Letters to the Editor

Embracing Diversity

Steve Kreider’s op-ed was enlightening and a call for all of us to re-examine our own thoughts on race awareness. Thank you, Steve, for your candor. Our embracement of diversity is a contradiction. One needs only look at our history of acceptance, from our genocidal treatment of Native Americans to the enslavement of Africans, imprisonment of Asian-Americans during World War II, and reticence to address discriminatory treatment of immigrants.

We are still far away from that philosophical concept of “…with liberty and justice for all.” We are all family. Once we acknowledge that, only then can we all begin to move forward.

Frank Koehler 76G

Why Words Matter

I studied journalism and social psychology (also government) at Lehigh, and I’ve worked many, many years as an editor since then, so I may be more sensitive to a poor choice of words than the average person. Be that as it may, I was very troubled by an instance of unintentional irony in “Doing
Democracy” in the Fall/Winter 2020 Lehigh Bulletin.

A photo on page 33 depicts an indigent man sitting outdoors in front of a wall, holding a knit cap in his hands, apparently asking for money from passersby. The caption reads, “A beggar sits beneath the word ‘bills’ that is printed over and over on a black-and-white wall behind him, 1950.”

First, about your description of the man: I understand that the caption is informed by the photo’s title, Harlem Beggar. However, while the term “beggar” may have been acceptable circa 1950, during the era in which the photo was taken, it has since evolved into a word with a distinct undercurrent of contempt and dismissiveness.

The irony is that the photo is used in the article to illustrate the idea that “...misfortune is not something against which any person is granted immunity, and...we all stand to gain in being more aware and compassionate toward the conditions of our fellow man,” and it serves as a reminder that we should be mindful not to “stigmatize the homeless.”

If there’s a lesson here, it’s that we as a society—and especially writers and editors—need to be mindful of the words we use to describe people, particularly the less fortunate among us. The man in the photo is wearing worn-out shoes, is missing his front teeth and has a weary, sad expression in his eyes; it’s clear he was not living an easy life. The least (indeed, the only thing) we can do for him now is to show compassion by describing him in respectful terms. In my view, “impoverished man,” “indigent man,” “destitute man”—even “poverty-stricken man”—would have been preferable to “beggar.”

Second, about the word “bills” printed on the wall behind the man: Anyone who’s ever lived in a big city would recognize the wall as a temporary barrier around a construction site, and the word “bills” as a part of the phrase “post no bills,” meaning ‘Don’t paper this wall with ads, promotional announcements, etc.’

With that in mind, a better caption might have referenced the way the photographer cropped the image to drive home the message of the ubiquity of bills and financial pressures as the backdrop for a man who is clearly having trouble getting by.

Despite the few issues above, I commend the staff of the Bulletin for an overall well-researched, interesting and thought-provoking issue.

Lisa L. Goldstein ’83

A Rich Lehigh History

Imagine our surprise when we opened the front cover of the Bulletin to find a photo of us moving our daughter, Alexandra Delfini, into her freshman dorm in August! I am sure your team did not realize that all three of us attended Lehigh!

But wait. There is more! My father-in-law, Ronald H. Delfini, [is] Class of 1965 and my brother-in-law, Ronald P. Delfini, Class of 1988. So Alex is actually a third-generation Mountain Hawk and a 4X legacy! In addition, while at Lehigh, my
father-in-law met the love of his life, Marcia (Taft) Delfini, who was born and raised in Allentown, Pa.

Obviously Lehigh is a place that is near and dear to all of our hearts. We were thrilled that Alex was accepted and decided to attend and live on campus. Alex is also named after my junior year roommate and one of my dearest friends to this day, Alexandra (Feyns) Hurley ’92.

Even with everything going on, Alex really enjoyed her first semester, and has made many great friends, including some of our fellow alums’ children.

With all of this rich Lehigh history, of course we were absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Bulletin and we are looking forward to many more happy Lehigh memories with Alex! Thank you.

Lisa (Duch) Delfini ’91

(Spouse: John Brooke Delfini ’91)