May 19th, 2011
“Anchor Baby” Is Always A Racist Term

I know that this latest round of immigration grandstanding isn’t the first time the term “anchor baby” has come into vogue. But as a woman, it’s the first time I’ve been in a place in my life where I’m beginning to consider becoming a mother. Though I do not have any children, it still hurts me to hear people (or read some of the nasty comments we get on this site) talk about human beings not only as objects, but with such complete disdain.

There’s no way you can use this term without a racist connotation; the term in and of itself attempts to delegitimize human beings as people and transform them into objects.

I think what bothers me the most about people in this country calling children — U.S. citizens, for that matter — by this ugly term is that it’s an outright attempt to make them inhuman, not like us. Then you can transform human beings into the cause of some problem. Then you can treat them however you like. Comparing historical events and contexts doesn’t ever really render accurate distinctions, but I believe that we’ve been down this road before.

The way the Christian settlers treated the Native Americans, comes to mind. Then there’s another deep cut in the American historical fabric — that of slavery — which as we all know fundamentally “otherized” Africans and their ancestors into being unworthy of education, humane treatment and so many other amenities it would be pointless here to recount them all. What about the Chinese during the 19th century? What about the Japanese during the 20th? Spiritually, emotionally, legally, intellectually, physically, fundamentally inferior in each case.

We’ve been down this road before. When you connect A, a group of people, to B, some sort of societal ill, it’s a lot easier to do if you don’t have to think of those people as human.

In this case users of this term have chosen legal status to leverage their disdain. If “those people” are not like you at all, well then, it’s almost like they deserve what they’re getting, isn’t it? And so, if they are deserving of the treatment you mete out to them, you are completely absolved of any wrongdoing. It’s a neat cycle.

When you call a human being “anchor baby,” you’re attempting to describe a feeling that I assume to be: that child does not deserve what me or my children deserve. When you call a fellow American “anchor baby,” what you are actually saying is: that American citizen is not like me, therefore I do not want “it” to be a part of my country. When you say about a mother that the only reason she came to this country was to “drop an anchor baby,” what you mean is: that woman is an animal and could not possibly love her child the way I love my child.

So if mothers do not feel, and children to not belong, and none of the people involved are deserving, that means you get to keep all of the resources and all of the power to yourself and believe you maintain some sort of moral high ground, now doesn’t it?

Now that we come to the end of the “anchor baby” thread, this seeming logic begins to make a shred of sense. Yet, I wonder if only we could move past all the hate and all the words and all the anger, and get right down to the point: the world is a scary and uncertain place and none of us want to lose the little that we have right now. If you can think of it that way, I think we could find some common ground. Of course, that would require that we find words other than “anchor baby” to get to know each other. As a matter of fact, it would require that we begin to get to know ourselves — and the real reason we choose the words we use.

Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD

[Photo By Paul Goyette]

8 thoughts on ““Anchor Baby” Is Always A Racist Term

  1. I have never been called an ‘anchor baby’, and in my 29 years of life in the great state of Texas have never been titled as one (at least, not to my knowledge). If someone were to call me an ‘anchor baby’, I probably wouldn’t care. I know why my parents chose for me to be born in the US. I know that they knew that they had to teach me the principle of “earn it to receive it”. My parents were eligible to become US citizens thanks to Reagan, and even though they were eligible to receive income assistance and other “perks”, they chose to work hard as work was available to them. My parents have never applied for any assistance of any kind, other than bankruptcy. My parents made it clear to me that government assistance was for those who truly need it. If I had money to go see a movie, get my nails done, etc. then I should have money to cover my needs. You can call me an “anchor baby” all you want, but I know it’s not who I am nor will I choose to victimize myself under it. Words are powerful, but my actions and how I choose to react will always trump those words.

  2. Sara,
    as a woman of 52 who grew up on this side of the border, I understand in part the use of the term “anchor baby.” You are probably too young to remember or aren’t aware that way back when I was growing up, women used to come across the border to have their babies so that they could have a birth certificate from the US for their child so that they could claim citizenship benefits. It’s a well-documented fact, and one that I personally know. That of course does not mean that the term is “pretty”…it isn’t…it’s very sad that a child thru no fault of his/her own should be labeled in any way other than “baby”…but the reality is that many women in the past did just that: used their babies to anchor/guarantee their child citizenship. It’s unfortunate and very sad…

    •  12williamtell01, let me get this straight, people who don’t agree with you are mentally ill?  Wow, that’s a great logical argument, I’ll have to put that one in my intellectual tool kit, thanks for setting me straight.  I appreciate your insight.

  3. Great article, Sara. We have some crazy radicals here in Texas (aka Debbie Riddle) who also like to use the term “terror babies.” As in: babies that terrorists have in the US so they can grow up and be future terrorists. 

  4.  Wow!  This article is so well done Sara!  This is definitely one of those ‘snatchable’ posts that we talked about…plan on me contacting you about this one soon!  Thank you, thank you for talking about this!  <3

Leave a Reply