Friday, May 25, 2012

Still Don't Know Much About History - In Spanish

    Last Friday, May 18, the Obama 2012 campaign launched a new website, GottaVote.org.  As I noted at the time, the website told the story of Dorothy Cooper, a 96 year-old African American woman, and the article began as follows:
Dorothy Cooper was born in 1915, before women or African Americans could exercise the right to vote in the United States.
Of course, while women of any race could not vote until 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, African American men were granted the right to vote in 1870 with the ratification of the 15th Amendment.  As I noted, practically speaking, states often found ways to prevent blacks from voting well into the 1960s when Voting Rights legislation was passed.  However, even though the Obama campaign used the ambiguous phrase "could exercise the right" which might have justified the claim, within 24 hours "or African Americans" was removed and the sentence now reads:
Dorothy Cooper was born in 1915, before women could exercise the right to vote in the United States.
Or, to be more accurate, the phrase was removed on the English version of the website.  Here's a screenshot from today from the Spanish Language version of GottaVote.org:

I have only a couple of years of high school Spanish under my belt, but I believe I'm not going out on a limb to interpret "afro-americanos" as African Americans.  So the Obama campaign was fairly quick to correct the English version (whether in reaction to either my blog post or the tweet I sent them, I do not know - I received no response.)  However, a week later, Spanish speaking visitors to the site are continuing to get the wrong story.  And although Google Translate is certainly not the definitive source, the phrase "tuvieran el derecho de votar" comes back as "have the right to vote," a much less ambiguous wording than "could exercise the right" to vote.  If anyone can provide a more accurate translation, I will update what I have written.
    So the question remains: Is this simply a mistake, or a deliberate attempt to mislead?  I lean towards the former, but now that we are a week out from the website's launch, it's almost inconceivable to me that a statement that flatly ignores the 15th Amendment to the Constitution remains unchanged.  That this statement is being made on a website run by the campaign of the sitting President of the United States is inexcusable.

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