On social networks it has become common to see unfortunate incidents that happened in public places and were captured on video. In these incidents, people speaking Spanish are confronted aggressively by someone who is mentally unbalanced, who shouts at them and demands that they carry on their (personal and private) conversations in English. After these occurrences, some people have said that they feel a certain fear of speaking Spanish in public places. Should Latinos speak their native language clandestinely in the United States?
On May 15, a quiet restaurant in Manhattan, New York, was disrupted by the screams of attorney Aaron M. Schlossberg, who was outraged that the establishment’s employees were speaking Spanish with Latino customers.
In a video captured by a witness, you can see the visibly upset Schlossberg tell the manager of the restaurant: “Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English.” Then he threatened to call Immigration to arrest the staff.
Ironically, the website of the enraged lawyer Schlossberg says that he also offers his services in Spanish.
A year ago, on May 22, 2017, another incident was captured on video. Héctor Torres was speaking on the phone in Spanish while he was waiting to board his flight at the Reno, Nevada airport. He was interrupted by an individual who shouted loud insults at him and told him to speak English and go back to his country.
Torres is American and speaks perfect English. He was just speaking Spanish on the phone with his mother, who lives in Puerto Rico.
Sadly, with the arrival of Donald Trump to power, many closet racists have felt more freedom to express their hatred to the world. According to a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, anti-immigrant hate groups grew by 57% in 2017.
We must be clear– it is important that Latino immigrants learn to speak English and assimilate into their new home, the United States. But this does not mean leaving aside part of our identity, such as language.
Spanish ranks as the second language in the world (after Mandarin) for the number of people who speak it as their mother tongue, with 437 million native speakers. If we add speakers with limited competency, there are 572 million people who speak Spanish, so it can be considered the third biggest language in the world by total number of speakers, after Mandarin and English.
While it is courteous for two people to avoid speaking Spanish if they are around a third person who does not speak the language, this language cannot be banned in public places, even in work places.
According to the Department of Labor (DOL):“In most circumstances, employees’ communications in languages other than English should not be limited to only those official functions for which they were hired. Employees’ right to speak in languages other than English may only be curtailed in certain narrowly-defined situations.”
We should feel proud of our culture and our roots. We cannot have our identity stolen from us, nor speak our mother tongue in hiding. But if you encounter someone who hates any language other than English, stay calm and do not react emotionally. Record the incident with your phone, and show that intolerant person and the world that you are taking the high road and that you do not have hate in your heart.