Rinku Sen on “Illegal”: Word is a Gateway to Racism and Exploitation [VIDEO]

By Channing Kennedy Sep 10, 2009

Perhaps the most talked-about moment of President Obama’s address to Congress last night followed the dismissal of rumors that the new health care plan would cover ‘illegal immigrants.’ Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) was so outraged that he yelled, from the floor, "You lie!" In an instant, Wilson was willing to breach protocol, embarrass himself, and undermine his party — because he was so infuriated by the idea that Obama’s plan might provide care to a certain group of people. Why is our conversation around immigration so often driven to extremes, both of language and of policy? In this video, Rinku Sen takes the term ‘illegal’ to task, showing how it’s been used to make us comfortable with the suffering and exploitation of millions of undocumented immigrants. More in the Word! video series: "Reverse Racism": Word Distracts from the Big WHite Elephant of Systemic Racism "Colorblind": Word Twists Good Intentions "Merit": Word Hijacks the Conversation Around Race