Thursday, May 13, 2010

This is Gene Robinson's column for tomorrow:

This is my response:

I'm a Latina in Los Angeles who put her passport in her purse as soon as the "breathing while brown" law went into effect in Arizona, in case I can't avoid driving through there. The education laws that have been passed since then are even more offensive, although, as I am a non-resident, they are less likely to affect me directly.

My mom, who passed on this week, was a natural-born citizen whose first language was Spanish. While she learned English as a child (her family were great fans of Shakespeare, and I can still hear my mom reciting Hamlet's soliloquy in our childhood kitchen), she never shook her accent. She had a Master's degree from Cal State Long Beach, but, according to the new law, she would be ineligible to teach ESL in Arizona. Before she retired, she did teach ESL to public high school students in a small town near Los Angeles. They didn't call it that, then; the students had signed up for Spanish, thinking it would be an easy "A." My mom taught them Spanish in the same way an English teacher teaches English. They had to learn grammar, and spelling, and write essays in their native Spanish. They also had to learn to speak and write in English, or there'd be heck to pay. When her school was short of English teachers, she taught that, too, accent or no.

After she retired, and after my father had passed on, she sheltered refugees from the wars in Central America in her big, empty house. She taught them English, and tried to find them lawyers who could get them papers so they could send for their families. This effort was usually futile, as the US government hadn't granted them asylum; they were "illegals." In Arizona today, this would land her in jail, but I'm as proud of her as if she had been a stop on the Underground Railway.

Now that "ethnic studies" classes are banned, Latinos in Arizona will have to learn about their heritage in private, after school and on weekends, as Jews have done for generations.
I expect the new, discriminatory laws in Arizona to be struck down in the courts within months, if they're not withdrawn before then due to economic pressure. In the meantime, my wallet and I will avoid Arizona as much as I can.

Thank you, again, for supporting what's right.


Post a Comment

<< Home