This week, our Drop the I-Word Friday Friend is Steve Kleinedler, Executive Editor of the New American Heritage Dictionary.
Recently the fifth edition of the New American Heritage Dictionary was published with 10,000 new words–among them the term “anchor baby.”
“Anchor Baby, n. A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family.”
The dictionary received much criticism for attempting to the anti-immigrant language as neutral. We know that the term is not neutral, but rather a made-up term used to propagate a myth invented by anti- immigrant advocates. “Anchor babies” is dehumanizing to families and is racially charged and used to stoke primarily anti-Mexican, anti-latino and anti-immigrant sentiment.
People spoke up and demanded a change be made, including the Immigration Policy Center, who consulted with Steve Kleinedler to amend the definition so that it would reflect the term as derogatory. The New American Heritage Dictionary responded and quickly changed the definition in its online version:
“Anchor baby: Offensive Used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child’s birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother’s or other relatives’ chances of securing eventual citizenship.”
Our own Mónica Novoa at Drop the I-Word spoke with Steve, who had this to say about fixing the definition:
“[T]his is where certain wording really helps to show that something hinges upon a belief system. Personally, [changing the definition] was not a reaction that we have to fix it because people are angry. We fixed it because we were wrong. And I, as the executive editor, acknowledge the fact that this was an error and I take responsibility for that. And that is also why I am quick to fix it because I believe it needs to be fixed and I stand behind that.”
Thanks to Steve Kleinedler and the New American Heritage Dictionary. As we continue to work to call attention to the prevalence of anti-immigrant language in the media, it’s refreshing to know that some editors are willing to own up to mistakes and to make the changes necessary to make things right.