Extreme Racist Stereotyping on BBC Show: Mocking Mexicans

The hosts (h/t Carson) on the very popular and often rowdy BBC show “The Gear” let loose with one of the more racist-stereotyped contemporary tirades against Mexicans that I have ever seen. See here from youtube.
(Source: Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VH5omPNwlc&feature=player_embedded)

Notice that these whites cover many of the standard racist images constructed in the old white racial frame over the long history of the oppression and domination of Mexicans by whites in North America. Mexicans are stereotyped and mocked as lazy, feckless, liking certain “odd” foods like refried stuff (and the British should talk about odd foods?), somehow favoring blankets and sleeping, being linked somehow to cactuses, being incompetent in regard to making good products. Somehow waking up Mexican is also thought to be bad, and funny. Presumably their defense, the standard one these days among whites, is that they were “just joking.” Joking or not, repeating these racist frames, with emotions and host and audience laughter (Loud laughter, notice), only reinforces it in the brains of all those in earshot.

Notice too here the other side of the white racist framing, the great virtue of whites and whiteness, and white made (German, Italian) stuff. Once again, whites are the norm, but remain unstated and the unreflective standard.

I guess they have not gotten the message that all people are due respect and that the old extremist racism is not only “bad form,” but bad for a little island of whites in economic trouble now set in a rising political-economic world that is overwhelmingly not white–and not fond of whites’ historical and contemporary racial oppression in any of its nefarious forms.

There is an effort to protest The Gear’s racism using these addresses:

By email/telephone
tgweb@bbc.co.uk or call 020 8433 3598

Or mail:
TopGear.com, Second Floor A, Energy Centre, Media Centre, 201 Wood Lane, W12 7TQ


  1. Maria

    I wonder if this kind of stereotyping against a people is what makes us work so hard to prove we are not lazy, stupid, or inferior. It is perfect for those in power: claim Mexicans are all these things and then take advantage of us because we want to show we aren’t what people think we are. When my dad worked in the fields he said some owners would force them to use short hoes instead of long ones. The owners told them they wanted to see “grapas” or staples out there. In other words, the owners wanted to see them bent over like staples all day. And yet, we are seen as lazy…

  2. Hillbilly

    Mexico is asking for an apology: http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/02/02/mexico.top.gear/index.html?hpt=C2.

    The article mentions that Top Gear was named the most popular “factual” program at UK’s recent NTA awards. I wonder if they can rescind that for fraud! The depth of insults and the persistent drive to make them public on the show warrants more than a public apology. The show might be know for it’s “taste-pushing” humor, but the only taste it represents via the video clip is one of Eurocentrism and white supremacy. A taste which was produced and distributed on a global media outlet for all to absorb…

  3. Seattle in Texas

    I didn’t get to see the video…but can only imagine…. I would just like to see those who make those jokes and mockery go trade shoes with the Mexican workers who do manual labor for the same pay and under the hazardous working conditions for just one month.

    On the foods, they’ve got to be out of their minds and/or jealous. I’m not sure where the deep fried thing comes in—maybe from the U.S. fast food industry (?). I know Americans have added deep frying to some foods in the U.S. that are believed to be authentically Mexican by Americans…and folks from various parts of Mexico have not ever heard of many of the foods in the U.S. that are believed by Americans to be truly authentic foods in Mexico (Mexico, as if there is no cultural or ethnic diversity, or variation in foods and just general diets, etc., in Mexico among the Mexican people)…. I’m not sure what folks in England eat, but I have heard of “Blood Pudding” (apparently really blood—coagulated blood or something to that effect), which just even thinking about can bring me to the verge of vomiting quite literally. 🙁

  4. C.N. Le

    I just emailed the people at BBC and Top Gear:

    I am emailing to express my shock and outrage regarding Top Gear’s recent episode in which the three hosts used blatant racial stereotypes to ridicule Mexican cars, people, and society. I have been a Top Gear fan for many years and I know that part of the show’s appeal is its sense of irreverence. I have laughed in the past about similar examples of “off-color humor,” most recently about the hosts wearing Muslim burqas, finding a baby Stig instead of Jesus in a manger in Jerusalem, and the appearance of a guest from Liverpool later implying that he stole wheels from a Porsche.

    But this particular example about Mexicans clearly crossed the line from good-natured joking to outright racial prejudice.

    I know BBC and Top Gear’s usual refrain will be “It wasn’t meant to be offensive, it was just a joke.” Unfortunately, whatever the intent, the result was that it definitely came across as racist and offensive. The problem with the “it was just a joke” argument is that it ignores the larger historical and cultural context of fundamental institutional power differences inherent in situations in which Whites denigrate minorities.

    Each time an incident like this happens, it reinforces the notion of White supremacy — that Whites can say and do whatever they want toward anybody at any time without facing any negative repercussions. Ultimately, suggesting to us that we should just “lighten up” or “get over it” only serves as another clear illustration of White privilege — of those with in an institutionally superior position telling those below them what to do and what they should think.

    Unfortunately, I doubt that the BBC or Top Gear will apologize so unfortunately they will lose me as a long-time viewer. But this kind of thing cannot be ignored.

  5. cordoba blue

    This is not concerning Mexican mocking, but it does concern racism against African Americans. Didn’t know where else to place it. This commercial with a fake Obama was played recently in China promoting KFC.
    Sadly it seems that other races other than whites seem to think racism against blacks is perfectly acceptable. The image of a black person eating KFC chicken has long been a racist stereotype in America. So the Chinese feel free to use it in a commercial with our President as the dupe no less.
    I tutor Asian-Americans in English as a Second Language. They do not feel empathetic toward blacks at all. From the comments they have made to discomfort when a black person walks by (once I was tutoring a young Asian lady and 3 black men walked by and she instinctively pulled back in her chair and looked scared!) I am concluding they have negative views of black people being dangerous and/or lazy. One man from Cambodia said that Asians (in his own country) habitually mocked President Obama when he was running for president. They thought it was humorous that a black man should have the idea of running for president of a powerful nation.
    Asian-Americans are a tight-knit group in America. They do business with each other, socialize constantly, speak their native language on their cell phones, celebrate Asian holidays together..they don’t want to socialize with African-Americans at all. They feel that they have sacrificed enough themselves and they are not particularly willing to acknowledge any other race’s sacrifices to gain full American privileges. Any thoughts on this because I think sometimes it’s assumed that all minorities groups are in accordance. They are not from what I’ve observed.

    • Lxy

      Last time I checked, KFC is an American corporation. And ultimately, it is responsible for the content of its commercials.

      Indeed, the tentacles of America’s media empire unfortunately are global in scope and serve to shape, mold, and manipulate public opinion around the world via commericials, Hollywood, or embedded “journalism” outlets from CNN to Fox News.

      Secondly, your characterization of Asian Americans not only reiterates the model minority stereotype but tacitly displays an American nativist/nationalist attitude about Asian Americans as too insular, unasssimilable, etc.

      You are right, however, that minorities in the USA are not all in accordance but perhaps not in the political manner that you meant.

      After all, there have been thinly disguised racist attacks against Asian Americans from Philadelpia to the SF Bay Area, many of which have been committed by African Americans.

      Yet very few people will call these attacks examples of Anti-Asian racism or hate crimes.

      American racism is not a Black-White issue, and it increasingly is informed by American nationalist and nativist xenophobia.

      One only has to see the rising tide of Islamophobia, Latinophobia, and now Sinophobia that Americans of many colors have embraced.

    • Johnson

      I have seen many comments (on several websites)about the KFC commercial. Has anyone else noticed that it is advertising a fish sandwich and not chicken? Also, they appear to be playing off Obama’s “change” slogan. That KFC changes their menu and sells a fish sandwich. There is a lot of racism out there, but not everywhere. Lighten up.

      • Seattle in Texas

        True. But that fish sandwich also comes down and smashes the President. It’s still a KFC commercial and “chicken” is in the name of the fast food chain. It’s as if they are trying to distant themselves from the “chicken” part of their name by using a black man to do so and smashing him with a fish sandwich–then at the end, the president is back eating a fish sandwich as if that is a new experience for him. In the beginning of the video the president is speaking about change for everybody (including taste) and the sandwich smashes him. Then at the end he’s eating the sandwich and it again says change–as if he’s converted from eating chicken to fish…. On top of it, well, let me not go into SES, status, and prestige. But it plays into racist stereotypes of black people in general regarding their lack of capacity to serve as the president. I mean, if it’s not racist, why not use Hillary Clinton, “W”, or some other white person who holds/held high office in place of President Obama for that commericial?

        • Johnson

          To the last question on your post: Maybe because he is the current President when the commercial was made and not Hilary or Bush. (I don’t know if it was produced prior to the election) Your question may be better phrased as: Why they used our president and not the Chinese one? And dropping a fish sandwich on the President’s head. Is it racism or a strange attempt at humor? (sigh)I don’t know . It is my opinion that we are puting way too much effort into finding racism in every little action out there. If something rubs me the wrong way I mark it in my mind and personally protest it with my lack of partonage. Although, I have found over the years that being too sensitive will really restrict what I purchase. How far should I take this. Do I continue to protest Shell Oil, Siemens Corp, Cracker Barrel, et al… and now KFC. Because I really like the KFC secret recipe. (You’ll have to teach me what SES represents above).

  6. Joe

    Cordoba blue, many people of color also buy into and operate out of the white racial frame, which is now taught everywhere, including in the media overseas. Central to that frame are negative images of Black Americans. Asian Americans, as Rosalind Chou and I show in our book, The Myth of the Model Minority, often buy into the antiblack imagery to “fit in” in a white-racist society. We need to aggressively teach about US racist history and about that white racist framing pressed on all of us. Also see this book, it might help, esp. last chapter: http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2009/07/20/the-white-racial-frame-a-reprise

  7. cordoba blue

    I’m sorry Joe, but that’s too simplistic of an explanation for me. I’m saying this with due respect for all the tremendous work you’ve done on racism and its terrible repercussions.
    It’s like the “devil made me do it” psychology. You ask an 8 year old, who steals a candy bar, why he did it and he says, “the devil made me..it wasn’t my fault..I’m not responsible”. So Asians are biased against people of African descent because of White Racism? We brain-washed them? The entire continent of Asia?
    The fact is that racism or bias against an entire ethnic group has existed for thousands and thousands of years based on people’s skin color, eye formation, nose formation, and even height. Asians tend to feel comfortable with other Asians because they share similar experiences and history. It’s not because they’ve been brain-washed by white caucasians.This is wrong and cruel, but your explanation pushed on the shoulders of white caucasians is vastly over simplifying.
    I do agree that negative images of people of African descent in general are rampant in the media. However, you can’t assign blame for all racism on the planet to the white man. If, for example, all white men were eliminated from the planet, do you really believe in your heart that all racism would end? I think we can all agree it would certainly not. Man is not so easily analyzed. Or should I say the hearts of men.
    It does make it easier to study racism from a strictly “white racial frame” however. Because if you include all the various forms of racism also rampant across the planet, you’d have a huge amount of research to do. It makes it convenient, and I don’t mean this in a rude manner, to take the white caucasian and study racism from that point of view. But truthfully, many minority groups in America are pretty much loyal to their own group..and it’s not because of being sold some bill of goods by white people.
    Indian friends of mine, from the country India, also are very intent on keeping alive Indian traditions and they also do not feel close to African Americans. One Indian friend said she was putting her child in another school because she wanted her with “more children from her own neighborhood”. Translation: upper middle class Indians and white people. This is not white flight, it’s Indian flight. And there’s also Asian flight for that matter.
    A great deal of what you term racism can be translated into status based on income and education. Many American minority groups perceive African Americans as not very well educated.
    I guess my whole point is, in a thumb sketch, that all the minority groups in America are not on the same page. And it’s not, in my opinion anyway, because of anything white people did or did not do. They are free to formulate their own opinions and they have chosen to stay “with their own kind”. I don’t know how much of this is truly fixable. Some of these opinions are truly based on irrational beliefs, but much is based on income, education, and wanting to stay within their own culture.

  8. Joe

    Cordoba, I see your points. clearly it is complex, but whites, esp elites, created the white racial frame in the 1600s , and invented almost all antiblack images and the language that goes with that– white, black, the N-word, the S-word, almost all US racist epithets. Amost All were created by self defined whites. Take a look at our book, The Myth of the Model Minority, and you will see how being in a white-racist society pressures/ forces people of color to conform to a significant degree to that deep white racial frame. Of course, they get racial ideas elsewhere, but the antiblack stuff mostly comes from the way that old white racial framing of blacks is circulated here and globally. That does not take them off the hook for buying into racist views, of course, but it does explain the source ultimately of antiblack stuff, and also the US white-dominated pressures to conform to the WRF. And, as for discrimination, certainly Asian Americans face lots of racial discrimination, which we show pretty well, too, in the Myth of the Model Minority. (And whites, esp elites, are mostly responsible for the anti-Asian subframe of the white racial frame.) Take a look at the data in the two books I mentioned and I think you will see why I argue this stuff from data.

    Never underestimate, too, just how powerful white corporate and political elites have been in the globalization of racist, classist, and heterosexist ideas. The US media are as imperialistic as any direct US intervention. People everywhere watch Gone with the Wind every minute of every day, and think that is the way blacks and whites are, and what our racial history is. Etc…..etc….. millions of views of US media daily.

  9. cordoba blue

    Thanks for the insights Joe. I’ll have to read your book now. I’m very intrigued. The problem with the white racial frame is that African Americans practically have to be perfect to pass this unspoken test other ethnic groups in America demand from them. And no ethnic group, or individual, should be held to such an impossible standard.
    Plus, for sure, if Gone With the Wind were your frame of reference…frightening really. I’ve often thought that the “romanticism” of the Old South meme really should just..disappear off the planet. It was a very dark time in American history and nothing to be celebrated. People living in chains and screaming while the white people in the “big house” wined and dined themselves. Nothing remotely beautiful about this image.
    At any rate, will read your book. Thanks again.


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