November 29, 2020

Letters to the Editor

Dear Journal,

I would like to thank The Journal and Alex Boyd for their coverage of the potential demolition of the Pearson House.

In reading the article, though, I realized that in my shock (until the week the plan was unveiled, my chair had been assured that the Pearson House was “safe”) I neglected to emphasize how much of the success and unique strengths of my program are due to our faculty, students, and staff.

My faculty colleagues are some of the most talented, dedicated, and thoughtful people I have ever had the pleasure to know, and our students are equally remarkable: open-minded, hard-working, unusually willing to follow their own paths, and committed to learning. If we are the body, our department coordinator is the heart of our program, making sure everything circulates as it should, solving problems every day, and just listening when someone needs a sympathetic ear.

However, I also work in environmental studies and recognize the profound (and sometimes ineffable) shaping force that environments have on cultures. The physical environment of the Pearson House provides the “magic ingredient” — let’s call it the animating spark of life, to build on the body metaphor— that allows the rest of us to interact together as a functional whole, sometimes because rather than in spite of the fact that the building was not originally designed to contain faculty offices and classrooms.

I am genuinely at a loss to imagine how that magic could be recreated in a large, new classroom building.  What elements crucial to our success would we take with us to such a new building, and what would be demolished with Pearson?

I find it impossible to say; to quote Yeats, “O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,/ Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?/ O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,/ How can we know the dancer from the dance?” (“Among School Children”).
— Karla Armbruster, English Professor

Dear Journal,

In the last issue of The Journal, a writer identified a traditional Brazilian dancer as looking like a “Chiquita Banana Girl.”

I don’t think the writer intentionally meant any harm. This description, however, can be taken by many, including myself, as racist.

I don’t doubt the dancer had some resemblance to the symbol used by the Chiquita Brands International Co., an Ohio-based company. One must, however, understand where that symbol comes from.

The United Fruit Company, as it was formerly known, has had a long history of allege injustices and unfair wage practices in Latin America. Among them, in 2007, Chiquita Brands had to pay $25 million settlement to the United States Justice Department for hiring Colombian paramilitary groups for “protection.”

You can read more about the company’s past controversies by doing a Google search. I have little space in this column.

What I am really concerned about is what the image of the Chiquita Banana Girl represents to Latin Americans. The Chiquita Banana Girl was actually first introduced  a 1947 racist, colonialist advertisement-film titled “Chiquita Banana and the Cannibals.”

Its figure was intended to represent the stereotypical, imperialist image of Latin women as dark, voluptuous servants. We must remember this was an American company trying to appeal to American consumers by using the looks of an “exotic” woman to sell an “exotic” fruit.

The Chiquita Banana Girl image, as a matter of fact, came around the same time as Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben.

I urge writers at The Journal, and all of us in the media industry, to avoid using stereotypical representations of minorities. Let us not reduce a professional Brazilian dancer to a racist symbol of an oppressive company. Beware and think twice about those who you see represented in advertisements and marketing campaigns; they are not trying to give you the truth, they are selling you an idea.

— Carlos Restrepo, senior global journalism major

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