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What’s Wrong With Being Part of Mexico’s Indigenous Population?

On Monday, my classmates and I went to a kindergarten to practice and help the teachers in charge. As it was truly one of the best experiences of my life, I still have a bittersweet taste from that visit after what two of my classmates witnessed.

The scenario was like this: there were approximately four or five kids per table, and in one of them, my classmates heard a girl (a literal four-year-old girl) say “she’s ugly because she’s brown”. The girl who had randomly dropped that comment had blue eyes and was noticeably whiter than her other classmates, while the girl receiving those mean words had dark skin and obvious native features.

The native girl, according to our observations, showed signs of being a victim of bullying, as she barely spoke and was incredibly quiet, as if she was scared. Imagine growing up, being just a kid and not knowing much about the world yet, but already being mocked over something you can’t control. Imagine not seeing anything wrong with your skin or your features but being called ugly because of some absurd ideology of white superiorness over every race, instilled by the other races themselves.

She’s ugly… because she’s brown. 

I was incredibly surprised and wondered where the bully learned to be racist at such a young age, or more specifically… who taught her?

A study by Harvard researcher Mahzarin Banaji proves that children who grow up in a racist environment will most likely accept that ideology as young as three years old. Why? Children are like sponges.

I witnessed this scenario at a public kindergarten in a northern city of Mexico, within a neighborhood that, to be completely honest, wasn’t particularly privileged. What’s even more curious is that Mexico has an indigenous population of approximately 14.8 million, making it one of the countries with the largest indigenous population. Yet, even if most people recognize the presence of indigenous blood in their DNA, they still drop random “jokes” about skin color, features, clothing and accent, as if all those weren’t part of their own culture- as if indigenous people weren’t the original habitants of the land.

The thing is that this constant discrimination doesn’t end there. According to a study by Pedro Crespo in 2007, due to the lack of opportunities and resources, indigenous people show a big disadvantage compared to the rest of the population when it comes to their education, as their scores were significantly lower. 72% of the indigenous people in Mexico live in extreme poverty. A survey made by the prestigious Mexican University UNAM showed that the biggest problem of being part of an indigenous group is the discrimination the people face because of it, according to the 43.2% of the surveyed. 72.2% think that there’s still racism in Mexico.

My question stands: what’s wrong with being indigenous? Why are they treated as if they were somehow inferior?

Mexico’s society still has a long way to go to quit their denigrating stereotypes and the government still is inapt to give indigenous’ population the education and resources they deserve.

There’s nothing wrong with being indigenous. There’s nothing wrong with the color of someone’s skin, their distinctive features, their accent or clothing, the only thing that’s wrong here is racism.

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