Ohio State Professor Bans the Term ‘Illegal Immigrant’ — it ‘Marginalizes,’ ‘Racializes’
At Ohio State University, watch your mouth.
Particularly as it concerns the term “illegal immigrant.”
19-year-old Hanna Emerson used the designation, and things didn’t go well, as she relayed to The Mirror (or The Daily Caller; I can’t tell):
“So, I am taking an online ‘sociology of immigration’ class, and yesterday we had to create an introductory post talking about the immigration issues that face the [United States] today. I mentioned illegal immigration and used the term ‘illegal immigrant.’ Today, I received a message from the professor telling me that I am not allowed to use the term ‘illegal immigrant’ and should instead use the term ‘unauthorized immigrant.’ If I were to continue to use the term illegal immigrant, he said my work would not be accepted.”
So it’s okay to say somebody’s doing something unauthorized; but you can’t state that someone’s doing something illegal. If you do, that’s ill — I mean, I guess — unauthorized. And on your drive home today, don’t make any unauthorized turns. They give out tickets for that.
Also: if you happen to stop off at the park for a friendly game of football, don’t commit ill — I mean, unauthorized — procedure.
“Illegal” doesn’t exist. It’s magic!
Hanna’s teacher, magician Victor Espinosa, sent her the message below, instructing her how not to be a jerk:
Welcome to the class! Very interesting post. In your post you used the term “illegal immigrants”. You should know that in this class, students will not be allowed to use the word “illegal” to refer to an unauthorized immigrant. The use of the term “illegal” by politicians and news media outlets to refer to an unauthorized immigrant, not only criminalizes undocumented workers, but it also dehumanizes, marginalizes, and racializes the people it seeks to describe.
In this class you can use the term illegal immigration, which describes a social process, but you will not be allowed to use the word “illegal” to refer to a human being. Starting next week, any assignment or discussion post that uses the word “illegal immigrant” to refer to an unauthorized immigrant will not be accepted.
Please see me in my office or send me an email if you have any questions about the organization of the class or assignment guidelines.
Thanks for taking this class!
Hmmm. A few thoughts:
- Illegal immigrants are criminals — they are committing the crime of illegal immigration. You may say you don’t think it should be a crime; but you cannot say it isn’t currently a crime.
- Saying someone has committed a crime does not “dehumanize” them.
- Saying someone has participated in a criminal act doesn’t “marginalize” them, any more than assigning some other designation which exists among the minority; “unauthorized,” for example.
- You cannot “racialize” people. Everyone comes from races.
- Someone sneaking across the border illegally has no relevance to race whatsoever. Saying they did so doesn’t change that.
- This teacher is a huge goober.
Victor Espinosa told the Spectator he thinks “the term (‘illegal immigrant’) is incorrect from a legal perspective but also a human perspective.”
Terms can be incorrect from a “human perspective”!
“It dehumanizes the person. Criminalizes the person. And racializes the person. This is a sociological concept. Often, students use the term accidentally because they aren’t aware – but by the end of the semester they understand why the term is not correct. … I tell them try to avoid the term and only if they continue do I move to a second level if the student continues. And I’ll tell them, privately, that there may be students from DACA in the class. There can be arguments on both sides, but you can’t use a term that’s not correct.”
“We try to avoid terms that are derogatory,” he explained.
So if they talk about theft, is that unauthorized possession?
Hanna doesn’t much appreciate the situation:
“It made me feel as though my free speech as being violated. I was upset. He told me that the term ‘illegal’ to describe individuals who crossed the border illegally was dehumanizing and racist. I feel like he essentially called me a racist, bad person when told me to refrain from using the term.”
Campus Reform has some good news (maybe):
The Ohio State University sociology department is “looking into” [the] incident.
The professor certainly isn’t alone in his opinion: Just check out CNN’s article, “Why ‘Illegal Immigrant’ is a Slur.”
On Ohio State’s website, Victor’s “areas of expertise” are listed as follows:
- Transnational Migration & Art
- Outsider Art & Artistic Recognition
- Human Rights & Suffering
- Latina/o Studies
- Oral History & Sociological Biography
- Ethnography & Qualitative Methodologies
No word on whether he considers “illegal alien” an upgrade.
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