Mexico: Racism Prevalent Among Children, Revealing Cultural Pattern (Study)

December 21, 2011 5:11 pm 30 comments
Mexico: Racism Prevalent Among Children, Revealing Cultural Pattern (Study)

Screenshot from the video "Viral Racism in Mexico."

Racist attitudes continue to be passed down to Mexico’s children, according to a video released by a federal government agency in the country last week as part of a campaign to fight racism.

“Viral Racism in Mexico” by the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination (Conapred in Spanish), shows scenes from interviews shot in October and November with children who are presented with two dolls — one white and one black. Interviewers then ask children questions including, “Which is the ugly one and which is the pretty one? Which is the good one and which is the bad one?”

Child respondents repeatedly selected the black doll as the ugly or bad one — even children who identified more closely with the black doll because of their skin color.

While the four-minute video presents only edited versions of a handful of interviews, Conapred director Ricardo Bucio told The Latin America News Dispatch that the responses were indicative of the study of 100 participants between the ages of 6 and 10.

“It was a little more surprising than we expected,” Bucio said.

The researchers’ interviews, conducted in October and November, included children of varying skin colors and students from both public and private schools.

When asked which doll is bad, a white respondent pointed to the black doll. Asked to elaborate, the respondent said “Well, this one is black and this one is white.”

When an interviewer asked a brown-skinned girl to explain why she identified the black doll as the ugly one, she said “because I don’t like the color brown.”

A brown-skinned boy identified the white doll as the “good” one, and said he had “a little more trust” in whites when asked to explain his answer. Later, when asked which doll he more resembled, the boy — visibly unsure of himself — looked back and forth between the two before settling on the white one. He identified the doll’s ears as the point of similarity.

Bucio said the study indicated that Mexicans tend to place higher social value on light skin — a phenomenon some of the children mentioned explicitly. When an interviewer asked one brown-skinned girl why she liked the white doll better than the dark one, she said “because his eyes are beautiful and his race too.”

The video is part of a larger campaign by Conapred to raise awareness about racism in Mexico. The campaign gained its sense of urgency, Bucio said, after a national survey published last year found that 60 percent of Mexicans said they had insulted others because of their skin color, 40 percent said they treated people differently based on skin color and 11 percent felt such discrimination was justified.

“Mexico is recognized as a country where there is machismo,” Bucio said, referring to a Latin variant of sexism. “But there are issues like racism and classism that we haven’t developed the same tools to confront.”

The deep-seated nature of racism in Mexico revealed itself in unexpected ways during the course of the study.

After designing the study, the researchers found that they were unable to purchase a dark-skinned doll because no one sold them, according to Bucio. “They had to take a white one and repaint it,” he said.

Conapred modeled its work on that of U.S. African-American psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark, who used dolls to study children’s perceptions of race in the 1940s.

30 Comments

  • Racism aside… The researchers never consider the colors themselves; white vs black, day vs night, good vs evil, danger vs safety from an evolutionary standpoint.Think about confounding variables… Mexico’s children do just fine.

  • Great point Luke. Have the researchers performed the same experiment with Black children? However, there is NO DOUBT that Mexican culture is extremely racist. Just look at Univision and Telemundo. Based on its programming, you’d think that Mexico was in Scandinavia.

  • Mexicans never recovered from colonial era brainwashing. They are and will remain a backwards thinking group of people for decades to come. Their inferiority complex is generational, its been a fact of mexican existence which began with their intial encounters with the spaniards.

  • Chief eagle spirit

    This is the legacy of white imperialism all over the world.

  • I, too, have been discriminated against by mexicans. But in talking to a REAL native of mexico she pointed out that they (the REAL mexicans) have suffered from racism from the very beginning when the spaniards first arrived. So this racist problem may have its beginnings in europe. At any rate, the latin’s in the US do not appear to have a case against racial discrimination in the US when they themselves are racially prejudiced and bigoted.

  • You should conduct a survey on racism in America becouse i believe that racism is alive and well in America,also many are saying that the tea party is the new kkk. Your comments please.

  • Mexicans are extremely racist. Most south Americans can’t stand them.

  • I think this is deeper than just what is being passed down about skin colour. I had an interesting conversation with our Ghanaian nanny who said she’d prefer white skin as it’s better than being black. I asked what makes you think this? She explained that black is associated with sadness and evil, we wear black for funerals and white for weddings, good characters in movies tend to be colourful or white whilst bad people tend to be dressed in black, Jesus was white, whilst the devil comes from deepest darkest hell etc. So there are a lot of social norms that give the perception that black as a colour isn’t nice.

  • Why were the “ugly or pretty’ & “good or bad” the only options given? why weren’t they just asked what they thought? Sounds to me like there was more prejudice among the researchers.

  • Yes David. This very same research has been done with Black children and the results are almost identical.

    As Chief Eagle Spirit has pointed out this is indeed a legacy of “white” imperialism. The other point about Latin television is also a big factor. I’m not fluent in Spanish but I speak enough and understand enough to know that the sexism and racism are about neck and neck. It’s nothing but an anchor around the necks of Latinos as those ways of thinking will limit just about every aspect of their lives.

  • I grew up in Mexico, and as a light skin Latino, I definitely had some advantages. This video does not display anything new or surprising. Yes, the questions are very limiting and almost entrapped the children, but their explanations are the important thing to listen to.

  • To take children from their class and put em on the spot light to find out if they are racist or not? How about just put them in a room with a black kid and a white kid that are the same age and see how they get a long. You have to think smart not demand answers. Plus univision and telemundo are all run by rich whites. Spaniards or however u spell them are ‘white’ so if its television that is influencing the kids in Mexico then u already know who wanted the winning vote.

  • sad state of affairs

    This is very sad to me but helps me understand the mentality of some people. I worked in law enforcement where I was involved in a critical incident where I was almost killed; I sustained a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and learning disabilities as a result of the incident. I was forced to kill a Mexican male who was going to kill others after he killed me. The polictical fall-out was viscious. There were rumors and talks by Mexican political organizations that I did not like Mexicans. Being married to a Mexican female and having biracial children it was very hurtful and upsetting. Having grown up in a predominately mexican neighborhood and having dated Mexican women, I learned Spanish as a result of respect for their culture. I find it sad to learn that a country is creating an environment where darker people, (Cuban, prueto rican, Dominicans braizilians and African Americans)are seen as inferior. I will inform my biracial children that the are to be aware of this they grow………..this is really sad!!!!!

  • In Mexico, the problem is more of class than race itself. Discrimination is rampant and alive. Within my own family, there are a variety of skin colors and complexities. My lighter skin cousins growing up identified better with a white “upper” class social setting, whereas the darker family members associated more with the “lower” class. Even when none of us had money.

  • It is easier to read light skinned people’s facial expressions and physiological changes.

    It may be racism that researchers and ideologues don’t realize this.

    Is it also racism that people trust men without facial hair over men with facial hair? Maybe that would mean they would trust a man who is Native American who is hairless over a heavily bearded German. Would it be considered racism then?

  • This study was conducted on on Black children in the states in 1939, it was called the Clark’s Doll Experiment. It was used to measure the psychological impact of internalized oppression that Blacks were living with in the U.S. Did that make them racist? Absolutely not! It meant that they were being conditioned to believe what has been said about them through hundreds of years of slavery and oppression. Fast-forward to Mexico and this study being duplicated there; you have to take it into context.

    According to race theory, you can not be racist if you are a person of color because socially, you are not in the dominant culture. Simply stated, if you are not an identifiable white person, you can not be racist. Now that is not to say that you can’t be prejudice. Most people today interchange the word racist and prejudice to mean the same thing, but it isn’t. Mexicans and Latinos in general share a very interesting dynamic in that we are a mixture and come in various shades. However, in asking these children, who are obviously confused as to why they dislike the color that best reflects them; they can not be considered racist. But rather, they are internalizing their own oppression and displaying the same results as the Black participants of the 40′s. If you take this study to other countries where people are of darker complexion and have been influenced by the western world, I’m sure the study will also hold true. In short, because we live in a White dominated society, people of color see ourselves as inferior to them.

  • This classic experiment was originally done decades ago with African-American children. I recently saw a video repeating the experiment with African-American children today. The results were similar, which is extremely sad. These children (African-American in the original experiment and Mexican children in this experiment) are talking about how they see themselves in these dolls. These attitudes reflect internalized racism. Yes, that internalized oppression unfortunately sometimes gets directed toward others, but it is multi-directional, not one-way by any means. For example, the comment about South Americans hating Mexicans is a prime example. In the Americas Mexicans are often targeted with racist assumptions because of indigenous heritage. The children in this video reflect the legacy of white supremacy, racism, classism, colonialism, and genocide. If this experiment were conducted with children in any country that has been colonized and impacted by white supremacy and racism you would have the same results.

  • Guatemalans think that Mexicans are racist and we share similar indigenous heritage. What I’m about to say will sound incredibly horrible, but it is the truth. When I first arrived in the US, I had never met a Black person and had no preconceived ideas about them. I was never told anything negative about them before coming. It was the same with every Central American immigrant back then. Within months, every one of us became prejudiced. Not because of anything the “White man” told us, but because of personal experiences.

  • This is a silly study. You can not compare America’s White and Black racial
    experience with Mexico’s Native and White racial experience. Ever been to
    the Plaza of the three Cultures in Mexico. They have the Native Mexican
    The Spanish and the Mix Race Mexican represented. Intermarriage is encouraged in Mexico. In racist American Intermarriage between Whites
    and Non Whites is not encourage. It’s not an inferiority complex it’s a
    striving towards a Mix Race Culture.

  • This reminded me of the equally astute and simple research on sexism 30 some years ago in which subjects were given the same essay to grade but with a male or female name as author. Both men and women subjects graded the one signed with a male name substantially (statistically significantly)higher.

    Also reminds me of how Japanese anime children have round western eyes.

    We need to teach our children to love themselves and to value what’s real. Anything else is tragic.

  • As an African American who lives in the Chicago area, I have not experience any racism from Mexicans. My encounters have been that of mutual respect and recognition that we are subjected to the same prejudice and racism on a daily basis. The article took an extreme position that is difficult to perceive as a reality for any groups of Mexicans; whether here or in the United States or in Mexico.

  • David … Univision and Telemundo are U.S. networks, not Mexican ones. What does that have to do with perceptions among Mexican children?

  • There are native indigenous Mexicans that only marry their own and they would
    most likely say their race is the best. Go interview them.

  • I think this was a poorly done research. I think it is common sense that many Mexican children will feel more related to the “white” doll because many mestizos are more light than dark skinned. Using such extremes as white and black and forcing children to choose between good and bad directs the results and creates a biased result.

  • To answer a question oft-regurgitated here: yes, this very experiment has been performed in the US with black and white children at least twice since before the Civil Rights Movement. The answers are always the same. The children always exhibit a preference for the whiter-skinned dolls, photos, illustrations, etc.

    As for the why? We all know why; historically when white-skinned persons have come into contact with darker-skinned persons there is a pattern of subjugation, domination and administration over the conquered peoples. White tends to be the winner; I have to say that much, and I’m Black – lighter-skinned, mixed-race, but I am Black.

    I grew up and lived in Texas for most of my life, specifially in Harris County which – according to the last survey I read – has the nation’s largest population of Mexicans or people of Mexican background outside of New York City (the 5 boroughs, also counties, which constitute the City).
    I happen to have married a white-skinned, light-eyed 1st generation American of Mexican background; this is a matter of genes as practically all other members of his family present with ‘typically’ Mexican (mestizo) features as compared with his – his is not a Spanish-Mexican family.
    Several of my friends and acquaintances were Latino of either Mexican or Central/South American background – 1st generation American or naturalized, if citizens at all, so there was opportunity for substantial exposure to the native Mexican or Central/South American members of these families.

    Multiple experiences stemming from this convergence of circumstances – the behavior of my husband’s family and interactions I have witnessed between Mexicans and other Latinos – lead me to conclude that Mexicans do exhibit a prejudice against Blacks and those exhibiting typically Black physical features that is unequalled by other Latinos. This is my opinion as derived from what I and others within my realm of familiarity have seen of Mexicans and their interactions with non-Mexican Latinos and from what other Latinos of non-Mexican background have described to me in their interactions with Mexicans.

    That said, Eurocentrism is not unique to Mexico; Mexicans have no greater claim to anti-Black sentiments than any other nation of people. It is a color/hair/features thing, make no mistake; for all the bluster about classism the question must still be answered -Why are darker-skinned persons ranked by the society around them lower in the strata? The participation of children in studies such as these really only serves to strengthen the assertion that there is an aesthetic (possibly inherent) prejudice against those physical features associated with sub-Saharan African ancestry.

  • I am South American and find many Mexicans very racist.

    I have often been confused as Mexican due to being short and brown but once they find out I am not some have been rather racist.

  • Issac Trichell

    Im from Massachusetts (not really, just moved there a few years ago). I made sure to get my absentee ballot in for Brown. I think if the election is run honestly (that means if the Republicans have enough monitors and lawyers to challenge all the cheaters) Brown will win. The momentum is all his, his opponent is a mindless Democrat stick of wood, and everyone, from everywhere, is sick of the socialist push that has been going on. But I remain worried. Ive seen what organizations like ACORN can do to steal an election at the last minute. Well see them holding the polling stations in Boston open until 10:00 because of heavy turnout (I guess those dead bodies they carry into the polls are pretty heavy), and the numbers will shift towards the idiot. Every school bus in Boston will be put into action, toting a bunch of illiterate deadbeats to the polls who couldnt care about voting (only the cigarettes and sandwiches they are paid with, a la New Orleans).

  • Racism is alive and well all over the world! as well as all other prejudice…love and hate are everywhere so oh well…if someone doesnt like you for who you are then the hell with them.

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