The Jersey Guys and the Obligation to Speak Out

Andrew Stengel, executive director of the Northeast Regional Office of People For the American Way, spoke at the media conference called by New Jersey Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo earlier today to address the Jersey Guys’ “Cucha Gotcha” promotion. Stengel said the following:

“At People For the American Way Foundation, we’re strong supporters of free speech. We believe everybody has the fundamental right to speak their minds, and we’ve worked for decades to defend and protect that right—and not just when we agree with it.

“That, of course, extends to the Jersey Guys. They have the right to speak out, and their radio program gives them an especially powerful megaphone. However, we too have the right to speak up. And when their message is so intolerant, so poisonous to our communities, we have an obligation to do so.

“The DJs may see this as a humorous game, but comparing hard-working people to cockroaches and rats is not amusing; it’s wrong and dangerous. They say they’re targeting only the undocumented, but by playing off a Spanish word, they have effectively equated undocumented to Hispanic, a group that currently comprises more than 15 percent of New Jersey’s population.

“This is all the more unfortunate because it comes at a moment when hate crimes against Hispanics are on the rise. While the DJs are not calling for violence, equating immigrants with cockroaches and rats dehumanizes them, making them easier to target.

“You don’t have to be undocumented or Hispanic to be appalled by this—hateful speech should concern us all. And people who are concerned about the Jersey Guys’ inflammatory rhetoric should exercise their own right to free speech, to give voice to the voiceless, to defend the weak and protect the vulnerable. Anything else would not be the American Way.”

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