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This blog is the brainchild of the Journal of Gender, Race & Justice at the University of Iowa College of Law. It is intended as a forum for people to discuss their personal views concerning topical issues. Posts reflect the opinions of the authors and not necessarily the Board or the Student Writers as a whole. We encourage well-rounded debates and discussions.
Kayla M. Casey, Student Writer, The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice
The Christian Science Monitor recently published an article comparing the reaction in the United States to the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords with the complacent reaction in Mexico to the regular shootings of elected officials. With the high levels of violence in Mexico and the common murder of elected officials the media rarely covers the murders or, if it does, gives them little attention. While that might be due to the influence and control drug cartels assert over the news media, the murders are so commonplace, that they hardly qualify as breaking news in Mexico. The lack of accountability and justice across the United States’ southern border is both terrifying and infuriating.
The article contended that at least part of the reason news media did not cover the deaths in Mexico was because many Mexicans view public officials as corrupt and really part of the system that has allowed the violence. However, the article cited security analysts who believe that the cartels have so much control that if a mayor or public official refuses to comply with the cartels he or she is murdered or threatened. Additionally, the Committee to Protect Journalists has spoken out against repression against journalists in Mexico.
The article caught my eye because Americans as well as Mexicans dismiss the violence in Mexico as an expected occurrence. Why is it that the murder of an elected in the United States causes such outrage and sadness, but the murder of an elected official a few short steps across a river does not concern most Americans? Especially when, arguably, much of the violence has occurred when drug cartels compete for access to highly profitable drug markets into the United States.
There is no doubt that the tragedy that occurred in Arizona deserves much media attention and should lead to valuable discussions in the United States about gun control, violence, and the derisiveness of our current state of politics. But this incident is not an isolated incident of violence in the world or in the United States. Perhaps it would be valuable to reflect on the violence that plagues many people’s lives on a more regular basis.
Nacha Cattan, Unlike Arizona shootings, violence against politicians rarely has Mexico mourning, Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 14, 2011.
Carlos Lauria and Mike O’Connor, Committee to Protect Journalists, Silence or Death in Mexico’s Press (Sept. 8, 2010).
Check out this news article about a newly filed class action. (link & text below)
Forestry firms sued over pay, conditions of Mexican workersAssociated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Three class-action lawsuits have been against forestry companies for allegedly taking unlawful advantage of Mexicans and Guatemalans who do seasonal work in the Southeast.
The lawsuits claim the workers, who are in the United States on temporary work visas, often make less than minimum wage, do not receive overtime pay and work upward of 70 hours a week planting trees.
“The workers are essentially being cheated in fairly dramatic ways and pretty systematically,” Mary Bauer, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Montgomery Advertiser in a story Wednesday.
The lawsuits, filed by the SPLC in federal court, list as defendants Eller & Sons Trees Inc. in Franklin, Ga., Idaho-based Alpha Services LLC and Arkansas-based Express Forestry. The companies, responding in court filings, have denied the accusations.
Larry Stine, an attorney representing Eller & Sons, said the claims are ludicrous.
Stine said the workers make at least $8.29 an hour planting trees, but they have complained of not being paid for the time they are traveling from where they stay to where they work.
Bauer said the lawsuits represent about 2,000 workers in a major Southern industry. They seek repayment of lost wages for the forestry workers. Bauer said the litigation may be expanded.
The particularly troubling thing to me is the crestfallen response by the activist who works with the Black minority in Mexico: “But we’ve learned to expect anything from this government, just anything.” How can democratic reforms be effective when the people’s expectations are so low?
In my own politics, I try not to impose my own cultural bias onto international subjects. However, reading that a Black American professor gets called “Memin Pinguin” by Mexicans does go to show that the charicature is probably a harmful stereotype. Reducing a learned elite to a mere cartoon is hardly an enligthened position. The Mexican government’s obligation is to not endorse harmful stereotypes, and should revoke the stamp.
But of course, we could always believe the word of the publisher, who stands to make a lot of money from the government-subsidized marketing of the comic. “It seems nice if Memin can travel all over the world, spreading good news,” de la Parra [the publisher] said, calling [Memin Pinguin] “so charming, so affectionate, so wonderful, generous and friendly.”
Do you think that is how Professor Vinson felt when he was called Memin Pinguin?