I’ve had to think long and hard about this post. First off, I just need to mention that this is so late in coming because: 1. I didn’t have my blog when the shit hit the fan; 2. I wasn’t aware of the exact nature of the comments (and honestly, didn’t bother to look into it); and 3. I’ve got to get my two cents in.
I am against any form of discrimination and stereotypification. It is ugly, hurtful and does not go with my character nor my sense of what is correct. But I also did say I was going to talk about this two posts ago, so here I am.
In early 2011, the presenters of the BBC car show, Top Gear (James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson), were commenting on the release of the Mastretta MXT, the first sports car that was designed and built in Mexico. What started as a casual chat between friends on a couch turned into a conversation that included phrases like “they can’t get food right because it looks like vomit” (May), “imagine waking up and knowing you’re Mexican!” (Hammond) and “that’s alright (in response to the previous statement) because all you have to do is roll over and go back to sleep again” (Clarkson).
I remember once someone telling me that she never repeats the bad things someone has done to her because it is reliving the experience and that in order to move on, one needs to leave it behind. But I included the comments because I knew that the above would put the next bit in context.
May, Hammond and Clarkson have apologized to the Mexican government, via their sites or media. Clarkson, however, said that he was sorry about the comments and that Mexico didn’t “have a sense of humour”.
That really struck me. After living in Mexico for 16 years, I can safely say that Mexicans have a very rich sense of humor. But something else also struck me: they get noticeably testy when stereotypes with reference to them are involved.
I am only one of a handful of people who can say this but being a foreign woman who had lived in Mexico City for 10.5 years of her life, there was not one day that had gone by in that city that I wasn’t made aware of my ethnicity (or very poor judgement thereof). Most were random people I didn’t even know shouting at me in the streets “Chinita!” (China Girl). My parents are Japanese and I was born in San Francisco, CA. I had people ask me if I could see like they do or if I see things in a sort of Cinemascope-like long vertical line or if I could actually see because my eyes are so small.
All the comments above are ignorant but like my peeps said, “Si te choca, te checas” (If it pisses you off, check yourself). Just as May, Hammond and Clarkson had to reflect (if only briefly) on what they said so that in the future, they are more careful, I would suggest those who are angry at the Top Gear comments could do with a revision of their own language. Perhaps look at if they say “inditos” (a word poorly referring to the indigenous population, including Aztecs and Mayans) or refer to a person walking behind someone else in a submissive fashion as “japonesita” (little Japanese girl).
I defend Mexico, its culture, its wonderful food and all the caring friends I have made.
I do not defend ignorance, regardless of what the packaging may look like.
NOTE: One of the curious things about the incident is that Daniel Mastretta, company president of the Mastretta, said that because there was nothing specifically said against the car’s performance in the Top Gear episode, many have been eager to purchase one and one of the first places where it would be sold internationally was in Great Britain.