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20.10.07

Which Brings Us To Tonight's Word ...

Duke1676 raises an interesting issue with respect to how the pro-immigrant movement has trouble controlling the terms of debate. As the anonymous friend who raised the issue to him put it:

The word for what abolitionists fought was "slavery." The word for what South Africans fought was "apartheid." Words for what the civil rights movement fought (and fights) include "racism" and "discrimination." Those words convey a clear, one-word enemy. A wrong that needs correction.

In one word, can you say what the wrong is that needs correction in our fight for immigrants?


Duke suggests "welcoming" as a good candidate for a one-word description of what we're for, and I agree. Finding the word for what we're against is harder. It has to be broad enough to capture the whole range of concerns that the pro-immigrant movement has, yet specific enough to evoke (and be evoked by) the particular problems that this specific movement is attacking (i.e. it can't be something that could as easily apply to feminism or the disability movement -- although it's also important to understand the larger principles that do unite the various social justice movments). It needs to be negatively loaded, of course. And it needs to be something that doesn't come off as an awkward neologism -- both to avoid turning off potential sympathizers and (more importantly) because the word should automatically fill in a sketch of the movement's content for a hearer, rather than requiring us to explain the movement's content so that they can fully understand the enemy label.

I like a word that Duke actually used in the headline of his previous post: "nativism." It references the idea of national boundaries more than the similar "xenophobia" (and also avoids implicitly psychoanalyzing the enemy, which is a known difficulty with "homophobia"). And it's got the pejorative suffix "ism," a la "sexism" and "racism," but it doesn't (at least to me) come off as an awkward neologiosm a la "ageism" or "ableism" (not that ageism and ableism aren't serious problems, it's just that their words sound silly and PC to outsiders). And it gets at what I see as the core of the problem, which is an exclusionary privileging of one way of life and of the set of individuals who are already practicing that way of life.

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