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UNITY Executive Director
UNITY: Journalists for Diversity firmly stands behind the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and its call for an immediate apology from U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) over his recent use of a racist and derogatory term.
A member of the U.S House of Representatives, Young used the term “wetback” to describe migrant workers who were employed on his father’s California ranch many years ago. “My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” Young said. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
UNITY president Tom Arviso Jr., said he was astonished and embarrassed that a member of the U.S. Congress would use such a term when describing the Hispanic and Latino people of this country.
“In this day and age, we should all know that that particular term is blatantly racist and is as offensive as using the N-word for African Americans and the R-word for Native Americans,” Arviso Jr. said. “The fact that a Congressman would use such a term in the national spotlight is disturbing and disappointing, to say the least.
“When a national elected leader like Rep. Young uses a word like that and later says he didn’t mean to be disrespectful, it exemplifies an attitude of ignorance and uncaring that continues to exist in our society,” said Arviso. “Rep. Young needs to acknowledge that he hurt innocent people through his insensitive remarks. If he is a real leader, he will do the right thing and issue a public apology.”
Arviso said that UNITY also supports NAHJ President Hugo Balta’s invitation to Rep. Young to meet and discuss how this situation could be used to promote education and knowledge about the power of words to describe the Latino people and culture.
“UNITY is an organization of professional journalists that strongly supports its fellow members, and all people of color and other diverse citizens,” said Arviso. “When we see our brothers and sisters being disrespected like this, it is our responsibility to let this country know that this is wrong and unacceptable.”
UNITY Journalists for Diversity is a strategic alliance that:
- Advocates fair and accurate coverage about diversity — especially race, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.
- Aggressively challenges that industry to staff its organizations at all levels to reflect the country’s diversity.
The UNITY board is made up of representatives from the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, and NLGJA: The Association of LGBT Journalists.