Letter to the Editor: To The Daily editors, don’t insult CWRU’s Latino community

To the editor,

I am writing to express my disappointment in the Oct. 19, 2015 edition of The Daily. In said edition, an article titled “How Mexican drug cartels are fueling America’s deadly heroin epidemic” was shared under the “In The News” section. An editorial choice to publish such a charged headline and share said article, discussing a highly nuanced subject matter, reflects a callousness towards the Latino/a identity, which can no longer be tolerated at our university.

Over the past year considerable progress has been made on the fronts of diversity and inclusion on our campus. Much of that progress has been shared through The Daily. Such news includes the rollout of Diversity 360 at the start of the year, and more recently the awarding of a fourth consecutive national award for excellence in diversity and inclusion from the national magazine, Insight into Diversity. This celebration of diversity extended most recently to the promotion of Hispanic Heritage Month events, most prominently the arrival of nationally renowned journalist, Maria Hinojosa, as the opener of the Power of Diversity lecture series. Indeed such news can and should be shared as a reminder of our commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion in our community. Still, despite the significant progress we have made, Oct. 19’s edition of The Daily led me to question if we had returned to the proverbial “square one.”

I do not contest the celebration or recognition of university affiliated work in the national news media being featured in The Daily. Although I do question the judgement of the editors in deciding to print the charged headline and share the article previously mentioned. Deeper research on the growing heroin epidemic and its impact on the U.S. may trace the source of the drug outside the U.S. However such research would almost certainly give some credence to related issues of poverty, addiction and the foundational theory of microeconomics in which, simply stated, there is no supply where there is no demand. Suffice it to say, this is not simply the case of Mexican drug cartels injecting their drug supply into the veins of unwitting Americans.

Instead, however, readers of The Daily were offered that limited perspective on the issue. Those who simply skimmed the headlines of The Daily left with one understanding and a charged one at that— Mexican drug cartels are fueling America’s deadly heroin epidemic. Still even those who read the article were faced with a subtle, yet very problematic issue: the author changes his language from “Mexican drug cartels” to simply “the Mexicans.” In both the cases of the charged headline and the content of the article, we must confront the critical issue of language. We must reflect on the power of language in discourse and how subtle changes in language can, specifically in this case, have a dramatic impact on our perception of the Latino/a community.

In today’s increasingly polarized political climate it is important that we, especially as a university community, make a stronger commitment to a thoughtful use of language. When the aforementioned headline was shared in The Daily, the language offered legitimacy to the racist accusations of the likes of Donald Trump. Indeed the headline appears to solidify what Trump said during his campaign announcement, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime.”

In an effort to increase the thoughtfulness and care that CWRU demonstrates towards those who claim a Mexican, Mexican American and/or Latino/a identity, I requested the retraction of the article from The Daily, as well as a public apology issued to the CWRU community. The staff of The Daily was receptive in offering to meet with myself and representatives from La Alianza and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Indeed I appreciate the responsiveness of The Daily staff. Still, despite the meaningful conversation that resulted, it remains unclear what actions The Daily will take to address this issue. Indeed until such actions are taken, the question remains, does CWRU truly respect and value Latinos and Latinas within our community?

Andrew Torres
Fourth-year student