|The Future of Freedom Foundation|
Consider my hometown of Laredo, Texas, where I was practicing law in the 1970s. The jury pool for judicial trials consisted of citizens whose names had been taken from the voter rolls. Before jury selection, the judge would ask the jury pool (through a Spanish interpreter) whether there was anyone who could not speak or write English. Inevitably about 20 percent of the group would raise their hands. They would be excused from jury service.
Now, keep in mind that all these people were American citizens. Most, if not all, of them had been born and raised in the United States. They did not speak or write English. They communicated in Spanish.
So what? The judge didn't berate them. He politely thanked them for coming and excused them to return to their daily lives. In fact, hardly anyone gave it a second thought. It was just no big deal. It was part of the culture of our (American) society. It was these Americans' own business whether to learn English or not.
On a recent visit to Laredo, I conducted an informal survey in a restaurant where I was eating lunch. I walked around the various tables to see how many conversations were in English and how many in Spanish. About 90 percent were in Spanish. Everyone seemed to be enjoying himself, and I doubt whether very many of them were asking themselves whether they had been properly assimilated into American life.
A few years ago, I walked into the Laredo Wal-Mart, where a store employee was greeting the customers as they walked into the store. He would quickly, almost instinctively, size up each customer and then say, "Buenos dias, señora," or "Good morning, ma'am." No one got offended if she were greeted in the wrong language.
Have Laredoans been assimilated into the United States after more than a century and a half of having been forcibly absorbed into this country? Certainly a large portion of the population doesn't speak English. And many Laredoans who are bilingual prefer to communicate in Spanish with friends and neighbors. Laredoans closely monitor political, cultural, and sport events in Mexico, sometimes even more so than similar events in the United States. I wouldn't be surprised if Univision is more popular in the community than the English-language channels. I know at least one Laredoan, who is an American citizen by birth, who does not speak English and who watches Univision exclusively. (As for me, I confess that I periodically watch one of the many soap operas on Univision, primarily to maintain my Spanish; they are actually much better than American soap operas because they end after a few months.)
Yet, while many Laredoans still speak Spanish Laredo has long had the biggest celebration in the nation honoring George Washington's birthday -- bigger even than those in Washington, D.C. Now, it's true that Laredo also has a jalapeño festival as part of its George Washington Birthday celebration, but still -- wouldn't a month-long event honoring the father of our country constitute fairly strong circumstantial evidence that Laredo and Laredoans have been "assimilated" despite the fact that so many Laredoans still speak Spanish in daily conversation?
a person speaks says nothing about the speaker's character, honesty, or
integrity. Language is simply a means by which people communicate with
each other. In fact, if you were to ask those people who object to people's
speaking Spanish in the United States why they nevertheless refer to Los
Angeles, San Francisco, and El Paso, rather than to The Angels, St. Francis,
and The Pass, they would undoubtedly give the same answer that Spanish-speaking
Americans would give, "Because it's easier for me to communicate
and be understood using the Spanish names rather than their English equivalents."
Scott McPherson is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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Samuel Bostaph is head of the economics department at the University of Dallas and an academic advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Anthony Gregory is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy (Palgrave, January 2006) and Terrorism & Tyranny (Palgrave, 2003), and is policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
Benedict LaRosa is a historian and writer and serves as a policy advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Bart Frazier is program director at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine. Visit his blog Free Association."
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.