On Monday morning, my staff and I received the following petition from a number of individuals, and it is my desire to let their voice be heard:
I just signed the following petition addressed to: Daily Lobo.
Tell the Daily Lobo to Drop the “I-Word.” According to the Drop the I Word (sic) campaign, “people may be out of status for many reasons, but that doesn’t make them ‘illegal.’ No one should adopt dehumanizing terms that are racially charged, legally innacurate (sic) or deny people due process.”
We’re calling for an apology from the editors of the Daily Lobo for using the “i-word” in the caption of the photo on the Daily Lobo’s cover on Friday, September 2. The Daily Lobo should ‘drop the i-word’ and use accurate language like: undocumented or unauthorized immigrants.
Further, the Daily Lobo has a history of racism including generally the invisibility in covering our events and issues and more often derogatory representation of people of color when we are featured in the student newspaper. The Daily Lobo staff and advisors should agree to pay for and attend anti-oppression training and commit to training all newspaper staff, increasing stories about (and by) people of color and increasing students of color who are paid writers for the Daily Lobo.
The caption in question:
Three-year-old Lourdes Barranco holds a sign while her mother, Rocio Barranco, and her four-month-old brother, Pedro Barranco, sit next to her protesting the Governor’s new legislation that would ban illegal immigrants from possessing driver’s licenses in the state of New Mexico. The protestors could be heard chanting, “¡Susana escucha, estamos en la lucha!”
Having heard their voice, I would be remiss if I, as a representative of the paper, didn’t respond to the accusations in the petition.
First, let’s analyze the words “illegal” and “immigrant.”
According to Merriam Webster, and this is the first definition, mind you, illegal means “not according to or authorized by law.”
An immigrant is one who immigrates to another country to take up permanent residence. In tandem, the two words describe someone not authorized to reside in another country and/or live there.
Note: it’s not my intent to harm or offend anyone, simply to relay the facts objectively, since that is the function of a newspaper.
In fact, the AP style guide, a book of standards for newspapers across the country, states “Illegal immigrant is used to describe someone who has entered the country illegally or who resides in the country illegally. It is the preferred term, not ‘illegal alien’ or ‘undocumented worker.’ Do not use the shortened term ‘an illegal’ or ‘illegals.’” Note: We did not use the shortened form. Even the New York Times uses the term “illegal immigrants,” but I suppose they will be getting some letters shortly if these petitioners are serious about their cause.
Second, I am unsure of the history of racism presented in the letter, or who the “we” represents. Is it all races, Hispanics, or illegal immigrants? It’s not clear. Regardless, I would like to point out that the Daily Lobo strives to cover events that concern the Hispanic population and immigration issues.
To name a few, our coverage of the DREAM Act, the series of photo essays on the Mexican district of Colonia Anapra by Junfu Han, the columns and articles of Andrew Beale concerning immigration, and, most recently, an article on whether illegal immigrants would be able to obtain driver’s licenses.
On top of that, we have a history of covering Hispanic cultural events such as the march to celebrate César Chávez last April. The point is simple: Even though the “we” is ambiguous, the Lobo can still prove that we don’t make Hispanic or immigrants invisible, and that we strive to bring the issues with which these groups deal into the light.
Third, we are waiting to take sensitivity training as the petition so demands. Dr. Josephine “Jozi” De León, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, told the paper last year that she would set up the training at the beginning of this semester. I emailed her at the beginning of the semester asking for status of the training. She said she would get back to me, which should show the Lobo is striving to be sensitive.
Finally, and most galling about this petition, is the fact that the Lobo already employs a large amount of “colored” people. I, myself, am “colored,” though the more I write that word, the more offensive I find it. Every person involved with that cutline, furthermore, was Hispanic as well: the photographer, copy editor and myself are all Hispanic. Furthermore, if you peruse the staff box or check the bylines now and then, you’ll find plenty of Hispanic names, as well as other nationalities, in both writers and photographers.
In short, while I am sure the petitioners are well-founded in their motivation, their delivery of the petition is incorrect and insulting to the people who strive to make the Lobo culturally sensitive.
Perhaps next time, Chris Ramirez, you can talk to me in person rather than fling accusations of racism at my staff.