Why do Americans Call Mexicans 'Illegals'?

[¡Ask a Mexican!] And what do Mexicans think of Koreans?

DEAR MEXICAN: These days, using the word "nigger" is considered so offensive that, in its place, we now use the term "n-word." Of course, never mind that African-Americans use it among themselves as a term of endearment, pero esa es una historia para un otro dia. Sin embargo, it raises a pregunta for me: Por que no one uses "b-word" for "beaner," "w-word" for "wetback" and "s-word" for "spick"?

While I don't advocate the use of ANY ethnic slur, I find it curious and interesting that similar "abbreviations" (such as n-word) don't exist for those used to refer to Mexicans, and I'd like to know your take on this. (Of course, I'll admit that those "abbreviations" may exist, and I haven't heard about them yet.)

PC, But not a Pendejo

DEAR GABACHO: The three anti-Mexi slurs you used are so 1950s—the only people who use those words nowadays are old gabachos and Alabamans. No need to ameliorate those, any more so than mick, dago, chink, Mohammedan or square head. Besides, you forgot the most important abbreviated euphemism right now: the I-word, or "illegal" when referring to undocumented people. A campaign run by the always-chingón Applied Research Center (ARC, publishers of the even-more-chingón magazine Colorlines) is asking that everyone stop using the term "illegal" in that context outright—as either a noun or an adjective—or at the least resort to using the awkward I-word stand-in. The only people who use that term, unfortunately, are Aztlanistas of all ethnicities, while the n-word term has become part of mainstream culture (its first appearance in the mainstream media, by the way, dates back to a 1987 St. Petersburg Times article, while the term seems to date back to PC pendejos in charge of HR for the government during the early 1980s).

What's the difference, then, between the public's reluctant acceptance of using the n-word for nigger while completely ignoring the I-word campaign? Easy: One term has centuries of nasty history behind it involving slavery, racism, lynching and other vileness, while illegal as a stand-in for "Mexican" only dates back to the 1950s—the earliest reference I could find to illegals being used as a noun to refer to undocumented Mexicans is a 1951 Los Angeles Times story quoting a government official about the Mexican waves then invading California. Before that, America actually cheered on "illegals" invading a sovereign land: the Jews who tried to illegally enter the British Mandate for Palestine before the establishment of Israel were called "illegals" by the press, and there was even a 1948 documentary called The Illegals based on the subject. Of course, that's ancient history for Americans, who never liked to be reminded of their double standards, especially when it involves Mexicans. Besides, America always needs ethnic slurs to toss around and make itself feel better—and while the era of nigger is largely over, the days of illegal are just beginning. Go, us!

 

DEAR MEXICAN: As a Korean-American daughter of an illegal-immigrant (Mexican) employer, I'm very curious as to what Mexicans think of us. (I have a feeling the answer is going to be less than shining.)

Hangul Heina

DEAR CHINITA: We have no real beef with Koreans, other than you stole our tacos.

 

GOOD MEXICAN OF THE WEEK! "Drop the I-Word" campaign, of course. The Mexican doesn't have a problem with using illegal—reappropriation, cabrones!—but I do support ARC's campaign because its people are righteous broders who do good work. Visit droptheiword.com for more information.

 
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37 comments
El Gringo Loco Caliente
El Gringo Loco Caliente

Another reason Americans use the term "illegals", as distastefull as it is, is because of freedom of speech. Oh yeah, that little thing. It's not a little thing and we better start thinking about it or we ought to get rid of all Polish, German, Black, Irish, etc. jokes. How far do we go in muzzling peoples speech and who is going to be the arbiter in these matters?

El Gringo Loco Caliente
El Gringo Loco Caliente

Well, comrades, one reason among many that Mexicans are called Illegals, is because Americans like to use nicknames. You know, shorten things. It's too hard to always call them illegal aliens, or border criminals, or as Democ-RATS do, the undocumenteds. Then some people call them illegals because they violated U.S. immigration law. It's not rocket science to people with an I.Q. of sixty or better.

GraveDigger55
GraveDigger55

Hey Gus,

It doesn’t matter where the person comes from. If they are from Kenya and they come here illegally, then they too would be called an illegal.

So now we need two words, like illegal Mexican or illegal Canadian or illegal Russian.

If you were to rob a bank that would be called illegal. You could call it an “unauthorized withdraw” but it’s still illegal

Most of the illegal people here in the USA are from Mexico……

If I snuck in to most any country on this planet, then I too would be illegal.

Got to get I passport and maybe a visa….

Stuart Pitt
Stuart Pitt

we'll see how long these comments last.

AC20850
AC20850

Oh Great! another stupid ass White Guy...You and Jeff 909 should go back to jacking off to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, John and Ken, Bill Handel, and all the other overpaid No Talent pricks on the conservative media machine..

909Jeff
909Jeff

So I posted you an article from Rolling Stone obviously written by a liberal that I thought was a good way for you to actually learn something... But since you get your rocks off by hurling insults there is nothing more I can do for you... Check the ratings dumb ass... Madcow, olberman, and Matthews together don't have as many viewers as O'reilly (Which I don't watch). So next time why don't you break out your crayons and write a coherent response, have your mommy proofread it for you then post it. And maybe. I might consider responding to you otherwise you're just a name calling douche with no sense of critical thinking.

AC20850
AC20850

OK, you and the other "conservative" assholes can go back to pissing on everyones' legs and telling them its raining...Happy now?

Stuart Pitt
Stuart Pitt

My original comment was....So what you need to obliterate the illegal word and put it in the same category as "nigger" is someone like Al Sharpton who has no visible means of support, no credibility, but nothing better to do than make trouble.....ummm DOH...that's YOU!

Pepe
Pepe

This is a joke, right? No one can be that much of a retarded douchebag.

Stuart Pitt
Stuart Pitt

Hay Gustavo Apparently the New Times now engages in censorship. I have posted 5 comments to this particular thread...not profane and completely on topic. They are no longer here. You have that kind of pull here?

Mmorante
Mmorante

Americans were the first illegals in Texas. So Mexicans call them "ilegales". Look into the the Texas archives in regards to the Mexican -American war and you will find many interesting facts i.e. Lincoln didn't vote for the Mex. -Amer. war because he didn't have all the facts. Also the famous Austin from Texas and Calhoun (Jeffersons VP) wrote to Spain and wanted them to cede Texas to Spain in 1812. Spain did not repy . They probably thought "these guys must be nuts, it is Spain." Spain was having to many problems not only in Europe but in Mexico where the revoluton had started in1810.

Pepe
Pepe

Simple. It's the action that's illegal, not the person. So you can talk about illegal immigration but it's a self-evident act of assholism to refer to someone as an "illegal."

Viva Cortez
Viva Cortez

So Gustavo is an Asshole when he refers to "Pedo-priests" because it's the action not the person? Thanks lavaplato.

Pepe
Pepe

No, fucktard. If Gustavo referred to your kid-fucking buddies as "illegals" it would be inane. Learn to think and then comment. Meanwhile go back to trying to hump your sister.

909Jeff
909Jeff

You and Rockybel have provided excellent cases thank you!

909Jeff
909Jeff

Thank you for the response. I can appreciate your point of view.

The only thing is that regardles of ones immigration status, everyone here, with the exemption of a diplomat with immunity, has the right to due process under our laws. That still doesnt defer the fact that it is a misdemeanor to enter the country under false pretenses.

AC20850
AC20850

Too Bad asshole "whites" like 909JEFF dpn't bitch and moan about the way Wall Street mutherfuckers flushed this economny down the toilet with THEIR "ILLEGAL" activities!! Typical "White Boy" prick if you ask me. TEE HEE!!

909Jeff
909Jeff

The major flaw in your argurment is that what the wallstreet people did was not illegal... You can blame your congress for that.

mirror
mirror

Hey, if Wall Street and the big banks hadn't committed a lot of crimes they wouldn't be conniving with the Justice Department and a lot of state AG's to give themselves retroactive immunity from prosecution for fraud, theft, and insider trading related to the financial collapse and subsequent fallout. They and the Justice Department don't even want any investigation. They have been slowed down somewhat in achieving their ends because the NY AG and the California AG are saying upfront that they won't agree to deals that immunize corporations and individuals from crimes that noone has even been allowed to investigate yet.

Also, the financial industry, the Justice Department, and a bunch of state AGs are working on a deal that will prevent individuals and organizations who were defrauded out of billions of dollars from suing them.

909Jeff
909Jeff

Again, did you read the article? Probably not because you're most likely posting this from your Ipad sitting in front of the Irvine city hall drinking the kool-aid by the bucket full. I understand that things are fucked up... there is no disputing that... Hell, I'm upside down in my mortgage. What Im saying is do some research, Its hard to believe but most of the shit that you call a scam and a crime were in fact not criminal... Unethical? Probably. Irresponsible? Sure. Illegal? No.

Its been 3 years since the sub-prime bubble burst and 2 and a half since the market bottomed out. Where are all the lawsuits? I'm in the industry and we have seen a couple of BD's close their doors but they were predominantly over failed private placement deals in which you have to be an accredited investor to buy into anyways (Accredited investors are part of the 1%). So it was the wealthy taking down the wealthy.

Bottom line is our federal government failed us. And they let the cause of the problem profit from it coming and going. You have the right to be mad... I'm just telling you you're mad at the wrong people. You dont have to believe me, I'm just a dude at a computer. and if ignorance is bliss, thus far you have proven to be very happy!

mirror
mirror

Suggesting that in one area someone didn't break the law doesn't mean they should then be immunized from investigation and prosecution in areas where they did break the law. Nor does it mean they should be immunized from suits brought by private individuals and organizations.

Your suggestion that there won't be any investigation or prosecution because the Fed will be found behind the curtain doesn't mean crimes weren't committed. It actually strengthens the original argument, that the 1% will do whatever they have to in order to prevent the actual workings of the system from being discussed publicly.

The intense focus on illegal immigrants by the right and those think doing so will curry favor with the right is often done to distract people from their true economic and personal interests.

909Jeff
909Jeff

Did you read the article? I served up a softball... it doesn't paint a very flattering picture of wall street firms and their execs but the underlying theme is everything was done with the full knowledge and often times the big ol' rubber stamp of approval of the Federal government, or the fed was two stupid to think 3 steps ahead of the very wall street firms they were shoveling all of this money into. Little Timmy Geitner is a lifelong politician and never held a post at a major firm. He was swimming with the sharks and in over his head. The reason why its good to fill these type of positions( the Fed Chief and Treasury Seceratary) with former CEOs is because they can match wits and play the chess match with the big boys on wall street. And the reason why you wont see any prosecutions or investigations is because when you pull the curtains back you'll find the Fed standing there holding the bag. Furthermore the AG of California is liberal from San Francisco more interested in prosecuting bullying...

Besides aren't we supposed to be talking about Illegal immigrants?

AC20850
AC20850

Oh GEEZ... so i guess all the scheming and scamming they pulled off was OK according to your logic right? Your MORALS are right up there with every other "CHristian" conservative in the media these days. What a crock of SHHIITT!!!

909Jeff
909Jeff

Speaking of Mexicans... Where did the stories of the Sanchita sisters and their awesome costumes go?

richardgrabman
richardgrabman

I don't think there are any specific ethnic slurs in Mexico for Koreans (though I could be wrong), but there is animosity towards Korean immigrants in Mexico, noticeable in places like Mexico City where there is a sizable Korean community. The Zona Rosa, besides the "gay ghetto" is Korea-town to a lot of foreign visitors.

The animosity I noticed while living in Mexico City wasn't overt. The Koreans seem to be something between the Mexicans of Mexicans and the Jews. "They" aren't quite the same as "us" are standoffish and only stick up for each other ... the same kind of "je ne sais quoi" of bigotry you hear directed at individuals from any relatively successful immigrant community.

And, of course, the Korean-Spanish accent is considered fair game for comedy in some quarters,,, but then my atrocious gringo accent has been known to set off giggles too.

909Jeff
909Jeff

If I drive a car while drunk its a misdemeanor... I'm "Illegally" operating a motor vehicle.

If I enter your property without your permission I'm trespassing which is a misdemeanor... I'm "Illegally" trespassing on your property.

If I enter the country without going through the proper process its also a misdemeanor... Why would then be unacceptable to refer to me as an "Illegal" Immigrant? after all I would be Illegally present in a country other than that of my origin.

As I have written in the past I don't fault anyone for wanting to come here to create a better life for themselves or their family and I'm not going to lower myself to the "Anchor Baby" argument or the drain on resources argument or the taking our jobs argument...I don't place a ton of validity in those.. I'm merely attacking the PC angle. why cant we call a spade a spade?

I had an Asian lady call me "round eye" once it was more amusing than anything else!

Lhirondellejamie
Lhirondellejamie

Fuck you your an illegal immigrant because the euros stole this land! And mexicans are native to this land. So how can any white person say their not?

hatepplwhohate
hatepplwhohate

For one, I am going to go with the old i didnt cross the border the border crossed us, for a short response. For the long one, I believe is more of the fact that the US Govornment has made the process so complicated, and almost impossible to be a short term thing. if you were to start your process from Mexico. I believe a person waits about 10 years to get their papers if they are fixing straight from Mexico, and honestly their families cannot wait that long ( because mostly people come here for a better life right?). So the only solution to do is come here first, work and save money, and try to go through the process through the inside. My parents came here to work and save up money to fix my brother, mom, and sis up (only one that was born here was me, dad was a resident at the time, mom wasn't) it took us about 6 years but they finally got their permanent recidence and dad of course got his citizenship. So that's my response, is not that easy to say, hey I'm going to drop 100,000 pesos and wait 10 years to see if this guys let me get in, while then i think i'll sit here and hope to feed my family with this job, know what i mean?

Kirsten Silva Gruesz
Kirsten Silva Gruesz

Jeff, by the same logic you could say that no one should have ever been offended at "nigger" because it was based in descriptive reality, i.e. that it referred to certain folks' dark skin (as a derivation of the Spanish "negro"=black). Same with "commie" or "redneck," for that matter--they originated in a description. The point is that words acquire an emotional charge and a deeper meaning through repeated usage. In the US and 2011, "illegal" has acquired a derogatory, vitriolic connotation and it is understood to mean Mexicans/Central Americans, not the tens of thousands of Irish, South Asian, Chinese, Syrian, etc. etc. nationals who have overstayed visas or otherwise become "illegal" too. It's not "PC" to point this out; it's just Sociolinguistics 101.

909Jeff
909Jeff

No... You cannot compare someone being born with dark skin or red hair with someone who willingly broke the law. To do so is completely intellectually dishonest. And while the term does belong to all who have overstayed their visas, or were smuggled in on a cargo ships from Asia, it is, most associated with the Mexican Illegal immigrant. I'm sorry if you feel that its unfair but the truth is what it is... So far the most compelling arguments against using the term illegal was by Rockybel and Pepe, They focus in on the human decency factor. Rockybel's most notably...

"With very little effort in supporting fellow human beings irrespective of their immigration status, we could avoid the vitriolic term "illegal". Thank God I don't hear the terms bastard or illegitimate child or queer being used by most people these days"

There are "Bastards" and illegitimate children born everyday in this country... But we dont call them that anymore because its not the decent thing to do. I get that. And Pepe pointed out that its the act thats illegal not the person, great points.

You say that the term illegal has acquired a derogatory and vitriolic connotation... So has the word Rapist.. But we don't call them by any other name.

I will concede you your point that the word has an emotional charge and a deeper meaning through repeated usage. It is because of this that it is pet project of left leaning activists to attach the word to Mexicans as a slur and try to get it removed from our lexicon. And the broader goal is that if we stop altogether referring to illegal immigrants as "Illegals" then we also will stop viewing the crime of illegally entering the country as "Illegal".

We go get into other political aspirations involved with this movement but that's for another day.

Bill T.
Bill T.

Reminds me of the time the neighbor mom came over to complain to my mom that my brother was calling her kids nigger when he was playing with them. My mom's response? "He didn't learn that word in my house". It's true, too. The other mom didn't have a come-back. Either it's socially acceptable or it's not (it's not). Richard Pryor got it right.

 
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