This is an interesting story for thinking about “who makes the news?” and how (as some French marxist put it) real problems are engaged in imaginary ways. It is about a sorority-party where everyone dressed up as “mexicans” and at some point this photo was taken, eventually finding its way around campus and on the internet.
This media response seems to shut down not only the idea that mexicans are lazy substance-abusers (let’s affirm this), but also the class-taint of being associated with certain kinds of work or being in a position to beg for work. The majority of the article is about shock, offense and renunciation – tropes of sensationalistic journalism – but what could be wrong with that when the subject is so clear? Many people pipe up, as it were, about how clear it is to them that the girls are referring to student drug culture in contrast to the precarity and menial nature of the work immigrants. The racist element doesn’t go away seen this way, but demands a larger set of relations to make sense of it while also recognizing the otherwise apologetically racist “the kernal of truth” in a non-racist, non-classist way.
I’m reminded of The Pogues’ great song about railroad builders in the 19th Century “Navigator”, a population that included many Irish and otherwise migrant workers. Shane MacGowan sings “they never drank water, but whiskey by pints, and the shanty-towns rang with their songs and their fights”. Don’t remember him getting called out as racist or classist, but that’s because the whole song is about how shitty their lives were made by “the bold entrepreneurs”.
I have no illusions that these girls meant something critical of the drug-war or the precarious situation of life as an immigrant worker, but it still seems “there”. That’s because student drug-culture IS tied to the drug-war across ALL of North America is tied to NAFTA and the re-organization of work across the continent, which is also tied to the class-aspirations I’m sure many of these girls have as members of a sorority at a “good” State university. Only in the end do we hear about any of these connections when Ariel Coronel mentions the drug-war. However, she figuratively throws her arms up in the air with “this is wrong on so many levels” right before the article ends. Sometimes the exposure of exploitation and sterotyped character-flaws causes a bit of schadenfreude in people, which should be negated to some extent, but I think being critical of these displays requires that we interrogate rather than shutter them.