July 10, 2010

Assuming They're "Illegals"

Accompanying a NYT story about the Administration using employment audits to crack down on employers for hiring undocumented workers, the photo does a rare thing, both perceptually and editorially. If the knee-jerk tendency, looking at a bus load of migrant workers, is to assume an Hispanic farm worker is an “illegal,” the picture encourages us to consider the circumstances of each individual after the caption emphasizes this is a bus full of “guest workers” (or men with legal status) as opposed to “undocumented workers” (or “illegals”) they are there to replace.

Not that guest workers aren’t even more vulnerable and frequently victimized, but the point here has to do with perception, and the function and sophistication of media images. Although this photo hardly packs any of the personal and emotional punch of this eloquent image the NYT published and the BAG examined in ’08, it does hint, at least, at the critically need — especially, with all the hate being stirred by  the Arizona law — to actually get beyond pure emotional arguments and blind stereotyping.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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