with.

dalepetrie's avatar

@JLeslie – Thanks for sharing that, I have a better idea now of where you are coming from. And first off, let me echo the sentiment that Fluther is not the place for a litmus test on this issue…we are collectively one of the most intelligent, intellectual and overall liberal groups I’ve ever encountered (though clearly there are exceptions to prove every rule), and intelligent people, intellectuals and liberals just aren’t going to harbor knee-jerk racial prejudices. However, in the world at large, only half the people are liberals, only maybe 10% are of above average intelligence and perhaps only 1 or 2 percent are intellectuals. Your brother in law is clearly more concerned about the reaction of the unwashed masses than of the people who know better. And even though we are becoming more culturally and racially diverse and more accepting that there people come in all flavors and everyone is an individual, that was NOT the message that has been around for most of our lives.

It somewhat hearkens back to the little sub-conversation I was having with @DominicX about why white people will identify the race of a person in a story even if the story has nothing to do with their race. In thinking about it at greater length, I realized, I’m 38 years old and that is a habit I broke myself of when I realized I had it. But for years I didn’t question it, because that’s how the people who raised me talked. Now, I don’t think my parents are racist, but I think they harbor a more racist worldview than I do simply because they’re in their 60s, they lived through a time when blacks could not drink out of the same fountains, when they’d serve in different infantries in the war, when interracial dating was still against the law in some places, when the word nigger was thrown around by white people like it didn’t matter, and through a time when black people started to buy property and every white in the neighborhood would move to the suburbs. In short, in the world in which THEY grew up, black vs. white was an IMPORTANT distinction, one which was institutionalized and accepted, nay ENFORCED by the powers that be. Now when I grew up, none of this was true…sure there was still racism, but look at my culture. Prince and Michael Jackson were the biggest music stars in the world. Eddie Murphy made SNL funny again, Bill Cosby had the biggest show on television, and we were taught by shows like Webster and Diff’rent Strokes that it was OK to integrate. Even though I had very few black people in my town, my culture said it was wrong to discriminate, whereas my parents’ culture growing up said it was wrong to integrate. So, I think that maybe why people in my generation will say “this black guy” in a conversation when the subject’s being black has nothing to do with it is a legacy issue, a learned behavior that is a carry over from a time when racial distinction was considered an important one to EVERYONE.

So, to get back on track, what I’m saying there is that every generation is a bit more colorblind than the last, but I’m 38, I’m right in the middle…I’m the first generation of parent who didn’t live through a culture in which racial distinction was an important legal concept, and therefore. Parents before me were saddled with that experience of having the distinction be important. And I’m right smack dab in the middle of the average life expectancy, ergo, half the people on the planet right now are likely to be as colorblind as I am or less, and half are likely to be more. And some of the people younger than me were raised by racists, and raised to believe that racism was the way to go. So you’re probably looking at a better than 50/50 shot, given all these considerations that if your brother in law self identifies as a Mexican, the person he’s speaking to will pre-judge him. Consider that even in the 2008 election, there were countless media stories about white people who said to reporters, without ANY hesitation, “I’m voting for the nigger”.

But even if people who outright hate Mexicans and want to see them all deported are in the minority, one thing about ignorant people that seems to be true almost 100% of the time, the smaller the minority the more vocal they become. It’s because this kind of hatred is based usually on fear, and when fear is backed into a corner, it has to puff itself up in order to defend itself…much like a cat (no offense intended to cats). So, I would venture to say that though your brother in law would probably get by just fine if he said he was Mexican, even if it’s highly unlikely that any harm would come to him, he’s probably well aware that some people are going to prejudge and therefore misjudge him if he tells them he’s Mexican, and for whatever reason, he may just not want that. It may be as simple as he wants to be judged by the content of his character and doesn’t think he’ll be afforded that chance if he reveals his lineage. It certainly doesn’t mean he’s ashamed of his culture…he may be afraid of something, but it’s unlikely that he’s afraid of who he is.

Resonantscythe's avatar

@JLeslie Most conversations involving race tend to go off track due to one or more of the people having the conversation becoming defensive or someone offhandedly suggesting one of the others may be a racist.(This is in my experience)

DominicX's avatar

I just thought I’d add that one example of the town you live in doesn’t prove anything about statistics and stereotypes nation-wide.

JLeslie's avatar

I think my husband would say that he does not feel any prejudice towards him, especially in the adult world, he might have some stories from his two years in HS in Texas, but who doesn’t have some stories from HS. Like I said some people are surprised, or rather baffled sometimes that he is Mexican, from their own ignorance, but he/we don’t feel like anyone treats him differently because he is Mexican or foreign (remember his last name is not Mexican it is Sephardic andhe has a slight accent. And, for that matter when people say horrible things like, “I’ll get me a Mexican to fix my yard.” I don’t think they are necessarily prejudice or hateful just VERY STUPID. When I lived in MI people would say, “jew it down” to negotiate a price, and one person said in front of me to her boyfriend after I said “hello” while waiting for an elevator, “how the people at [her] school weren’t friendly they are such a bunch of Jews” indicating that I had been congenial by saying hello. Idiots. I let her know I was Jewish to teach her something, I was nice when I did it.

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie I would argue that our government has to stop separating us, if we want it to trickle down. On forms we still fill out if we are white, black, hispanic, asian, etc. I think the less we seperated the better. But, then marketers and sociologists would argue that demographics and psychographics are useful. We even see that it is useful for medical treatment. Not sure how we overcome it completely. I agree that with each generations it is less of an issue. @DominicX I also agree that in different towns and cities the experience can be very different.

azusenal's avatar

I am Mexican American, 1st generation. When someone says, I am Mexican, I don’t hear anything other than they want me to know their ethnicity. Just as any other person would mention their background. I’ve read through most of the responses and I am familiar with the way people think about Mexicans. My mother has an 8th grade education and she is the wisest, most intelligent, compassionate person I know. And her education far exceeds my college education. In Mexico they hold their education to a very high standard, probably much higher than American private schools.

JLeslie's avatar

@azusenal My husbands father has a 5th grade education and his mom has an 8th grade. His father was incredibly successful and hard working…owned several business in his youth, he has one now. I completely respect his work ethic, and consider him to be very smart. He has seen more countries than I have, speaks 4 languages, and is a loving man. I know exactly where you are coming from.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think they probably have family in Mexico – but the knowledge that they’re Mexican alone doesn’t do me much good in getting a complete picture…I would wonder certain things, like whether they’re catholic, whether they believe in a traditional family structure, whether, whether, whether…all the usual…I’d wonder that with anyone

dalepetrie's avatar

@JLeslie – I kind of agree, I think rather than spending money on quota laws and enforcing equal opportunity reporting and all that stuff you have to fill in on a job application now because the government wants to ensure you hire enough of each minority, they should instead put that money into the front end, making sure every economically disadvantaged person is given the opportunity to be given a good education and to pull himself out of poverty…THAT would bring about racial equality…people would succeed or fail on their own terms. I have no problem though if I’m doing a paid survey online and they ask me, because different demographic groups respond to different types of marketing, that’s commerce.

Grisaille's avatar

If they are telling me that they are Mexican, chances are I asked. That said, I’m asking because I either think they are physically striking (read: a pretty female) or I can’t peg down what ethnicity they are. Being an innocent question, I don’t think of any of those things at all.

Again, I’m sure this is due to me growing up in an urban environment; we were all something… some ingredient of the melting pot. It didn’t matter what you were.

JLeslie's avatar

@Grisaille I could no thave said it better, this is what I have tried to explain to my brother-in-law, and his boyfriend for that matter who is also not born in America.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i guess it depends on the context of the sentence. if someone just says they’re mexican, i just think “they’re mexican”. if i was thinking deeper into it, i’d be like, okay. they’re from mexico. maybe some abstract images of good food would be in the back of my mind. also, how i really want to go to mexico. and how conor oberst wrote some lovely songs about going there. oh, and i think the history is pretty interesting too (aztecs, etc).

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I imagine what part of Mexico they’re from (desert, coast, country, etc) and what their family background is- like Americans, many Mexicans have ancestry from many other countries and some are “indigenous”. I’m always curious and hardly ever disappointed in what stories people have.

YARNLADY's avatar

I would think they meant that they were of Mexican descent. I married a man who said he was ½ Mexican, but none of his ancestors ever lived in Mexico. They were Mexicans who lived in the land that later because known as New Mexico.

Jeruba's avatar

@dalepetrie, I’m of your parents’ generation, and I remember when movies and TV shows routinely played minority stereotypes for laughs. Yet I don’t have anything to shed. My values seem much closer to yours, on the basis of other threads we’ve both been on.

I think education is likely to be a more important factor than age—education and cultural experience. To the extent that age is a factor, I believe that coming through the changes wrought by the sixties made me more aware than I think many younger people seem to be. So I am not certain that your premises are sound.

dalepetrie's avatar

Admittedly I didn’t grow up around educated people…I come from purely working class stock, I was the first on either side of my family to graduate from a 4 year university. I also grew up where there WERE no minorities. I don’t think my adult role models were hateful, but probably more ignorant. I mean, who are you hurting if you tell a joke about an ethnic group when no one in that ethnic group is around to hear you, right? Or so went the mentality. I would however say that even you, who knew it was wrong, have to acknowledge that officially, that was the way it was. That was the culture in which you lived. And if you rebelled against it, I submit that you were part of the counterculture of the time, and not really representative of the mass culture.

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie @Jeruba my parents, who are in their mid-60’s did not grow up really with any discriminatory talk, the were raised in The Bronx. There might have been stereotypes and jokes, but they told jokes about their own kind as well. Sometimes I think people are too sensitive about these types of things. Seinfeld and The Nanny made fun of Jews going to Boca, Joy Behar makes fun of her Italian mother and aunt, George Lopez makes fun of his Mexican relatives.

Larry King, the talk show host, has told the story many times of going to Miami for the first time, he had grown up in NY, and seeing a separate water fountain for “colored” people, had never seen that before. When he took a drink of water it was out of the colored fountain, he could not believe what he had seen. To northerners it was ludicrous, horrible, and hateful. If I were to guess I would say dalepetrie did not grow up in the NE, but I could be wrong, smaller towns probably even there might have had a lot of prejudice I don’t know.

My father was the son of immigrants, and my mother the grandchild of immigrants, so no one was hating anybody or prejudging, because WE don’t want to be prejudged—golden rule. But, my father is a sociologist, and this is what sociologists do look at stats, demographics, and psychographics, there are some generalizations that are true about groups, that is how the stereotypes usually get started, but it simply doesn’t apply to everyone in the group.

dalepetrie's avatar

@JLeslie – Yes, I grew up in Northern MN…I just recently encountered a term that I think fits the mentality up there, used in relation to Sarah Palin of all people…“snowbillies”. Definitely I think if you lived in somewhere like NY, San Fran, any of the real urban, cosmopolitan centers of culture outside the deep south, you probably wouldn’t have encountered large scale discrimination, and I don’t think even in the backwoods of northern MN they actually had separate drinking fountains. On the other had, about 15 years ago, a friend of mine was telling me about a time he was with his grandfather, probably born around the turn of the century (19th to 20th obviously) and his grandfather was chatting with one of his friends, and was overheard to lament, “I miss the good old days when you could hang a nigger if he got out of line”.

The thing about smaller, more rural areas is, they didn’t have anything but whatever ethnicity decided to settle there by and large, so we had a lot of Swedes and Finns up in the north country…a lot of people in my parents’ generation had never even met a black person, but what they would certainly have heard on the radio and on TV when it came around were non-PC depictions of non-whites, because that was what was institutionalized. Even outside the deep south where segregation had to be taken down by force, as recently as the early 1960s I’d contend that the vast majority of white people outside your major urban centers really did not have any role models to suggest to them that blacks were equal…I’m not saying they were seen as “animals” by and large, but certainly I believe it wasn’t until the 1950s or early 1960s that the unwashed masses began to consider black people…I think in the minds of many they were almost mythological…you may have known they existed but you’d never seen one.

Here’s kind of an example of how racism, though not necessarily meant to be hurtful, played out in the every day lives of regular people. I don’t know if you’ve heard of a former NFL player named Phillip Wise or not, I guess he played for the NY Jets in 1971. He is now a regular on a morning talk show here in the Twin Cities, and according to a story he told, apparently he and a couple of other black atheletes in the mid 70s were traveling through the midwest, and had a car break down. So, they took to foot to go find help, and walked through a middle class residential neighborhood. There they say a little girl I believe, maybe 4 years old, playing in her yard, and she saw them coming. She ran up to the fence and yelled excitedly, “HI NIGGERS!!!” She had no hate for them, but she was excited to see something she’d probably never seen before, and that was how this mythological beast was known to her based on how her family communicated the world to her.

Another thing typical of the attitude of the time, when I was growing up, my dad, who certainly isn’t out there wearing a white hood, told me I’d better not marry a black woman. I was appalled, and he explained to me that his concern was the kids, that them not being either black or white would get them teased relentlessly, and that was because that was HIS experience. He had seen it happen. I was in touch with the present and future world and he was living in the past, but to gain acceptance, you have to have exposure. And though NYC was certainly a place where you’d have that kind of exposure to actual people. It’s a lot easier to fear and misunderstand that which you do not know.

Personally, I think one of the most important shows ever put on television was All in the Family, because the argument between Archie and meathead was the exact thing I went through with my adult role models. If you watched the show, Archie was really ignorant, but he was not hateful…they never depicted him as a hateful man. But he did harbor a lot of stereotypes about people who didn’t look like him, and it was through the course of the show that we saw him soften up on things, as he encountered the very people he had been prejudging.

So while you and @Jeruba and Larry King were the world’s meatheads, the vast majority of America was Archie Bunkers…and we didn’t really see the tipping point in popular culture and from the viewpoint of the American masses in my opinion until the mid 1980s. Realize that MTV at first refused to play Michael Jackson videos when Thriller came out because they were a “rock” station…it wasn’t until the late 80s when we actually had black rock and roll acts hit the mainstream. When Cosby hit the air, there were no other shows with all or mostly black casts on TV…up until the 1970s in fact you didn’t even see blacks on TV unless they were of the Amos and Andy variety. In other words, I’d say most of America, aka the “heartland” (or as the aforementioned Palin derisively put it last year…REAL America) seemed to lag about 30 years behind the more enlightened population centers. I say if you were lucky enough to be raised in a culture that embraced equality, you were the exception, not the rule. And I think the proof of that lies in popular culture, if the rest of the country were as enlightened in your parents generation as your parents seemed to be, then I don’t think there would have been shows like All in the Family, or even Diff’rent Strokes…I think those things were downright controversial in middle America at the time.

Just a hunch.

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie You made me laugh—snowbillies—I love that! My stereotype of MN is a bunch of very tall blonds with German and Swedish names. Yet, my counterpart in MN when I worked for a department store was my height, 5’6” with dark hair. I went to school in the midwest, Michigan State Univ. graduated in 1990, and my experience there was that a lot of people had never met someone Jewish before. They did not seem hateful in any way, sometimes curious though, which is fine with me. I tell this story because of your story of the little girl seeing a black man, she was not racist, I totally get that. They just used the word nigger, it wasn’t loaded. It’s like how I mentioned the term “jew it down” many of the people honestly did not realize what they were saying. And Archie Bunker also, he in the end, is going to treat all men equally. Several of the people I met at MSU were surprised I had blue eyes, they pictured Jews to be dark, middle eastern looking, they kind of think Israel and Jewish is synonymous.

Interestingly, when the media went on and on about how all white Iowa voted for Obama in the primaries, this did not surprise me that much. I think in the past all-white parts of the country might have been afraid of minorites, now I think it is very much the opposite. It is people who interact with them when there is a great division in economics, when the gang areas and violence that happens around you is concentrated in minority areas, and there are few numbers of that minority in the middle and upper classes, these are the communities that are more likely to be racist now. In the major cities we see all minorities in all walks of life all professions. Come to Memphis the disparity (is that the right word?) is really bad—VERY sad to see this in my country, I would not have believed it 10 years ago, before I had spent time in the south, it is trully shocking to me. I am hopeful that Obama can affect some of these problems in a positive direction. I won’t even write here what some whites out in the suburbs call downtown Memphis behind closed doors.

I do, however, believe the majority of america is NOT racist. I think things are more equal than not.

My father, who never said one negative thing about a race, religion, etc, when I was growing up, also used to say that marrying outside of your “group” might not be wise. He meant it from the standpoint of the difficulties you might have as a couple because of the different cultural backgrounds. So, again, you take each person as an individual, but his statement has some validity. My husband, raised Catholic by religous parents in Mexico by parents who did not make it to high school and they were considered upper class there. I was raised in the USA, Jewish with atheist parents, in a lower-middle eventually middle-middle class home, my father is a PhD and my mother has her BA. But, my husband and I are VERY similar in how we think, which might be unexpected. Yet, to the point of possible difficulties, we have had some problems with his family, because they kind of hold onto some rules and expectations from their culture that we find difficult (they would probably say we are difficult lol) or rather we don’t even know their expections and I guess we f$!k up in their eyes. They are loving people, I don’t want it to come accross badly, but there is some confusion on expectations. So, when a parent says don’t marry outside of your race or religion, I don’t think the statement is necessarily a racist one, although it can be, but it might be a parent saying, why pick a more difficult path. You have to “discriminate” to some extent when you are choosing your life long spouse. Expectations for children, religion, interests, definitions of marital roles, atitudes on money, it all counts. These things vary more by socio-economic factors than anything else.

As a side note my parents were always supportive of my husband and me, they liked him from the first meeting.

dalepetrie's avatar

I was thinking the same thing about Iowa. A lot of people know the small town racist stereotype, but as I said, I think a lot of the racism was based on ignorance, not hatred and fear like it was in some parts of the country. But when you get right down to it, the midwest is a VERY liberal part of the country, PARTICULARLY Minnesota (remember, the only state not to vote fo Reagan in ‘84…the state that brought you Senator Wellstone, and as of a couple days ago, Senator Franken). Sure, we have our share of hateful, racist idiots, but the worst problem we have to confront here is ignorance and isolation. I remember what a BIG DEAL it was in my community college when we got an openly gay student…EVERYONE was curious (though I’m quite sure at least a couple of my high school classmates were closet gays, so I wasn’t clamoring to be this guy’s friend just because I wanted to actually know a gay like a lot of people in my school). I think most people are good at heart, but that novelty really made it a legacy for people who raised kids in such a sheltered environment, and I think still that my generation is probably really the first which is actively attempting to raise their kids with no racial stereotypes (but some still do impart them, and not all who do are white).

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie The other thing about Iowa is it is a caucus (sp?), which I think it BS! I mean you have peer pressure, your neighbors are watching you go to one side of the room or another wtf is that?! What happened to secret ballot? Or, do I understand the caucus process incorrectly?

dalepetrie's avatar

Re a caucus, some work differently than others. The one in Iowa you did have to declare, but what you have to remember is that 1) you’re expressing a preference, 2) it’s voluntary, and 3) it’s not a national election, it’s simply a private political party’s method of eeking out their preferred candidate. So essentially everyone expresses a preference, and if any candidate doesn’t have 15% of the support from the get go, then the supporters of the candidates who did get more than 15% have the ability to go to those people whose candidate will not move on and convince them why they should support this other person. It’s kind of a way to eek out some collective intelligence, spark debate and give people a learning experience. A secret ballot is only guaranteed in an actual election, and this is nothing more than a selection process for a political party…and they see value in having some states have caucuses.

JLeslie's avatar

@dalepetrie well, I don’t like it. To say, “this is nothing more than a selection process for a political party,” flippin’ Iowa set the tone. I wanted Hillary so I am especially annoyed with the turn of events in the last election, but even so I think it should be a secret ballot.
Thanks for explaining.

dalepetrie's avatar

@JLeslie – you don’t have to like it. Basically, either party could just flip a coin, or have a bunch of guys in a smoky room pick the candidate. A party can nominate whomever they want, however they want. You get a choice between the candidates fielded by the parties which get themselves on the ballot, or a choice to write in a candidate. You might not like how your employer decides to promote people, but it’s their process. We have a government of, by and for the people, but nominating contests are not run by the government, they are run by political parties, which are just corporations, nothing more, nothing less.

As for the nomination itself, I was thrilled that Obama won Iowa and the nomination, not because I didn’t like Hillary, in fact, I had assumed if she ever ran, I would vote for her. But when I heard Obama speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he touched a nerve that made me decide I would do whatever it took to see that this man became President some day. When he ran, I researched everyone’s positions, everyone’s records, and he was simply the closest to my personal ideology, and had what I felt was the best record, the best demeanor, and basically everything that made him the best person for the job. And the way that Hillary went after him, some of the lies and underhanded tricks she pulled on the campaign trail made me lose so much respect for her that by the end I would have done anything to make her go away. I did not forgive her until she came out strongly in favor of Obama, I felt that if she’d given speeches like that throughout the campaign, I’d have respected her more.

Nially_Bob's avatar

That the person stating such was born within territory that is or was “owned by” the (or some manner of) Mexican government.

Darwin's avatar

@Nially_Bob – Does that mean you can only wear a “Kiss me, I’m Irish” shirt if you were born in Ireland? What if your grandfather was born in Ireland or, in this case, Mexico, but you weren’t?

Nially_Bob's avatar

No, people are free to wear what they wish, my answer merely explained what my immediate assumptions would be about a person who claims to be Mexican (that they were born within the Mexican governments territory).
If a person refers to themselves as Mexican because their grandfather was born there that’s fine, it would not be an accurate statement from a conventional perspective but it’s theirs to believe and the only alteration to my views on the person in question in these circumstances would be that they consider their ancestory and/or the Mexican culture to be of importance to them.

Meribast's avatar

That their heritage is at least in part from Mexico. Either their ethnicity/cultural identity or their citizenship is from Mexico.

I don’t have any personal negative connotations associated with the adjective “Mexican.”

josie's avatar

I figure they can drink the water and not get sick.

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