[lg policy] You talking to me? ¿Me esta hablando usted?

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Jun 1 10:25:44 EDT 2018


 You talking to me? ¿Me esta hablando usted? Ruben Navarrette
<https://angelusnews.com/authors/ruben-navarrette> May 31, 2018
In Havre, Montana, on May 16, a U.S. citizen, Ana Suda, 37, recorded an
encounter on her cellphone with a border patrol agent who stopped her and
her friend, also a citizen, because he overheard them speaking Spanish at a
gas station in Montana, which the agent said is “a state where it’s
predominantly English-speaking.” © KRTV

When someone breaks up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, he or she sometimes
says, “It’s not you. It’s me.”

Well, when it comes to white people who want America to be “English-only”
going ballistic because Spanish is spoken in their presence, I hope those
folks are clear about who is the problem. It’s most certainly not us. It’s
definitely you.

The person with the problem is the angry white man who was recently caught
on video insulting and threatening two women for speaking Spanish at a New
York restaurant. Aaron Schlossberg threatened to call Immigration and
Customs Enforcement on them because, he said, he didn’t want to hear
Spanish spoken.

He shouted: “Every person I listen to — he’s speaking it, she’s speaking
it. This is America!” When confronted by a manager, the man continued his
tirade, saying, “Your clients and your staff are speaking Spanish to staff
when they should be speaking English. My guess is they’re undocumented, so
my next call is to ICE to have each one of them taken out of my country. I
pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here.”

The man was thrown out of the restaurant.

The people with the problem are the folks who run a grocery store in San
Diego that, according to officials with the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC), recently subjected Hispanic employees to
“harassment” and “a hostile work environment by implementing a no-Spanish
language policy.”

The EEOC filed a lawsuit alleging store managers at Albertsons publicly
reprimanded Hispanic employees for speaking Spanish. The workers were
prohibited from speaking Spanish around non-Spanish speakers — even during
breaks or when talking to Spanish-speaking customers, the lawsuit charged.
Employees complained about the language ban but nothing was done.

Albertsons — one of the largest food and drug retailers in the U.S.,
employing about 280,000 people in 35 states — had no comment on the
lawsuit, but said in a statement that it has no formal policy requiring
employees to only speak English.

In fact, the statement said, “Albertsons serves a diverse customer
population and encourages employees with foreign language abilities to use
those skills to serve its customers.”

What is going on? Where is this anti-Spanish bigotry and hostility coming
from? And why is it rearing its ugly head now?

Part of the blame goes to conservative talk radio, Fox News and President
Trump — all of whom trade regularly on fear of immigrants to push their
respective agendas.

>From the sound of it, the fearmongers are especially rattled by
brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking immigrants from Mexico and the rest of
Latin America. That’s because, while they don’t know much about immigration
from that part of the world and the positive contribution it makes to the
United States, they do seem to understand the concept of changing
demographics.

With Latinos expected to make up 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050,
many whites are feeling pushed aside by something that sociologists call
cultural displacement. Simply put, some white people are panicked that the
world their grandchildren will live in will bear not even a passing
resemblance to the one in which they grew up.

And one cultural indicator is language. Certainly, English doesn’t exactly
need a life raft. It’s more than holding its own in the United States
against, let’s see, German, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese, French and, yes,
even Spanish.

Americans have been hassling one another over language since the mid-1770s,
when German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania.

The new arrivals promptly got crossways with Benjamin Franklin because — at
least in the first generation — they held on to the German language, even
printing newspapers in German, which really rubbed Franklin the wrong way,
since he was a newspaper publisher in his own right.

In fact, it’s worth noting that the nation’s first English-only laws had
nothing to do with Spanish. They were aimed at punishing and marginalizing
German immigrants who, Franklin warned his fellow Englishmen, would
“establish their language and manners to the exclusion of ours” and “soon
be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them.”

So how did that turn out? You could ask the German-American descendants of
those early German immigrants. But if so, make sure you ask in English.
After all, it’s a safe bet that not many of them speak a word of German.

One thing I hear a lot is that the proponents of English-only are afraid
that, when someone is speaking Spanish, that someone is talking about them.

You caught us. You’re right. Most of the time, we are talking about you.

And, given how you’re behaving, it’s just as well that you don’t
understand. Because we don’t have a lot of nice things to say.


*Ruben Navarrette, a contributing editor to Angelus News, is a syndicated
columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group, a contributor to USA
Today and the Daily Beast, author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of
a Harvard Chicano” and the host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.”*


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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