To the Editor:
Recently two Island families suffered a most unimaginable tragedy when their babies died, and your recent article “DA’s office investigates deaths of two babies” (March 13) was nothing short of being cold and heartless. The headline itself immediately leads the reader to connect a crime to these tragedies. Then the fact that the article stated that “both babies were born to Brazilian parents, according to a source familiar with the cases” continues a negative narrative toward these families, and feeds into the unconscious bias some on this Island have toward others. The parents have become marginalized and separate from “Islanders.” Islanders of Brazilian heritage are not a homogeneous group. Some have been here for over 30 years, some have just arrived, and others have been born here and are starting their own families. Some speak fluent English, some work as interpreters, and some speak no English. Some own homes and businesses, and some are living in squalid conditions and just barely surviving. As stated in a piece called “Six Harmful Patterns in Newspaper Presentations of Race” from the Frameworks Institute, your article is an example of the “indirect but powerful way minorities are portrayed as distinct from and unconnected to whites … one implication of the overemphasis on racial labels is that it becomes easy for whites to dismiss minority concerns as unconnected to their own.”
I am heartened that many Islanders responded to your article with outrage and dismay, which should speak volumes to you. There was no need to report this in this manner, unless afterward the DA’s office found a connection or something criminal. If you felt the need to report the tragedies, it could have been about two families suffering an incredible sad loss, or a portrayal of the two sweet angels who died. I call on you to be a leader, show more compassion, and help this community feel connected to each other, not divided. Finally, I hope that the people of this Island can wrap their arms around these two families as they journey through an unspeakable grief.