The county says it will immediately replace the Spanish version
Ventura County officials are apologizing after releasing a Spanish-version of a coronavirus social distancing poster that tells people to keep “three produce crates apart.” The English version of the same poster instructs readers to stay a ski-length apart.
Ventura County’s intent may have been to show items one could envision to stay an appropriate length away from others to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but the message rightly infuriated many who saw it. The county quickly apologized and vowed to replace the Spanish version immediately. One poster shows a man and woman in business clothing separated by a pair of skis. The other features faceless silhouettes of a man and woman in work clothes separated by three produce crates. They called the situation a “misunderstanding,” but many disagree, calling it blatant racism.
The county of Ventura said they created several versions of the poster, with the Spanish version intended to provide “social distancing messaging for farmworkers at the farms,” CBSN Los Angeles reported. The county has a large farming community. “No industry has a more profound impact on Ventura County’s landscape and quality of life than agriculture,” Ventura County Farm Bureau said on its website. “Farmers and ranchers are stewards of more than half of the privately owned land in the county; their fields, orchards and rangeland are a precious local heritage.”
“We understand this has caused offense and we apologize,” a Facebook post from the county, which has since been made private, said.
Intent is irrelevant. People are telling you the effect. Your responses are dismissive and glib. Apologize. Redesign the posters (skis in Ventura County, really? I'm a straight white male born & raised in @CountyVentura and I couldn't tell you the length of a ski). Do better.
— Jeremy Resnick (@JeremyResnick) June 6, 2020
County spokeswoman Ashley Bautista said Monday that the local government received hundreds of comments and complaints after the posters were posted on social media, VC Star reports.
“Ventura County officials have apologized and are replacing posters on social distancing that commenters on social media alleged are insensitive to Spanish-speaking residents — a complaint that appears to be rooted in a misunderstanding.” Yeah, right 😒 https://t.co/LMNDGI2gXN
— Sonia Barnes (@sonbarnes) June 10, 2020
The posters were printed in both English and Spanish, but it was clear to those who saw the two posters that those showing office workers were geared towards English speakers and the one with the crates to Spanish speakers.
Come on Ventura County! Really? So wrong on so many levels! Shame on you. English
poster depicts professionals & get skis and Latinos (Spanish)get vegetable crates for social distancing & no faces As a former resident of Ventura County, I am so disgusted! https://t.co/n1QP1YfsTS
— Andrew Silk (@andrewsilk) June 8, 2020
“I wish to apologize for the County social distancing posters many of you have seen in local businesses,” Ventura County CEO Mike Powers wrote on Nextdoor.com. “Thank you to those who shared their concerns and contacted us pointing out that side by side the Spanish and English versions are offensive to members of our community. That most certainly was not our intent in our attempts to share ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus. We will be going out and replacing the posters immediately.”
Racism is real, whether you see it or not. This is in my own city of Ventura. We need to do better. Why assume that Spanish-speakers measure in veggie crates and why are they faceless? @vcstar pic.twitter.com/BKDrQTvFBR
— ms.lisette.williford (@LWilliford10) June 5, 2020
Powers continued: “We pledge to do better. Please continue to stay engaged with us as we work to engage with and support our diverse community during these challenging times.”