Is the âI-Wordâ the New âN-Wordâ?
Editorâs note: This post contains language that some readers may
Progressive commentator Sally Kohn took aim at a word she deemed derogatory and dehumanizing in a CNN column published on July 4.
She compared the term to ân*****â and âf*****â and called for an end to its public usage.
The word: âillegal.â
Hereâs how she opened her column:
During the civil rights era, Alabama Gov. George Wallace was asked by a supporter why he was fixated on the politics of race. Wallace replied, âYou know, I tried to
talkabout good roads and good schoolsand all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about n*ggers, and they stomped the floor.â
In the 1980s, during the rise of the gay rights movement, North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms accused a political opponent for supporting âf*ggots, perverts [and] sexual deviates of this nation.â
Today, opponents of
immigration reformattack undocumented immigrants as âillegal immigrants.â Even worse, like anti-immigration extremists, some prominent elected officials use the term âillegals.â Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, said, âI urge all Mainers to tell your city councilors and selectmen to stop handing out your money to illegals.â
Not the same thing? Of course it is.
She goes on to call for the elimination of the term âillegalâ from public discourse, essentially arguing that social pressure should be employed to rid American parlance of the adjective.
âThe organization Race Forward has a campaign to get media organizations to âDrop The I-Wordâ in their reporting about immigration,â Kohn wrote. âSo far, the campaign has succeeded in getting the Associated Press, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and many other outlets to stop using the word. But the pressure continues on The New York Times, The Washington Post and radio and television outlets. And the campaign around media usage is just one step toward influencing and ultimately ending the use of the word âillegalâ by everyone in America.â
It seemed that Kohn would propose an alternate description for those who
Whether she intended that the word âundocumentedâ would come to connote âillegal,â or whether she intended that abolishing the use of the word âillegalâ would, by association, eliminate the unlawful nature of such immigration, was unclear.