Last updateWed, 21 Apr 2021 3pm


Associated Press Issues Language Ban

Certain words in the English language have, for centuries, constructed certain social stigmas we would now consider matters of intolerance. Recently, the Associated Press announced the ban of the term “illegal immigrant” from its stylebook.

It is no secret that numerous U.S. immigrants have faced severe racial, occupational and educational discrimination in our history. Therefore, this action was taken in favor of immigration organizations and advocates who claimed that the phrase “illegal immigrant” emitted degrading and uncivil sentiments towards those living in the U.S. without proper documentation. Accordingly, the Associated Press has recommended instead the use of the term “undocumented immigrant” in hopes that a less demeaning terminology will encompass a more positive stigma. However, we must question, in truth, how successful this could be.

Various learning theorists explain the basis of behavior to be simply learning and memory. Once a thing is learned and is committed to memory, it becomes a habitual routine which, as human beings, we are reluctant to break away from. When our behavior comes to communication, our language is very difficult to separate from our associated thought. Therefore, with years of practicing the term “illegal immigrant” behind us, there seems to be narrow hope for significant change to come out of this.

Immigrants themselves are diffident in having too much hope for this act. Freshman biology major Siri Chintapalli said, “changing an official term does nothing to change people’s attitudes. At least giving something a controversial name draws attention to it and forces people to talk about it. This just makes an important issue sound like a minor inconvenience.” Seemingly, issuing legislation cannot destroy our engrained associations and might be ignoring the bigger picture of prejudice. The question further fails to associate justified sentiments towards immigrants, who were an essential component in the building of this nation.

While the intentions for this ban may be progressive ones, the question remains as to how effective the repercussions will be. Because immigrants were subject to assimilation practices in the past due to their supposed inferiority, the stigma of them being less than the average citizen was very prominent. This prejudice- unfortunately like all prejudices- is a formidable challenge to overcome, even today in a society that is relatively tolerant.

Language is not the primary basis for discrimination. More than anything, all types of discrimination lie at the heart of thought—or lack of rational thought, rather. History is all too familiar with a simple thought capable of driving humanity to madness.

On the other hand, although it is much easier to discuss all the flaws and insufficiencies in this ban, it is more productive to look towards any positive matters that may proceed. Professor of communication, Shannon Hokanson said, “Personality is constructed through language and it dictates the way that we perceive. I think that language is important and that it absolutely may not immediately impact perception of immigration, but I think it’s useful to start legislation with language.”

Whether or not this language ban will alter human thought is still up for debate. The capability and possibility for progress should never go unheard. Essentially, steps toward said progress, no matter how small, are the only way forward.

Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151