My So Called Life - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Embrace life -- both the sweet days and the bitter...embrace the joy and the sadness...the successes and the defeats -- for all of these things, both good and bad, have made you who you are.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

English As An Official Language - Racist or Not?

Recently Democratic Senator Harry Reid called legislation to make English the official language of the United States "Racist". The proposal went to pass the Senate by a vote of 63 - 34. All Republicans were joined by 11 Democrats in passing the legislation. Moments after that vote, the Senate passed another resolution calling English the "common and unifying language."

Now lets just take a look at the accusation made by Senator Reid and see if it even holds water in the slightest bit. Earlier this year, a Zogby International poll cited that 84% of Americans believed English should be the national language. In that same poll, 77% of Hispanics actually agreed with this idea. Furthermore 92% of Republicans in that poll and 84% of Democrats agreed with the idea of making English the official language. But, let us just not look at the thoughts of our own population and representatives...let's look at this on a global scale.

Of the 193 countries in the world, 178 have at least one officially recognized language. For you math people, that is 92% It is actually amazing that the United States is one of the countries that does not. According to Mr. Reid's comments, the world is one damn racist place.

English is already the official language of approximately 34 countries including but not limited to Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada (along with French) Hong Kong (along with Chinese), Ireland (along with Irish), Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, New Zealand, Nigeria, many more

French is already the official language of approximately 30 countries including but not limited to Belgium, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, the Congo, France, Guinea, Haiti, Monaco, Niger, Senegal, etc...

German is already the official language of Austria, Belgium (has multiple official languages), Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland (again having multiple official languages)...

Portuguese is already the official language of Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome, Principe, and even in parts of Spain...

Taking the above into account and remembering that 92% of countries have at least 1 national language, one can hardly call a proposal to make English the official language "racist". I mean come "De facto" English is already the official language here anyway.

Having a national language is no more racist than having a national anthem or a national flag.

And if Mr. Reid really believes that making English the official language of the United States is racist against Hispanics, lets just take a look at those countries south of the border...

Surely they would not have any national languages would they Mr. Reid...because that would make them racist....let's just look....

Spanish is the official language of:

* Argentina
* Bolivia (with Aymara and Quechua)
* Chile
* Colombia
* Costa Rica
* Cuba
* Dominican Republic
* Ecuador
* El Salvador
* Equatorial Guinea (with French)
* Guatemala
* Honduras
* Mexico
* Nicaragua
* Panama
* Paraguay (with GuaranĂ­)
* Peru (with Quechua)
* Uruguay
* Venezuela

And let's not forget Brazil with Portuguese as its official language
And let's not forget Suriname with Dutch as its official language

Wow - I wonder if Mr. Reid did any research on the topic before he opened his mouth on the Senate floor. It is definitely not racist for these countries to recognize Spanish as their official language. Neither is it wrong for Brazil to recognize Portuguese or Suriname to recognize Dutch as its official langauge. And it is definitely not racist if the United States wants to join the ranks of other nations and officially recognize a national language.


  • At 3:27 PM, Blogger Sam said…

    I think that's a very simplistic analysis of Reid's comments. He means that in the current political climate, the initiative to "nationalize" the language is a reflex of racist undertones. I would tend to agree - GWB who sang the national anthem in Spanish during the 2000 election now says it should "only be sung in English." It's a load of bullshit, just like adding "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 50's was reflexive of Communism. It goes directly against the beliefs our nation was founded on.

    There's a reason we don't have an "official" language -- it's because America is a nation of immigrants and always has been. As you say, the majority of us speak English already, but it's important to note that our lack of an official language was a symbolic gesture by our forefathers to be open and welcoming. So whether or not you agree that officiating English as our spoken language is racist, there's a damn good argument for it being anti-American. It is a symbolic gesture, too -- to exclude people. There's been enough of this.

    Personally, I wish Congress would stop bullshitting with this kind of crap and start solving problems.

  • At 3:31 PM, Blogger Matthew said…

    Your points are well-received - I simply disagree - i dont believe that it is anti-american in any way :-)

  • At 11:38 PM, Blogger Jim said…

    Reid obviously needs more to do, an official language does not dictate racism, by definition, language and race are not the same.

    Besides, official or not, people will speak their language of choice when and where they choose

  • At 2:30 AM, Anonymous hb jock said…

    Hmmm.. although I would prefer not to really get myself involved in American issues, being that really America was stolen from Native tribes and Mexicans and Hawaiians... I myself am tired of having to deal with so many languages.

    In Hawai'i, we have two "official" languages of our "state"... English, and Hawaiian... and what irritates me is that we have so many foreigners here that there are signs everywhere in multiple languages: English, Ilocano, Tagalog, Marshalees, Chuk, Korean, Chinese, Japanese... but there's NO Hawaiian translation. And trust me, to get a decent job in the tourist industry in Waikiki, you have to be able to speak Japanese... we cater WAY too much to those people.. granted they have a lot of money, but damn.. they know how to speak English. Sometimes I wish we were like countries like France or Italy.. where if you're going there, you better know their langauge. They don't bend down for you and learn your language... you have to learn theirs...

    But I guess, like Jim says, it doesn't matter if your language is "official" or not, people will speak what they want to speak when and where they choose...

  • At 11:10 AM, Blogger Sangroncito said…

    I used to think that promoting English in the U.S. was racist. Now I see it as an important way of integrating immigrants socially, culturally and economically. I've known too many Latin Americans in the U.S. who have been living here for many years, sometimes decades, and can't speak English. Their opportunities are so limited by that. We should promote English while respecting foreign languages. And I also think Americans need to start learning foreign goes both ways.

  • At 6:42 PM, Blogger Matthew said…

    Great point Sangroncito

  • At 7:02 PM, Anonymous nettie said…

    That's interesting about the Quecha.


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