Radio's Big Boys Screw Up Big Time

There's nothing like a racist joke to remind us that not everyone is a white, middle-class, white-collar professional. The latest reminder came in the form of billboards posted by WLW (700 AM). F

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Graham Lienhart


Jason Riveiro, local representative of the League of United Latin American Citizens, wants to help WLW-AM learn cultural sensitivity.



There's nothing like a racist joke to remind us that not everyone is a white, middle-class, white-collar professional. The latest reminder came in the form of billboards posted by WLW (700 AM). First posted were the image of the Mexican flag and, in Spanish, the words, "Radio for great Americans." When those came down, they were replaced by a caricature of a Latino man with an exaggerated black moustache and traditional Mexican clothes — including a bandolier across his chest — with a donkey off to the side. The billboard proclaimed "The Big Juan," a takeoff on the station's nickname, The Big One.

Outrage quickly followed.

"From the beginning they caught the attention of not just the Hispanic population of Cincinnati but leaders across Cincinnati," said Jason Riveiro, local representative for the League of United Latin American Citizens, at a May 8 press conference. Speaking on behalf of United Nations of Cincinnati residents — Latinos, African-Americans, whites, females, males, GLBT persons, Muslims, Jews, human rights activists, labor organizers and social workers — Riveiro explained why the radio station was asked to take down the billboards.

"We found out it was coming from a radio station that has no intention of marketing to the Hispanic population and at the same time is very vocal against immigrants into this area," he said. "Some could brush this off and say, 'Well, it's just the Mexican flag and a donkey.'

But in reality it's the intention behind it that we're questioning here today, making sure it doesn't progress to anything worse."

Asked why this can't be brushed off as a joke, Riveiro returned to context.

"We have to look at our environment, the situation we're in," he explained. "If we were in L.A. or Houston, I could say that maybe we could brush it off. It's not just a funny joke (but) about something with deeper roots within that radio station."

Factoring in the time, effort and money it would take to develop and coordinate the series of two billboards, Riveiro said the station "knew what it was doing." He refused to pass off the incident as an "oops."

"I'm sure they had a marketing team behind that," Riveiro said. "It was very well thought out, many months perhaps in developing this, and several people probably signed off on that. It wasn't just mere accident that this occurred. I would think they knew what they were doing."

Two Victories but More to Be Done
Groups and individuals who participated in the May 8 press conference want to address the attitudes behind such an insensitive campaign. In addition to an outreach to educate journalists about cultural sensitivity and inclusion in reporting, the group intends to develop a community-wide diversity education campaign, starting with WLW.

"We don't just want to slap you on the hand and have you say you're sorry," Riveiro said. "We want something long-term that's going to last and make an impact on our community by saying, 'OK, we're going to engage the Hispanic community.' Say, 'We need your advice. ... Let us know what is sensitive.' We're here to bring you that."

Karen Dabdoub of the Council on American-Islamic Relations thinks the time is right to make it happen.

"A few weeks ago 60 groups from the Cincinnati area spoke out when African Americans in our community were threatened by neo-Nazis," she said. "I hope this is a trend in our Cincinnati community, that people are going to stand together and speak out when these kinds of things happen, and hopefully we'll build a better community with all these efforts."

The group might want to start with the NAACP president, Garry Hines, who managed to leave half the population out of his remarks.

"When any of our brothers have an issue, we can boldly stand and proclaim that justice is for everybody, not just a few," he said, apparently forgetting the sisters. "In a society where we need more patience, where we need more perseverance, we cannot afford to have ethnic notions — signs that deliberately or unintentionally put anybody or any group of people in a bad way."

Hines' message is important, yet he underscores the importance of language and the impact it can have in detracting from the intended message. Go ahead and be derisive and call it hypersensitivity or being politically correct if you want to — or call it respect.

Fortunately, WLW showed some respect by starting to take down the billboards soon after a May 4 press release complaining about the images.

Jorge Neri with the United Food and Commercial Workers pointed out that stereotypes and racial jokes don't "just doesn't affect one racial group, it affects everyone." Thanking the various religious, labor and non-profit groups for their support, Neri pointed out that the groups were able to "make a negative into a positive."

"If it happens to our Latino brothers and sisters, it shows that our Muslim brothers and sisters are going to be standing there with us," he said. "If it happens to the Muslim bothers and sisters, we'll be standing with them, too."



Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138) or pork(at)

 
Graham Lienhart


Jason Riveiro, local representative of the League of United Latin American Citizens, wants to help WLW-AM learn cultural sensitivity.



There's nothing like a racist joke to remind us that not everyone is a white, middle-class, white-collar professional. The latest reminder came in the form of billboards posted by WLW (700 AM). First posted were the image of the Mexican flag and, in Spanish, the words, "Radio for great Americans." When those came down, they were replaced by a caricature of a Latino man with an exaggerated black moustache and traditional Mexican clothes — including a bandolier across his chest — with a donkey off to the side. The billboard proclaimed "The Big Juan," a takeoff on the station's nickname, The Big One.

Outrage quickly followed.

"From the beginning they caught the attention of not just the Hispanic population of Cincinnati but leaders across Cincinnati," said Jason Riveiro, local representative for the League of United Latin American Citizens, at a May 8 press conference. Speaking on behalf of United Nations of Cincinnati residents — Latinos, African-Americans, whites, females, males, GLBT persons, Muslims, Jews, human rights activists, labor organizers and social workers — Riveiro explained why the radio station was asked to take down the billboards.

"We found out it was coming from a radio station that has no intention of marketing to the Hispanic population and at the same time is very vocal against immigrants into this area," he said. "Some could brush this off and say, 'Well, it's just the Mexican flag and a donkey.'

But in reality it's the intention behind it that we're questioning here today, making sure it doesn't progress to anything worse."

Asked why this can't be brushed off as a joke, Riveiro returned to context.

"We have to look at our environment, the situation we're in," he explained. "If we were in L.A. or Houston, I could say that maybe we could brush it off. It's not just a funny joke (but) about something with deeper roots within that radio station."

Factoring in the time, effort and money it would take to develop and coordinate the series of two billboards, Riveiro said the station "knew what it was doing." He refused to pass off the incident as an "oops."

"I'm sure they had a marketing team behind that," Riveiro said. "It was very well thought out, many months perhaps in developing this, and several people probably signed off on that. It wasn't just mere accident that this occurred. I would think they knew what they were doing."

Two Victories but More to Be Done
Groups and individuals who participated in the May 8 press conference want to address the attitudes behind such an insensitive campaign. In addition to an outreach to educate journalists about cultural sensitivity and inclusion in reporting, the group intends to develop a community-wide diversity education campaign, starting with WLW.

"We don't just want to slap you on the hand and have you say you're sorry," Riveiro said. "We want something long-term that's going to last and make an impact on our community by saying, 'OK, we're going to engage the Hispanic community.' Say, 'We need your advice. ... Let us know what is sensitive.' We're here to bring you that."

Karen Dabdoub of the Council on American-Islamic Relations thinks the time is right to make it happen.

"A few weeks ago 60 groups from the Cincinnati area spoke out when African Americans in our community were threatened by neo-Nazis," she said. "I hope this is a trend in our Cincinnati community, that people are going to stand together and speak out when these kinds of things happen, and hopefully we'll build a better community with all these efforts."

The group might want to start with the NAACP president, Garry Hines, who managed to leave half the population out of his remarks.

"When any of our brothers have an issue, we can boldly stand and proclaim that justice is for everybody, not just a few," he said, apparently forgetting the sisters. "In a society where we need more patience, where we need more perseverance, we cannot afford to have ethnic notions — signs that deliberately or unintentionally put anybody or any group of people in a bad way."

Hines' message is important, yet he underscores the importance of language and the impact it can have in detracting from the intended message. Go ahead and be derisive and call it hypersensitivity or being politically correct if you want to — or call it respect.

Fortunately, WLW showed some respect by starting to take down the billboards soon after a May 4 press release complaining about the images.

Jorge Neri with the United Food and Commercial Workers pointed out that stereotypes and racial jokes don't "just doesn't affect one racial group, it affects everyone." Thanking the various religious, labor and non-profit groups for their support, Neri pointed out that the groups were able to "make a negative into a positive."

"If it happens to our Latino brothers and sisters, it shows that our Muslim brothers and sisters are going to be standing there with us," he said. "If it happens to the Muslim bothers and sisters, we'll be standing with them, too."



Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138) or pork(at)citybeat.com

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