AIMCO Aims Low
Divide and construct: As usual, the same old game is being played ["Building Racism" by Lauren Smiley, March 26]. Set the poor, disadvantaged, and darker races against each other. It is the same old "divide and conquer" scheme. I am black, and it really pains me to see how we let ourselves be used day after day by the "empire" — those who seem to control our very existence, when all that is needed is some togetherness. Indeed, we will not survive without it. The Philistines are together.
Unpleasant in any language: In Lauren Smiley's article, she mentions that the Spanish phrase "pinches negros" roughly translates to "f****ing n***rs." It only translates that way if your only experience speaking and translating Spanish is a freshman-year high school Introduction to Spanish class. The proper, and most culturally widespread translation, would be "damn black people."
I am a fan of your publication, but wish you wouldn't allow nonfluent Spanish speakers like Ms. Smiley to represent themselves as experts on Spanish translations if they aren't. If Ms. Smiley didn't translate the phrase herself and (more likely) grabbed some intern in her office to do the translation for her as a favor, it still does not excuse SF Weekly's lack of fact-checking.
Lauren Smiley responds: Given the specific history and cultural connotations behind the N word in the United States, it would be impossible to find an identical word in Spanish — the reason it was qualified with "roughly translates." But given the context of the foreman's alleged declarations at the meeting, and other instances when Latino workers say the job-site supervisors used it, the phrase was used to talk about the black workers as an inferior race, essentially the meaning of the word.
The Latino carpenters SF Weekly interviewed used "morenos," "morenitos," or "afros" to refer to the black workers. In Spanish, "pinche negro" is a far from neutral way to refer to those with darker skin: "In Spanish, 'negro' is really strong, too," carpenter Hector Rodriguez said. "You say 'pinche negro' and [it'll cause you a big problem.] They'll hit you. It's that vulgar in Spanish."
Renee Saucedo of La Raza Centro Legal translated "pinche negro" as "fucking nigger" while interpreting the carpenters' testimony at a Board of Supervisors committee hearing in February. The translation was echoed, word for word, by an independent Mexican journalist SF Weekly consulted.
Furthermore, the carpenters' attorney, Bob Salinas, said the use of the N word did not come out of the blue. Several witnesses at the work site heard bilingual foremen and supervisors say "nigger" — in English. Salinas provided SF Weekly with the photo of graffiti he says was taken by a carpenter in a bathroom at the job site, and features the N word front and center.
Contra Cuts at Times
Union blues: Thanks to John Geluardi for his item about the NewPaper project at the Bay Area News Group–East Bay ["Reinventing the News," Sucka Free City, March 19].
We're happy to see our company taking a serious look at how to thrive in the new media environment. And after losing 15 percent of our newsroom staff to buyouts, we have a lot to rethink. Our newspapers have long histories of award-winning journalism, and continuing that high level of quality will be key to retaining readers and attracting new ones, in print or online.
But in my experience, great work usually stems from a team effort. As a reporter, I can throw myself into a story, but I also need backup from my news organization, including time to report, space in the paper, and copy editors to double-check for typos and errors.
I worry about all those things these days. And I worry that some of our most talented co-workers are getting discouraged and want to leave. I believe organizing a newsroom union is our best bet to maintain reasonable working conditions and retain some of the really smart people who still work here.
Reporter, Contra Costa Times
Co-chair, BANG–EB organizing committee
Don't Tas(t)e Me, Bro(dy)
Meredith Brody is high on life: In her review of the new Yoshi's ["Snazzy and Jazzy," Eat, March 19], Meredith Brody wrote: "But the extraordinary desserts invented by former Top Chef contestant Marisa Churchill end our meal with excitement." Extraordinary my foot! Is Meredith high on drugs? Marisa Churchill's desserts suck! How extraordinary can a key lime pie be? Her desserts are some of the worst that I've ever tasted. Is she paying Brody to write this review? All the real extraordinary S.F. pastry chefs are dead!