The question most asked of me by people in the U.S. is this—”Aren’t you scared to live in Mexico?” I am baffled by this question. At root, I think I doubt the motive of the question. I wonder if there is another question that they’d actually like to ask but don’t dare. I speculate if what people crave to ask is “Isn’t everyone in Mexico a criminal, because after all poverty floods the country?” Or maybe they are thinking of the evening news and the latest Netflix series that tells the stories of the drug trade and cartel life in Mexico and want to demand “Aren’t the cartels everywhere?” Or perhaps they are thinking of the Mexican elite and long to say, “The wealthy live behind electric fences and security guards, are you sure you should be there?” Or possibly they really are concerned about sanitation and truly want to pose the question, “What can you eat without getting sick?” A narrow and limited view forms each of these questions. At play also is an ethnocentric perspective and perhaps a false presumption that life in the U.S. is safe.
To be fair, life is safest in every country in the world for those who can buy their safety and for those whom society seeks to protect.
We need to be honest and recognize that society does not seek to protect us all equally. And, we might assert that money cannot buy happiness, but with certainty it can buy a place to be safe (even if we might be miserable).
As a woman, I face a risk everyday regarding violence. As a lesbian woman, I am sometimes even more exposed to society’s hostilities in multiple forms. However, I am white and this gives me an invisible shield that I am often unaware exists. I also have a decent amount of money. I don’t live my life in pieces, though, nor do any of us. So, I do not actually experience a moment only when I am a woman without the other qualifiers of my life. Every moment is an intersection and depending on the situation the matrix gets formed anew.
In the U.S., I could never afford to live in a gated community or purchase a house in most of the major U.S. cities. And as much as I might want, I can’t afford to eat in socially responsible restaurants all the time. I can, however, walk into any public establishment and be accepted and know I belong to the point that no one looks twice when I use the public restroom. I know explicitly that the sign “Restrooms for customers only” does not apply to me. In this same breath, though, depending on how I am dressed, I can experience visual assault if a customer perceives me to be using the wrong restroom.
If I want to understand violence, I need to understand what this means for me and the privilege I have that frequently protects me from that violence. I then must turn and recognize from where the privilege comes and how it gets sustained. Then, I can move on to address the larger questions of systemic violence.
The question, “Aren’t you scared to live in Mexico?,” neglects this complex experience and reduces Mexico to a unidimensional reality while also presuming, perhaps, that everyone in the U.S. experiences the same level of safety as the speaker of the question.
I think there might be folks who really want me to address the violence of Mexico or for me to write about my own level of daily comfort. I can certainly do this. Though I won’t without also recognizing the multifariousness of the U.S., Mexico and the dynamic relationship between the two that creates situations in which we must live.