English-only proposal is based
Jan. 28, 2005
Lawmaker's proposal wrong on many counts
State Rep. Russell Pearce wants to
make it official: English should be the language of Arizona.
In fact, he's not stopping there. Pearce, R-Mesa, has decided to speak for 295
million Americans and change history by telling The Arizona Republic, "We're an
English-only nation, and our records should reflect that."
Russell, baby, you're a sweet kid, but let me tell you this country isn't an
English-only nation. It never has been and never will be. Based on what one
might learn in Arizona's underfunded schools, I see where he got that
impression. But the French, Scandinavians, Italians and Spanish all spoke their
mother tongue when they got here.
And here's a big shock: They still do.
I wonder if anyone has told Pearce that millions of Native Americans were here
before the Europeans landed and they spoke many, many languages. None of those
In making English the official language, Pearce does not want to prevent folks
from speaking and learning other languages. And he doesn't want to tell business
they can't use Spanish to make money. In fact, for all practical purposes,
little would change under the proposal except for some official state
correspondence and the declaration itself.
The proposal calls for the measure to go before voters if OK'd by the state
So if the changes are so minute and won't change how people communicate at home
or in the workplace, why waste time with it?
Because language is an emotional issue. It's part of the reason Univision and
other Spanish language media outlets have so many viewers and listeners.
Language is a cultural connector that savvy marketers have used all the way to
But language, and in our case Spanish, can scare people, too. Even though
Latinos make up only 25 percent of the population here in Arizona, only 11
percent of the state's residents speak English "less than very well," according
to the U.S. Census Bureau. But that's enough for Pearce and his gang to scream
how we're being taken over and should do something about it.
Other than every other boy born here in Arizona being named Jose, Pearce really
has nothing to worry about. He and his cronies should know that many Hispanics
in Arizona can't speak Spanish and that thousands of immigrants of all kinds pay
to cram into hundreds of English as a second language classes at community
colleges, churches and schools.
In urban Phoenix, South Mountain Community College offers about 80 ESL classes
annually and most are packed with eager students. Phoenix College is offering 67
ESL classes this semester that are full. It's a recurring theme throughout the
Thousands of people are eager to learn English to make a better life, to find
better jobs and to teach their children. So who isn't trying to learn English?
Like I said, there is no practical
reason for this English language proposal. It's emotionally based. Its roots are
in fear, and it insults those of us who know better. If these people had any
guts, they would bar Spanish in all forms in every corner of Arizona society,
then kick out of the state anyone who used it.
For example, they would post someone outside the Arizona Biltmore and the first
landscaper to utter anything not in English would be expelled. Subdivisions
would be banned from using Spanish titles, which means no rios, verdes or
vistas. All Mexican food restaurants would be forced to change their menus,
turning enchiladas into freedom cheese wraps.
And Native Americans would not be allowed to speak their own languages and would
be confined to living on decrepit reservations.
Oh, never mind, that's happened for ages. Pearce may not know about that,
Teclo Garcia is the editor of ĦExtra! and an assistant city editor at The
Republic. Contact him at (602) 444-8281 or