The Latin American Coalition's youth group, United 4 The DREAM (U4TD), has achieved a nice victory with the local Drop the I-Word campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thanks to their tireless efforts, Mike Collins, host of "Charlotte Talks" at WFAE, the local NPR station, signed the pledge to drop the i-word last week. United 4 the DREAM is on a roll. They have been reaching out to local English and Spanish language media, elected officials and community groups. In June, Jennifer Roberts, chair of the Mecklenburg County Commission, signed the pledge. The group has a goal of getting 10,000 Charlotteans to pledge to drop the i-word by October.
According to Maria Selene, U4TD member and media committee chair of the local Drop the I-Word effort, community members tune in to Collins' show regularly. They were disappointed to hear him use the i-word earlier this summer, so they decided to peacefully protest his show once a week starting June 22, until he signed the pledge last week. Maria Selene and, Mary Espinosa, also with U4TD and Drop the I-Word, joined Collins as guests on Charlotte Talks, for a discussion on why people are dropping the i-word. We've compiled helpful FAQs and other resources available in the campaign toolkit here.
The majority of students involved in the local campaign were high-school age and were motivated to get involved because of the increased bullying of Latinos and others perceived to be immigrants. They say students are called slurs like "illegals," "wetback," and "alien." Earlier this year, Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, visited Charlotte to talk to students about bullying and harassment due to a rise in civil rights abuse claims in the region.
The conversations young people are having with journalists about dropping the i-word are instructive for all of us. During the radio show when Collins told the students he would try not to use the i-word, one of them responded, "Last time we met when we had our conversation, you stopped yourself several times to think about it, so maybe that's one step that a lot of people could take. When they're speaking and if they know they're gonna say the word 'illegal,' to stop and just correct themselves and to think about what the word actually means."
Ethical journalism includes respect for due process and human dignity. Every journalist that makes the shift from using dehumanizing, racially charged slurs to responsible, humane, accurate terms, makes a difference and shows us that others can do it too.
Please join us in sending Mike Collins, a thank-you email for personally pledging to Drop the I-Word at firstname.lastname@example.org.