In yesterday’s Star Tribune, on the front page in a story about Hispanic immigrants in Chaska, “graffiti reportedly scrawled on the walls of a boys bathroom” was quoted:
Beaner. Spic. Wetback.
I was surprised to see this language. And, in a weird way, glad. We need to know what’s really happening out there. That’s the only way we’ll confront, and maybe change, our own prejudices. The story was about the two worlds inhabited by the white students of Chaska and the Hispanic students who’ve been moving into the area. Prejudice and racism was part of the story, so quoting the offensive words was appropriate.
Still, you don’t very often see the word “nigger” in the Strib. I searched the paper’s website and found two instances — most recently, in February, in a story about a conference on the “n-word” at historically black Stillman College in Alabama. Mostly the paper uses “the n-word” or just “racial epithet.”
Is it easier to put slurs about Hispanics and Latinos in print than epithets about blacks? If it is, what does that say about a hierarchy of prejudice? There were no letters to the editor in the paper today or on the website commenting about the Chaska story. No debate about whether these words should be in print.
I think they should be. We need to be careful about these words, and use them only when they’re part of the main issue of the story, as they were here.
What do you folks think?