THE AP’S DITCHING OF “ILLEGAL” SIGNALS A LARGER CHANGE FOR LATINOS.
Last week the Associated Press finally decided to eliminate the word “illegal” from its style guide to describe immigrants (this is important because many major publications use AP style as a guide, thus, the AP’s decision has repercussions throughout U.S. publishing). This week, the long-awaited immigration reform bill is expected to drop in Congress. I’m hoping that both of these events signal good news for Latinos in the U.S., but then again if history is any indication, a healthy amount of skepticism is essential when fighting the good fight.
At the same time the U.S. media is moving away from characterizing immigrants as criminals, the most harsh parts of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 law remain in place, allowing law enforcement to racially profile Latinos and anyone else who looks “reasonably suspicious” in that state at their discretion. At the same time that Congress is, finally, moving to address a problem that has spiraled out of control due to politicos who don’t seem to be living in the same country with the same problems as the rest of us, politicians in Texas are moving to eliminate other points of view from the states’ higher education curriculums.
Can it be that there is more than one United States, and yet, we are living in both of them at the same time?
I’m happy that the AP, and then The New York Times, realized that their decision to use derogatory language when applied almost exclusively to one group in this country was wrong. Congratulations. Moving on from this victory, however, we have to stop and think about what comes next. What comes next for people in Arizona and Texas? What comes next for Latinos in other states where legislatures are filled with politicians who feel the need to create laws explicitly geared towards controlling them?
I always like to fall back on my personal experiences in California, and how they pertain to what’s going on today. I think about how, in the 1990s in California, both politicians and voters decided to go after Latinos in the state. It was Pete Wilson, Ron Unz, Prop 187, Prop 209, it was an anti-Latino fever that possessed the state for a few years after everyone realized Latinos were becoming a force to be reckoned with there. But it passed, and this year, Latinos will surpass whites in the state’s population and the assembly speaker is a Latino representative.
Things can change. But like most things in life, they change slowly and after a lot of hard work. Change at the cultural level requires that everyone does a little. Californians did their part. The AP did their part. People in Arizona are doing their part to change the inequalities they live with there. Texans are doing their part to preserve that state’s diversity in its educational curriculum.
What will you do?
Sara Inés Calderón
la vida es dura, pero es bella