Drop the I-Word – tools for promoting human rights, dignity and racial justice

Today Colorlines.com announced the launch of an exciting and creative new campaign, Drop the I-Word, a national public education campaign focused on eradicating the racial slur “illegals” from media use and public discourse.

From the announcement:

The i-word is a damaging term that divides and dehumanizes communities and is used to discriminate against immigrants and people of color. It is shorthand for “illegal alien,” “illegal immigrant” and other racially charged terms.

This campaign is an extension of the work of the Applied Research Center and ColorLines.com, to popularize racial justice and give people the tools they need to make structural changes together. This is a cross-generational, multiracial initiative aimed at raising the public awareness of, and commitment to, human rights, dignity and racial justice for all people.

We can stop unintentionally fueling racial profiling and violence directed toward immigrants when we Drop the I-Word as a designation for our neighbors, children and families. We can encourage others to uphold the same human values and professional journalistic standards.

The campaign site includes tools for education and activism, stats on the use of the word in the media and a pledge you can promote through facebook, twitter and other social media.

I’m glad to hear about this major effort by Color Lines and the Applied Research Center. Though many of us have discussed the damaging effects of the word in our communities, seeing the development of strategies and tools to fight the spread of this dehumanizing term is encouraging.

Also powerful about this campaign is the focus on the use of the term in the media. It is not okay for anyone, let alone the media to employ racial slurs like the n-word and w*tback. So why is it okay for the corporate media to call our brothers and sisters illegals?

I’d like to add that, though “immigrant” is a powerful identity representing struggle, perseverance, inspiration and hope, we also need to drop the dichotomy between immigrants and “Americans” or citizens. I like how in Asian American Studies for the most part Asian immigrants are referred to as first generation Asian Americans. This is powerful and inclusive and makes the link to both our shared history of migration and immigration (those of us born here are second generation, third generation, etc.) and to the newly forming and strengthening ties to our new home.

It is encouraging to hear about this campaign and I look forward to seeing the fruits that it bares.


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