Should we ban the phrases “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” from comments?

A rule of this blog is that undocumented immigrants are not to be referred to as “illegals” or “illegal.”

But I do allow “illegal alien,” even though it’s not a phrase I’d use myself. Back when I made the rule, my thought was that it was a phrase used both by legal agencies and by mainstream news sources, so it seemed a bit weird to ban it here.

But that was over a decade ago. Things have changed since then.

NYC is banning the term “illegal alien” when used to demean someone. And neither the phrase “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” are used by mainstream news sources much (although they’re both common in right-wing news) – in fact, those terms are banned in many news outlets.

On the other hand, it’s still a common phrase in laws and in the courts.

Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor said in an interview:

To dub every immigrant a criminal because they’re undocumented, to call them “illegal aliens,” seemed, and has seemed, insulting to me. Many of these people are people I know, and they’re no different than the people I grew up with or who share my life. And they’re human beings with a serious legal problem, but the word “illegal” alien made them sound like those other kinds of criminals. And I think people then paint those individuals as something less than worthy human beings. And it changes the conversation when you recognize that this is a different—it’s a regulatory problem. We’ve criminalized a lot of it, but it started as, and fundamentally remains, a regulatory problem, not a criminal one.

On the whole, I’m leaning towards banning “illegal alien” and perhaps “illegal immigrant” from Alas going forward. Jeffrey Toobin speaks for me when he says:

There does seem to be a consensus against the use of the term by the people most affected by it, who happen to be a vulnerable minority seeking a better life, and that’s good enough for me.

I’m going to leave a few days for comments before enacting a new rule. But I think I’m unlikely to change my mind on this one.

Posted in Immigration, Migrant Rights, etc, Site and Admin Stuff | 12 Comments  

Cartoon: Top Ten Reasons We Won’t Abolish I.C.E.


Please help me make more cartoons like this one, by supporting my Patreon! A $1 or $2 pledge really matters to me.


I truly believe that I.C.E. is an agency that’s rotten to its core. Hardly a week goes by without reading about another I.C.E. abuse of power. Just a few headlines will make the point:

Detained Immigrants Claim They Were Forced to Work Without Pay

FBI Investigates Shooting of Undocumented Driver by ICE Agents in Tennessee

100 Immigrants Pepper-Sprayed At Louisiana ICE Facility

The U.S. will not provide vaccines for migrants — even after three migrant children have died in the past year from the flu.

ICE Detention Center: We’re not responsible for staff sexually abusing migrants

And those headlines are all from the last few months. I could list dozens more.

And then there’s I.C.E.’s terrifying detention centers, which seemingly exist to subject migrants to inhumane conditions, and which evoke memories of WW2 concentration camps.

A former I.C.E. director recently spoke to a member of Congress, in a Congressional hearing, with the disdain of someone who thinks he shouldn’t be answerable to elected officials.  The entire culture of I.C.E. is corrupt; they see themselves as above the law and above human rights. I don’t think they can be reformed, only disbanded and replaced with a new agency – one that is not a subsidiary of the Department of Homeland Security.


This strip took forever. I actually had the strip entirely penciled when I decided I wasn’t happy with it, and ended up throwing out and replacing four entire panels.

But I’m pretty happy with how it came out. Drawing Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in their “Home Alone” roles was especially fun – often I find drawing caricatures to be a struggle, but these guys came out easily.  The close-up of the man panicking about migrant invasions was also a lot of fun to draw. The uniforms in panel one weren’t fun to draw – I’m not a big uniforms buff – but it made me feel like I was Matt Bors or something (Bors is great at drawing uniforms).


 

Oh, and one more headline, in case you’re looking for a place to donate:

How to donate to help migrant children and families at the border


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has a big title panel at the top, followed by ten smaller panels.

TITLE PANEL

The title panel has a drawing of a close-up on a chain-link fence. Behind the fence, but still readable, are the words “Top Ten Reasons We Won’t Abolish…” And then, in larger, rougher lettering in front of the fence, the sentence continues: “I.C.E.”

PANEL 1

In the center, a man wearing an I.C.E. uniform – including bulletproof vest and a hard helmet – is smiling and holding an “aw, shucks” kind of pose, with a hand held on one cheek in an embarrassed fashion. Behind him, two other men – one dressed like a right-wing protester looking for a fight, with protective vest and camo pants, and a MAGA hat, and the other wearing a Nazi uniform – early praise him.

MAGA HAT DUDE: Because those I.C.E. uniforms look sharp!

I.C.E. DUDE: Aw, gosh. Thanks, guys!

NAZI: You can’t spell “nice” without I.C.E.!

PANEL 2

A conservatively-dressed (jacket and tie) man, sitting behind a desk, speaks to the viewer, spreading his arms, palms up, in a “let’s not go crazy” sort of gesture.

MAN: “Abolish” is an extreme position, and if we’re extremist in protecting human rights, aren’t we just as bad as the extremists abusing human rights?

PANEL 3

A woman in a striped shirt and a puffy jacket speaks to the viewer. Behind her, a darker-skinned person wearing a knit cap, a big jacket, and a skirt sardonically comments.

WOMAN: I.C.E. provides paychecks to thousands of vicious racist goons! Where else could those people go?

KNIT HAT: Police?

PANEL 4

In an extremely close close-up, a white man speaks to the viewer, lips contracted in fear, eyes incredibly wide, holding his hands to his face like the kid on the poster for “Home Alone.” His word balloon is drawn with shaky lines.

MAN: Because the b-b-brown people are invading and they’re g-going to replace us and soon there’ll be no white people left in America!

PANEL 5

A man and a woman talk in a park; the man looks angry.

MAN: Getting rid of I.C.E. means open borders!

WOMAN: But in 2000, before I.C.E. existed, borders weren’t-

MAN: DON’T DEFLECT ME WITH FACTS!

PANEL 6

The robber characters from the movie “Home Alone” stand smiling at the viewer. The shorter robber, who was played by Joe Pesci, speaks.

ROBBER: If the Home Alone movies taught us anything, it’s that children being left alone because I.C.E. snatched up their parents is wacky fun!

PANEL 7

A woman speaks to the viewer from behind a chain-link fence. She’s calm but sad, and she’s hooked the fingers of one hand through the chain links.

WOMAN: Because a lot of people think “never again” was only a suggestion.

PANEL 8

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson speak; Jefferson has both fists raised above his head in a “frat boy celebrating” like gesture.

WASHINGTON: Because forced labor performed by brown people trapped in inhumane conditions is what America’s all about! Right, Thomas?

JEFFERSON: Hell yeah, George!

PANEL 9

Two men are standing in front of a stone wall, talking. The first man, who is white, is making an expansive “oh, come on!” gesture; the second man, who appears Latino, has his arms crossed and is speaking cheerfully.

WHITE MAN:  Because if we “cancel” I.C.E. for inhumane treatment, where does it end? Do we cancel the border patrol? Private prisons?

LATINO: I can live with that.

PANEL 10

A woman sits in the middle of her bed. The shot is a bit distant and from above, making her look small and lonely. (Or so the cartoonist hoped.)

WOMAN: Abolishing I.C.E. would be really hard and the whole issue is such a bummer. So instead, I’ll sit home and quietly loathe myself. Cool?

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Immigration, Migrant Rights, etc, Institutionalized Racism | 43 Comments  

Cloud-Haired Woman

watercolor sketch in red of a woman with poofy, curly hair and a v-neck top with little “x”sThis reminds me of the art my parents had from the sixties, feminist with interesting proportions and bodies. I called it cloud-haired woman after a character in Marianne, the Magus and the Manticore, my favorite of Sheri Tepper’s books which made a strong impression on me as a child. (I haven’t read it since.)

Posted in Drawing | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: Back Then, No One Knew Blackface Is Offensive


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The Frederick Douglass quote in this cartoon is a paraphrase; I changed his words to better fit the tone of the cartoon. The exact quote is “… the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied to them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow-citizens.”

The immediate catalyst for this cartoon was Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau apologizing after a 2001 photo of him at a party in blackface recently came to light. But it’s not specifically about Trudeau (which is why I went with 2002 instead of 2001 in the cartoon). Even today, blackface controversies come up with depressing frequency. Earlier this year,  Virginia’s governor and Virginia’s attorney general both had blackface scandals.

And every time, apologists for the old blackface photos say the same thing: You can’t judge the past by today’s standards.

This is an old canard, and it comes up whenever any past instance of bigotry is discussed. And sometimes it’s fair; exactly what word was used to describe trans people really was different thirty years ago, for example.

But just as often, it’s ridiculously ahistoric nonsense. And it certainly is nonsense with blackface. When I was a teen, in the 1980s, we all knew that blackface was racist. Even us white kids, although we didn’t fully appreciate the reasons blackface is racist, understood that most Black people found blackface offensive.

That is, in fact, the reason to wear blackface – because we do know it’s racist and taboo, That’s why wearing blackface feels transgressive to some.


The biggest challenge, drawing this strip, was Frederick Douglass, who had an interesting face – wide but with extremely distinct cheekbones. And trying to get across the particular way he had white streaks in his hair was fun.

Looking at panel 3, it’s clear that all my conceptions of distinctly “1980s” fashions are just clothes that Madonna wore sometime that decade.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This comic has four panels, plus a tiny “kicker” panel under the bottom of the strip.

PANEL 1

Two men, one Black and one white, are standing on a sidewalk talking. The Black man has an angry expression and is making big arm gestures; the white man looks very uninterested and is raising a hand in a “calm down” gesture.

LARGE CAPTION: TODAY

BLACK MAN: They found an old photo of him wearing blackface?!? What the hell was he thinking?

WHITE MAN: You can’t judge 2002 by today’s standards. People back then didn’t know blackface was wrong.

PANEL 2

Two women are seated at a round tale in a cafe, with coffee cups in front of them. One woman is Black, the other is white. The Black woman looks very annoyed; the white woman is grinning, making light of things.

LARGE CAPTION: 2002

WHITE WOMAN: Sure, we realize blackface is racist. But no one could have know that back in the 1980s.

PANEL 3

Two women, one Black and one white, are walking together in a hilly park. They are both dressed in stereotypical 1980s fashion: Big hair falling in front of their eyes, boxy jackets, etc.. The Black woman is scowling while the white woman speaks calmly, making the “explaining hands” gesture.

LARGE CAPTION: The 1980s.

WHITE WOMAN: We know that blackface is offensive, but that’s brand now! No one had any idea until recently.

PANEL 4

In the foreground, a Black man with a thick beard and impressive hair is orating, looking stern, while gesturing towards a man in the background. The man in the background is dressed like an actor from a minstrel show, and is wearing blackface.

A caption shaped like an arrow tells us the Black man is Frederick Douglass. A small caption next to Douglass says “paraphrased, but yes, he really said this!”

LARGE CAPTION: 1848

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: Look at this filthy scum! He’s stealing our complexion, just so he can pander to the corrupt tastes of other white people! What the hell is he thinking?

Small kicker panel below the bottom of the strip.

The two women from panel two appear again; the white woman is talking eagerly, leaning forward a bit, while the Black woman rolls her eyes.

WHITE WOMAN: My white friends and I all agree that Blacks are too sensitive about blackface.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues | 13 Comments  

A Haiku For Friday, October 4th

The cold rain shivers.

I dart, indoors to indoors,

generous shelters.

Posted in Poetry, Rachel Swirsky's poetry | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: Equally Bad!


Please help me make more cartoons by supporting my Patreon! I make a living primarily from lots of people pledging $1, and that’s kind of awesome.


Back in August, a racist drove to El Paso, Texas and shot up a bar, killing 20 people and leaving behind a political manifesto railing against immigration – with “invasion” rhetoric strikingly similar to rhetoric used by President Trump.  The shooter told police that his intention was to shoot Mexicans.

Shortly after, the forces of bothsiderism – both centrists and right-wing – wrote tweet after tweet and thinkpiece after thinkpiece arguing that we must not let the El Paso shootings – or the many, many other explicitly right-wing shootings we’ve seen this decade – distract us from the danger of liberal violence.

Their examples? Another shooter seemed to have been a democrat – although there’s nothing at all indicating that his motivations were political (one of his victims was his own brother). And antifa punches people, and throws milkshakes on them.

Yeesh.

Look, of course some left-wingers are violent. But we are a thousand miles away from equality on that score. In the U.S., right now, there’s a regular pattern of right-wingers committing mass shootings while endorsing views held by some of the most influential and powerful conservatives, including the President. There is no equivalent on the left. Pretending that things are equivalent isn’t being balanced; it’s being deceptive.


Looking at this cartoon now, I’m wondering why I put the right-wing dude on the left, and the left-wing woman on the right? I mean, I can see why – because from the perspective of the centrist, the right-winger is to her right, and the left-winger is to her left.  But it probably would have made more sense to consider the readers’ right and left instead.

That aside, I had a lot of fun drawing this strip. The extreme close-up in panel five, and of course the dancing in panel six, are both things that I hardly ever get to draw. I’m pleased with how it came out in black and white, and I haven’t yet decided if I’ll add color or not.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has six panels; two rows containing five panels between them, and then a final row with just a single large panel.

Panel 1

Three people stand on a city sidewalk talking.  There is “Mr. Right,” a bald white man wearing a dress shirt and a tie; a woman wearing glasses, a white collared shirt and a floral skirt; and “Ms. Left,” a black-haired woman wearing a hoodie and jeans.

Glasses has turned to her left, to address Ms Left.

GLASSES: Whats’ the worst thing you do, Ms Left?

MS LEFT: Well,.. Some of our extremists punch people, and not everyone punched is a Nazi.

Panel 2

Glasses has now turned to her right, to ask Mr Right a question.

GLASSES: And Mr Right, what’s the worst thing you do?

MR RIGHT: Oh, you know… Forced child separation, inhumane detention camps, and mass shootings inspired by the violent rhetoric of our highest elected leaders.

Panel 3

A close-up of Glasses, who is holding up a hand with a “stop!” gesture and looking upward as if thinking.

GLASSES: But if you both do violence… Then that means…

Panel 4

An even tighter close-up of Glasses. Her hands are up on her face, and her eyes are wide, as if she’s having a startling realization.

GLASSES: That both of you are…

Panel 5

A very tight close-up of Glasses’ face – her entire head doesn’t even fit in the panel.  She’s grinning too wide and sweating and looks very intense. Her dialog in this panel, rather than being contained in a dialog balloon, is done in huge, happy letters superimposed over the image.

GLASSES: EQUALLY BAD!

Panel 6

A large panel, showing Mr. Right and Glasses grinning and dancing joyously while they sing. Musical notes fill the air around them. On the far right of the panel, Ms Left is facepalming.

MR RIGHT (sings): Equally bad! Equally bad!

GLASSES (sings): Equally bad!

MS LEFT (thought): Why do I even talk to centrists?

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Media criticism | 8 Comments  

A Haiku For Friday, September 27th

God, it is so dark.

My throat closes like the night,

kaleidoscopic.

Posted in Poetry, Rachel Swirsky's poetry | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: Portland Is A War Zone!


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This comic is a collaboration with Becky Hawkins; I wrote the script, Becky did the art. More of our political cartoon collabs can be found here. And we create a webcomic together, SuperButch.


I find it so weird when people hear I’m in Portland and tell me to “be careful” or “stay safe.”

Portland is so friggin’ peaceful! Even the “bad” areas of Portland – and I’ve lived in a few of them (my neighborhood is nicknamed “felony flats”) – are quiet and calm.

Even those much-written-about conflicts between Proud Boys (or one of the other racist groups, they’re hard to keep track of) and antifa are mostly invisible.

I’ve been in downtown Portland and not seen a thing – then I get home and find out that the national news is reporting rioting here.

So thinking about that led to this cartoon. Hopefully it will amuse Portlanders while reassuring the rest of you that really, we’re all right here.

And thinking about drawing that final panel – which had to show not only a peaceful city scene, but to get across a specifically Portlandish vibe, including in the architecture – made me feel very intimidated, because I really struggle with drawing architecture.

So instead I asked Becky Hawkins to draw it, because she excels at that. And I’m glad I did, because whatever I managed to do with that panel wouldn’t have been as great as what Becky did. Will you look at that last panel! The bikers, the baby on the bike (very Portland), the building details… the level of detail is awesome.

Looking at the comic, I just now recognized the section of SE Hawthorne Becky based her drawing on. Becky knows this neighborhood very well, but used this image from google maps for reference.

See? No rioters.


Years from now, if anyone reads this cartoon, I bet they’ll be going “concrete milkshakes? What the heck is a concrete milkshake?”


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has five panels. The first four panels are narrow, and show a tight close-up of a woman’s head and shoulders as she talks on a cell phone. The final panel is a long shot, showing a sidewalk scene.

Panel 1

A woman with blonde hair, and glasses pushed up on top of her head, talks on a cell phone. She looks frightened.

WOMAN: If you don’t live in Portland, you can’t imagine what it’s like. It’s a friggin’ war zone here!

Panel 2

She continues speaking into her cell phone, now looking a bit angry.

WOMAN: Every day we’re dodging tear gas and concrete milkshakes! Proud boys and antifa are everywhere!

Panel 3

She holds up one hand to cup by her mouth, as if whispering.

WOMAN: Don’t print my name…. I don’t want to become their next target.

Panel 4

She looks wide-eyed and panicked as she presses the button to hang up the phone.

WOMAN: Even talking to you like this– oh no! Someone’s coming! No, NO! Please, don’t hurt me! AAARGH!

PHONE: Click.

Panel 5

The “camera” has backed very far back, and we can now see that the woman is sitting with a friend at an outdoor table on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant or cafe. The friend is wide-eyed with shock; the woman is sipping her coffee and smiling as if she’s very pleased with herself.

We can also see almost a full block of the sidewalk they’re sitting on, and some of the street. It’s a peaceful street scene; diners sit at tables with striped umbrellas; a mom pushes a baby carriage; a parent bikes by with a toddler seated between the parent and the handle bars; two children play catch; further back, a woman in a black dress bikes, her black hair blowing behind her. The red brick building has green paint accents, and in the distance, trees and a mountain can be seen behind the city buildings.

WOMAN: God, I love out-of-town reporters!

Posted in Cartooning & comics | 17 Comments  

Rainbow Bright

a blue, blue-haired figure with rainbow eyes and lips

 

I think I just wanted to play around with colors so I played around with colors.

This chick definitely goes to pride parades where she lurks near people until they look over and go, “Ahh! Creepy!” and run away.

| 1 Comment  

Open Thread and Link Farm, The Bus Will Show Up Anytime Edition

  1. “If we take all this at face value, then compared to the cannabis of the 1960s, our modern weed is about 3 x 40 x 7 x 15 times stronger, which makes one modern joint equivalent to 12,600 joints of the 1960s variety!”
  2. The Trump Administration’s Onslaught Against Trans Rights Continues
    “Trans rights don’t narrow the scope of acceptable gender expressions for cis people; they inevitably broaden them. The Trump administration’s filing confirms what transgender advocates have been warning us for years: When we try to set firm limits on who’s allowed to identify as a woman, or what women are allowed to look like, cisgender women invariably suffer too.”
  3. California Is Blaming Prison Reform for Incarcerated Fire Fighting Labor Shortage
  4. The Electoral College gives the GOP a huge advantage, in one chart – Vox
    Any time the Republicans lose the popular vote in a close election, they have a 65% chance of winning the presidency. This, of course, means that the GOP is freer to pursue extremism (like choosing Trump as their presidential nominee), because they don’t need to care about what most voters want.
  5. Proposed 2020 Ballot Measure in Oregon Could Limit Self-Checkout Machines – Blogtown – Portland Mercury
    A conservative think tank says the measure “would force retailers across Oregon to downsize their self-service checkout areas to no more than two kiosks per store.” But that isn’t true, as far as I can tell. It just says there needs to be one employee to help per two kiosks – so there could be sixteen, as long as eight employees were assigned to helping with them. Which brings up the question, which serves more customers faster, a single cashier or an employee with two self-checkout kiosks?
  6. Young people: ‘Trans people should use whichever bathroom they want’
    This bodes well! (I’m unclear on if the survey’s sampling methodology was good, however.)
  7. I am briefly interviewed at the “Living ~400lbs” blog.
    As I understand it, this is the first of a planned series of interviews about being fat with various people. Occasional “Alas” comment-writer Charles took the photo!
  8. Opinion | We Deported Him to a Land He’d Never Seen, and Now He’s Dead – The New York Times(And an alternative link.)
    This should be inexcusable. He died because he was deported to Iraq, where he doesn’t speak the language, and without the ability to communicate he was unable to get treatment for his diabetes.
  9. FAIR Act: House passes a bill to ban mandatory arbitration – Vox
    If this bill became law, it would restore the rights of millions of workers to sue their employers. Also, I think this article deserves some sort of award for understatement when it says “the bill may face resistance from Republicans in the Senate.” Ya think?
  10. An AI learned to play hide-and-seek. The strategies it came up with were astounding. – Vox
  11. Is Quillette Right? Are Scientists Afraid to Discuss Race? (Spoiler: No) | Fardels Bear

    “Why does Quillette claim that scientists are afraid to discuss race given the wealth of contrary evidence? Well, it is because much of this literature on race and science serves to debunk Quillette‘s warmed-over 19th century approaches to race.” Reminder: You’re not allowed to use “Alas” to argue for “race realism,” “scientific racism,” etc..
  12. Maine Poised To Be First State To Use Ranked Choice Voting In A Presidential Election | HuffPost
    “… voters will rank their choices for president in the general election instead of choosing just one (if there are more than two candidates on the ballot). If no candidate gets a majority of the vote, the candidate with the least first-place votes gets eliminated. The second choice votes of everyone who voted for the eliminated candidate then get distributed to those remaining. The process continues until a candidate gets a majority of the vote.”
  13. A Grieving Father Is Standing Trial for Criticizing a Judge on Facebook – Reason.com
    As far as I know, this is a one-off case, not a systemic problem of people being jailed for public criticism of judges. But it’s still appalling af.
  14. Yes, You Are On The Right – Matt Jameson at Arc Digital
    If someone spends all their public time arguing for the right and sneering at the left, and never supports liberal causes in any significant way, it’s fair to say they’re on the right.
  15. Brett Kavanaugh’s impeachment won’t happen. But calling for it is still useful.
    “As a bare five-member majority of the Court (80 percent of which have been appointed by presidents who first obtained office despite losing the popular vote) continues to aggrandize power to itself, Democrats will increasingly consider constitutionally permissible measures like expanding the size of the court. Revealing the raw power politics behind Kavanaugh’s appointment in particular and Republican indifference to his character (or his truthfulness when testifying before them) can be an important part of this case, if it turns out to be necessary.”
  16. Is this art? Your answer can reveal a surprising amount about your politics. – VoxDisliking Trump is more highly correlated with thinking the sketch “Coffee Thyme” is art, than it is with being a college graduate.
  17. Gender-neutral bathrooms can save women from waiting forever in line | News | The Guardian
  18. Missing woman “finds herself” after intense search – CBS News
    The woman was actually in the search party, without realizing that the “lost” person being searched for was herself.
  19. Elizabeth Warren Wants a Wealth Tax. How Would That Even Work? – The New York Times and alternative link.
    I like the idea of a wealth tax, but I’m not sure if it would work. OTOH, it could work less well than I’d like, and still be better than our status quo.
  20. The bus art illustrating this post is by Portuguese street artist Odeith. Thanks to occasional “Alas” comment-writer Ben for sending me the bus image.

Posted in Link farms | 60 Comments