Racist & Xenophobic Language in NYS Regents Exams


Ana Vera, Reporter

Undocumented. When people hear this word they feel uncomfortable. But why? Why feel uncomfortable knowing someone is undocumented? Why is it often the case when a teacher finds out that one of their students is undocumented, their immediate response is “and what can you do if you’re undocumented?” “Can you even go to college?” Undocumented people are often called “illegal” or “aliens.” No human being is illegal. By using these terms undocumented people are being dehumanized. This dehumanization is present in our classrooms.

Last year, during a U.S. History field test, a student took a picture of a question that used the terms “illegal” and “aliens”to describe undocumented people; these words were also found in the multiple-choice answers for the same question. They then reported it to the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC). The NYSYLC was the first undocumented youth-led organization in New York.
They work to empower immigrant youth through leadership development, grassroots organizing, educational advancement, and self-expression. Their goal is to give undocumented youth the tools and space to organize and create change in their communities. According to the New York City Commission on Human Affairs, “residents could face up to $250,000 in fines if they use terms such as ‘illegal alien … with intent to demean, humiliate or harass a person.’”

After this incident during the U.S History field test, the Dream Team Network which is made up of college and high school student-led clubs made up of mostly undocumented students and allies, has begun a campaign to take xenophobic and racist terms out of the regents exam. These terms are triggering to students in the DOE system, especially to those who may be undocumented.

To sign the petition go to bit.ly/dtnpetition. For more information you can also email the Dream Team Network at dream[email protected] and follow their Instagram account @nysylc_dtn.

Being undocumented does not make someone less human. Being undocumented does not mean some is “illegal” or an “alien.” Sign the petition to support all immigrant students, parents, and families that might have been affected by the racist remarks that the NYS Regents Board and the Department of Education perpetuated.