Immigration, Language, and Soccer
I have been trying to find an article supporting a news report that some Latino leader out in California (where else?) is advocating that Latino immigrants adopt a "no assimilation" and "no English" position. I caught "sound bites" in the news about this. The idea that English is white, which seems to have been claimed, is ridiculous on its face. English is spoken by Euros (Whites, I suppose) of every type (German, Irish, Spanish, Italian, etc.), African descended Americans of all sorts, Asians from numerous linguistic and national backgrounds, etc. A claim like this is a sure sign that someone is practicing demogogery, which is a nice way of saying the person is lying.
A Pakistani-American, Rob Asghar, has an op-ed piece in my local paper in which he notes that "Latino immigrants and white liberals correctly smell xenophobia in the breaths of a few Americans who recently criticized bilingualism" but goes on to say that "this should not distract us from the goal of championing English as a prerequisite for success in this nation." Mr. Asghar has correctly identified my position that the learning of English must be encouraged, but that we should not take the xenophobic step of making English the official US language. I must say though that something about this "no assimilation," "no English" movement, if indeed there is one, inspires even me to step back and assess my position. This is an unfortunate position for Latinos to take unless they wish to reap a pro-English whirlwind.
There is one thing about the behavior of Latino immigrants that irritates the hell out of me. I really don't much like seeing Mexican flags at World Cup qualifying matches in the United States being waved by Mexican-Americans, though I recognize that some of these flags are being waved by Mexicans who have flown up for the match. The situation is so bad for the US national team that it has held the home game between the US and Mexico in Columbus, Ohio (once in Feburary when it was bitterly cold) where there is much less danger that the pro-American fans will be outnumbered by the pro-Mexican fans. It is hard for the US to get genuine home games in the US. The same is true of games with Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, etc.
I understand why Mexican-Americans might do this. Many follow Mexican soccer on Spanish language cable/satellite stations and that will naturally inspire a certain loyalty to some of the players they watch. And soccer from other South of the border nations can be found on other stations. Given that Latinos are frequently treated as second class citizens by White Americans (especially when they aren't actually citizens) it would be surprising if they were not to take a certain delight in their former countrymen beating the Big Bad Americans at something even if it is just a game. Unfortunately, for them, the US team has drawn even with the Mexican team and even beat them in the quarterfinals of the last World Cup. So even that special pleasure is being increasingly denied them. Still, it pisses me off to see these flags at "home" matches.
I have long advocated that everyone in the US learn both English and Spanish. I makes sense at too many levels not to take this step. First, Whites, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and other Americans will find it easier to get certain types of jobs if they speak Spanish, especially if they live in the states that have large Latino populations. Right now, in Columbus where Mexican grocery stores are popping up like wildflower in a meadow (to my delight since I like to cook Mexican food), and I suspect that it would be very easy for a bilingual person to get a job with the Columbus police department or in the school system, or jobs in businesses where there will be contact with recent immigrants. This obligatory English/Spanish program gets rid of the xenophobic aspect of forcing Latinos to learn English since White kids and African-American kids and other American kids have to learn Spanish. It solves the problem of having to print official documents in both languages since everyone will know English. And it makes otiose an official English law.
Forcing people to do things is difficult. If we abandon bilingual education programs aimed toward Latino immigrant children to help these children along in school there is nothing to keep Latinos here from creating their own schools which are Spanish only. That would be a serious step backwards. We will do well to embrace immigrants rather than treat them as pariahs, as xenophobic Americans would have us do. We can't keep the "undocumented persons" (the most recent PC term I have seen) out of the country and if you can't beat them (by closing off the borders securely) you might as well embrace them. That would be the way to win friends and influence people (in this case, Latinos) to borrow a phrase.