Speak English! This is America!

I’m a bit surprised at Michelle Malkin. When you’ve been pushing fear of “The Other” for so long, it seems inevitable that something like this was eventually going to happen.

Fake nails and women’s shoes were flying as a bloody claw fight erupted at a Dorchester salon after one primping patron allegedly screamed at a woman bantering in Spanish, “Speak English! This is America!” Just minutes after the melee broke out at Kathy’s Nail Design at 261 Bowdoin St., it escalated to the point of a 911 call.

Update (James Joyner): This is closely related to the cultural identity topic discussed in the previous post. It’s one of those issues where visceral instincts override logic. While I’m generally pro-immigration and think that, on balance, even low skilled Hispanic immigrants are a net plus for our economy, I still react negatively to people who are clearly long-term residents (i.e., not tourists) and yet can not speak English. The reaction is somewhat understandable, for example, when confronted with sales clerks and phone operators who clearly have little comprehension of the language since that has a direct impact on me. Yet, like most people, I also get irritated when people speak Spanish to one another at the store, even though they’re not talking to me, it’s none of my business what they’re saying, and I wouldn’t even notice them if they were speaking English.

On the other hand, none of these reactions has ever led to fisticuffs or the hurling of footwear.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Race and Politics, US Politics, ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Alan Kellogg says:

    It’s not racism, it’s not tribalism, it’s territoriality. Malkin is one of those who either hasn’t realized, or refuses to realize, that resources are not limited by the territory one holds, but by what one can trade for.

    Do you know where most of our orange juice comes from? Certainly not Florida. Such is the demand for OJ in America we’ll import it from as far away as Chile. And we have the technology to do it. We get orange juice, they get money. A win-win all around.

    We are the master communicators. We are also damn good at spotting possibilities. Thanks to both we have put together trading networks that move items around the world that would surprise many people living today. Because of this network we are not limited to what is available in our own territory. But Michelle and friends keep forgetting this.

    We could house the population of the world in the Mississippi River Valley in comfort and safety, and supply their needs from scattered locations around the world, leaving some 80% to 90% of the Earth untouched. We’re not living on the edge, much less an edge so precarious a hungry mouse will push us over into chronic famine and plague.

  2. Lunacy says:

    Sorry. Resources isn’t the issue either.

    I’m not sure what the correct term is, but tribalism seems appropriate for now.

    I have no problem sharing resources with whomever comes here legally and wishes to work and abide by the laws of the land. I PREFER it if they assimilate to my culture somewhat. After all, they did choose to come here.

    I’m not going to start throwing Sally Hansen products at anybody but I’m getting pretty tired of seeing Spanish imprinted on my shampoo bottles. Not because I hate those who speak Spanish or think they should go home, but because I think if they want to be here they should learn to read “Rinse, Repeat” en Ingles por favor!

    If they are guests, they should act like guests. If they want to become one of us they should assimilate. In either case, when I go to the ferreteria I don’t want to feel like I’m learning more Spanish looking for my wood screws than Jose has to learn English.

  3. floyd says:

    she obviously understood some english?

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    One thing that struck me was the command, “Speak english, this is America!” Yep, American, home of the brave, land of the free…whoops sorry, home of scared and land of the intolerant.

  5. Mark says:

    I still react negatively to people who are clearly long-term residents (i.e., not tourists) and yet can not speak English.

    I think this is pretty normal for many first-generation immigrants, isn’t it? My grandfather came to the US from Lithuania and lived here for 20+ years without fully learning English. His children are bilingual. I speak only English. It is the standard pattern I think – why get upset about it?

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    I think this is pretty normal for many first-generation immigrants, isn�t it? My grandfather came to the US from Lithuania and lived here for 20+ years without fully learning English. His children are bilingual. I speak only English. It is the standard pattern I think – why get upset about it?

    Indeed, my in-laws mostly speak Tagalog, my wife understands Tagalog, can speak it with some minor difficulty, and my son doesn’t know much beyond “rinse your mouth”, “bird”, “airplane” and a few other words.

    I think in large part the reaction depends on where you live. If you live in an area that tends not to have many immigrants, then you’ll likely see more “issues” with people who fall back into their native tongue when meeting others from the same country/region.

  7. floyd says:

    so steve; if you went to another country, you would be one of those “ugly americans” expecting to be catered to at every turn? this does seem to be your stance on people who come here. all those who expect assimilation are bigots?

  8. Steve Verdon says:

    so steve; if you went to another country, you would be one of those �ugly americans� expecting to be catered to at every turn? this does seem to be your stance on people who come here. all those who expect assimilation are bigots?

    Floyd, this is America right? I am free to do pretty much what I want so long as it isn’t illegal right? If I want to spend the rest of my life no speaking again that is my right no? As such, the comment, “Speak english, this is America!” is contrary to the very principles of this country. No? (Please don’t answer, the question is rhetorical.)

    Now, that being said, I don’t see where in the Hell I said that people who choose not to learn english or assimilate should be “catered to”. Of course, as a business person if I chose to cater to such people wouldn’t that also be my right as an American?

    So…are these people bigots? Maybe, but the sure a Hell are hypocrites.

  9. David Pendracki says:

    Once again, we need to remember history. The immigrants coming to America throughout its history had trouble assimilating American culture. This culture was not necessarily spoken language or custom but rather the way in which America is put together to allow for the arrival of different ethnic groups while preserving America.
    Those of you who are interested should read Thomas Sowell’s “Ethnic Americaâ??, in which he chronicles the history of a number of Ethnic groups in America. He describes a several generation journey where ethnic groups moved from natives of their countries to Americans. The important thing is that most groups have done that journey successfully. We should have no reason to expect less from future immigrants. Already we can see the destructive results from wholesale capitulation to a refusal to become an American.
    On a personal note, I am the son of Polish immigrants. My Grandmother spoke little English throughout her 95 years. All of my uncles and aunts spoke polish as did many of my cousins because Polish was taught into the 60’s. The city I lived in (Detroit) had all kinds of ethnic neighborhoods, German Irish, French, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, African American etc… Cultural and social clubs existed for almost all of them. I would no more expect an ethnic group to abandon their culture wholesale than I would expect them to understand that when dealing with the rest of their countrymen and women that they needed to come to a common ground to live and deal with each other as Americans.

  10. Steve Verdon says:

    David,

    Excellent point. As somebody who is married to a legal immigrant, I have seen the point you raise up front. The first generation of my wife’s family to live here are basically Filipinos living in the U.S. They prefer to speak Tagalog, they eat the traditional Filipino food, and they behave differently than most Americans. It has produced come clash between them and the second generation as the second generation is much, much more Americanized. With my son, nobody would even know that he is the third generation of immigrants. He behaves just like the rest of the kids on the block…well okay he doesn’t like to play video games, and doesn’t watch alot of television, but overall he’s your typical “American kid.”

    Assimilation takes time, a fairly long amount of time and you’re right it isn’t merely speaking the language or other superficial changes, it also is one’s outlook and that isn’t easily changed.

  11. Helen says:

    It’s a huge problem of any multinational society. It’s natural that people of the same nation will speak their own language to each other, but English to the Americans.
    But I also noticed that many Americans have prejudices about foreigners can’t speak good English and treat them offensively because of that (even just because the accent). That simply shows the American culture from the dark side.