The article this Letter to the Editor addresses can be read here:
It was originally titled “Prof connects 2008 financial crisis to white supremacy in new book”
In the article, published January 14, initially titled “Professor connects 2008 financial crisis to white supremacy in new book” it asserted that North Americans in Ecuador “project” white supremacy onto Cuenca, because it reminds them of the 1950s. I feel the article mischaracterizes the interview about my book and takes my comments out of context.
White supremacy is a social structure, not an individual disposition. I feel the story leaves the reader with the impression that my participants were racists. On the contrary, most of my participants expressed anti-racist and egalitarian ideals. To focus the article on white supremacy distorts the experiences of the participants and the focus of my research.
My research participants are a diverse group of people from different parts of the United States and Canada. Most were of retirement age, but some were also younger. They moved for a variety of different reasons. But the majority of those I spoke with said they could not afford to retire in the United States. They relocated not because they are poor, but because they felt they had few other choices.
Their economic migration — so different yet so similar to the labour migration of Latin Americans to the US and Canada — intersects the historic inequalities of Ecuador. Urban poverty and informal vending in places like Cuenca, where I conducted my research, clashes with the new tourism potential of historic urban landscapes. The accompanying gentrification is a boon to some, but creates new inequalities that North American migrants in Ecuador both contribute to, and try to mitigate.
These complex and competing inequalities merit our attention, and the lives of people caught up in them warrant more respect than a decontextualized reference to white supremacy.
Matthew Hayes, St. Thomas University sociology professor, author of Gringolandia