On Thursday, Nov. 29, I read Walking the Line, a section of this newspaper which featured a piece titled “Puerto Rico, America’s ugly stepchild.”
Thoughts in my mind immediately raced like stock cars as I considered the belligerence of these words. I understood Walking the Line was intended for humor, but this article, without an explanatory context whatsoever, was ignorant, arrogant and reckless.
There is no humor in attempting to use fantasy football, cartoons and musical references to illustrate incoherent and false statements about Puerto Rico’s political status to a readership much in need of explanation.
This article was misleading from the start.
How many readers would know, I wondered, that Puerto Rico did not actually apply for statehood? Instead, Puerto Ricans on the island recently participated in the fifth plebiscite assessing public preference regarding their political status. Without diverting into a full history class, let me point to the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 and the Balzac v. Porto Rico case of 1922 as important references to understand the United States' relations with Puerto Rico.
Aside from the historical incongruence, the problem is that Puerto Rico’s situation is neither a fantasy football game nor a Beyonce song. To write about the politics of the Puerto Rican people only in the Animaniacs' framework is to extract a laugh out of ignorance; it is to attempt making people laugh because they do not know better.
The author claims to have no real power. Therefore, he feels comfortable mocking a group of people to which he does not belong. His words, however, are an instrument of significance on our campus. With his keyboard, the author has the power to bring attention to issues and even influence the way readers would view a topic.
On that day I was reading the Collegiate Times; the newspaper of the Hokie Nation — a nation that claims to promote diversity, inclusion, and service. “That I may serve” reads the motto of this wonderful institution. And yet, the article I was reading consisted of twenty paragraphs of inflated ego and disrespect. The piece in my hands was a hostile contradiction to the values of my university.
I felt sad.
Not because I come from the neighboring island of the Dominican Republic and have extensive family and friends living in Puerto Rico. I felt downhearted not because as a Latino, I clearly understood the piece as another rant against a marginalized group.
Instead, I felt sad because the words I read embodied the destructive and discriminative mentality that has our planet in shambles. We make the mistake of allowing race, language, religion and political views to obstruct happiness, unity, friendship and universal love. Our languages ascribe more importance to our differences than to our commonalities. Emancipating ourselves from such rhetoric could prevent ink being wasted again.
As Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."
Danny Mota, Junior, Biological Systems Engineering