Continuing the i-word debate: “illegals” vs. economic refugees

As a grad student and media worker, many nights I find myself motionless for hours at a time.  I’ll read a chapter for class, eventually get distracted by Twitter, Facebook or blogging, go back to reading, and repeat.  Suffice it to say that there’s a lot of garbage out there and you don’t always find substantive, meaningful dialogue on important social issues.  Well, not this time. This one deserves its own blog post:

Having studied migration from the perspective of anthropology and linguistics, and the language used to talk about immigrants (language ideologies, narrative, metaphor, etc) in public discourse, this reminds me of the way linguists stood behind and advocated for California students in the so-called “Ebonics” debate in the 90s.  A proponent of what the late Dr. Ron Scollon called activist sociolinguistics, I wondered what this decade’s parallel academic intervention might look like.

I think we may have found it. Below are a few helpful links to navigate this conversation:

1) For more information on the Drop the I-Word Campaign spearheaded by Colorlines Magazine and the Applied Research Center, a Bay area social justice think tank.

2) The official statement from 24 linguists who call for an end to the I-word in journalism, endorsed by the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) Committee for Human Rights.

3) A great 4-part MSNBC video from Up with Chris Hayes which featured an excellent conversation about the i-word debate. Guests included John McWhorter, professor of linguistics and American studies at Columbia University, Maria Hinojosa, journalist, anchor and executive producer of NPR’s “Latino USA,” Brooke Gladstone, co-host and managing editor of WNYC’s “On the Media,” and Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and founder of Define American.

4) Great update on the i-word debate in Colleen Cotter’s op-ed to the AAA blog, “Challenging terms of reference” (10/10/2012)

5) “Illegal versus undocumented: Semantics or more?” HuffPo video on panel discussion, proposing the term economic refugee to replace illegal immigrant.

This is only a partial list — part of the ongoing public conversation being had by linguists, journalists, and others about the appropriateness of using the term “illegal” as a personal descriptor.  I’ll be following eagerly to see how this develops and hope to one day read more accurate language across news organizations, not just those with a Latino focus (ABC/Univision, Fox Latino, but not Fox News in general) as many others have noted. I also applaud all the linguists that are taking a stand for justice — you are my heroes!

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Social Media Shoutout Sunday

Now that I’m maintaining two other blogs in addition to this one — one for a social media discourse class and another for a non-profit organization — it’s harder to make time for updates. So to keep that from happening, and connect what I’m learning in class to my interests outside of it, I thought I’d start a “Social Media Shoutout Sunday.” The orgs and/or causes I spotlight are all making great use of (low-cost) digital media to further social justice missions and advance dialogue on important social issues.

This week: LaPalabraDC on Tumblr. 

LaPalabraDC is a new(-ish) online radio Tumblr that covers issues that affect DC residents, elevating their voices, and the sounds of the city. The design aspect is simple, but their conversations are deep and meaningful. Here are some of my favorites, with a short description for your convenience:

1) The Florida Avenue Flea Market Gives People Hope (EPISODE 15)

“As frequent customers of the Florida Avenue Flea Market, La Palabra was disappointed to hear that the market will soon be forced out of its longtime spot at the corner of 9th St and Florida Ave. Located in the middle of rapidly-gentirfying U St, the market is one of the lingering spots that primarily serves low- and moderate-income people. We spoke to market regulars Kwasi and Dantes about why the market has to move and how the changing neighborhood affects the flea market.”

2) The Ella Jo Baker Co-Op Family (EPISODE 13)

“The Ella Jo Baker Intentional Community Cooperative recently had a back to school celebration with the young people from the co-op. We ate, we partied, and we heard from the youth about their perspective on living in a co-op. Trust us: it’s better than living in an apartment.”

3) Wind me up, cause there’s no summer without Chuck Brown (EPISODE 11)

“La Palabra attended Chuck Brown’s viewing at the Howard Theater last Tuesday, May 29. We spoke with old and young folks, transplants and DC natives, and all had a special place in their heart for Chuck. Check out their powerful stories and memories.”

4) Cuts Hurt Kids (Episode 9)

“On Monday April 9th, La Palabra was present at the Washington Teachers Union: FY13 DCPS Budget Cuts Hurt Kid demonstration at the John A. Wilson BuildingWe spoke with folks about how the Mayor’s proposed FY13 budget will hurt the Districts young people and our community as a whole.  Listen to what they had to say and what we need to do to fight these cuts.”

Be sure to listen out for more episodes, and let me know if you enjoyed these as much as I did.