Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ticketing driver for not speaking English (thx ea!) : Misunderstanding? Or more flexing of racist muscle

UPDATE:  My friend ea brought this to my attention in the comments... which I replied, "I can't see how that "Your name is Toby" shit could be legal! Guests may need you to speak English to get some towels, but your name doesn't have to be "Mary" for you to do it!"


Sitting here listening to the news last night I heard the teaser, "Driver gets ticket for not speaking English" -   I had to stop what I was doing and look up and listen! Then, I went looking for a more fleshed-out version of the story to make sure I understood what had transpired.  I found this - "Dallas police ticketed 39 drivers in 3 years for not speaking English"  - (along with some interesting comments that followed).
"I was surprised and stunned that that would happen, particularly in the city of Dallas," Kunkle said. "In my world, you would never tell someone not to speak Spanish."
Weren't those 39 cases "in his world" and, since he's the Chief of Police, under his jurisiction?
The case that led to the discovery of all the others occurred Oct. 2, when Ernestina Mondragon was stopped for making an illegal U-turn in the White Rock area. Rookie Officer Gary Bromley cited Mondragon for three violations: disregarding a traffic control device, failure to present a driver's license and "non-English speaking driver."
According to officials, the rookie was confused by a pull-down menu on his in-car computer that listed the charge as an option."  With a veritable "buffet" of  possible charges to choose from, I suppose the young man could get confused.  Guess the experienced, training officer who was with him and signed off on the ticket was confused too.  (emphasis mine)

But then this "non-English speaking driver" got herself a lawyer - seeing as there's no such law in Dallas for private citizens driving in the state - and then...
Dallas police said they will drop all charges against Mondragon, who speaks limited English and does have a Texas driver's license.
 What if she hadn't been able to get a lawyer, as the other 38 in three years obviously couldn't? Certainly speaks to that "power" to materially affect a person's life doesn't it?
Attorney Domingo Garcia said he has been hired to represent the Mondragon family..."The issue has nothing to do with whether people should learn English or not. I believe they should," Garcia said. "It's about not following the law and issuing citations against a law that doesn't exist, against a fairly voiceless and helpless population."
 Couldn't have said it better myself.
"It's the principle of the matter that there are police officers out there representing our city who actually think that it's a crime not to speak English," said Brenda Reyes, a political consultant and member of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
 Sounds like some flexing to me!


Cinie said...

I think that article's interesting in light of Gates/Crowley. In that case too, the arresting officer was probably always polite and nice as pie, but it still seemed perfectly reasonable to every one of them to issue a ticket for something that's not illegal.

Like being uppity at home.

Hmmm...wonder why?

Deb said...

Of course it did, Cin! Only difference is, there was no - "Do you know who you messing with?!?! from Señora Mondragon. She didn't have that luxury.

"Like being uppity at home.

Or online.

"Hmmm...wonder why?"

You know why - that "power"
they wield 'cause that's all they got.

Cinie said...

Deb, I just woke up from my 30th nap today, and it dawned on me, out of the blue that maybe Ernestina Mondragon did signify on the cop's mama.

In Spanish.

Deb said...

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! Sista, I'm holdin' my damn stomach, ROFLMBAO!!!

Now see, were I la Señora? I would have. Particularly since the state of Texas gave me a damn driver's license! And what better way since it's not against the damn law???!! ::wiping eyes::

ea said...

Hola mujeres. Been away for a little bit. I read about that story too. Something a little bit related happened in Taos, New Mexico. An Anglo Texan bought an inn and told employees that they weren't allowed to speak Spanish in his presence and that they had to anglicize their first names. His reasoning for the first demand was that he thought they might talk about him. His reasoning for the second was that it would be easier for the guests if employees had English names.

Deb said...

ea...¡Hola mi amor! Yes, you have! Glad to see you're okay (you know how I worry when you don't "check in" as you go back and forth!).

With regard to the Anglo Texan, I'd have to admit that Anglos have no monopoly on that whole "fear of the other" thing - Black folk feel that way too, if we're honest. Paranoia about someone talking about you, planning shit to get over on you, or get your "shit," etc., etc. - all that's filtered down to minorities in this country to pit one group against the other and keep chaos swirling where solidarity should exist - and it works.

When I owned that in me, I decided to try and learn Spanish (and some other languages) to deal with it. Sometimes it was so, most times it wasn't. But either way - I knew for myself.

And yes it was partially to "see for myself" - on both ends (had a white guy call me all kinds of bitches and whores in a club in Pannama because he thought I was Panamanian and couldn't speak English!). But, the greater benefit was to broaden the circle of people with whom I could communicate. "Meeting people where I find them" is the only way I know, to shoo away those "other" fears when they crop up. I'm still workin' on it.

As for the anglicizing of their names, I can't see how that "Your name is Toby" shit could be legal! Guests may need you to speak English to get some towels, but your name doesn't have to be "Mary" for you to do it!

But on the other hand, it's done a lot - by Latinos - particularly here in TX (FL too!). When I lived here before, the owner of the biggest Latino dealership (still here & still big) uses the anglicized pronounciation of his surname in the TV commercials he and his family are in on TV. I know he was appealing to the market with the money to buy those expensive cars & trucks back when he started, but it always bothered me that he felt he had to. No skin off his nose though I'm sure (seeing as he's still big), and I ain't mad at him - the difference is, he had a choice.

Do the people working for the Texan have one? Is it a, "I need this job situation" so okay?
Like Sra. Mondragon, they might need to get a little help ferreting out that information!! :-)

Cinie said...

I was once waited on in a fast food restaurant by an obviously mute guy, since he never uttered a word, with jet black, wavy hair, dark, smoky eyes with long black lashes, smooth brown skin and a name tag that said, "Ed Wardo."

But, if you really want to feel like the "other," try being the only non-Spansh speaking presenter at a Latino comedy-fest. They understood my one paltry intro perfectly, and it was the only thing said in English all night. A music concert is different, music is the universal language (besides sex) after all, but when somebody says something and everybody laughs, but you, you really feel left out. When it happens over a hundred times in one night, it can change your entire perspective in just a coupla hours time.

ea said...

Bueno. Lo que interesa es que el estado de Nuevo México ha sido español hace 400 años. English showed up in our parts in ¿1846? with an armed invasion force.

Cinie, your name tag story made me laugh.

And yeah, there is a lot of mixing of names, where kids with Spanish surnames get non-Spanish names or anglicized versions of Spanish names.

Using a presumed nonunderstood language to say something nasty about someone else is done by speakers de varios idiomas. Me acuerdo un cuento por una mujer québécois con cabello dreadlocks. En un aeropuerto, unas jovenes en la cola dicieron cosas feas de ella en francés. She turned around and answered their very impolite questions in French. Apparently they were mortified.

Oh, Deb, should "Spanish" in the post title be "English"?

Deb said...

Cin...I co-sign with ea on the LMAO at the name tag story! Looks like homeboy said, You asked for it, you got it but, I'm not forgetting where I come from to serve fast food for you!" Too funny!

"When it happens over a hundred times in one night, it can change your entire perspective in just a coupla hours time."

Thanks for your honesty. As I said, I've also had that feeling. I'm not fluent in any of them(though I'd like to be), but at least I can understand some of them and I'm still trying.

My solution (because I seem to have a natural affinity and a love for languages that came from I-don't-know-where) was to find out for myself. My thought is, had a plethora of foreign languages been made available in these supposed "equal schools" (we are, after all, a nation of "immigrants" - whether you came on-board the ship or in the belly of it), we'd be a much more - and real - "global nation."

ea...No it's not interesting, it's a fact others don't want to acknowledge. (Cin, she said, it's interesting that New Mexico has had Spanish (as its language)for 400 years. That is what you said isn't it ea?).

And yes, speakers of Spanish, as you point out above, are not the only ones. It's just we're talking about Spanish right now. Cin, ea said above that there was a woman from Quebec with dreadlocks in an airport where some young people said some ugly things about her in French (the rest is on English so you get it). And ea, I've been the "negrita" in the same situation. There's nothing - I must admit - like being able to turn around and "mortify" those who would be ugly or belittle!

Hermana, I'm translating for Cin - as best I can - to (1) practice my shit and (2) so she can stay a part of the conversation, so bear with me.

And yes, you're right on the post title (too eager to get that shit out I guess!), I'll correct pronto. Good lookin' out - ¡Gracias mi amor! :-)

ea said...

I am pleased to be of service, and your understanding of my comments are correct. Oh, and Cinie, the back-and-forth between English and Spanish is not intended to exclude anyone. It comes from the flow of the sentence, el vocabulario, and a switch inside the brain that refuses to pick one language and stay locked on it.

Deb said...

ea..Hey! Thanks for understanding and working with us on this! Good to see my understanding of "su lengua" is getting better and better with each passing day.
Now, I notice I'm not reading Spanish through that English translation filter in my head! When I read what you write, I know immediately what you're saying without that extra step!

¡Muchas, muchas gracias Mujer!

Who knows! We could have Cin up, and at least partially fluent for her next event by year's end! :-)

Finishing a damn JOB application as we speak - so I can't chat right now (got to make today's deadline), but I'm almost done and I'll be back! I've got to catch up on what's been going on at Cinie's last, interesting post as well.

¡Luego Chica!

ea said...

I have gotten lazy and don't proof read like I used to do. In the first sentence of my previous post, the verb "are" should be "is". Sorry for cluttering the comments, but I have to correct myself o me hace loca.

Deb said...

ea...I know what you meant. And don't ever apologize for "cluttering the comments" here! You know you're always welcome! :-)

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