As I scrolled through Instagram after Korea’s epic win against Germany, I saw so many Mexico fans celebrating alongside Korean fans. It was beautiful, because seeing people come together in the spirit of the World Cup is amazing, especially with the amount of hate in the headlines. But I also saw something really ugly that made me want to write this article. I’m sure you can guess what I’m talking about because it isn’t new or uncommon among Mexicans or Latinos overall. I saw photo after photo of people in Mexican jerseys pulling the sides of their eyes as though it were empowering or a demonstration of gratitude—It’s not! It actually enforces that whole racism thing (most) Mexicans and (most) Latin Americans are rallying against.
If you’ve ever watched a futbol match of this magnitude before, you know that throwing around racist insults at the World Cup is about as normal as throwing around racist insults at the World Cup. And let’s not forget the whole “Eeeh Puto” chant that still seems too difficult for Latino fans to forget. Even though FIFA has pledged to crack down on “racism and discrimination” it’s handling of those matters has been questionable at best.
We all know racism against Asians in Latin American countries is REAL, there were actually many actions taken against Chinese immigrants in Mexico at the turn of the century most notably the Torreón massacre, in which over 300 Chinese were literally ripped apart and buried in a large trench. And let’s not forget there are millions of people of Asian descent who are born and raised all over Latin America. I’m here to say, enough is enough. We need to stop disrespecting others if we want to be respected. So here’s what you can do in these situations to be the change we need to see.
1. Be vocal when someone does this:
Pulling your eyes to the side “slant eye gesture” is not ok! Above is Mexican actor Ferdinando Valencia using a child to pull back his eyes as a show of support for Korea. I’m so confused as to why he—or anyone really—thinks this is something anyone of Asian descent would find endearing. It basically says “go Korea, but also your eyes (the identifying characteristic of your heritage) are a joke to me and my countrymen. I hope you win though!” He has since deleted the photo and posted a cryptic statement about unity with Koreans but not much else in terms of an actual apology. If you see someone doing this, it’s as simple as saying, “hey than’s not cool” or “I find that offensive.” If Korean fans painted their faces brown* or used a racist gesture towards Mexicans we would lose our gawd dang minds and you know it!
2. For people who say: “It’s not really racist it’s just mean.”
I believe the correct response is *eyeroll* [walks away]. If Koreans are saying “this is racist” it’s our responsibility to believe them and change the behavior. And if you know it’s mean why are you doing it?!
3. Stop calling ALL people of Asian descent “Chinos:”
If you are having a conversation and someone is referred to as a “Chino” and you know the person in question is not Chinese, correct whoever is using that term with the correct country they are from. Also ask questions like: “What country are they from?” or I say “really? What part of China are they from? It’s a big country!” In anticipation of “who cares it’s all the same to me” or “same difference” remind them of how annoying it is to be called something they’re not by showing them the news calling Mexicans rapists and murderers and the White House calling people from El Salvador animals. Also remind them how little they enjoy being mistaken for anything other than their actual heritage. I also like to throw in that “es una falta de respeto/ it’s disrespectful!”
4. For people saying: “That’s just how we are/ That’s just the way we say it.”
Refer back to number 2 and get your life because using tradition as an excuse to protect the problematic behavior is about as old as it is tired. Tradition doesn’t make something right, I feel like in this political climate we should be able to see that pretty clearly.
5. For people saying: “Oh you’re being too sensitive” or “I don’t mean it like that!”
If someone called you a wetback or a beaner or some other pejorative term related to your race or phenotype and gave you that same excuse would you or wouldn’t you punch them right in the face? Exactly! Would you or wouldn’t you want an ally to say “Hey don’t say that!” and stick up for Mexicans and/or Latinos? Exactly! If you answered no to these, I’m guessing que te vale madre la vida. So let’s move on.
6. For people saying: “Not all the people pulling their eyes are Mexican!”
So we’re really finger pointing at the person next to us and saying “they’re doing it too?” So just as long as everyone is being racist together it’s fine? Nah bro. There is nothing wrong with saying “I messed up” and making a point not to do it again. I’m pretty sure that’s called growth.
In reality, this comes down to common decency and asking ourselves why are we so attached to toxic behavior. If it’s too hard for you to not say something hurtful and it’s too difficult for you to care about how your words impact other people, then you probably have some bigger issues you need to deal with.