I’m tired of hearing that Latinos and Latinas are the “hardest workers” because of some biological gene or cultural trait. Historically agricultural employers attributed Latino worker preference for farm labor, not because of economic necessity, but because they were genetically “built lower to the ground,” it was supposedly “easier for them to stoop.” More common are cultural explanations for the hard work ethic. It reminds me of the “cultural racism” frame discussed in Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s book Racism without Racists, which relies on stereotypical arguments about the low social standing of Mexicans due to their “culture of poverty.” A common statement is that “Mexicans work very hard on the job but they do not put much emphasis on education.” Even President George W. Bush commended the hard work and sacrifice of Latino workers. In 2005 Mexican President Vicente Fox made a controversial statement by claiming that Mexicans were more than willing to do any work compared to blacks who refused any type of work. The problem with these statements is they pit workers against each other and fail to analyze the structural factors that force any worker but especially undocumented migrants to work harder and harder to feed their family. One must also examine the economic situation of a migrant’s homeland to understand why they started working as a child instead of going to school.
Filed under: Latino workers