Monday, September 20, 2010

Barbara Gonzalez and the word immigrant

My interview with the statistician Barbara Gonzalez is up -

There was some controversy about whether to call her an immigrant or if there was a more PC term. It's a much bigger issue for coverage of illegal immigrants (as opposed to "illegal aliens" or "undocumented workers"), but I am a little disconcerted that just the word "immigrant" can sometimes create discomfort. Yesterday I told some soccer buddies that my husband was an immigrant (he's Irish), and they all assumed he was from a war zone or something (Afghanistan was mentioned). A random blog post asks "Why do the words ‘immigrant’, ‘alien’ and ‘foreigner’ all evoke a sense of negativity?". There's also the issue of the word "illegal" being so frequently attached to the word "immigrant". I once got a bizarre forward from an acquaintance soliciting approval for some proposed draconian law that was clearly meant to harass illegal immigrants but omitted the word "illegal". I think we handled the wording correctly, but it all makes me think about the controversy over the Muslim community center in NYC and the regrettable sense of xenophobia that seems to keep coming up.

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