Racializing the Flu and Immigrants

“Media Matters for America” put up a youtube mashup of right-wing commentators’ racializing the swine flu (possible) epidemic (h/t Rosalind).

Once again, the right wing (Notice how white these excerpts are too) seems obsessed with creating racialized “others” for US folks to fear. This time it is Mexican immigrants, even though the mass media reports also indicate that it was white visitors to Mexico who apparently brought the flu across the border.

Viewing this video gives one a sense of what it must have been like to listen to the hostile and fear-mongering ravings against the Jews by Adolf Hitler’s “brownshirt” (paramilitary) and other demagogues in Nazi Germany in the 1920s-1930s. Is that what these commentators intend?


Jay Severin, the fiery right wing talk show host on Boston’s WTKK-FM radio station, was suspended yesterday after calling Mexican immigrants “criminaliens,” “primitives,” “leeches,” and exporters of “women with mustaches and VD,” among other incendiary comments. Heidi Raphael, a spokeswoman for the station, said Severin had been suspended indefinitely from his afternoon drive-time show. She declined to say which of his comments – made since an outbreak of swine flu was linked to Mexico in recent days – sparked the suspension. . . . Severin’s comments sparked deep concern among Mexicans and other Latinos living in the Boston area, prompting what Tobia described as a flood of complaints to station management in recent days.


  1. Rosalind

    The racialization of this strain of flu is reminiscent of the Chinese Americans living in Hawaii and California during the late 1800s that were blamed for spreading the bubonic plague. They were quarantined and Chinatown was even burned down. The following article links the swine flu to our factory farming practices. Again, big business interests over those of humanity are actually facilitating disease:


    Similarly, early Chinese Americans were treated as commodity where their living conditions were dictated by the ruling white elites. They were forced into deplorable housing, with little or no access to running water and electricity. Fighting disease became quite difficult under those conditions. They were merely utilized for their cheap labor.

    This new strain of flu is also the result of an appetite for cheap meat. But, the blame is being placed on our browner neighbors to the south.

  2. I think that’s exactly what the commentators intend. The swine flu got into the US by way of tourists coming back from Mexico – with the exception of Sec Chu, every case I’ve heard involved a Mexican vacation. By peddling ideas that belie the facts, what else could these folks intend? They can’t be that stupid, can they?
    And too, I find it interesting that privileged people doing privileged things came down with an illness usually thought of as pertaining to the underprivileged. I mean pig flu? Don’t get me wrong, I hope we can contain it and my prayers go out to the bereaved. But it seems kinda like poetic justice.

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