An image that reads, "Do you understand me?"

Image credit: Shutterstock

The other day, I was driving down the highway when I saw a car with a bumper sticker that read, “Speak English or get the f*** out.” I was shocked, but not for the reasons that you’re thinking. I was shocked because while I knew that we had some ignorant people in this world, what I didn’t know was that they were brazen enough to boast their ignorance in the form of a bumper sticker.

There’s a part of me that regrets not flagging that person down and giving them a piece of my mind. But unfortunately, the opportunity is long gone, and so the next best thing I can do is write a post and hope that this person reads it.

Here’s what I want all you “speak English or get out” people to know: English is NOT America’s native language. Some of the first languages ever spoken in North America were Navajo, Cherokee, Sioux, Apache, and Choctaw. So if you’re truly trying to honor the cultural history of this country, it’s you who ought to learn the language of the indigenous people who were here first.

Secondly, treat others the way you want to be treated. If something catastrophic happened and you were forced to move to Germany, wouldn’t you want native German speakers to be patient with you as you tried to learn their language?

Becoming fluent in another language takes years, especially as an adult. Just because someone doesn’t speak good English doesn’t mean they’re not trying to learn the language.

This brings me to my next point. All you “speak English or get out” people claim that it has nothing to do with race when it has everything to do with race.

If a French person comes to the U.S. and is struggling to speak English, people are a lot more accommodating and understanding. Why? Because the French language is viewed as “romantic.”

But then why isn’t Spanish or Vietnamese or Mandarin viewed the same way? Because the people who speak these languages generally aren’t white. It’s racism plain and simple.

In the end, there are no laws that mandate that everyone who comes to America must speak English. Besides, part of what makes America “great” is that fact that it is a melting pot. What could make America even “greater” is if we were all a bit more accepting and compassionate towards one another.

About 

Jane is a twenty-something Bostonian who is passionate about social justice, art, and anything else that strikes her fancy. She likes long walks by the beach (really!), Chinese takeout, and learning new things.