Alondra Alvarez Juarez
September 23, 2016
Scapegoating has been a timeless tool against minority groups around the world. Dominance over groups of people have been seen to facilitate the lives of the majority. Examples of this have been seen through the slavery of Africans, Jews and natives. Society portrays a distinct progression throughout history that distances us from the shackles of the past yet the chains of slavery have solely been upgraded to the metaphorical ball and chain scapegoating carries. When countries find themselves sinking they place these chains on minority groups to alleviate the burden. Mexicans have traditionally helped carry this burden for the U.S. The United States has undergone multiple dire events in history causing internal turmoil in the country and causing the need to point the fingers of blame at someone. For the most part, these fingers have historically exploited Hispanics. Hispanics have origins dating back to before the U.S became a sovereign country but despite the enormous amount of time they’ve been in the country they are still perceived as outsiders. Distinguishing them as such facilitates society’s ability to fault them for the country’s misfortune. Countries like the United States have scapegoated Hispanics in an attempt to alleviate dire economic and social issues in the country thus emphasizing race relations as a national diversion.
When confronted with economic turmoil, the United States has been known to turn to scapegoating Hispanic groups as a way to provide an illusion of a plan of reform. Initially, during Reagan’s years in office, one of his major priorities was to put an end to the country’s economic problems. Reagan passed legislation such as the Economic Tax Recovery Act, which lowered income tax rates, and implemented several budget cuts in an attempt to fix the economy but the Senate had other ideas. With an “81-18 approval…support for new legislation [revealed an] underlying motivation- a racist attempt to scapegoat Mexicans and other third world immigrants as responsible for the country’s soaring unemployment and as a drain on funds for social welfare” (“Scapegoating the Immigrant.”). This use of scapegoating make it seem like they have a plan to fix their economic issues by saying they’ll fix it by addressing the root of the problem, Hispanics. With a plan in sight people can sleep easier knowing they have identified the problem and have a plan of action. Also, most recently, Donald Trump has used the discrimination of African Americans and Mexicans to push himself ahead in the 2016 Presidential election. Trump has claimed that “[Mexico is] sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to [the U.S]. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists,” (Adam). Donald Trump is directly addressing the silenced thoughts and fears of America and justifying their concerns as legitimate. By doing so Trump is able to easily win the votes of racists, and uneducated Americans of low socioeconomic backgrounds since “immigrants pose the greatest threat to those of lower status- defined in terms of education, skill level, and income-because those of lower status fear competition for jobs, housing, schools, and social services” (D’Appollonia). Studies also show that countries with lower GDP have a higher resistance to immigration and feel an increase threat against immigrants whereas countries with higher GDP are more accepting of immigration. Thus showing the direct correlation between income and the various perceptions Americans have of immigrants.
Social disaster calls for unity of the country. Firstly, this idea was extremely prevalent during the second World War; when the city of Los Angeles experienced a big increase in Mexican immigrants who were allowed into the country to fill the jobs of citizens who had gone overseas to fight the war. The shift in workers helped prompt the idea that Mexican immigrants were stealing American jobs. This along with the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943 only furthered the racially charged tensions between Americans and Mexicans. During this time Pachucos or Zoot Suiters were largely discriminated against because of their long baggy suits which directly went against the rationing rates on cotton. The economic problems linked with Hispanics and the Pachuco’s rebellious inconsideration for the war rationing fueled people with anger. Soldiers and military personnel took their frustrations to the streets and began to beat and strip Pachucos of their suits, “Perhaps not more than half the victims were actually wearing zoot-suits.” Thus proving that the riots were racially motivated. Zoot Suiters provided American soldiers frustrated with war with an outlet to release their pent up anger; not only the soldiers anger but that of the American people too. Americans needing a victory and “the servicemen were…portrayed in local news publications as heroes fighting against what was referred to as a Mexican crime wave.” (Coroian). In this sense, Mexicans were forced to become the county’s punching bag.
Furthermore, after the infamous day of 9-11, people were very uneasy about the security of the country’s borders. The government took initiative to make new laws that would secure airline traveling and the country in general through things like Homeland Security and the Patriot Act. What isn’t talked about though is the increase concern with America’s southern border with Mexico. After 9-11 the U.S increased border restrictions, border patrol, and deportations. With increased concern of terrorist attacks, the extra attention on the border only shed an unnecessary, unflattering light on Mexicans. The people criticized “the Bush Administration and the U.S Congress [for failing to] provide the funds necessary to secure the borders against millions of illegal migrants flowing into the United States from Mexico” (Chavez). By turning the attention toward the Mexican migrants, Americans were given a bit of peace of mind with the belief they could control some aspect of their national security. This is seen through Arizona’s minutemen project where citizens took the law into their own hands and dealt with the illegal crossing of immigrants themselves. By arming themselves and setting up check stops people were able to come together to scapegoat the Latino community in a paranoid witch hunt for an answer to securing their borders.
Economic downturn and social disorder often calls for the unity of the country. In the U.S scapegoating has often been the tape and glue but this is only a short term solution to the country’s problems. The discrimination of minority groups such as Mexicans has constantly been used to deviate the real issues and problems toward a much more politically and socially vulnerable group of people. Scapegoating has been a timeless excuse so widely accepted by the American people that people no longer question the legitimacy of the claims of one stealing American jobs, corrupting the character of the country, or draining the country’s resources. Discrimination has deeply impacted people with ignorance and hate. Occupying the people with smaller unimportant problems all for the sake of maintaining the idea that ignorance is bliss.
McWilliams, Carey. “The Zoot-Suit Riots.” New Republic 108, no. 25 (June 21, 1943): 818. Points of View Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed September 20, 2016).
Chavez, Leo R. “The Minutemen Project Spectacle of Surveillance on the Arizona-Mexico Border.” In The Latino Threat Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation, 132-51. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008.
Chavez, Leo R. “The Latino Threat Narrative.” In The Latino Threat Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation T, 21-43. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008.
“Scapegoating the Immigrant.” The Guardian, 1982. Accessed September 20, 2016.
Coroian, George. “Zoot Suit Riots.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. February 22, 2016. Accessed September 21, 2016.
“American Experience: TV’s Most-watched History Series.” PBS. Accessed September 21, 2016.
Adam Gabbatt, “Donald Trump’s Tirade on Mexico’s ‘drugs and Rapists’ Outrages US Latinos,” The Guardian, June 16, 2015, , accessed September 22, 2016,
D’Appollonia, Ariane Chebel. “Newcomers, Old Threats, and Current Concerns.” In Frontiers of Fear, 19-48. Cornell University Press.