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Why wasn’t Irma’s voice heard in Naj’s column?

May 3, 2019
Lake Placid News

To the editor:

I am writing to express how appalled I am with Naj Wikoff's "Keene's Irma Hernandez Got Her Green Card." This article is sexist, racist, self-congratulatory and lazy.

Irma is a whole human being. Naj's piece reduces her to Keene Valley's mascot.

Naj's article focuses almost exclusively on Irma's husband, Isaac, and on the helping hands of white people. Irma's voice, though this is her story, is barely present. Her narrative has been buried beneath men and white people who tell it instead.

It would not have been difficult for Naj to ask Irma to call a friend who would provide translation services so that she could speak her story. He moved ahead, leaving a full interview with Irma out of the story. This devalues her voice. It silences her. Irma is an incredible human being who is able to tell her life's story in nuanced detail. The stories she has told me about being an undocumented immigrant and of her trials this spring in Mexico are her own. The story told in the Lake Placid News is Naj Wikoff's story. This is shameful.

The celebration of whiteness is sickening. I am included in this parade of white saviorism. I am a friend of Irma's who has used my whiteness to help side-step discrimination from regulatory agencies she might have experienced in starting her business. I do not deserve a public thank you in the local paper in a story about Irma. Irma is my friend who is discriminated against in our society because of her place of origin, the color of her skin and her gender. I am giving up nothing by using my whiteness to mitigate that racism. I deeply appreciate both Kathy Smith and Monique Weston. They are women I interact with regularly in this community and I hold them in high regards. They were able to support Irma in her struggle. They do not deserve a public thank you for this, either, and absolutely do not need the hero status that Naj bestows on them. Celebrating white people simply because they help brown people normalizes racism and perpetuates white privilege.

Naj follows his article up with a "guest comment" in which he writes that Isaac and Irma's presence in Keene serves to "improve the appearance of our community." This is tokenism.

There are so many reasons why this article harms communities of color and especially women of color, who face the challenges of being silenced daily. A new piece should be written by someone whom Irma trusts to tell her story. Fix this, Lake Placid News.

Casey Galligan

Upper Jay

 
 
 

 

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