Yesterday, a Facebook “acquaintance” of my brother sent me a friend request. The first post I noticed on his wall was about a California school who had a Cinco de Mayo Latino/Mexican day, and asked some students (who were not Mexican) to turn their American flag bearing t-shirts inside out that day. The reason was simple, the racial tensions in this school were already high, there had been violent altercations in the past, and the school knew that these kids were trying to taunt the Mexican students. The parents of the flag design t-shirt wearing kids took the school to court on the basis of freedom of speech. The judge did rule in favor of the school, which was the right thing to do. Freedom of speech does not mean you can yell “fire” in a crowded area and create panic where innocent people will get hurt, and it certainly doesn’t allow a few (racist) teens to wear clothing that is obviously worn that particular day to start fights.
Having seen this article quoted, and the “send them all back to Mexico” vitriol, I commented that the Mexicans were here first, not only in California, but also here in Arizona, where this Facebook person was located. All of the sudden, some woman, and the “friend” whose wall this was posted on, started laying in to me, about how I didn’t know history, that the only ones that lost everything when the US bought CA and Arizona were the Native Americans. That is not true, California has a rich history of Mexican and Spanish culture from long before the US Government acquired California or Arizona.
The point was then made by my brother that America is a melting pot, but I think that is outdated and not quite how we should see the people of this country. We are more like a rich stew. In a melting pot, (I’ll use crayons) every color is combined, mixed together and becomes one bland color, one monotone amalgamation that you can’t see what colors were originally melted together. We end up homogenized, and that is depressing. I don’t want to live where everyone is the same, that is NOT what America should EVER strive to become.
Now, imagine a wonderful, aromatic stew, with a bunch of different vegetables, some meat and barley,and some spices. You can still see each part of the stew that combines, and works together to create this wonderfully delicious and rich stew. This is not soup, this is chunky stew. You can see the grain, the meat, and each type of vegetable. There is a diversity that makes that stew healthy, that makes it beautiful. This country has a wonderful diversity of people coming from all over the world to this land of opportunity. Some xenophobic people cry out for everyone to assimilate, speak English Only, and melt into the pot of homogeny. This is the wrong attitude to take. The better route is to learn more about where the person has come from, learn about why they chose to come to America, learn about their heritage and culture and find a way to incorporate their ingredients into the stew of American life. Retain the best parts of their own culture and appreciate that for what it is, it is part of what makes that person an individual worth learning about.
A final note, the comment was also made that when arriving in America, the newcomer must learn English. Well, American English is another amalgamation of many different languages, and we keep gaining more all the time. Recently, the monsoon dust storms have been called “Haboobs” by the Weather Channel and many other news outlets. We brought back this word from the middle east, after our military was there during the Iraq War. The saying “You’re in deep kimshe” came to us from the Japanese side of World War II or the Korean War.
The point is that our American language is not just English, and as such, it is a bloody difficult language for even some Native speakers to learn correctly, and yet some Americans demand that newcomers to this country immediately learn to speak this language and never speak their own again? Reality check. It isn’t that easy. Also, science has proven that when yound children are raised bilingual, they develop more neural connections in their brain, they are laying the groundwork, the foundation, to be able to learn new concepts faster in every subject, it gives them the same advantage as children in other countries who are surpassing us in nearly every educational metric. Math, Science, English & Foreign languages.
It is a real disservice to our children to let them wait until after their brain is finished growing to then expect them to learn a second language. Yes, many students learn a second language in high school, but it is not nearly as easy as if they started to learn it in kindergarten or first grade. Consider this as a chance to start making attitude changes for the better, so that our country can raise children able to compete in the global marketplace, to be able to communicate with others easier, and to have a wider base of knowledge they can readily expand upon.