Disadvantaged by race set back
Essay to Senator Harry Reid
By E. Ablorh-Odjidja
The recent immigration debate is not
only about the controversy surrounding the American
National Anthem (the Spanish version) and the relevance
of Spanish language as a touchstone to US immigration
But if you blink for a minute, as some have, you might
think it is the whole issue. Singing the anthem in
Spanish, they say, is only meant to honor America and
her heritage. And that putting a stop to Spanish as a
co-official language can only be viewed as a racist act.
But take a good look at this controversy and you will
see something else: An attempt to change the economic
landscape to favor Hispanics. Blacks, who for centuries
have been disadvantaged by race, are about to be set
back by language.
I am black. Naturally, the suppression of Spanish as an
official language in America, a historically English
speaking country, is nothing for me to worry about. I
didn’t speak Spanish when I first got here. And it is
highly unlikely that I would speak Spanish before I
depart this earth.
As an immigrant who speaks English with an accent, I can
understand the anxiety of the newly arrived Hispanic.
But I have to admit that that unhappy situation
evaporated long ago, the moment I heard Henry Kissinger,
the former Secretary of State under Nixon, speak.
Kissinger and I had something in common. We acquired the
English language. He thrived using that language. And to
a much lesser degree, so have I. Certainly, many
Hispanics have already proven this point.
But this idea of making Spanish official puts someone
else at a disadvantage. Leveling the playing field for
Hispanics in this instance means raising the bar for
blacks. Blacks have to learn Spanish in order to earn
their potential within the new order. Nothing against
the Hispanic; just raising the unfairness of this point.
The irony in this language dispute is that the above
point is neglected.
There is no doubt that speaking a particular language
well gives economic and social advantages to those who
speak it. But to single out Spanish among the many
spoken in “melting pot America”, for this official favor
is to overstate the plight of the Hispanic in this
society. And to brand as racist those who are for making
English the only official language in America seems to
me a virulent form of hypocrisy.
For what is it that prevents new Hispanics immigrants
from learning English just like the rest of the
immigrants who got here before them? Short of their
massive presence in our midst the Hispanic plight is the
same like everyone else’s.
The only difference is their use as a political force.
It is behind this force that you can discern the reason
for the drive for this dual language status. It is
projected that by 2050, Hispanics will form 24% of the
American population. The political engineers already see
this as a raw political power source. To pretend not to
is to commit fraud, or worse abet one.
However, the real fraud started with the formulation of
the term Hispanic and the granting of a minority status,
a civil rights category that is equivalent to that of
the black race in America.
In two Hispanic countries in South America, Argentina
and Uruguay, 85% of the population is predominantly
European. However, any of these Europeans can cross over
to America under the Hispanic banner and become
instantly disadvantaged; just like blacks!
Hispanic, though, is not a race. It
derives from a Spanish cultural base and encompasses a
mixture of many races. Predominant among these races are
Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans.
Because of the odd mixture of race in the Hispanic camp,
Hispanics now trump blacks as the largest minority group
in America. Thus they have claims to a larger share of
the political spoils. Now they want the Spanish language
to cement the concomitant economic benefits.
The black man who speaks English, and nothing else, and
whose mother tongue has been snatched by slavery, will
once again be made victim. The irony is the black man
has all along been here. But to be at par with the
Hispanic in this new economic or political order, he
would have to learn Spanish.
Yet no one seems to be concerned. At least not the
politicians who are busy grabbing the Hispanic vote.
Sadly, these are the same fellows who in the past have
milked black angst for political gains. They are the
same who will ask the black man to learn a new language
or fall behind the pack.
That settlers to a new society do acquire the
predominant language faster than natives do the
newcomer’s language is overlooked in this matter.
Ignored also is the “melting pot” experience that for
decades has produced English as the language of America.
Unless you are sincere, you will miss the irony in all
this. You will only see votes guaranteed to rig you to
power. You will charge racism when English is mentioned
as a single official language. But in reality you will
not give a hoot about discrimination.
Soon, the choice of the workforce in America, as it is
already in some places, will be bi-lingual. Blacks who
don’t speak Spanish and have the least opportunity or
inclination to do so, will have the slightest chance for
employment within this dual language economy.
Unfortunately, black Hispanics will not fare any better.
They will still carry the same burden of race because
racism is a construct of skin color. Cry discrimination
then, if you can.
E. Ablorh-Odjidja: Graduate, Howard University,
BA Communications 1973, and Columbia University, School
of Fine Arts, MFA Film Arts 1976 Professional
experience: Writer, producer/director GBC-TV and
Freidrich Ebert Foundation in Ghana. Has five
documentaries films to his credit. Has to date
published numerous political commentaries on Africa and
Africans in the Diaspora in periodicals in Europe and
Africa. He is the current publisher of
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Ablorh, you make very good points.
The basic assumption is that there will be natural
political antagonisms between Hispanics and Blacks.
Maybe on the practical plane that is the truth of
things. That the pie is not getting any bigger and that
an Hispanic gain is a black loss. Many blacks already
feel that Hispanics are more privileged by whites than
blacks are now. But that sentiment is expressed with
regard to all new immigrants to America, whether they
are from Africa or the Caribbean island-nations, or in
the past, Irish and Italian.
I am more inclined that Spanish
should be taught in the public schools, more often than
it is presently. We should encourage also our children
to make the closest friends as possible with our
Hispanic neighbors, with all our neighbors. I only hope
that our neighbors return our good will. Maybe they
will, maybe they won't. In some sense, at least
commercially, Spanish is already an official language.
Almost all commercial goods now are written in Spanish
and English. I do not have the same fears as you, I
suppose, of a dual official language. But, it is quite
possible, I am politically naive. -- Rudy
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* * * * *
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
public benefits. Most provocatively, she
reveals how both the move toward
colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarceration—but her
carefully researched, deeply engaging,
and thoroughly readable book should
* * *
Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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posted 14 July 2006