The American Way
The Fight For Bilingual Education
“Whom ever controls language controls the people…Thus, controls the power.” This statement is often given in the case against censorship in regards to the 5th amendment—if you can control what people can and can’t say, then you can control how and what they think, thus, you in part manipulate minds to establish a status quo reflective of the people in power.
Less than fifty years ago whites could freely use the word, “Nigger.” This word was a “Power” word. It was used to give strength to the White man over Blacks. Now, if a White man uses this to describe Blacks, he can be charged with a hate crime—the power has shifted in this case. Imagine how furious this made the White man—not all Whites, but specifically the Whites who used this word for controlling power.
Today, this “‘power” is deeply connected to the status quo which in turn is deeply rooted in an “American Way.” An American way that has always promoted, and favored, such attributes as: capitalism, manifest destiny, and a Protestant Euro-Christian faith. These attributes are carried on by Americans known as W.A.S.P.’s (White Anglo Saxon Protestant).
Arthur Warmoth, Ph.D., Sonoma State University, writes on how the dominant culture influences the development of the minority culture, “The mainstream English-speaking culture in the United States has been labeled ‘White Anglo-Saxon Protestant’ (WASP) or sometimes simply ‘Anglo’.” (2001) This “mainstream” culture has created the American way to fit their physical and ideological make-up, and then labeled this, “mainstream”. By in large, the WASP is your middle class and political moderate group that at one time Martin Luther King, Jr. said, needed to be “woken up” to the injustice of segregation and the plight of the Negro in America. Furthermore, he believed that within this community the WASP had the ability to change the face of the Negro way of life in America since they were the majority group. In general, WASP weren’t racist, just traditional—the connection between, tradition and oppression, has been widely recognizable throughout history and at present. “This [WASP] culture tends to have a limited sense of cultural self-awareness, partly because of certain ideological characteristics of the culture itself. These characteristics include a tendency to see itself in a historical and universalizing terms, as well as a tendency to use racial categories to describe essentially cultural phenomena.” (Warmoth, 2001) Once the mainstream society was created the only thing to notice wasn’t ones self, but who was different. It is easy to not be aware of ones self, more so, easy to determine who is not like you and be prejudice to all things outside the mainstream—to protect the tradition. “This ‘dominant culture,’ however, appears to resist labeling itself as a culture and to see itself as simply an expression of the way right-thinking people see the world.” (Warmoth) Everyone who isn’t one of the right-thinking people must simply be the wrong-thinking people.
WASP’s believe in God, Country, and the American way of life—the right way of life—that has generally been defined as hard working, church going, God Bless America, ‘If it ‘aint broke why fix it?’ mentality. It might not be entirely broken, but definitely in a need for an upgrade.
Two hundred years ago a man could come to America and follow the American way to the American Dream. A man (a white man) could come and believe in God (a Christian Protestant God), and work hard (as a free man), and soon enough earn his stake (of former Indian territory) in this great Country (with parts of Mexico, and Native America in there).
This American way has clearly deteriorated. It took a civil war, a civil rights movement, and the death of two Presidents to overcome slavery, segregation, and unequal rights. But, it seems as though the traditional American way is still fighting its way to uphold. Do you really have to be a WASP to use the American way? Are English only speakers in fear of loosing their power…their American way? Is there a new mainstream/tradition…a new American Way? Is a new Civil Rights movement happening?
While watching a TV news report on the fighting in and around the areas of the Middle East, a reporter was questioning a young soldier as to why they train children to fight (paraphrased), “We must train our children for war…they are the future soldiers…they will fight for our way of life…our preservation.” Adding to that he spoke on a particular tactic, or philosophy on fighting a prolonged war (paraphrased), “Children are a prime target in fighting a war that has lasted this long…your children cannot grow up to fight if they are dead.” This is very true. Along with killing the enemies prime source for future soldiers you can manipulate those future soldiers to fight on your side. Part of the tactic in the Vietnam War was to get the Vietnamese people to fight on our side by using, Communism bad US good, type propaganda.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the revolution: The Fight For the American Way. This is a prolonged struggle, and our children are the cornerstone of American culture and its survival. Can the status quo uphold a White dominated society? Will English be the dominant language? Will the American Way allow minorities to join in all the fun? Will Rudolph get to play in all the reindeer games?
In closing, Thomas J. Mullen, author of, “The Ghetto of Indifference.” discusses how a part of society whose present ideology is in conflict with the current situation is in fact the reason there is a problem. The book was written in 1966, and he was talking about WASP’s, and their lack of involvement in the civil rights movement. WASP’s had isolated themselves—much like how they do now, but from issues pertaining to diversity—and chose to live in a ghetto of their own, which he defines as “…a restricted area, a place where people live and suffer because their world is small and closes in upon them.” (14) He states that this isolation creates a “gap” that separates “them from us.” Within this gap rest our differences, they have their problems and we have ours, and never the two shall twine; and the gap is deep and wide.
Bridging any gap in any relationship begins with communication. Communication is accommodated by both parties ability to express themselves in their own way—their own language and cultural practices—and this expression must be affirmed and validated by the other party. Communication doesn’t affirm anyone when it seeks to get individuals to communicate on its terms; thus is the case with immersion programs.
The most beautiful thing about the US isn’t freedom, or democracy, but that we are Unique to the rest of the world, because we speak English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Arabic…we can go out to dinner tonight and eat Mexican, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Soul…we can have a conversation with a Nigerian, Armenian, Australian, Brazilian…or go to a synagogue, mosque, church, or temple without having to travel very far, or risk life or danger. Why are we able to do this, because what remains intact is what is so precious about this country: its people.
*Note: Today, duel immersion programs are popping up everywhere. In California these programs are largely for white students with parents who want them to learn Spanish. The pro’s are that Mexican’s have influenced them to draw nearer to us and share our language. Hopefully this opens the door for acceptance. The con’s are that perhaps this is a play for power. If they can control and master English and Spanish they can maintain esteem and supremacy in this country and state.