imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

US Senate declares English the “national language”: a boost to chauvinism and racism

by Statement of the Socialist Equality Party Saturday, May. 20, 2006 at 7:43 PM

The Socialist Equality Party unequivocally condemns the vote by the Senate on Thursday to make English the “national language” of the United States. The measure, added to the Senate immigration “reform” bill, is the but latest in a series of reactionary, ignorant and short-sighted moves aimed at shoring up the right-wing base of the Bush administration and the Republican Party, with the most far-reaching and anti-democratic implications. The proposal is a sop to right-wing and fascistic elements who are working to whip up intolerance and hatred against immigrants in general, and Hispanic Americans in particular. It underscores the deeply undemocratic and unconstitutional essence of all of the measures being enacted in the name of “securing the border.”

The United States has existed for more than 200 years without any such official elevation of English by the federal government. No such measure was written into the US Constitution by the founders. A proposal by John Adams in 1780 to establish an official academy devoted to English was rejected at the time as undemocratic.

Not even at the height of the mass immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, when millions of people speaking dozens of foreign languages flooded into the US, did the American ruling elite feel the need to enact this form of discrimination and disenfranchisement. Why now?

The answer can lie only in the profound crisis and decay of American capitalist society, the immense growth of social inequality, which has riven American society between the broad masses and a financial oligarchy, and the efforts of an increasingly discredited ruling elite to shore up its rule by appealing to backwardness and moving toward a police state. The American economic and political system is incapable of integrating its diverse population and providing for their basic needs.

The measure was passed by a vote of 63 to 24, with the support of all but one Republican senator. Nine Democrats voted for the proposal. It directs the federal government to “preserve and enhance the role of English as the national language of the United States of America.” It further declares that no one has “a right, entitlement or claim to have the government of the United States or any of its official or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services in any language other than English.”

This in a country where nearly 16 percent of the people, a total of 47 million, speak a language other than English at home. The Senate measure is directed first and foremost against 35 million Hispanic Americans, who comprise 13.4 percent of the population and the country’s fastest-growing segment, in ethnic terms. The US is home to the 5th largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. But the move would also have a devastating impact on Haitian-Americans and many other national and ethnic groups.

Among its provisions is an English proficiency test for foreigners applying for residency in the US. Currently, such a test is required only for those seeking citizenship. The English proficiency requirement for citizenship would be made more onerous, with applicants being required to demonstrate as well a knowledge of American history and government.

There are not a few prominent American corporate leaders and politicians, including the current occupant of the White House, who would have difficulty meeting such a standard.

The measure stopped short of declaring English the official language of the US, which would all but ban multi-lingual services and government communications, but it is a major step in that direction. It would not alter current laws that require government provision of certain materials and services—including ballots and emergency advisories—in other languages, but it could be used to negate executive orders, regulations, civil service guidelines and other multilingual ordinances not sanctioned by acts of Congress.

Pro-immigrant groups point out that the measure would vacate executive orders enacted under the Clinton administration that mandated multilingual services and communications by a number of federal agencies, and could undermine court orders and local ordinances for multilingual services.

The Senate measure is, moreover, an encouragement to state and local authorities to enact similarly discriminatory policies. Already 27 states in the US have passed laws proclaiming English their official language.

The implications of the measure are vast. Non-English-speaking Americans could find themselves unable to communicate with hospital officials, unable to read a host of critical documents, confronted with insuperable obstacles in their attempts to carry out the elementary functions of daily life. Their attempts to exercise such basic democratic rights as registering to vote could be frustrated.

The measure would promote further attacks on bilingual education, depriving millions of Hispanic and other immigrant youth from obtaining the basic skills and training needed for decent employment, let alone access to culture and the arts.

That this proposal is an expression of a vast social and cultural decline is underscored by the astonishing fall in language proficiency among English-speaking Americans. The same political representatives of the ruling elite who claim to cherish the English language have overseen a disastrous rise in illiteracy within the general population. According to a government report released in 1998, over 90 million US adults, nearly one in two, are functionally illiterate or near-illiterate, lacking the minimum skills required in a modern society.

That study reported that 44 million American adults, out of 191 million, could not read a newspaper or fill out a job application. Another 50 million could not read or comprehend above the eighth grade level. There is no reason to believe that conditions have improved in the intervening years.

Is it likely that a ruling elite which starves the schools of funds and refuses to provide resources for art, music or other forms of culture, producing a virtual epidemic of illiteracy, would provide the vast resources that would be needed to enable non-English speaking Americans to become proficient in the “national language”? The answer is obvious.

In any event, the official elevation of English to a privileged status is an intrinsically antidemocratic measure. It is discriminatory and exclusionist. Its reactionary essence was reflected in the remarks of senators who backed the amendment to the immigration bill.

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, declared that the United States was “a fragile idea based on a few common principles and our national common language.” His invocation of “our national common language” is pure invention, at odds with both the spirit and letter of the US Constitution.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, was more open in voicing the racist and anti-Hispanic motivations behind the proposal. Citing recent demonstrations of millions of Hispanic immigrants demanding a fair and humane policy toward undocumented workers, he spoke of the need to “enhance our common language,” adding, “That is a good thing to say because when the demonstrators are in the streets and waving the Mexican flag, some of us have to respond to that.”

As with President Bush’s proposals to militarize the US-Mexican border, prompted by the most short-sighted calculations of political expediency, the official designation of English as the national language has massive and ultimately tragic implications which are barely considered by the right-wingers who promote it. This appeal to American chauvinism and nativism can only heighten national and ethnic tensions, initiating a process that leads ultimately to open conflict and violence among various ethnic groups.

Throughout Europe today, reactionary governments are stoking up linguistic, religious and cultural differences in order to divert their populations from the widening class chasm between rich and poor and justify ever more repressive measures. Now the American ruling elite is embarking on the same course of action, in a country where the implications are, if anything, more explosive than in Europe.

As with the vicious anti-immigrant policy announced by Bush in his nationally televised speech last Monday, the response of the Democrats to the English language measure in the Senate was one of conciliation and capitulation. Unwilling to oppose the Republican measure on a principled basis, the Democrats submitted their own amendment to the immigration bill declaring English the country’s “common and unifying” language. The Democratic-sponsored measure specified only that “existing rights” to bilingual government services would not be curtailed, thereby implying, at the very least, an agreement to oppose any further extension of bilingual rights.

This watered-down version of the Republican measure also passed, by a vote of 58 to 39. Senate leaders said one of the two competing English language amendments would be included in any final immigration bill that emerges from negotiations with the House of Representatives.

That body passed a bill last December that would make undocumented workers felons and subject to criminal prosecution all those who harbored or aided such “criminals,” including doctors, teachers and church officials. There is little doubt which version of the English language measure will be supported by the reactionaries who control the Republican House.

Opposition to all forms of discrimination on the basis of language is a fundamental democratic principle. It must be upheld. But as with all other basic rights—freedom of speech and political expression, the right to due process, the right to privacy, the right to vote and run for political office—it cannot be defended against the drive of the American ruling elite toward dictatorial rule through the Democratic Party. Both parties of American big business are complicit in the assault on democratic rights, because this attack is a response to the crisis of the capitalist system which they both defend.

Only the American working class can defend the rights of immigrants, documented and undocumented alike, as well as all other basic rights, by breaking with the two-party system and building an independent political movement based on the unity of working people internationally to fight against global capitalism and for the establishment of a socialist society. That is the program for which the Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site fight.

-World Socialist Web Site

Report this post as:

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 1 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
US SEnate declares English the "national language" Brenda Akers Monday, May. 22, 2006 at 7:46 AM

Local News

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 12:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 12:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 4:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J10 11:58PM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M30 10:20PM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 12:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 1:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 2:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 3:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 2:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 1:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 1:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 4:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 1:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A26 10:37PM


lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Fbi joins with Facebook to remove this report J18 7:08AM

Paraphysique de martyrologie J17 8:00AM

Asian Countries:Cambodia, Vietnam, N. Korea do not permit unlawful immigration J16 8:06PM

Children Incorporated Earns 4-Star Rating on Charity Navigator J16 11:24AM

Democratic Socialists of America J14 4:57PM

Leonard Peltier Non Violent Native American Political Prisoner since 1970's J14 4:18PM

Paraphysique miscellanées de l'aggiornamento J14 12:54AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Cleanup J13 4:14PM

FBI Investigated LA County Sheriff Baca,Why Not Hank Skinner's Persecution? J13 3:52PM

Updated Partial List Of Famous Vegetarians, Vegans, & Fruitarians J13 2:59PM

The Shortwave Report 07136/18 Listen Globally! J12 4:36PM

Social Policy as Social Infrastructure J12 3:38AM

Vol I: 84 Varieties Of GOP Election Fraud J12 1:50AM

Texas Can Call it An Execution,But It is A State Sponsored Murder of Hank Skinner.. J11 6:48PM

June 2018 Honduras coup update J11 3:35PM

Maria Estrada doubles down on racist support J11 1:40PM

New York Women in Film & Television Announces 2018 NYWIFT Ha Phuong Scholarship Recipients J11 10:14AM

Trapps de la domination, trapps de l'aliénation J11 1:31AM

Please Work For The Defeat Of Brett Kavanaugh And Why J09 8:54PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 1:27PM

Transinhumanisme ( transe inhumanisme ) J09 12:44PM

Google, World's Biggest Censor, Was Founded By The CIA J09 10:25AM

For a World Free of Nuclear Risks J09 8:29AM

Corrupt CDC Ignores Meat Fish Recalls J09 4:55AM

The (Temporary) End of Globalization J09 3:03AM

Aternatives to Abortions such as Plan B the pill, condoms and IUD J08 4:03PM

U.S Congressional Legal Minds Know Better Than Allowing Texas To Murder Hank Skinner J08 3:37PM

ACLU in many US states defends in court KKK and American Nazis Sometimes for Money J07 11:28PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy