NAHJ New England Chapter Condemns ‘New arrivals, your job is to learn English’ Editorial

by learn a language journalist

In response to a December 5 “New arrivals, your job is to learn English” editorial published by local Massachusetts newspaper The Lowell Sun, the New England chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) sent the following email to members on December 10:

“An editorial was published in The Lowell Sun last week painting English language learners pretty much as lazy to learn the language among other things. I have attached the link to it as well as pasted our response. We are very clear that despite an editorial being an opinion piece, it should never bring a community down. The editorial board did its immigrant readers a true disservice by publishing as is.”

The publication of an editorial in The Lowell Sun was recently brought to the attention of the governing board of the New England Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. In the piece, entitled ‘New arrivals, your job is to learn English,’ xenophobic and nativist sentiments were expressed, casting English Language Learners in a disparaging light. The insult was only further deepened as the editorial concluded on a mocking note, taunting them to find ‘proof’ of their need to learn the language by reading a report: ‘If you can read English.’”

“The NAHJ New England Chapter condemns this editorial in the strongest possible terms.”

Such language and positions—especially in a community where 26% of the population is foreign-born according to an analysis of Census data by George Mason University‚ is shameful and a disservice to Lowell residents. Of the 28,597 foreign born residents, 4,575 come from Brazil and the Dominican Republic and almost 7,000 Cambodians —among the largest concentrations in the U.S.— count themselves, with the remainder coming from 81 different countries.”

“The primary goal of NAHJ is to ensure greater racial and ethnic representation within the journalism industry. This opinion, published in Lowell’s newspaper of record, serves as are proof that we still have much more work to do.”

“We call on the Lowell Sun’s editorial board to retract the editorial and to issue an apology to its community. Such words do not belong in a newspaper in 2020.”

A similar statement was posted on the chapter’s Facebook group page.

The NAHJ chapter also shared screenshots of the full editorial with Latino Rebels:

Latino Rebels did reach out to the Lowell Sun for comment. As of this posting, the newspaper has not responded to our requests.

On December 5, the newspaper shared the editorial on its Twitter profile, also eliciting negative comments about the editorial’s intent and tone:

Are you just openly goading us into unsubscribing at this point? I want to support local news but not for garbage like this.

— Alex Pasternak (@AlexPasternak) December 8, 2020

R.A.C.I.S.T. What an absolute shame that this article has brought to the Lowell Sun. Please see my pinned tweet for my response to this.

— Curtis Chanthaboun (He/Him) (@CouncilorCurtis) December 8, 2020

One profile, @detension, was able to connect with Tom Shattuck, The Lowell Sun‘s senior editor, and according to the tweets, Shattuck was dismissive about the criticism:

Just interviews Shattuck and he went all the woke left this and I didn’t read past the headline and that the headline hurt my feelings. Tone deaf.

— d tension (@dtension) December 8, 2020

I was actually a touch surprised at how bluntly dismissive he was.

— d tension (@dtension) December 8, 2020

On December 11, The Lowell Sun published a letter to the editor about the December 5 editorial. Part of the letter read as follows:

“Minorities make up about 40% of the population of Lowell. They are active in the community and make up a large percentage of the workforce. The newspaper loves to cover their colorful cultural events and tout Lowell’s diversity, but I find this article to be tone-deaf towards this part of its readership and willfully ignores the struggles that our immigrant community faces.”

“As someone who has studied foreign languages as an adult and has seen firsthand the struggles of her immigrant parents, it is difficult to become truly fluent in a language that is so different from your native tongue without the benefit of exposure from a young age.”

“The editorial had undertones of privilege and discrimination while referencing a report that it doesn’t specifically name. In this day and age, it is incumbent on us to call each other out when there are problematic beliefs that do nothing to alleviate racism and instead merely uphold the status quo of an inequitable society.”

This content was originally published here.

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