english only laws divide and demean article.docx

english only laws divide and demean article.docx - English...

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“English Only” Laws Divide and Demean by: Warren J. Blumenfeld I had the pleasure of visiting my cousin in Antwerp, Belgium. One sunny day as we walked the promenade in this beautiful city, Charles, a fluent speaker of seven languages, posed a riddle to me: He asked, “What is it called when someone can speak three languages?” “Trilingual?” I guessed. “Okay,” he said. “Now what is it called when someone can speak two languages?” I quipped, “Bilingual!” He said, “Yes. Now what is it called when someone can speak one language? “Monolingual?,” I replied tentatively. “No,” he laughed. “It’s called U.S.-American!” His riddle, though intended party in jest, shot to the very core of truth concerning our national linguistic perceptions and policies. While residents from virtually all nations inhabit this land and contribute to our collective identity and economy, a seeming linguistic isolationist code has taken hold of our national consciousness. Though French kisses our northern and Spanish our southern territorial perimeters, a long-standing egocentric and arrogant English as the only “official” language crusade infuses the landscape. President Theodore Roosevelt clearly and firmly articulated this ethic in 1907: “We have room for but one language in this country, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.” (T. Roosevelt. Works (Memorial ed., 1926), vol. XXIV, p. 554, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons). Even as recently as March 2012, Republican candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum asserted that as a condition for U.S. statehood, Puerto Rico, a Spanish-speaking territory, must require English as its primary language.
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