Recently, the Star Tribune lifted up WSCO’s Solidarity Fund for COVID Relief, organized to protect families most impacted by the pandemic – and the resulting economic fallout – from evictions. We are glad to see our work and our community gaining attention throughout the metro, and we’re grateful to the reporters shining a light on one of the many grassroots efforts supporting Twin Cities families during the pandemic.
However, we were disappointed when we saw that the original version of the article used the phrase “people here illegally” to describe undocumented people eligible for support through WSCO’s Solidarity Fund. At our urging, the Star Tribune eventually amended the articule to use the word “undocumented.”
Days after the article was published, we learned that a group of reporters of color at the Star Tribune have been organizing around racist policies and practices within the organization – including the use of the word “illegal” to refer to undocumented people. The reporters publicly released a memo calling for Star Tribune leadership to take action writing, “We are tired of doing the hard work in the shadows to convince communities of color to trust the Star Tribune with their stories.”
As a community organization committed to grassroots organizing, we understand the importance of building trust. The words we choose matter. We stand behind these journalists and echo their sentiments – especially when they write that “the continued use of ‘illegal immigrant’ in our stories has created a rift between us and immigrant communities and we cannot do our jobs without their trust.’” Without trust, the metro’s flagship publication will never be able to effectively tell the stories of communities of color and immigrants. Without those stories, it’s harder to address racism in the Twin Cities and beyond.
For at least a decade, RaceForward has been campaigning to “Drop the I-Word,” and the Associated Press stopped using the word “illegal” to describe undocumented people in 2013. It’s time for the Star Tribune to evolve, to stop describing people as “illegal,” and to meet the demands laid out by reporters of color to address racism at the paper.
The word “illegal” isn’t neutral. We know that when politicians and right-wing commentators use that word, they’re simply stoking racial divisions to distract from their failures to protect working class people of all races. On the West Side, we have deep roots across borders. We’re proud of the fact that immigrant communities have made the West Side home through the generations.
Please join us in supporting reporters at the Star Tribune who are calling for change. Write the Star Tribune leadership and tell them to take the actions outlined in the memo. Find contact information here.