Is English a Requirement for an Assimilated Immigrant?
Yesterday, I showed you that the dominant culture is not the one everyone assumes it to be. As discussed at the beginning of this paper, cultural assimilation is the assimilation of the minority culture into the majority one. Through empirical evidence of how the United States grew from the original thirteen colonies, it has been demonstrated that it is erroneous to believe that that the dominant culture of the United States is the Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASPS) that many believe it is. The Hispanic culture, is the true dominant culture in the United States. Let us explore this further by delving into whether English should be required for assimilating into the United States.
There is no argument that the English language is the default language of the US. It is also the most often spoken language in the country. There are many reasons for this but, in essence, it boils down to the simple fact that Manifest Destiny was driven by the Anglo-Saxons. Country building requires communication and a common language significantly facilitates that.
However, it is important to note that although English is the language of the nation, it is not the only language nor is it the official language. Through the country’s expansion westward, the pioneers leading the expansion were not monolingual English speakers but instead were multilingual able to communicate in the language, however rudimentary, that the territory they were pioneering was using at the time. There were many Anglo-Saxons that spoke fluent Spanish as they expanded into Tejas, now the State of Texas. This is true for most of the western states that now form the United States.
Now look again at any map from the 1800’s and you clearly see that English was dominant in only the territories that formed the original United States. The rest of the territories, that were eventually brought into the nation, were predominantly Spanish speaking, along with French and several Native American languages.
Spanish, however much vilified, is as American as English is in the United States.
Invariable this is going to lead us into the debate of whether English is the language of the land. As pointed out earlier, the United States grew as a consequence of Manifest Destiny. Except for the official policy of exterminating the Native American way of life and languages, the expansion of the US accepted the customs and languages of those it absorbed. In many ways it was the policy of the drivers of the expansion to be inclusive of the language and culture of those they brought into the nation.
To examine this, look at the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which is the peace treaty that the United States signed with Mexico to settle the US-Mexican War. As a result of that war, the United States expanded to the Pacific Ocean by annexing Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Spanish was the predominant language in those states, as they were Mexican. It was also the culmination of Manifest Destiny.
What is important to note is that each of these territories, that would later become states, were occupied by Spanish-speaking inhabitants. Although sparsely populated, the new territories contained individuals that had established strong cultural ties to the lands that they inhabited. That included the Spanish language. The other important element to note is that the treaty ending the war did not require the Mexican citizens to leave the territories. Instead, the treaty gave them the option to remain or to leave. Those that chose to stay were guaranteed US citizenship.
This leads us to the crux of the language issue. The treaty makes no requirement that the inhabitants adopt English as the common language, nor does it require the former Mexicans to adopt the WASPS’ culture as their own. Anyone that has travelled through New Mexico recently knows this to be a fact as evidenced by the fact that the Mexican culture is amply displayed across the state. Many parts of Texas also demonstrate this. This is also true for the vast majority of the lands that almost doubled the size of the United States.
Through the years there have been several attempts to force English as the language of the nation. In the 60s and 70’s many educational centers punished students for speaking Spanish in class. For many years, employers punished employees for speaking Spanish at work. Some still do. However, the law of the land does not enforce English as the national language. As a matter of fact, the law of the land discourages English only rules and regulations. There have also been several movements across the nation attempting to legally establish the English language as the official language of the country. All have failed.
Some may not like it, but the fact remains that English is not the official language of the country. Spanish, on the other hand, is the second most spoken language in the US. Even with attempts to eradicate it, the Spanish language remains firmly engrained in the fabric of the country, and continues to grow in use.
Keeping this in mind there are two things that need to be pointed out. The first is that the laws of the land are created and enforced by the citizens of the country. As much as some may dislike the notion that English is not the official language, the fact remains that it is US citizens who have voted to not make it the official language. It is not the immigrants that dictate the official language of the country, but rather the citizens that make the laws. This is an important distinction that must be repeated, the failure to make English the official language across the nation is not the fault of the immigrants.
The second issue that must be pointed out is whether immigrants should be required to speak English in order to assimilate. Going back the notion that assimilation is the integration of a minority into the majority then it would stand to reason that the majority, as evidenced by the inability to make English the official language, does not believe immigrants should be required to assimilate by speaking English. This merits repeating, the majority who participates in law making have agreed that immigrants are not required to speak English in order to assimilate.
This obviously leads us to the inconvenient question, who are the citizens that are holding back the laws making English the official language? Remember Manifest Destiny? They would be the inhabitants that occupied vast parts of the United States as it expanded westward. These individuals, whether you like it or not, are US citizens with the same rights to determine their country’s future as any other citizen, including those who demand immigrant assimilation. In tomorrow’s edition I will explore whether the existing cultures should be required to assimilate.