From the Editor: A mural in Virginia Beach’s Back Bay has its critic(s)

The mural in question. [The Princess Anne Independent News]
The mural in question. [The Princess Anne Independent News]

PUNGO — I am writing about a mural in Back Bay that I decided not to write about some months ago. It’s the one that says “NEVER HILLARY!!” In part, it shows the sort of wall some folks think will solve the complex issue of undocumented immigration.

The Pilot on Friday, Sept. 2, published a story that states “some residents” – please note the plural – say the mural at the former Ansell’s Market at Princess Anne and Mill Landing roads offends migrant workers in the city’s rural reaches. 

I counted one person, sum total, saying that sort of thing in the story.

The seasonal guest workers of the sort discussed by The Pilot are documented workers. The story in question seems to focus upon those workers — without apparently seeking to interview any — more than undocumented workers often at issue in political discussions about immigration.

As media organizations reported this summer, businesses owned by Donald Trump, running for president against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have gotten approval to bring in more than 1,200 guest workers from other countries over the years. 

Such temporary hires are not unusual in hospitality businesses, including here. They may come through a different program than those employed on some farms, but this, too, is documented labor.

Ramona Austin is one of the people who made the mural in Back Bay. She told me the wall shown on it addresses undocumented workers, and she said she’s concerned The Pilot story made it seem like the mural opposes people who are in the U.S. legally. That’s not the case, she said. I’m not sure The Pilot story did that. It quotes her saying that she’s not opposed to immigration.

“Workers who have a visa, they’re legal,” Austin said when we spoke by phone. “It has nothing to do with anything.”

A few months ago, I chose not to write about the mural because I wanted to avoid giving publicity to a candidate by covering something that isn’t particularly surprising during an election year. The Pilot effectively did this by amplifying what seems to be one person’s opinion into the assumption of an outcry.

There are reasons to be upset about how Trump has spoken about people, including people of Mexican heritage, be they people crossing the border to seek a better life or an accomplished American citizen who is the judge in a case involving Trump.

Appeals to prejudice are pathetic. Such language isn’t on the mural in Back Bay. Some people may not like the mural, but the people who painted it did so with permission of its property owner. 

The mural engages a divisive issue, but the issue by itself is not unworthy of discussion because some people — including the very candidate the mural in Back Bay supports — address the issue poorly elsewhere.

Mechelle Hankerson, the reporter who wrote The Pilot’s story, declined to comment when I emailed questions. David Schleck, a community news editor at The Pilot, wrote via email that “we stand by the accuracy and tone of the article.”  

Via Hankerson, Schleck suggested I write a letter to the editor of The Beacon, a community news section published within The Pilot.

I assume that means community news editors avoid questions as well as those seeking office. 

Or they just have space to fill.

Thanks for reading.

© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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2 thoughts on “From the Editor: A mural in Virginia Beach’s Back Bay has its critic(s)

  1. I’ve had my own issues with Schleck so I can empathize. Thank you for this well-thought out and reasoned editorial. We are very lucky to have your paper to tell it like it really is John-Henry.

    1. I appreciate that you took the time to comment. As I hope regular readers know, I support The Pilot. We’re better with them than without them. They generally do great work under challenging circumstances.

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