A renowned Univision anchor was booed during her keynote speech over the weekend at California State University, Fullerton’s commencement ceremony.
Maria Elena Salinas — a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster — was heckled and booed when she began to speak in Spanish and briefly mentioned GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Salinas first addressed the university’s entire graduating class, and later spoke directly to the graduates of the school’s College of Communications, which includes students aspiring to enter her profession.
All was going smoothly until Salinas, a California native who was raised by Latino immigrants, took a moment to address the Latino graduates in the crowd and spoke a few words of Spanish to them and their relatives.
Salinas’ anecdote was appropriate, considering she identifies as Latino and CSU Fullerton is made of 37 percent Hispanic students, according to The Huffington Post.
However, some non-Latino students did not think that she should have singled out the specific ethnic group.
While Salinas told Latino students how proud she was of their generation in Spanish, other graduates reportedly shouted “What about us?” according to Denise De La Cruz who was one of the graduates at the ceremony.
“Tensions worsened as Salinas began offering advice to journalism students to use the tools of media to rebut political figures such as Donald Trump,” De La Cruz wrote in a first-person account for the OC Weekly. “That’s when folks began yelling things to Salinas such as, ‘Get off the stage!’ and ‘Trash!’”
Salinas responded to some of the criticisms on Twitter. She said that while she wasn’t aware of what people were yelling while she was speaking, “If they complained about me speaking Spanish it’s sad racism is on the rise.”
@_deedelacruz Thanks, I didn't hear what they said. But if they complained about me speaking Spanish it's sad racism is on the rise.— Maria Elena Salinas (@MariaESalinas) May 23, 2016
One student tweeted her in an attempt to clarify that the booing was not about racism, but because her speech felt “exclusive” to non-Latino students. Inadvertently, that explanation still sounds like it’s rooted in racism.
Why is it considered offensive for someone to respectfully take a moment to affirm and recognize their culture among a diverse crowd?
“It’s really sad that people can turn such a special moment into a racial war,” Salinas reportedly told The Washington Post. “Because it seems like that is what has happened. I don’t think I insulted anyone by saying a few words in Spanish to the parents. The whole speech was directed to everyone.”
“I think the message is, we have to cool down the intolerance right now,” she continued. “We really do. This is ugly, what’s happening in the country.”
The graduates’ disrespectful response to Salinas’ speech indicates that intolerance is running rampant. She was absolutely right that we have divisive public figures like Trump to thank for normalizing and encouraging this kind of behavior.
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