In recent weeks, there has been a considerable amount of coverage of a Spanish news broadcast pioneered by Veronica Lopez here at UVSC, in coordination with the communications department and NetXNews. Information on her mission is available on Daily Herald’s Web page in an article titled “UVSC launches Spanish language broadcast,” while The College Times has reported on the public criticism expressed regarding her weekly broadcasts in the news section of this issue.
Since The College Times and the NetXNews broadcast teams are often intimately involved, there may be a definite bias associated with a response to the criticism they have received. Indeed, The College Times regularly interacts with Lopez and her staff, many times borrowing from each other’s talent and contributing to each other’s coverage of campus and community events.
Although we feel a certain amount of personal concern over the treatment their staff has received, there are also broader issues raised throughout this recent dialogue that should be of concern, not only to our students, but to those participating in all educational settings within our surrounding community.
First, I think a little lesson in sociology will help bring the issue to light. In a Web forum comment on the Daily Herald’s Web page, one reader argued, “If you want to assimilate into a country, you would think that English would be a priority.” The argument that assimilation should be a national policy is an aggressive strategy pioneered by dominant groups. Yes, it may either parallel or oppose the efforts of a minority group, but by definition, it is a policy enacted by those who have the power, privileges and higher social status to pursue it with policy. Prejudice may only be an attitude towards minorities, but discrimination is when you act upon those attitudes, such as the author’s further comment that “I won’t be supporting UVSC in anything anymore.”
Furthermore, what of comments that UVSC is discriminating against other languages such as “French, German and Dutch” by not pursuing broadcasts in those languages? Let’s take a look at those ethnic groups. First off, they are not minority groups. Minority groups are groups singled out for unequal treatment on the basis of their identification with certain cultural characteristics. If UVSC were broadcasting in any of these languages, no one would find this threatening because there is little stigma attached to saying that anyone of us is half-French, one-quarter German, with a cousin twice removed who is Dutch. Because let’s face it, lucky for them, they are all still white, right?
Not having a Mandarin Chinese broadcast on our campus seemed to particularly offend many of the forum authors, although it was noted that this is because “Communist China is being built up as [a] superpower.” When the dominant group sees any threat, it attacks, regardless of whether they realize that China’s recent economic and political gains are a direct result of their instituting democratic and capitalistic policies. But I guess there is never room for two at the top, right?
Lastly, arguments that Lopez’s newscasts are furthering the language barrier seems the most charming. I guess when our constitution protects freedom of speech what it really means is freedom for all English speakers. The real barrier here is not with Mexicans and South American immigrants who refuse to learn English. Contrary to popular belief, it is for their own economic survival that they learn English, although the 40, 50, 60 or more hours per week it takes to actually survive on minimum wages might make it a bit difficult to make it to English language night classes.
The real problem is with an ideological mindset that fears cultural pluralism and refuses to adequately fund public school programs that produce multi-lingual and multicultural Americans. When UVSC tried to implement the diversity requirement for all undergraduate degrees, there was this same decry among a few in the community, that, as one eloquent forum author argued, “[it’s] just another way the illegals are milking the system.”
When it comes down to it, Lopez is not only trying to inform Hispanic students on local issues, she is showing a deep appreciation of her own cultural heritage. This is what the dominant group really fears because a true appreciation of the integrity inherent in a minority’s culture might make the immigration laws and social policies that discriminate against these groups actually FEEL racist to those that enact them, rather than just being ideologically ethnocentric and intolerant. It is a whole lot easier for people to frame those they discriminate against as sub-human or “out to get them” than to humanize their situation and reform social inequalities.