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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Immigration and English

Monday, May 22, 2006

NPH has heard, on more than one occasion, this statement, uttered by white people who are over 50 and who are surrounded by more racial diversity today than they are comfortable with: "I'm happy to change, but they should have to change too."

NPH wonders if this kind of sentiment has anything to do with recent actions taken by white people who are over 50 (i.e. the U.S. Senate) to mandate English as the "official language" of the United States.

For those NPH readers who live in Missouri: Kit Bond and Jim Talent both voted for the "official langauge" measure, introduced by Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe. Here's Bond: “Anyone coming to America should be encouraged to learn English. We should do everything we can to promote the integration of
prospective U.S. citizens for the sake of our national unity and to
boost their own prospects for educational and economic success.”

Uhh, Kit, you're not "encouraging" anyone to learn English; you're forcing them to; you're not "promoting integration of prospective U.S. citizens," you're building a linguistic fence to keep them out of those areas of American life that demand mastery of English--i.e. voting, buying a house or car, getting good job, all things that depend upon facility with formal-register English.

Here's a money quote from the Star's coverage of the bill:

"The 'national language' amendment from Republican Sen. James Inhofe of
Oklahoma says that 'unless otherwise authorized or provided by law,'
the government has no obligation to provide any services or information
in any language except in English."

In other words, you can't make us change the way we do things, especially the way we talk.

NPH is annoyed by all of this. Social conservatives need a win badly, and this is obviously the easiest target. Because what elected official is in a position to tell her consituents that she doesn't think English should be the national language, unless her constituents are in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas , or Florida? It would be like telling her consituents that she likes to use the flag as a personal wipe.

Colorado Democrat Ken Salazar introduced another English measure, mandating English not as the "official" language of the U.S., but as the "common and unifying" language. This was the bill for those representatives from southern states. It says the same thing the Inhofe bill says, but doesn't do what the Inhofe bill does.

Surely this is an easy win for social conservatives. But what good will it actually do for "national unity?" NPH thinks none. At most, white people over 50 will feel better that they don't have to listen to so many customer service options in Spanish.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:11 AM


I am impressed and thankful for your continued take on the language issue.
commented by Anonymous landon, 5:22 PM  

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