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The Washington Post: Teacher uses a meme of Dora the Explorer as an illegal border crosser in a lesson about voting

UC expert weighs in on high school teacher's use of meme

An Ohio high school teacher prompted debate after using a "Dora the Explorer" meme to illustrate his lesson on voter eligibility.

The Advanced Placement government instructor wanted to make a point about illegal immigration. To do so, he dug up a 10-year-old meme that pictures the fictional cartoon character as a detainee with a black eye and a prisoner’s placard listing her offenses as “Illegal border crossing” and “resisting arrest.” It was paired with the apparent mug shot of a man sporting tattoos on his face and neck. Here, the teacher reportedly reasoned, were two examples of people who couldn’t vote: a felon and someone in the country illegally.

The Washington Post consulted University of Cincinnati sociology professor Erynn Masi de Casanova to discuss the implications of using the image in a classroom lesson.

Woman sitting at a desk writing

Professor Erynn Masi de Casanova

She said the meme “can be seen as legitimizing or trivializing the very real violence that is happening to Latin American immigrant and refugee children at the border and in immigrant detention centers.”

“Because Dora is what I call a ‘generic Latina’ stereotype, a fictional character without any identifiable national origin, people may feel comfortable projecting their ideas about Latinos onto her,” Casanova said.

“It is heartening to me that students and parents were disturbed by this image that dehumanizes and makes light of immigrants’ struggles,” she said.

“It seems they are learning something about empathy in spite of this teacher’s efforts to discourage it.” Read the full story.