Think Piece: Drop the I-Word

It’s Ally Week for Student Life Online!

What does that mean? This week we are focusing our energy on the importance of being an ally towards those who experience discrimination. OPSEU describes,

“An ally is someone who whose personal commitment to fighting oppression and
prejudice is reflected in willingness to:
1. Educate oneself about different identities and experiences,
2. Challenge one’s own discomfort and prejudices,
3. Learn and practice the skills of being an ally,
4. Take action to create interpersonal, societal and institutional change.”

Drop the I-Word

In this post we share a think piece about the effects of using the word, “illegal” to describe undocumented immigrants.

Article Written by Race Forward 

Drop The I-Word

Race Forward’s Drop the I-Word campaign is part of a larger body of work dedicated to ending the mass criminalization of communities of color. To learn more visit

Immigrant and refugee rights are increasingly under attack by U.S. institutions, while racially derogatory and dehumanizing language used in the media and political discourse has paved the way for a rise in hate crimes against immigrants. We need to strongly reject efforts to criminalize immigrants hold our media accountable for dropping the i-word.

Looking Back: Race Forward’s Drop the I-Word Campaign

Why It Matters Now

  • Anti-immigrant harassment accounted for 32% of of the 867 hate incidents collected by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Which Outlets Have Dropped the I-Word?

Race Forward looked at how often the i-word has been used in immigrant-focused coverage by The New York TimesThe Washington PostUSA Today, and The Associated Press since 2013. We learned:

  • Since officially dropping the i-word in 2013, The Associated Press has consistently been the best performer of these four major national outlets.
  • While The Washington Post has steadily improved its coverage each year, it has also consistently been the worst offender of the four outlets studied.
  • Although The New York Times never officially pledged to drop the i-word, it has the second best record of the four outlets studies. However, some of the publication’s leading immigration reporters continue to use the term.

(see our full findings here)

And the i-word continues to be used with great frequency on the leading cable TV news networks. According to a Media Matters for America studyin the first half of 2017 the anti-immigrant slur was used on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News prime-time shows a total of 1,296 times.

  • MSNBC hosts and contributors used the i-word 87 times.
  • CNN hosts and contributors used it 102 times.
  • Fox News hosts and contributors used it 1,107 times, making the network the worst offender of all three networks by far.
  • and when the slur was used, it was rarely challenged by hosts and contributors.

Drop the I-Word Resources:

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En español: Guía de Acciones

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