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Is the smoke detector working?

The real equality

Written by Ana Laura Magaloni

Ana Laura Magaloni speaking at a Senate hearing on nominating Supreme Court justices. She was one of three candidates for the most recent appointment. She lost.
Ana Laura Magaloni speaking at a Senate hearing on nominating Supreme Court justices. She was one of three candidates for the most recent appointment. She lost.
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Mexico is an unjust and unequal country. Classism, racism, and the many other forms of exclusion form a central part of our social architecture. We live in a centrally stratified society, with very little mobility and many differences in treatment and access to rights. This social order might’ve originated in the colonial era. Neither the independence, nor the revolution, and not even the democratic transition could break it apart. That explains, partly, the overwhelming electoral victory of Lopez Obrador in 2018.

In this regard the confrontation between the President and the anti-discrimination council is incomprehensible. This week the president threatened, in a heartbeat and unfaced, to disappear the council, because - with or without good reason, he considered that the council made a mistake when choosing the guests to an online panel. It seems like he changed his mind. Let us hope it’s true.

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The council is a very small institution, with a compact bureaucratic structure and a small cost. Civil organizations, groups and people who have been discriminated in the past have cherished the council’s work in the 17 years it has existed. Such social recognition of a government body in this country is very infrequent. The council has centered the topic of discrimination in the public sphere. It has also pushed for constitutional and legislative reforms, as well as lawsuits and cases up to the supreme court to protect an ample spectrum of groups and people who have been discriminated: The afro-mexican community, domestic workers, the LGBT community, and a very long list of etceteras.

The president is naive for thinking social stratification is just a matter of rich versus poor, and that, by polarizing the elite from the rest of the country, structural inequality is broken apart. It’s a very simplistic vision. Social stratification isn’t just about the existence of a small elite at the top which has historically retained more privileges than rights. The same hierarchical treatments is reproduced within every social group of this stratified order. In a poor urban neighborhood in Mexico, for instance, there are ranks or social hierarchies: there are those who act thinking they’re stronger and more powerful than others, imposing their will and whims. For example: domestic violence, or the many forms of discrimination that the homeless, and migrants are subjected to. Our social order is rather baroque, with many discriminatory twists and turns, and full of tales of injustice. Discrimination is not just a matter of money and power. Now well, if I’m certain of anything, is that the architecture and workings of all law enforcement and conflict resolution institutions reproduce and place the foundations for inequality. To advance the construction of a more inclusive and equal society, we not only need to reinforce the council, but also every other institutional framework capable of leveling the playing field of rights that has been historically abandoned. To leave behind a more equal society, the president would have to invest in resources and develop institutional capabilities in public defendants, public attorneys, civil courts, local courts, and all other conflict management and pacification institutions from the bottom, to the top. What is ending discrimination about: it’s that no matter the massive social and economic differences in society, that effective access to justice reduces the disparity of rights between all of us. To me, that would be the real transformation that the country needs. For the constitution to have the principle of equality and nondiscrimination is not enough. It’s also not enough for laws to avoid distinctions or unjustified differential treatment. The equality I’m talking about has to do with the possibility that everyone, no matter their skin tone, social origin, sexual preferences, or economic prowess, has the certainty that law protects us and obliges us equally.

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-Magaloni was a candidate for the Supreme Court, a researcher at the Center for Economic investigation and instruction, and one of the designers of the Mexico City state attorney office.

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