The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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An open letter to Professor Estrada

Dr. Estrada:

I write as an individual, at the behest of no one: I represent only myself. You may, or may not, be a fine person in many aspects of your life. I can’t know, and I am not offering a blanket attack on your character. However, you have offended my sensibilities deeply. That I can tolerate in silence, but I will not watch idly as this college that I love so dearly falls victim to an unending barrage of undeserved misfortune, all precipitated by your action after the screening of Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” at the Armer Theater. I do not ask for an apology to my family, my colleagues and friends, my university, or to anyone who shares my heritage. I do ask that common sense prevail.

In regard to this controversy, of this I am sure, you have the means to inject a sense of balance into a body of criticism that staggers under its own conflicting masses.

At the screening, it was your contention that a certain sect of ancient Mayan people was depicted, erroneously, as violent, brutal and bloodthirsty, and that such a depiction perpetrates a racial disharmony in our modern society. You ask for an apology from Mr. Gibson, not only to you, but also “?to the Mayan community specifically and to this university.” Let’s ignore, for a moment, any arguments for or against the historical validity of Mr. Gibson’s film.

In this matter you have been neither formally nor informally elected as a representative of the University, the Mayan people of this world, and most certainly not as my representative. I say this not in anger or as an attack, but, at the very least, you are guilty of a profound arrogance in assuming the role.

Further, this is a university, yes, where ideas, no matter how distasteful, should be aired, discussed, and dissected in a calm and logical fashion, without acrimony. Although he was sorely provoked, Mr. Gibson did display poor judgment and an unfortunate lack of restraint in response to that provocation. He treated you, with words, as you had treated him by your action. The problem here is that you used invaluable time set aside for artistic consideration, golden time for film students and faculty to gain perspectives and insights from an experienced, celebrity filmmaker, to air your grievances from a political soapbox.

Whatever your grievances, I feel you displayed a lack of restraint and respect, for the students, your colleagues and Mr. Gibson’s generosity. He appeared, after all, as a favor to the college, and gave hours of his time to answer technical and artistic questions from eager film students and faculty. You tainted an exciting evening, and represented yourself and your college very poorly.

If you are concerned about the image of people of Hispanic descent, and you see yourself as their representative, then, by your own logic, you have done such people a disservice, because the perception of many who attended the screening is that you were rude, selfish, unkind, and somewhat devious. You slipped into the screening with a prepared speech – you knew that the person whom you had invited to the event had a written speech prepared. We all watched him read from it, in a language that we didn’t understand. Further, the man was addressing Mel Gibson, and it was clearly evident that Mr. Gibson could not understand what was being said. Why persist? I believe it’s because you were not there to engage in dialogue. Forgive me, but that was simply rude, and blatant, calculated showmanship.

I believe that you have discriminated against so many cultures across the board. You cannot suggest that people of Mexican descent never perpetrated violence on each other. Of course not, that’s ridiculous. They did, and still do, as have most societies throughout history, at one time or another. So, by your logic, those not of such a heritage will now have the perception of all Latinos as violent people. That’s s faulty logic, is it not? Because you or I may have distant ancestors who may have been violent hunters, criminals or people who in some way behaved in a manner unacceptable by today’s standards, we then must be just like them? That’s an incredibly racist perception. It’s unjust, and profoundly unfair to anyone who has a less-than-perfect ancestry. It’s also unfair and condescending to the members of our society whom you think may be small minded enough to draw such conclusions. You discriminate against so many people on so many levels: this idea of yours runs counter to the very fabric of which the American society is woven.

I am deeply offended by the stance you took that evening: that doesn’t mean I hate or dislike you. I certainly dislike what you did that night. Does that implicate our entire Latino society? Of course not. You don’t represent all factions. And I, for one, am not about to condemn an entire society based on what I believe to be your ill-conceived actions.

Again, I ask for balance and a prevailing sense of respect for all, for you, for Mr. Gibson, for all sectors of society embroiled in this controversy, and for our College, which only saw fit to facilitate an evening of education for its members. At the center of this entanglement, you are able to unravel it, without anyone being further hurt. I appeal to your sense of community, to instigate a peaceful resolution, for the good of all.

Sincerely, Rowan Sutherland

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