Mexican Immigrants Portrayed as Multiplying “Rats”–White Official

The Tennessee report has discussed the comments of a Tennessee state representative thus:

Rep. Curry Todd remarked during a Fiscal Review Committee presentation this week that the idea of government-funded care for pregnant women [Mexican immigrants] who cannot prove they have United States government permission to be in this country struck him as not unlike inviting a rat infestation. The Collierville Republican made the comments after asking CoverKids program managers whether the state checks the citizenship status of care recipients. . . . [They] responded that CoverKids doesn’t provide medical coverage to pregnant women, but it does offer “unborn coverage …. ”Rep. Todd responded: “Well, they can go out there like rats and multiply, then, I guess.”

These comments have a strong resonance with aspects of old European and US white-racist framing of “undesirable” peoples seen as not white, and as vermin. There is the famous and viciously anti-Semitic film, The Eternal Jew (1940, Der ewige Jude in German), which was made under the control of Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels and directed by Fritz Hippler.

One summary of the film notes that early shots in it show

…a pack of rats emerging from a sewer, juxtaposed with a crowd of Jews in a bustling street of a Polish city. . . . The narration says that, as rats are the vermin of the animal kingdom, Jews are the vermin of the human race and similarly spread disease and corruption. Unlike rats, however, the narrator continues, Jews have the uncanny ability to change their appearance and blend into their “human hosts.”

Vicious vermin imagery has also been applied to African Americans and numerous other Americans of color. Now immigrants of color are being aggressively targeted nationally in much the same way. Have some of our white legislators kept such racist imagery and language deeply in their racist toolkits, to apply as needed to Americans of color they are hostile to when considering government aid programs? Would this legislator have said this so assertively about poor white folks in his state?


  1. Two Beers an Football

    Here we go again shooting down another race for the sake of a country that was built off immigrants. What if the Indians would of have had the same opportunity to deport the whites back to Europe? Patriotism seems to have no humanity yet forgetting the import ants (whites) of the responsibility of helping and doing for others of less fortune. We glamorize this country to the world as a land of freedom and opportunity, why deny the rest of the human race the chance to do the same. Someone please give me a legitimate explanation without the politics…… please!!!!!!

  2. Imagine

    Senator Curry Todd should stop and rethink what he said. Viewing pregnant Mexican women as “rats”. How is he going to deny a pregnant women who is carrying a child (a human being) in their stomach. Hospitals should not deny anyone no matter what their race or nationality…. America should become a great nation, a place where anyone is welcomed. Instead it’s built up upon racism, hate, and greed. Why make it possible for a pregnant women to die just because she is in America. America should deliver any pregnant women for her cause and for the safety of her child. I disagree with this Senator and agree with the women representing the fiscal community.

  3. Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

    I’m not sure how deep that racist comment was. It seemed like he whipped it from his back pocket. If you’re talking about a program called CoverKids, and (I assume) you’re “pro-life,” and the previous administration said the immigration status of pregnant women cannot be checked – how dumb do you have to be to keep asking about the mother receiving care. It’s like he kept asking just so he could spit out that rats comment. I guess he’d rather these women have abortions?

    The first thing that came to mind for me was all the anti-Tutsi propaganda in Rwanda comparing them to cockroaches. You can’t blame a person for stepping on a cockroaching, and you can’t blame a person for shooting a rat. That’s what bothers me about that rhetoric. There’s already been record or near record incidents of hate crimes against Latinos. This type of rhetoric creates an atmosphere where it’s okay to kill Latinos. This guy is reprehensible.

  4. Joe

    Blaque Swan, very key point, thanks. This dehumanizing type language of rats and cockroaches is common in human history and usually aimed at making the targeted group seem OK for attacks and destruction. That was certainly true in Hitler’s Germany and in Rwanda, but also in much of US history. Dehumanizing seems necessary to rationalize attacks on a group in many minds.

    • Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

      Thanks Joe. I’ve been reading articles from various academic journals lately. It’s sharpened my understanding of the way all this works.

  5. Seattle in Texas

    I think Rep. Curry Todd is nothing more than a product of this society and a reflection of that long history that mirrors very real Nazism. As if those components of what makes “Nazism’ what it is are not, nor never have been, part of U.S. society? George Washington referred to American Indians as some sort of insects–I can’t remember exactly at the moment. This nation has practiced eugenics, done social experiments on devalued groups, and of course is responsible for it’s own fair share of genocide, etc. Not to mention segregation and differential distributions of wealth and privilege. And in current times???

    It’s disturbing that someone as such could even have the opportunity even be elected into a high political position in the first place. It seems that anybody who is in favor of violating human rights should be not be eligible to sit in the higher positions. I appreciate the points above on how this nation brags about being the “land of the free” and presents itself to the world in a way that says it is welcoming of anybody, etc., yet tells a completely different story within. It would be nice if this nation did live up to what it says and did give equal value, care, and treatment, to all humans, regardless of their race/ethnicity and nationality…. And I do wonder how white society and folks, such as Todd, would feel if another country refused to provide health care and deliver babies of white woman just because they are “white” and of American nationality…even if illegal in the other country….

    But on Nazism in U.S. society, here’s an article that I thought I would leave to compliment the post for anybody interested if it hasn’t already been seen:

    • ThirtyNine4Ever

      I think if a white woman in her early 20s was refused care in a developed nation with a non-white majority that we are allies with such as Japan because say her student visa was expired it would depend on her looks, economic background and how slow a news day it was for the reaction. Probably ranging from mild outrage to 24/7 coverage if things were slow and she was attractive and at least middle class(see Chandra Levy’s new coverage right up until 9/11).

      • Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

        Let’s say the woman is someone like Natalie Holloway.

        There would be an international incident, and our military in that area would be put on alert. Japan had better hope she doesn’t die.

        Notwithstanding the charges of rape against many military men in stationed in Japan. Or could it be North Korea? I can’t remember.


  6. Dina Gurevich

    I think the comment by Senator Curry Todd was inexcusable. To discriminate against anyone and call them “rats” is ignorant. Degrading people and calling them by an animal name is cruel. Mexicans are people, just like everyone else. His words are hurtful and rude. The US and Mexico share a long border and this comment not only is discrimination, but also can have further political consequences. Politicians may take note of this and perhaps change their policy towards the US. Even though Mexicans are coming over in large quantities, and they may be multiplying, there are different word choices that could be used. How would one go about free speech, do you guys think, without hurting other people? Could it be that racism is so deeply embedded into our culture that nothing will ever stop it?

    • bigbenuk

      Hey Dina, Bryant from South Wales. This was big news here as well. The news recently seeped across the Atlantic ocean. It’s funny because when we think of calling people rats, it resembles the plague, and that connotation is incorrect. It is politically insensitive and geared toward ignorant people. Anyone who tolerates that is insensitive. All name calling of rats is, and as you say, rude and demeaning. I’m glad someone sees eye to eye with me.

  7. Herschel

    It is shameful that a US senator in today’s day and age can compare immigrants to a group of rats multiplying. Bringing up this imagery in an offhand way, this senator has crossed a line. Just because he views illegal immigration as a problem he should not be allowed to be senator after this comment. Latino people should take a stand against this kind of behavior, because this is just too overt of an instance of racism to be allowed in the US government.


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