Doing The Work of Racists

Both Southern Beale and Sean Braisted are talking about how the guy who has donated $20,000 to helping pass English-only here in Nashville is a white nationalist.

To which I can only say “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”  Of course.  If this whole thing doesn’t have the stink of “The whole world must accomodate me, but I do not have to accomodate it, because I am THE WHITE MAN!!!!!” on it, I just don’t know what does.

I’m not the world’s most travellingist person and the only other language I even know more than four words in is spoken only by people who live in a place I will never, in my lifetime, get to (unless things rapidly change with Cuba, I guess, before all the old-schoolers have died off).  But I’ve been to places where people spoke primarily French and Spanish and I have to tell you, I would have been up shit creek if there weren’t signs also in English.

But more importantly, I probably wouldn’t have gone to those places.  And I went to those places on business.  But I don’t believe the conferences I was attending would have occured if the people throwing the conferences couldn’t count on non-native speakers being able to navigate the way from the airport to the hotels and then to the conference centers.

And that’s a thousand or two people who descended on those cities during non-touristy times of the year bringing with them their expense accounts.

I know that one of those conferences will never come to Tennessee because of our perceived hostility to Hispanics (and I’m guessing that the other never will both because of that and our love of oppressing gay people).  Now, you can argue that English-only is only a city-level thing and that individual businesses will still be able to do what they want.  But I’m telling you that it’s perceived by people outside the state as being so hostile to non-English speakers that they do not want to come to our city AND SPEND MONEY.

So let’s talk about white nationalism just for a minute because I want to tell you as clearly as I can that this is how it works.  White racists not only don’t mind if non-whites suffer, white racists expect most white people (and yes, including other racists) to sacrifice their own well-being for the cause.

Consider little Adolf Hitler Campbell.  You think he signed up for a name that pretty much guarantees his options in life are severely limited?  Oh well, tough shit, Dolphie, we’ve all got to sacrifice for the Great White Way.  You think John Tanton gives two shits abou the jobs that might not come here–I mean, seriously, how are we going to say “Welcome, foreign investors” when we’re also so clearly saying “But fuck you and your funny-sounding friends”?

Don’t believe me?  Ask yourself this.  Why is the Nissan headquarters in Cool Springs and not Nashville?  There’s no place in Davidson county to put an office campus?  Or is it more likely that Williamson County has sold itself to the world as an affluent, understanding place where the right kinds of people (with the right kinds of money) can settle in easily?

The whole principal of white nationalism works under a two-fold belief.  One is that white people are obviously better than everyone else (and thus, when we remove ourselves from the world and the world falls apart without our great leadership, we can have some great “I told you so” moment) and that we are so important and that the world cannot make do without us that the world can be forced to play by our rules–in this case, doing business with the city in only “our” language.

We are not so important that the world has to play by our rules.  Nashville can go ahead and adopt English-only and, yes, it’s true that some people in the city will suffer as intended–because they don’t speak English–but the real suffering is going to be financially for all of us, because people who don’t want to be associated with a white nationalist agenda will not do business with us.

There is no great victory in that.

10 thoughts on “Doing The Work of Racists

  1. I take students on a living history tour of Normandy, the Loire Valley, and Paris each year and drive for six days around Normandy. The French, too, expect people to at least attempt to speak French when in their country. Some of their old-school leaders, racist leaders such as the Le Pens, would like to pass laws restricting immigration and the use of foreign languages. Hate is universal.

    But, as you know, we look so provencial when travelling abroad. Americans expect everyone else to speak English and bend to our cultural preferences.

    Some of the things about us that drive the French crazy would surprise most Americans. Eating etiquette for example. When in Paris, eat your hamburger with a fork and knife unless you want to be mocked. Take your ball cap off. When entering any eatery, wait at the door to be seated, even if there is no sign telling. The little things we get wrong in their culture drive them nuts.

    My favorite was how they mock us for our cleanliness obsession. When we visited a German bunker on the beaches, one of many, several French high school kids went nuts laughing when one of my students washed her hands with an alcohol based hand cleanser twice in twent minutes. I asked them, jokingly, what was so funny and one replied “do you Americans expect to win you war on germs anymore than you will end terrorism.”

  2. Thanks for the insights, B. and Casey. My wife and I love to travel, and she gets a kick out of my pre-travel preparations. I always try to learn a few polite phrases in the local language (and dialect, if applicable). Also, I think it helps to have a decent overview of local customs and other cultural idiosyncrasies. We’re not likely to familiarize ourselves with very much, but we work really hard at getting a few things done very well and we try to be flexible and humble about the rest. I think this approach takes us a long way wherever we go.

    Still, Casey, what you and B. say is correct. The French, for example, expect an honest effort. When we were in Paris a few years ago, people were very accommodating of our dearth of French because we put forth a good effort to speak a little French very well. I never got the feeling that we were imposing or that we were being looked at with disdain. Conversely, I think it is a very good idea to be welcoming to foreigners and immigrants whose grasp of English isn’t so great. Most people make an honest effort to learn some of our language before they arrive here (if they’re not fairly fluent already). Usually I find that their English is oodles better than my [whatever language is their first]. At best, our mutual struggle for understanding can be an educational experience for both parties.

    The ‘English-only’ campaign is nothing but a big, xenophobic middle finger to anyone who isn’t a member in good standing of the ignorant, bigoted asshole club. It has no constructive purpose. If the goal is to encourage more non-native English speakers to speak more English, then you do it with education, not pea-brained prohibition.

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  4. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Spain. And over there, if you’re a foreigner who speaks even a few words of broken Castilian — the honest effort CS refers to — locals fall all over themselves praising you and appearing genuinely delighted. Many a conversation (in gov’t offices, libraries, archives, shops, bars, asking directions, whatever) goes back and forth between their attempts at English/French/Italian/German* and the visitor’s language, depending on who has the words for what.** Or people will ask you (I mean, they would ask me, since I looked visibly not local) what language you’d like to speak and muddle through that way.

    I heard a bunch of disparaging comments about poor immigrants, to be sure (though not as many as I heard about gypsies). It’s not that Spain is a country without prejudice. But I never saw or heard about locals refusing to try to talk to others.

    *I have to admit, though, that there are a lot of Japanese tourists there, and I never saw a Spaniard speaking any Japanese back to them.

    **I was consuming plenty of gov’t services, too, so it wasn’t a case of some tourist just spending lovely tourist dollars.

  5. Mr Beale and I travel a good bit and I have to say we really appreciate being able to use an ATM machine in English instead of whatever the native tongue may be. ATM machines were offered in English throughout Costa Rica, even in some of the smallest towns, as well as everywhere in Europe (in fact, in Costa Rica one can get their cash in U.S. dollars or Costa Rican colones.)

    Understandably this is to accommodate the important tourist trade but the bottom line is, an important transaction is taking place in English not Spanish (or French, Italian, Swedish, etc.) and yet the earth has continue to turn and the local culture has managed to thrive. Amazing.

  6. After having been a resident in Davidson County for 36-and-a-half years (or, my whole life), I moved to Brentwood (the Williamson County part) in August of 2008. Quite honestly, I think a lot of Nashvillians who turns their noses up at the white-breadedness of the Brentwood area would be pleasantly surprised. I have Hispanic, Asian and African-American neighbors. The vast majority of us–including myself–send our kinds to public schools.

    Also just down the street from me lives a wonderful couple with two small children of their own. The couple happens to be two men, one of whom also happens to have been my family doctor since 2002, and yes, that includes my own children. Here’s a story on them:

    Basically, you know what Brentwood is now ? It’s what suburban Nashville was about 30-40 years ago.

  7. Yeah, it’s suburban Nashville that is pretty much never going to try to pass an English only ordinance or anything like that. The yahoos don’t run the county and, at least from the outside, it doesn’t look like anyone cares much what the yahoos think.

  8. When asking a French person for help I always begin with ” Je Suis un Americain stupid.” They love it. Most of them then, as SB just said, fall all over themselves to help.

  9. With only a few happy exceptions (e.g., Nathan Moore), the only “conservatives” left in Davidson County of any influence are basically the blue collar Pat Buchanan populist types for whom English First/Only/Whatever type-issues are a big deal. The white- and gray-collar conservatives like me moved out here.

    Some people may view that as an elitist statement. I suppose it is by some measure. But there it is anyway.

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