Thursday, June 3, 2010

No Habla Espanol!

Today while I was in the mall with Sweet Pea and the Monkey, one of those kiosk vendors in the center of the mall tried to flag me down, and get me to come listen to their pitch regarding their product. It was some kind of skin care product line or something. I was on my way with the kids to pickup some lunch, and I typically don't stop at kiosks in the mall anyway. I dislike it when a sales person tries to give me a hard sale, on products I don't need, and don't want.

So as he calls out to me, and does the.. "Would you like to try..." opener, I shake my head and politely say. "No Thank You." I thought this would end the sales pitch, and the kids and I would be on our merry way. The guy wasn't finished though. Apparently, he was under the impression that because I said, "no thank you", that perhaps I am english speaking impaired. So instead of just leaving us be, he yells after me. " Habla Espanol?" Umm... do I speak Spanish?! Absolutely NOT! My response back to him was a little bit less than polite. I made a scoffing kind of noise, followed by a very emphatic... "NO." To which he followed up with as much sarcasm as he could muster, "Neither do I."

So if you don't speak Spanish, why would you ask a potential customer if they do? Obviously if they are predominately Spanish speaking and you are not, you are not going to be able to assist them. Also, should it automatically be assumed that if someone tells you "No Thank You," it is because they don't speak English?

Now, I am not even going to point out that just because someone is not caucasian, and has olive skin tones, the doesn't automatically make them Hispanic, or non english speaking. Despite that fact that I am half Native American, and half Caucasian, I can not even begin to count on my hand the number of times I have been asked outright, or just had it assumed, that I am non-english speaking. In fact I think if I had a nickle for every time that assumption was made, I would have it my first million sometime by the time I was 14.

In fact, growing up I could not wait till the day when I would get married and change my last name to something, hopefully more European or Caucasian sounding, because despite the fact that my maiden name is Basque. Every time my name was called at a doctor's office, or during a school assembly, at the beginning of a school year, at the grocery store, when they use the last name as way of being customer respectful, my name was always incorrectly pronouced, and inflected in such a way, that it sounded Hispanic. This, combined with the olive hues of my skin, has many times given my first impression to anyone who might be interviewing me, or dealing with me in a professional capacity, automatic prejudices and pre conceived notions about me.

So lately, with all of the public outrage over Arizona's crack down on Illegal Immigration, I have been doing a lot of thinking. So many of the people I know who are against the bill, argue that it supports and actively increases, "racial profiling." Which in many people's opinion is blatant discrimination.

How is "racial profiling" any different from the assumptions that are made about me, based on my skin color and birth name? I have been personally affected by racial discrimination, in a negative way for the majority of my natural life.

Why? Because the fact of the matter is, we do have illegal immigrants, who come from Latin America, who do not bother to learn the language once they arrive, and then have children who are raised in a Spanish speaking home, who then enter our school systems, as non english speaking students. So now our public school systems have to teach English to these children first, before they can begin to educate them with their peers. Our government agencies, and even know private business owners, are forced to produce written materials and signage which caters to the Spanish speaking population, even going so far as to recording telephone prompt systems in Spanish first, forcing those of us who do speak english, to listen to babble until the english begins. Not only does our country make these concessions for a section of our population, who isn't even here legally, we fail to provide such provisions on a mainstream level for other mutli lingual/non-english speaking peoples.

To make matters worse, these Spanish speaking parties, who are so used to having their lack of knowledge regarding the English language catered to, have come to expect and assume that, Spanish should be offered to them as a means of communication, be it in verbal or written form. Therefore, they do not even make an attempt at learning the language of the country they are living in, and prospering in. Nor do they even feel that their offspring, who is born here and thus entitled to citzenship should have to learn the language that is widely spoken here.

In fact, I have been discriminated against by these very people, through out my own life time. I have worked in many professions, where interacting with the public has been a huge componant of my job. I can not stress enough how many times, someone who is Spanish speaking has come straight to me, because I look like I might be one of them, and have had them ask me if I speak Spanish. But it's not even just the fact that they assume I speak Spanish. It is the attitude, and rudeness that result when I tell them I am not Spanish speaking. Because it is obvious to them, that I should speak Spanish, and they take offense to the fact that I am English speaking only.

Or the times that I have applied for jobs, and the first question out of the potenial employer's mouth is, "Do You Speak Spanish?" Which is quickly followed up by some explanation of how they have alot of non english speaking cliental, blah, blah, blah, etc. But isn't that just another form of discrimination?? After all, last time I checked, the majority of the legal citizens here in our country still speak only English. Why should I be required to speak another language?

It may sound like a pretty close minded frame of mind, but let's face it. If any of us decided to go live in any other country for the any length of time, it would be assumed/understood, that some understanding and fluency in the home language of said country, would be learned, if we wanted to live, work, and get by. So, why do we cater to people who refuse to even learn our language?

That doesn't mean that I am against holding on to your heritage. Our cultural backgrounds are what make us all invidiuals. However, I do believe that if anyone makes the choice to live in a country that is foreign to their birth, that they should make an attempt to incorporate, the language, customs, and laws of the country into their daily lives.

So as for this whole argument of Racial Discrimination and Profiling, that will result due to stronger crack down on Illegal Immigration, in Arizona, or for that matter any other part of our country that follows suit and decides to do the same, I think that those out there who are sensitive to the issue, should re-consider.

I am proud that I am a Natural Born American Citizen. A fact that I would be more than glad to prove, should it be asked of me. I think that the only people who should have a problem with being asked if they are here legally, are those who are not. Those who are breaking the law, and who risk being discovered and being sent back to their country of origin.

Despite the fact that I would be a prime canidate for being stopped, should I visit Arizona, I am not at all offended by being asked about my status. Because for so many years, it has been assumed that I am non english speaking, or that I am not here legally. So being given the opportunity to prove that yes, I am here because I have the right to be, would be good for my morale.

For that matter, closing our borders and cracking down on illegal immigration, combined with passing a bill to make English our official language would give me a reason to hold my head up high and proud. It would diminish the "racial profiling" and discrimination that goes on towards those of us do have olive skin tones. Why? Because by closing our borders and sending home those people who fall under the category of illegal immigrant, it would leave only the people who are here legally, be it by legal immigration or natural birth. Then people like myself, would no longer be victims of "Racial Profiling" or discriminations. Because it would no longer be assumed by everyone else around us, that based on the color of our skin, we are not here legally, or that we do not understand English. Perhaps then, I would be taken seriously for the person I am.. Not what I am misconceived to be.

1 comment:

  1. very deep and great post Antonia! I agree with you 100 percent. I am sorry to hear that you have had to go through this for the majority of your life. I too agree that these people nee to at least attempt to learn to speak English. I don't like having to hear "Press 2 for English" every single time I call somewhere. It's rather annoying. And you're right, if the shoe was on the other foot, they would expect it of us.