Politics The Languages of Brown People
posted by June 8 at 9:25 AMon
Whenever the English as official language or English only bullshit comes up, I can generally blow it off, but KUOW had to have an hour long show on the subject that put paid to the idea that the listeners of public radio are any more intelligent than rest of America. I think the following quote encapsulates the debate beautifully:
“I think that English should be the official language out of the principle of E Pluribus Unum.”
I was driving when the idiot caller said that, and I was pissed enough at the unseen and uncommented on irony of that statement to nearly get in an accident.
The show went only slightly into the details of the amendment to the quickly dying immigration bill, and here’s the skinny: It would say that English is the official language of the US. However, since actually denying non-English speakers any services or rights would be unconstitutional, any place where previous law carved out an exemption would stand, meaning that non-English speaking defendants would still be entitled to a court appointed interpreter at government expense. Ballots would still be printed in multiple languages. Health agencies would still put out information for speakers of every language with a significant presence in an area.
In other words, it would be purely symbolic. The message: “Fuck you, brown people! Your languages are stupid. USA! USA!“ I mean, anyone out there that thinks that this is aimed at the German speaking town of New Braunfels, Texas, is deluded.
The hypocrisy of this makes me want to scream more than usual. Let’s start with the fact that the English colonists who came to the US were a minority of European colonists. Then, let’s point out that when the Continental Congress was deciding on a language of government, German lost by one vote. Next, these English colonists who gained their independence bought a parcel of land from the French who had gotten it from the Spanish. There weren’t a lot of fucking Americans going to the Louisiana Purchase saying, “Now that we’ve come into this French and Spanish speaking territory, we ought to learn the languages,” just a lot of cursing filthy papists and their languages. Same pattern after the Mexican-American War, except that the children of Spanish, Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo speakers were stolen and beaten if they spoke their native languages.
Getting into the modern day hypocrisy though, is the fact that we’ve based our economy on importing Spanish speakers precisely because their isolation makes it easier to exploit them for cheap, powerless labor. If they spoke fluent English, they wouldn’t be confined to the bottom of the economic ladder, doing the shit jobs American citizens consider ourselves too good for, or at least too good for at the wages employers are offering. (I personally would be happy to change sheets in a hotel—for $25/hr).
So, sure, talk about English as the common and unifying language of the US. That’s both fine and true. But shove your official language bullshit up your ass, and learn a second language.