Swine flu, media often lead to stereotypes


A sucker punch to the stomach can knock the wind out of you.   

While buying lunch one day, I was asked, “Where are you from?” and I promptly responded that I was from Shawnee, Kan. The answer she wanted was clear when my answer did not suffice. She asked again, “No. I mean, where are you from?” I answered that I am Mexican-American and her immediate response was a punch to the gut.

She took two steps back, covered her mouth and simply said, “Oh! Swine flu!” Thrown off guard, I took my lunch and asked her to have a great day.

I have been treated like a second-class citizen before, but this was a first. I have always been able to maintain a sense of human dignity, but in this instance I felt like a plague-infected rat.

It reminded me of that dead animal in the park my mother always warned me not to touch. I was the infectious creature that did not deserve compassion.

Being of Mexican heritage does not make me more susceptible or likely to pass the “swine flu.” Without a cough or an appearance of illness, the reaction I received was an unwarranted irrational fear created by stereotypes.

The truth is, the swine flu has been existent for many years, and this specific strand did not originate in Mexico. Also, this strand of swine flu infected the U.S. decades before, reported by New Scientist magazine.

However, this is not the only stereotypical myth or irrational fear used to demonize immigrants – especially brown immigrants. Myths like “immigrants are a burden on social services,” “immigrants do not pay taxes” and “immigrants take jobs from hard-working Americans,” are statistically and scientifically disproven.

In two separate studies, both the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science concluded the average immigrant generates significantly more public revenue than they use. The Council of Economic Advisers concludes that “the long-run impact of immigration on public budgets is likely to be positive.”

Immigrants will give about $80,000 more in taxes than they receive from federal and local benefits. Additionally, according the 2005 Economic Report of the President, “more than half of all undocumented immigrants are believed to be working [and] contribute to the tax rolls but are ineligible for almost all Federal public assistance programs and most major Federal-state programs.”

Immigrants do not reap benefits they do not deserve; rather, they are being force to pay into a system many will never see a return on.

Secondly, the concept that immigrants hurt the economy and take jobs away from citizens can also be contradicted with recent research. In 2007, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers released a report based in review of literature and statistics.

It reported that “immigrants not only help fuel the Nation’s economic growth, but also have an overall positive effect on the American economy as a whole and on the income of native-born American workers.” This is true because immigrants do not compete with natives for jobs but compliment current citizens.

The increase in immigration was coupled with the increase in wages for U.S. workers. U.S. workers will receive cumulative wage gains of $30 billion per year. The concept that immigrants hurt the workforce is false. They compliment and assist the skilled workers of the U.S.

I have been treated as a second-class citizen, looked upon as an infectious beast, yet I could not be more proud to be Mexican-American.

Often Latinos and Chicanos are the brunt of xenophobic stereotypes, all of which can be disproven with evidence-based research. As an informed citizen with a sense of civic duty, I encourage you to not believe the myths of mainstream media and extreme nativists who would like you to believe the apocalypse will be caused by humans crossing borders.

– Bobby Gomez is a senior in elementary education. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.