Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Image America Shouldn’t Need

I gave a lot of thought to posting on this blog the picture of border death that has gone viral.  But I could not do it.  It made my sad, sick, and depressed.  Still, I know that images can impact policy and recall how pictures last summer of the human impacts of the family separation policy helped change public perceptions.  Ultimately, I decided that I would not post the pictures but had a hard time putting my finger on why not.  It just did not feel right.

I find my vague feelings articulated in a coherent way in a powerful commentary by Tina Vasquez.  She discusses the photo that has been widely circulated of two migrants who died on Monday on the banks of the Rio Grande: The Image America Shouldn’t Need.

Vasquez writes: "AP and The New York Times, will argue that there is a larger public interest: this “iconic image,” they will say, has the power to stir the public, change minds, mobilize political action... But would these same news organizations dare to use—at the top of the hour on their cable shows or on the homepages of their sites—such graphic pictures of dead Americans who were the victims of the latest school shooting?"

"I’m a journalist, and a person of color in the United States. Unlike those who’ve suggested that no one should dare look away from the image, I’ve never needed convincing that “the other” is human. The photos people need to see are of Óscar and Valeria together, alive, to remind them they were people, not bodies.

Vasquez concludes: "My perspective, as an immigration reporter, is that if you haven’t been moved by now by the many reports of abuses, injustices, in-custody deaths, and bodies that have turned up in the borderlands, then you cannot be moved."


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This is a wonderful perspective. Thank you, Kevin, for sharing and for articulating what many of us are feeling.

Posted by: Mariela | Jun 29, 2019 12:56:27 PM

Thanks Mariela. I had cruder thoughts about how the media was so willing to show images of "dead Mexicans," as if we living in some popular "gang"
(Latinx) crime movie. At the same time, the image certainly caught the attention of many Americans who had no idea of the daily impacts of our border policies. I am left to wonder whether the awareness is something like people slowing down at an auto accident. In any event, thanks for your comments.

Posted by: KJ | Jun 30, 2019 5:53:24 AM

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