The following statement, released today by New York State Assemblyman José Rivera, addresses the controversy surroudning ABC's January 3 broadcast of the network's new sitcom, "Work It," which contained a joke about Puerto Ricans as drug dealers that has caused a grassroots movement by New York's Puerto Rican community asking that ABC apologize for airing the episode.
Enough! The Puerto Rican community once again became victims of racist abuse by the American media. Last Tuesday, January 3, ABC transmitted a new show called “Work It” in which a Puerto Rican character states “I am Puerto Rican – I’d be great at selling drugs.”
This is not the first time that the American media stereotypes and racially discriminates against Puerto Ricans. However, our community has always fought back, winning important battles against billion dollar media conglomerates. Oliver Stone’s 1980 film, Wall Street, originally had a scene in which Puerto Ricans are compared to cockroaches. In the 1990s, an episode of Seinfeld showed the character of Kramer stomping on the Puerto Rican flag during the Puerto Rican Day Parade. In both occasions, Puerto Ricans protested, and both Seinfeld and Stone apologized. Stone went on to eliminate the offensive remarks from the video and DVDs of the movie. This type of discrimination is not unique to these two examples and goes back to West Side Story and beyond.
The fact that in the 21st Century we still have to change the channel in order to prevent our children from hearing comments on TV and film that attack their humanity and self esteem is unacceptable. We should not live in fear of watching TV or going to the movies because we do not know when the next insult is coming. We demand that ABC apologize to the Puerto Rican community at the beginning of the next episode of “Work It” and that the President of ABC meet with Puerto Rican community leaders to create a plan in which, instead of discriminating against the Puerto Rican community, the network promotes the rich tradition and contributions of Puerto Ricans and Latinos in general.