Friday, May 26, 2006

Making English the National Language is Not Racist

Jeff Jacoby rightly slams Harry Reid and others who seem to think that designating English as the national language is somehow a racist ploy.
It is a column about the English language, which has always been indispensable to the American identity, and without which no citizen can fully participate in American life. It is a column about the power of English literacy, thanks to which, [Frederick] Douglass wrote in his autobiography, he first "understood the pathway from slavery to freedom." And it is about the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of leftist elites like Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who last week denounced as "racist" a bill declaring English the national language of the United States.

"This amendment is racist," Reid said. "I think it's directed basically to people who speak Spanish."

Racist! As if Americans who speak Spanish aren't as capable of learning English as any other linguistic minority. As if it is bigoted and mean-spirited to want all Americans to be able to follow their nation's political debates, read its founding documents, and take part in its civic life. Racist to embrace English as the common American tongue! If Douglass were alive today, Reid's words would make him burst out laughing.
Is Reid implying that Hispanic immigrants are incapable of learning English? The great, great majority of Americans have ancestors who came here not knowing English and, somehow, they or their children managed to make the transition to being English speaking. We didn't need such a recognition that English was our national language then because it was clearly understood. Now, with so many official documents being presented in other languages, that understanding is going fast. I'm not sure what, other than symbolism, the measure in the Senate bill would accomplish, but the fact that people like Harry Reid are ready to cry racism over a symbolic statement like that shows how far we've come.