#Editorial #OurVoice #MichaelHallisey #SpotlightNews
We live in a day when more people are willing to see individuals of different backgrounds as enriching opportunities instead of opposing rivals of whom to fear.
Our communities consist of men and women from different cultures, perhaps more so than any other time. The term “melting pot” has often been used to describe the American phenomenon that is the culmination of ethnicities. The metaphor first used in the 18th century implies a melding of these cultures into one. Truly, however, that’s never been the case. Look at New York City and Boston, the thresholds in which many of our ancestors first arrived before calling America home. May of the old neighborhoods remain in tact, Chinatown and Little Italy. Pockets of streets allocated to specific groups. People who gathered together who share a bond of having the same homeland. Chinese, Italian, Irish, German — homeland or religion — the neighborhoods looked less like some form of alchemy to create a golden American society and more the patches of a loosely assembled quilt.
There are stereotypes that remain today. Every ethnicity, religion and nationality has nasty words associated with them. They portray a vile belief that purposefully paints that group in a light that is meant to be undesirable. To separate them from the general group. To, quite literally, caste them out.
There is strength behind words. The pen is mightier than the sword. For every rival slain by a sword, the ideal that helped wage the war persuades thousands to take up arms. And, in the end, the victors write and shape history in their favor. A word, whether spoken or written, can stir the emotions and conjure the spirit of many. The nature of our business lends us a keen understanding of this.
In the past week, our newspaper received a number of comments regarding a story from our police report; one involving the alleged larceny of personal property from a popular community center.
The police apprehended a suspect. A man described to us as coming from a city in New York State. Police also informed us of his nationality, where he called home before recently becoming a U.S. citizen. The fact law enforcement focused on this particular information is unusual. Of course, a police reports will record information that helps identify that suspect. That person’s outer appearance is described, from the color of his hair to what and where his tattoos may be. Yes, skin color is in police reports, but, so are descriptions of one’s hair and eye color. It helps distinguish one person from another.
In this case, the police specifically called out the nationality of their suspect because it was a part of the investigation. There was a question as to whether or not that person lived in the city within New York State or truly lived in another country. As you will often read in our headlines and ledes, we point out the home of suspects in our police reports. Again, it helps distinguish the subject: “A Glenmont man arrested for DWI,” or “An Albany woman charged with stolen identity.” In this case, we pointed out the one home we were most certain of, his homeland.
There are thinly veiled stereotypes used within nuances to protect those who utter them from the putrid stench of bigotry. Our reporters may challenge themselves with providing eloquent prose with each feature, but that never supersedes our obligation to report the facts.
We as a community paper would hope our readers embrace those of different backgrounds as much as we do. There is no place for bigotry or prejudice, and there never has been such a place within these pages.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.