During a Facebook Q&A on Tuesday, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton vowed to never use the term "illegal immigrant" again, a position that's a far cry from her Republican opponents. Telemundo hosted the q&a session, giving potential voters the opportunity to ask the former Secretary of State questions. Jose Antonio Vargas, a filmmaker and journalist, asked Clinton about her prior use of the term, saying, "the terminology is offensive and all Presidential candidates should stop using it." Clinton agreed, responding:
That was a poor choice of words. As I've said throughout this campaign, the people at the heart of the issues are children, parents, families, DREAMers. They have names and hopes and dreams that deserve to be respected.
DREAMers is a name derived from the acronym for the legislation that outlines the process immigrants go through when attempting to obtain citizenship in the United States, usually after they were brought into the country illegally as children.
Due to the popular, offensive and, quite frankly, dangerous prevalent rhetoric surrounding refugees and Muslim-Americans, Clinton's stance is especially powerful. While many (Read: Donald Trump) are quick to paint large populations of American with a broad — and often decidedly racist — brush, Clinton appears steadfast and passionate in her mission to give refugees, immigrants and Muslim-Americans names and faces, instead of labels and judgement.
So even if it's easy to scoff at a comment made on Facebook, Clinton's vow marks an important and potentially life-saving moment in her Presidential campaign. Here's why:
It Personalizes A Political Issue
It's very easy to stand on a national stage and spew cold statistics about U.S. security and the people candidates would like to hold responsible for it. But to put names, faces, and stories to the people that are often talked about with little or no regard is to gain an insightful bigger picture.
It Educates The Masses
It could easily be argued that the majority of people don't realize the term "illegal immigrant" is offensive. Some might not be aware that calling someone "illegal" is essentially condemning their entire existence. Remember: "no human being is illegal."
It Shows Necessary Solidarity
Continuing to endorse a rhetoric that promotes otherness is everything the United States of America claims it isn't. Drawing a line and manifesting an "us" vs. "them" mentality is nothing short of dangerous.
It Promotes Understanding
Ignorance is "usually" to blame for blind hatred, so to have a Presidential candidate actually listen to the plights of a marginalized group, then change in order to respectfully accommodate, is a silent encouragement for the general public to do the same.
It Encourages Personal Growth
Instead of skirting the issue or backtracking in order to defend her use of an offensive term, Clinton acknowledged that she made a mistake and vowed to correct it. At the end of the day, we are all human, and publicly accepting responsibility for past transgressions is a wonderful standard to set.
It Promotes Respect of ALL Human Life
Labeling human beings as "illegal" is blatantly undercutting a person's worth. The idea that some lives are not as valuable as others simply because of where they were born is as atrocious as it is fictitious. We all need to be reminded that the privileges we were born into occurred by the graces of some cosmic card dealer who handed us a lucky pair.
It Challenges Basic Rhetoric
Far too often, words are said without thoughtful consideration. The term "illegal immigrant" is a blind acceptance of an ideology rooted in discrimination, and should never be flippantly used when describing men, women, and children.
It Promotes Social Change
One day (hopefully) society will look back at U.S. history books and scoff at certain parts of how the present general public (and some of the presidential candidates hoping to run it) treat their fellow humans. Perhaps Clinton's vow to stop using a disrespectful term will move the wheels of social change at a faster pace.
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