Feature

Dehumanizing Hispanics as ‘illegals’

It’s “the latest in a long line of euphemisms that politicians use to signal their antipathy to a reviled racial or ethnic group, in this case, Latinos,” said Peter Beinart at TheDailyBeast.com.

Peter Beinart
TheDailyBeast.com

The Republicans have a new euphemism for undocumented workers—“illegals,” said Peter Beinart. With a tone of disgust, that single, dehumanizing noun has become the GOP presidential candidates’ preferred way to describe the millions of human beings picking our produce, cooking our food, cutting our lawns, and watching over our kids. It’s “the latest in a long line of euphemisms that politicians use to signal their antipathy to a reviled racial or ethnic group, in this case, Latinos.”

Whoa, you might say—the word fits because these people broke the law when they crossed the U.S. border in search of work. But if that’s all the term conveys, why don’t we use it to describe everyone in our society who has broken a law, such as the tens of millions who’ve smoked marijuana (including the last three presidents), or cheated on their taxes, or exceeded the speed limit? When I grew up in Boston, the city was filled with Irish workers with forged immigration papers; they were protected by politicians (most of whom were Irish), not deported or denounced. Curiously, no one called these desperate, hard-working immigrants “illegals.” I wonder why that is?

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