“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
Socioeconomic and political inequality are all too common themes in American communities—particularly in working class and immigrant communities along the border with Mexico. In these areas, right-wing paramilitary groups threaten the poor and impoverished. The experiences of the disempowered groups in these communities go largely unreported in the mainstream media.
Rather, news reporting that is informed by race and class analysis is negated or diluted in the media we see everyday. Furthermore, low-income families, workers, and real people living with limited access to media do not know they are the targets of anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Youth living in these rocky, vulnerable landscapes rarely get the chance to speak out against mainstream media, and by and large do not experience creating media—a process that would enable them to highlight and unravel issues through dialogue within their communities. This is a tremendous challenge for educators interested in social transformation and social justice, especially within extremely marginalized groups like immigrant, queer, indigenous youth.
New youth media must put all of its efforts behind eradicating the kind of binary thinking in this country that targets and categorizes people based on race, language, and identity.
Language, Race & Violence
Radio Conciencia (Consciousness Radio), a project of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Immokalee Florida, is one example of a youth media project that works to challenge mainstream media stereotypes. I have drawn on my experience with this station to inform my dialogue with the New Mexico Media Literacy Project.
In Immokalee, you can’t walk 2 blocks without hearing a multitude of languages. Immokalee is a community where several pre-Columbian languages are spoken, including Mayan totzil, kan’jobal, Mam, and Quiche, as well as indigenous Mexican languages, such as Zapotec, Mixtec, Nahautl, Purepecha, Popoluca, and many others. Yet, for communities as far as 30 minutes away, we are only understood as being Latino or regarded as “Mexican.”
Media outlets want to find profits from this community only by speaking to us in Spanish, while blatantly homophobic and heterosexist DJ’s poke fun at the indigenous community, without even considering that much of that listenership is native to Latin America. The consequence of divisive media—media embracing the “hip” heterosexist, and homogenous framework of corporate media—will only perpetuate this intense climate of internalized hate of the “other,” even though that other is a strong connection to their ethnicity.
This dismissal of other languages and subgroups is extremely unhealthy to our communities, where Latinos and native people of the Americas live together. We only hear one language, that often perpetuates stereotypes of those that are darker. These stereotypes—and there are many—include the “foolish Indian” and the “over-sexualized feminine gay.”
As a result, these misrepresentations create power relationships and dynamics that breed internalized hatred amongst these already vulnerable communities.
Consequently, there are extreme cases of violence on immigrants and queer immigrants, not only from vigilante groups but from neighbors who may speak a better Spanish, who maybe know more English or have risen a little higher up an economic ladder but still live in the same squalor their victims live in.
Violence results—especially in the form of what is called “guato-bashing” or “beaner-hopping,” which I saw growing up—where a Latino youth attacks those that are more indigenous looking or who speak with less capacity of the English and Spanish language. If you are an indigenous queer immigrant youth, you are more at risk of being a victim of this violence.
What has helped to empower Immokalee is the option to become a DJ on community low-power radio.
Youth media can be a solution to this violence, by building inclusivity and partnering pro-actively with media justice and immigrant movements and efforts, as well as community radio groups.
Radio and Social/Media Justice
On Radio Consciencia 107.9 FM, we have community members play CD’s and read news in their own language, speaking on issues that affect them and/or their families here or in their respective places of origin. On 107.9 FM we find that Latin American radio is really much bigger than what corporate sponsored media is putting out there.
Through community radio, I get to host local people on my show and talk about issues in the local high school from different perspectives across generational gaps, cultural gaps and sexual identities. Local low-power radio uses a collective approach, which helps make our community aware of the diversity we hold, and how that makes us unique and important.
We find radio less divisive, and when community events are announced on this station, all people feel welcome and eager to participate.
Most of our DJ’s, or “animators” as the radio committee calls them, are in their late teens to early 20’s. Focusing on this age group and community-demographic is a model the youth media field must embrace, if we really want to create a healthier media landscape.
But our radio programs are only part of the solution. Realizing that there is an empty space in our current media landscape, social justice and media justice must defend groups that get undermined inside the immigrant rights movement, inside the farm workers movement, and general workers movement.
That is why the New Mexico Media Literacy Project (NMMLP), as part of a network of media and social justice organizations called MAGNet (Media Action Grassroots Networks) is building a movement with infrastructure that bridges the social, cultural, and media justice groups together, to be at the forefront of media reform and media policy in this country.
As part of the NMMLP in Albuquerque, I am collaborating with groups state-wide to put our issues at the forefront and demand that certain media policies are in place to to benefit our survival inside this hostile Southwest region. As a resource and anchor of the MAGNet network, we can create an inclusive media landscape that acknowledges the most vulnerable groups in our community.
Immigrant rights groups and social justice groups can benefit from a structure of media that allows a multiplicity of cultures and voices to take shape, creating a stronger more grassroots dialogue throughout the youth media field.
The youth media field must join the media justice movement, since we collectively understand the importance of bringing all voices into a dialogue. We must bring out the voices marginalized within the marginalized community, like the indigenous, immigrant, queer youth voice, to make real change in the world for young people and the many under-represented voices throughout our homeland.
Candelario co-coordinates the Media Action Grassroots Network in New Mexico and builds strategic partnerships with social justice and media justice organizations in the state. He is currently a VISTA volunteer through the Digital Arts Service Corps (DASCorps).