About a month ago, the U.S. Treasury Department earned the right to freeze MS 13’s (Mara Salvatrucha) finances (LA NOW). Police lauded it as a wonderful accomplishment, a step in the direction of slowing transnational gang money exchanges. People viewed this event as the beginning in a longer line of financial freezes, with the Yakuza and Mexico’s Zetas being the next organizations targeted (LA NOW).
However, the freezing of the El Salvadoran gang’s finances has had negative impacts on the rest of the Salvadoran community. Placing the spotlight on a crime-ridden branch of their culture while exposing little news about the rest of the Salvadoran community shapes the representation of the community in the media as unnecessarily negative and provides a very one-sided perspective. This media representation is not fair to the rest of the community who already has to contend with negative perceptions of Central American immigrants and now faces the burden of associate with large gang culture. But, of course, the media did not take this perspective into account when the designation was given and made public.
Presentation is a serious part of culture and public perception of a particular group can dictate the media portrayal of their community. Yes, it is important to try to stem gang activity when possible and it is important to weaken gangs with international reach when the opportunity arises. However, how can we as a nation expect an ethnic group to assimilate into, or even fully contribute, to a society that only sees them as a problem group? The news never seems to mention positives aspects including, community centers, foods, and artists, that Salvadoran and other immigrant communities bring to the U.S. If we want to become a truly integrated, multicultural country, we need to pay attention to balancing both the positive and the negative in media representations of our immigrant communities.