David Zephyr (1000+ posts) Wed May-19-10 07:07 PM
Using the Term "Illegal Alien"
There was a time when one hardly ever saw the term "illegal aliens" used here at the DU. I know. I remember that time. I remember that when that term was used, a kindly post here and there, gentle nudge from someone seemed to be more than enough to keep our language on a higher degree and reflecting higher values. I actually cringe now coming here seeing the use of this very insensitive term which has a very marginalizing tone to it.
I'm not on some high horse here. It's inappropriate. People are not "illegal". The term "illegal alien" is a very repulsive term filled with xenophobia and bigotry. I think some don't know better, but I fear some sort of relish using this lousy language.
Thankfully, the use of the term "retarded" which was rarely, if ever, used here in the beginning, but later had a period where it crept in to use, is now, for the most part, back to being rarely seen in posts again, as it should be. I don't know whether this is from the mods or, hopefully, from a heightened sense of values. But the word "retarded" is a reprehensible term loaded with hurt and cruelty. The same applies with sexist language. It never was here in the beginning (or very little) then as the site grew, that language appeared. Thankfully, it is, for the most part gone.
The DU is a dynamic site where people come and people go. While the DU certainly is not as leftward as it was nine years ago, I hope we don't continue to slide into a comfort zone where hurtful slurs are tolerated by the larger community. Being a gay guy, I know that we've had our moments here when hurtful language was tossed around with great ease by a few -- again by some who didn't really know better and some that did. The truth is that we lost a some really good DU'ers who were GLBT who were not tomb-stoned, but who just left. That's really sad.
I hope that through the language we use here, we are not also pushing away some of our Latino sisters and brothers or those who have families that are mixed as mine is racially. I am fortunate that no one in our family has ever had to live under the shadows of being without docuements and living in that fear. But I have known families that have been shattered and broken up because of our shitty immigration policies and it is a horror to behold beyond belief.
A child or a woman or a man may be here without documents (undocumented), but they are not in and of themselves "illegal". Consider: This slur is never used against prisoners or those who commit crimes. In my near 60 years, I've never heard a criminal called "an illegal". The term is clearly reserved for xenophobic use. And it is hurtful.
I hope we can do better. I wonder: How many here might have a grandfather or grandmother, an aunt or uncle who they love who never had "documents" and who lived in the shadows, working and paying taxes all of their lives? I wonder: What percentage of the DU community is Latino or Hispanic? I wonder: Is that percentage is as large as it truly should be at a progressive web site like this one? If it isn't, maybe we might ask ourselves why that is.
I can tell you this: coming to a website where the term "illegal aliens" is frequently used is hardly a welcome mat for a lot of people. Words can welcome and words can shun. There are words that trigger a lot of pain and heartache.
Ponder that, just a little, before you post. You might be accidentally hurting someone, you might be sending an unwelcoming message to those who visit the site. And that would be a real shame.