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Letters and online comments from the readers (July 12 edition)

In which a reader drops the i-word


Language debate

I want to thank you for your cover story "Drop the I Word" (July 5) this past week. Joining the campaign clearly states that you take your power of words seriously and consciously. As a media outlet, it was great to see you give the two viewpoints on the issue because your readers can then make an informed decision for their personal opinions.

After reading the article, I made a decision to join the campaign and "Drop the I Word." The main reason I decided to join the campaign was a particular combination of the authors' articles. Mr. Hager states that "I'll go as far as saying illegal is completely race-neutral. Germans, Chinese, Kuwaitis, Mexicans and Americans can all become illegals simply by moving from one country to another without navigating the appropriate bureaucratic red tape." Ms. McKenzie stated, "At one time, 'colored' was a respectful way to describe African Americans. Today, it seems antiquated and makes the user sound ignorant." When you place the two statements next to each other, it critically pushed my personal viewpoints.

Mr. Hager argues that "illegal" is race-neutral, but can anyone truly admit that it is in his/her mind? As a supporter of the campaign, a supporter of immigration reform, a supporter of the Dream Act, a supporter of Deferred Action, I can honestly say that when I hear the word "illegal," my mind pictures a Latino, older gentleman as a day laborer. How many people can honestly say that "illegal" is truly race-neutral in their minds? How many people, when hearing the word "illegal," do not conjure up an image of a person that looks a particular way? How many times do you see people of a certain race and think they are probably "illegal?"

Maybe I am just a little ignorant about the immigrant population, but then I realize that is not the reason behind the way my mind configures "illegal." I come from a family that emigrated from Ireland in the 1980s. I know a great deal of undocumented white, Irish people. So, if I as a person, who personally knows how broad the race spectrum of undocumented people is, have a biased outlook on the word "illegal," then what does everyone else's look like? Does the word "illegal" in your mind become tied to border control on the U.S.-Mexico border? Do you look at a group of day laborers working in your neighborhood and think they may be "illegal?"

"Illegal" is an offensive term because to the majority of people, it is not race-neutral. It is a way of labeling specific people, who look a certain way. "Illegal" is an offensive term because it carries the weight of so much more than a way to describe a person who " violated accepted legal procedures, nothing more."

After this email, the word is dropped from my diction. Creative Loafing, I applaud your decision to "Drop the I Word" and I thank you for helping push me as a reader to think of my use of all words.

— Angeline Diamond, Charlotte

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