Sunday, October 21, 2012

He Ain't Illegal, He's My Brother

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There has been some controversy this week over the continued use of the term "illegal  immigrant" by the Associated Press and the New York Times.   Some are arguing that the term is dehumanizing and characterizes the person as being "illegal" rather that the act that the person may or may not have committed.  The argument is that people aren't "illegal," though their actions may be.

Tom Kent, the deputy managing editor for standards and production for the Associated Press, reviewed the use of the term "illegal immigrant" in response to calls for his organization to drop its usage.  Kent tried to minimize the dehumanizing aspect by noting that the AP routinely refers to "illegal loggers," "illegal miners,' and "illegal vendors."  His logic was:  we call everyone illegal, so what's the big deal?

The fact checkers went to work and found out that Kent was implying an equivalency that didn't exist.  The AP had used the term "illegal logger" 69 times in the past year, "illegal miner" 9 times, and "illegal vendor" exactly twice.  But the term "illegal immigrant" appeared over 3,000 times in AP articles during that same period of time.

The Associated Press has recently given its reporters the option of referring to these individuals as "living in the country without legal permission."

An NPR radio personality suggested that the New York Times might be using the term "illegal immigrant" because the venerable newspaper is under-represented by Hispanic reporters.    It turns out that just four percent of the New York Times staff are Hispanic - in a city where 29 percent of the population is Hispanic.  The tired, Old Gray Lady has no current plans to drop the use of the derogatory term.

Some are saying that the use of "illegal immigrant" is a generational thing.  The country's top twenty college newspapers (as rated by the Princeton Review), consider the description as "outdated" and do not use it in their publications.  A person associated with one college newspaper noted that it took older Americans much longer to quit using the "N-word" in referring to black people than it did for young people to jettison that offensive term.

Fox News may be beyond redemption, but surely we can expect better from the Associated Press and the New York Times.

People are people.  They are neither legal or illegal, but some are certainly kinder and more tolerant than others.    It's refreshing to know that our young people have apparently gotten the memo.

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