Growing up in a rural state I was exposed to very little diversity. On top of that, I went to a Catholic high school so my early young adult years were about as homogenous as you could get without being Japanese and living in Japan.
During this past election cycle, I heard a lot talk from my older family members about how “we need to do something about all these illegal Mexicans in our country.” It was a familiar gripe I’ve heard many times in the past while growing up. This argument whether it was explicit or implicit carried the connotation that “these people are lazy, stupid and worse…criminals!” I’m not going to argue the ridiculousness of this mentality. Anyone who has spent time in Mexico will witness how the average Mexican’s productivity output puts robots to shame.
I used to believe that this was distinctly an American bias, a long-standing prejudice ingrained only in our culture. I was so wrong! After a divorce and needing a change, I decided to create an online, location independent business. I spent a little over a year traveling to different countries while working on my business. What I discovered about cultural prejudice amazed me.
For instance, while living in Mexico for several months, I rented a nice apartment in a nice area of a resort city. The lovely older senora I rented from constantly cautioned me about the local laborers…those Guatemalans! Why did I need to be careful of the Guatemalans? Because…they’re lazy, stupid and worse…criminals! She was convinced that if they saw me running around the neighborhood alone, they would try and rob me. And she was no outlier, I heard similar tales of caution from other Mexicans about those thieving Guatemalans. In Costa Rica…I was told to be wary of those immoral Nicaraguans.
Flash forward six months later, I’m in Bangkok, Thailand…I start to hear the same warnings. Only this time, it’s the ignorant Burmese laborers I need to be worried about. In the news you rarely hear about Thai nationals committing crimes, it’s all about the illegal refugees from Myanmar who are taking jobs and contributing to the downfall of ‘The Land of Smiles.’ Those Burmese, I’m told by my well-meaning Thai friends…they’re lazy, stupid and worse…criminals!
So this is what I learned about culture from traveling around the world: we all have our Mexicans (including the Mexicans).