English is #1

I have a question/comment/concern.

I am a middle-class white girl from the midwest. I am about as middle-of-the-road culturally as is possible. I do tend to lean left (okay, fall over to the left is more like it), but I am so very middle American.

I grew up in South Dakota. I didn’t even know anyone who was black, or Jewish, or hispanic, or Catholic, or Middle Eastern until I was in college. (I did have a Vietnamese-American friend in first grade, but her family didn’t stay in town very long.)

I’ve always struggled with the concept of racism, never really having been exposed to it overtly while growing up. The only minority we (not me personally, just we as a hick people) really got into hating were the Indians (or Native Americans, if you’re all PC like that, although I’ve never met an Indian who didn’t refer to themself as Indian), but since they were mostly on the reservations, that was kinda half-hearted, too. Sometimes, the Hutterites were mocked, but that’s kinda like mocking the Amish, so it didn’t go too far.

However, now I live in Los Angeles. There is a bit more diversity here. In fact, my whiteness is now in the minority. As is, I think, my middle-classness.

As I’ve mentioned before, my boss has a bit of a problem with people who aren’t her. Most of her dislike is reserved for black people, but she manages to find something wrong with almost everyone (including middle-class people like me).

The day of the march in downtown LA, everyone was afraid of how bad traffic was going to be.

It wasn’t. It was beautiful. It was amazing. You could drive from downtown to Santa Monica in ten minutes at 9 AM. That is a 45 minute drive.

So. On Friday, we had a couple volunteers in the office helping with a mailing. They & the boss went on & on & on about how that just proves that all the congestion is caused by illegals, that they should all be sent back, and on, and on, and on….I’m sure you’ve heard it before. The volunteers actually went far enough that the E(vil) B(oss) looked uncomfortable.

Everything they said bothered me. I have numerous rebuttals to the traffic issue (not everyone who attended the rally was an illegal immigrant. Many downtown businesses were shut down for the day. A lot of people purposely avoided the freeways because they were afraid of the traffic. etc. etc.)

The one thing that bothered me the most was the statement, “If they want to live here, why can’t they just learn English & be an American.” She went on to say that it was disgusting to see signs in more than one language, and that once (and she thought this was funny), she got a new washing machine, and the instructions were in a foreign language, so she called to complain about how the Mexicans were taking over, and it’s not like they could afford this washing machine anyway, and why were the directions in Spanish. The customer service guy told her that she was actually looking at French. ha, ha.

I’m not sure why that bothered me so much. Some of my thoughts on that are:
1. Why does everyone assume that English should be the only language spoken in this country just because the Brits (and other English speakers) were the most powerful illegal immigrants 300 years ago?
2. Since the US annexed much of Mexico (including Texas, SoCal, Arizona, & New Mexico), wouldn’t that just make a great majority of the population Spanish speaking right there?
3. What’s wrong with a bilingual country?
4. Why shouldn’t everyone be accommodated? Why is it wrong to have voting instructions in 15 different languages (plus, it’s fun to read those instructions in Tagalog & pretend I understand).
5. Why are some people, whose backgrounds probably aren’t English speaking, and who may not have come to the country through standard immigration procedures (like my family — here way before there was a government preventing us….although we are English, so there!) – we have a lot of “Mayflower” people – so concerned about this?
6. What would happen if no more Mexican or Central American immigrants came into the country (legally or otherwise) and all people who could not prove citizenship (again, those from Mexico & Central America only — those are the bad ones) were sent back? Who will cut your grass now, rich lady?
7. What is my obsession with making lists lately?


I feel that because of my background & experience, I really don’t get to say anything about this, because I am more closely associated (racially & culturally) with these idiots. I have never experienced racial discrimination. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced gender discrimination. So, does my opinion even count? Is it valid? Am I just trying too hard? What do I say to three wealthy women who make me feel nauseated by their warped world view?

I handled it by changing the subject. That wasn’t the bravest way to go; it certainly wasn’t sticking up for my beliefs, but I a) was too angry to come up with any of the good arguments I thought of over the weekend, and b) have a fear of rocking the money boat — if it were for personal gain, less fear, but it was for the gain of a much larger group, and I don’t want our beneficiaries to suffer because I can’t let something go.

Thanks be to all that is that I am getting the hell out of this job in 2.5 months.

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