What’s in a slur?

On Tuesday the Associated Press announced it would no longer use the term “illegal immigrants” to describe any one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.

“The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person,” said Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll. “Instead, it tells users that ‘illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”

Other terms to be avoided include “illegal alien,” “an illegal,” “illegals” and even “undocumented” — a constraint which might keep people like me from writing about immigrant and keep the president himself from talking about it.

Of course, the news didn’t go down too smoothly over at Fox & Friends, whose immigration lexicon has just been scrapped by the changes:

Immigrant advocates and Latino journalists are chalking this one up as a win for the pro-immigration side.

Nonetheless — and here’s the first Shakespeare reference — what’s in a name? That which we call an illegal immigrant, by any other name would still have a helluva time receiving a good education, securing a decent-paying job, getting to and from that job, finding a safe place to live, and basically living life to the fullest.

As it stands, the AP’s decision hasn’t put anyone’s green card in the mail.

Janet Napolitano herself, the secretary of homeland security, seems to think it’s all just semantics, telling reporters, “I don’t really get caught up in the vocabulary wars. They are immigrants who are here illegally. It’s an illegal immigrant. They are immigrants who are here without documents. That’s an undocumented immigrant.”

Just yesterday a video began circulating showing celebrated civil rights leader César Chávez using words most people thought only a racist Alaska congressman would use:

Forgive me if I’m not appalled by Chávez’s word choice. Not only did his work as a union organizer spawn in him a deep resentment of undocumented labor, but words like “wetback” and “illegals” were also once used colloquially and without malice — no matter what a vainglorious viejita would have us believe.

Nowadays there’s a saying echoing through the halls of Congress: Sticks and stones may break my bones/ But names can end my career.

Instead of acting as the language police and worrying about how immigrants are addressed, let’s focus on how immigrants are treated and see to it that Congress, bigoted or not, passes comprehensive immigration reform.



Though some people were quick to call it a done deal, Uruguay is on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage — becoming the 12th country in the world, and only the second country in Latin America, to do so.

The bill, which passed the senate by a vote of 23 to 8, also allows same-sex couples to adopt children and choose their children’s last names.

Now the lower house must vote on the bill again, after passing an earlier version in December, but Pres. José Mujica is expected to sign it into law soon.

Uruguay would become just the third nation in the entire Western Hemisphere to secure marriage equality, behind Canada and Argentina, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2005 and 2010, respectively.

After becoming the second Latin American country to legalize abortion last year (it’s been legal in Cuba for nearly 50 years), los uruguayos are on something of a roll, thanks in no small part to Pres. Mujica, a former guerrilla leader who kinda supports marijuana legalization and donates 90 percent of his salary to charity (beat that, Obama).

It’s heartening to see some parts of the region are progressing socially as well as economically.

Now if only other Latin American leaders would stop chatting with birds and start taking notes:


CPS’ BS on school closings

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is voicing serious allegations that officials at Chicago Public Schools are using tactics designed by a pro-charter school group.

Going through the list of maneuvers, you can’t help but notice that much of the Broad Foundation’s suggestions is exactly what CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is currently implementing. Worse yet, Byrd-Bennett was even an “executive coach” at an academy run by the foundation, where former CEO Jean-Claude Brizard received training, as well.

Unfortunately, so much is skewed by the media, and both CPS, the CTU and Mayor Emanuel are so adept at what they do, that it’s hard to know exactly who’s up to what.

Still, one thing’s for sure: something is definitely rotten in the city of Chicago (second Shakespeare reference).


The Puerto Rican Parade

Last, but certainly not least, Chicago now has one, official Puerto Rican parade.

Earlier in the week, the two parade committees announced that Grant Park’s Puerto Rican Day Parade will be moved to Humboldt Park and merged with Division Street’s Puerto Rican People’s Parade.

Alderman Roberto Maldonado, whose 26th ward covers most of Humboldt Park, said the merger “was a long time coming.”

“Sure,” added Zenaida Lopez of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s Vida/SIDA project, “downtown’s beautiful, it’s touristy, a lot of things go on downtown, but it’s not a Puerto Rican community.”

Members of the community are hoping the combined parade will further showcase the neighborhood and bring in more revenue.

Yet, as with any decision in the Windy City, the move is not without controversy.

Ralliers on Thursday expressed their disapproval of the decision, citing the downtown parade as a tradition and something that provides Chicago’s Puerto Rican community a citywide stage.

“Just like the Irish have their parades and the Italians have their parades downtown, and other ethnic groups have their parades downtown, we want our parade downtown,” said Efrain Malave, former president of the committee that organized the now-defunct parade.

Behind many of the reasons given to keep the older parade at Grant Park are worries over recent violence in Humboldt Park. In 2010 police helicopters and a SWAT team were called out to control the crowds.

Undoubtedly, this year’s parade will test the resolve of the neighborhood’s residents and the CPD.

But I, for one, am elated to see the parade come home.

Humboldt Park is the undisputed Puerto Rican soul of the city. Only three other places on earth rival its puertorriqueñidad: the South Bronx, Spanish Harlem and the island.

So mark June 15 on your calendars. I can almost sense the warm sun on my face, the sound of salsa in my ear, and the taste of alcapurria on my tongue.



[Photo: Emily Barney via Flickr]

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