Posted in politics
June 4, 2010

Language? We don’t need no stinkin’ national language.

One of the common complaints I’ve heard in the immigration reform debate is that the United States needs to make English the official language. That we’ll save money in only printing one versions of forms, and right now we’re catering to illegal immigrants.

Why am I even mentioning this issue? Someone on Facebook (an app friend, who clearly doesn’t know me) suggested that I “like” a page called “THIS IS AMERICA…I SHOULDNT HAVE TO PRESS 1 FOR ENGLISH.” Just a joke right? Take a peek at the profile picture.

I do not agree with this button at all.  Only posting because well, it's their profile image.

Sorry. That isn’t a joke. That’s an out and out fear/hatred of non-white individuals.

The United States never had a national language because it was acknowledged that we were a nation of immigrants. From the start. We weren’t just founded by Englishmen who’d left. There were Dutch, French, German, Nordic… we were mutts from the start. Our nation’s documents were written in English because it was the majority language. But go anywhere in those states when they were founded and you’d hear plenty of languages. As our nation grew, more people came from around the world and more languages were spoken here.

Most immigrants today learn English. (Even the older individuals who claim they can’t speak English, probably understand it quite well) However it should be obvious that English is one of the trickier languages out there. Just look at how badly native speakers mangle it in spoken and written forms. We have grammar rules that are unique to English, use colloquialisms regularly, and have more verb tenses than you’re aware of. Not only that, but because we’ve adopted words into English that have various ethnic roots, there’s a lot of strange spelling rules.

While it might seem economical to cut back on forms by only providing them in one language, the fact of the matter is that these are important documents. Given how complex, wouldn’t it behoove us all to have these documents available in multiple languages to give everyone a chance to evaluate these forms fully? I know most of us took a second language in school- how would you like to be forced to fill out forms in a language you only partially understand? On top of that, if you couldn’t simply hand someone who mostly speaks a particular language a form that’s in that language, employees would have to spend more time explaining forms and trying to walk people through filling them out.

No, most nations don’t offer forms the way we do. But most nations also don’t have as diverse a population as we have, or as difficult a language as we have. Most. I will accept that Chinese and Japanese are just as tricky languages, and that there are others I’m not aware of- however, China does offer forms for the various dialects of Chinese. But in most nations, minorities truly are minorities.

Those who belong to groups like this Facebook group try to disguise this clear desire for a White America by saying that the United States is culturally tolerant (or post-racial). We aren’t. I am, as you can see by my picture, not obviously Hispanic. I’m fairly light skinned, with most of my features being more Anglo than anything else. I call myself generically ethnic, but am most often thought to be of Italian descent, French descent, or English descent. I have spoken English all my life and rarely do others assume I speak a language other than English. Having said all that, I have experienced the sting of racism most of my life. Growing up I heard from my white friends and their WASP families that I didn’t seem Hispanic. As a compliment. Zoe Saldana’s mentioned that “more traditional” is the new N-word in casting, but sadly, there’s nothing new about it. I was told, when auditioning for roles in community (and school) theater, that I wasn’t passed over due to my talent. I just “didn’t fit” in the various cast. Why? Because I was the only Hispanic girl who made it to callbacks. (I am grateful that one of the directors was honest told me that. He hinted that I should continue to audition because hopefully there would be more ethnic actors so that I wouldn’t be the only non-white one up there, and that I had a lot I could offer. He did, I am glad to say, give me a part in a show later on even when the rest of the cast was white. He just thought I was talented. And no, I wasn’t a bad actress. In less traditional theaters, I was cast regularly.)

Think I’m simply being sensitive? Just today, I read that a school mural in Prescott, Arizona was being repainted after residents complained that the mural had too many minorities. A mural which depicted actual students. Not only that, while the artists worked (with children helping) they were subjected to racial epithets for African-Americans and Hispanics.

No. I’m not exaggerating. Neither is the Arizona Republic (Wonkette’s source for that story). Why would they when Arizona is already being looked down on for it’s stance on illegal immigration right now? While it’s easy to say that it’s just Arizona, things like this are happening across the nation- albeit in a more subtle manner. Those who want a white majority for the country are taking advantage of the political climate in the country and trying to make it okay to hate someone based on the color of their skin. Hell, the head of the Tea Party said that Obama won the election because the nation doesn’t have literacy tests to be able to vote. (Literacy tests, btw, were put in place to legally keep African-Americans from voting. They never were supposed to indicate that someone was a good citizen or educated- often white citizens who couldn’t read were exempted from the tests, while ways were found to eliminate educated black individuals.)

We’re told, regularly, that the solution to our employment crisis is to rid the country of illegal immigrants. While it would likely ease issues on a minor level, most of these individuals work for below minimum wage- so employers wouldn’t be able to hire as many people to work in the fields or to work as cleaners or in kitchens.

Don’t let these politicians convince you that the nation’s problems are caused by minorities. They aren’t. Laws and policies are passed by Congress, which is largely white. Wall Street and our nations banks? Again, mostly white individuals there. All those overpaid CEO’s? Mostly white.

If you’re angry about the United States, get involved in politics and actually learn about what’s going on. Work for a local candidate’s campaign. Spread the truth about the situation and not party rhetoric just because it’s what the candidates say is the truth. Do your best to create a country for our children where we truly are about the issues and not race or class.

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