A Public Request to Senator Vitter from Community Leaders to End Use of Demeaning Imagery of Latinos in Campaign Ads

Dear Senator Vitter: As residents of the New Orleans area and the State of Louisiana, we present ourselves today, united in our humanity to pronounce our emphatic rejection of Senator David Vitter’s recent advertisements, in which he depicts what appears to be Latin American people in a manner that is demeaning, dehumanizing, and degrading. We are not here to speak of electoral politics, to extol or decry the virtues of one individual over another, or to involve ourselves in a debate over immigration reform. There are many appropriate occasions for those discussions; however, this will not be one of them. We are here as individuals and as community leaders, as Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; as Christians, Jews, and Muslims; as Whites, African Americans, Asians, Middle Easterners, and Latinos—as human beings concerned about the dignity of all people. Recognizing the long history of cultural and social contributions that people from all Latin American and Caribbean countries have made to the State of Louisiana and the United States of America, we find Senator Vitter’s unfortunate depiction both offensive and morally troublesome. When we see a targeted group of people intentionally used for visual messaging to evoke negative reactions in other human beings for partisan political gain, we must challenge this intention. Nothing good comes from using human beings as fodder for stoking the flames of anger in others. We believe that the images approved by Senator Vitter to represent his view about undocumented immigrants in this country does nothing to elevate the issue to meaningful and respectful debate within our community. In fact, we believe Senator Vitter’s selection of a specific and singular group of people as a foil for his beliefs is done at the expense of the dignity and humanity of all Latin American people who have been our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, since the founding of this country. It is incomprehensible to us that an elected official, one who is entrusted with the public good of this state, should use his position to polarize the state’s community, rather than seek solutions to unify it. It is morally unacceptable to us that an elected official, who represents all Louisianans in the United States Senate, should resort to using images that make a caricature of a particular group of people. It is utterly reprehensible to us that an elected official with the attention of the entire State of Louisiana should use messaging that is reminiscent of a segregated past America chose to leave behind long ago because it was morally abhorrent. We hope that by our public display of unity and mutual respect, and by our decision to speak out against inflammatory messages that foment fear, distrust, and hate, we will encourage more people to reflect on how we treat others in this country. This land was forged by the labor and sweat of immigrants. The struggles of today’s immigrants are no different than the struggles of our forefathers. It is time we end the cycle of actions that has historically kept us from achieving our full potential as a nation. If history has taught us anything, it is that we grow stronger when we accept our differences, our diversity, and our common bond. If we as people of this state allow this type of rhetoric to continue unchallenged, we run the risk of repeating history. Our joint action today serves as a signal that the leaders gathered here today reject the use of images that dehumanize people, no matter where it emanates from and no matter the purpose it purports to serve. As a unified coalition of leaders from all ethnic groups, we demand that Senator Vitter refrain from continuing to use such hateful images in his television ads and other media for the foreseeable future. We also invite Senator Vitter to open a dialogue with us on this matter so that perhaps together we can shape a more meaningful conversation, one that it is constructive and useful to all. We, the people of this community, do sincerely hope for such dialogue in the coming future, which is why we sign our names below in full support of this statement and any effort to advance a productive conversation with you. Sincerely, New Orleans Civic Leaders

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