Bilingual is Better

When I watched Ana and Roxana’s interview with Jorge Ramos of Univision last week, I was struck by an irony. Roxana spoke about the fact that the Latino community used to be all for assimilation, thus interested in teaching their kids to be as American as possible, which meant speaking English only (or at least more than Spanish). As evidenced by the growing numbers of SpanglishBaby supporters and the flurry of national conversation about bilingualism, this attitude is changing. The irony is that as the previous generation’s fear of acting or speaking like a Latino is on its way out, white culture has adopted that fear in reverse.

By that, I mean that some whites are now even more hateful toward Latino immigrants and their children than they were before this minority had any chance of becoming the majority. Although there are many non-Hispanic Americans like myself, who are interested in and passionate about giving our children a multicultural and multilingual upbringing, a huge demographic segment still resists the influx of Latinos to this country. Because it’s become harder for these people to avoid all things Latino (por ejemplo: “Press 1 for English, para español marque 2”), they are buckling down and holding tight to somewhat ridiculous representations of white America.

Since when have we cared if road signs or bathroom signs are written in both Spanish and English? Are people truly inconvenienced by extra text that makes no sense to them?

Why do some people get frustrated that their electronics instruction manual is translated into Spanish? That inclusion is just good business sense on the part of the manufacturer.

I admitted in a previous post that the prevalence of Spanish is also difficult for me, even if I understand the words. Yet, I’m not complaining about its availability for those who need it. In fact, I’d rather have warning signs and instructions written in Spanish than endure the consequences of people not following them because they can’t read English. To me, constant visual reminders of how many people in our country would rather read the Spanish part of the sign causes me to pause and be grateful for living in a place where people can thrive (not just get by) even when they do not speak the majority language.

In a time of great change, there will always be backlash. Fears are natural, and both Latinos and whites have felt this particular one – that their comfort zone is slipping away. Because we’ve both felt it, though, we should be more capable of understanding why the other group needs some reminders of home. I can only hope that this culture war inspires people to be more flexible, and especially causes whites to finally see the difference between cultural dominance and the reality of the “melting pot” we claim we have always had. Are we ready for the fact that some people will never mix in that pot, and therefore be  ready to accommodate everyone?

{Photo by incolor-inc}

Recent Posts