Horror stories about Muslim misogyny have long been used by western patriarchs to justify imperialism abroad and sexism at home. The Guardian’s Katharine Viner reminds us about Lord Cromer, the British consul general in Egypt from 1883. Cromer believed the Egyptians were morally and culturally inferior in their treatment of women and that they should be “persuaded or forced” to become “civilised” by disposing of the veil.
"And what did this forward-thinking, feminist-sounding veil-burner do when he got home to Britain?" asks Viner. "He founded and presided over the Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage, which tried, by any means possible, to stop women getting the vote. Colonial patriarchs like Cromer … wanted merely to replace eastern misogyny with western misogyny." More than a century later, the same logic is used to imply that misogyny only matters when it isn’t being done by white men.
Charli Carpenter on that BS story about ISIS and FGM that was circulating last week
I think this commentary also applies to much of the western conversation around head-covering by Muslim women.
Last week, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a dire warning: Some of the child refugees streaming across the southern border into the United States might carry deadly diseases. “Reports of illegal immigrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning,” Gingrey wrote. “Many of the children who are coming across the border also lack basic vaccinations such as those to prevent chicken pox or measles.”[…]
…As the Texas Observer points out, when it comes to measles, children in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are more likely to be vaccinated than children in the United States. None of those countries have recorded an outbreak of measles in 24 years. Kids in Marin County are more at risk.
Gingrey has long-standing ties to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a far-right medical group that opposes all mandatory vaccines. The organization touts access to Gingrey as one of its membership perks. (The AAPS has, incidentally, taken the lead in pushing the idea that migrant children are disease carriers.) In 2007, he wrote an amendment that would allow parents to block their children from receiving HPV vaccines, which are designed to combat cervical cancer.
A Border Patrol agent reads the birth certificate of Alejandro, 8 — the only thing he brought with him as he and others crossed the Rio Grande near McAllen recently. Alejandro is one of more than 52,000 minors traveling without parents who’ve been caught crossing the border illegally since October.
Seventy-five years ago, the St. Louis, a German trans-Atlantic liner carrying 938 Jewish refugees, was turned away from the United States and forced to return to Europe. U.S. law didn’t allow them sanctuary.
Writes author and former Dallas Morning News reporter Christine Wicker: “The St. Louis is famous now as a failure of compassion that haunts American history. Today we are preparing to send 45,000 children back to Central American countries controlled by drug cartels that routinely torture, rape and kill children who refuse to work for them. So routinely are children menaced that their families sent them away, alone, across thousands of miles on just the slimmest of hopes that they might be safe. U.S. law doesn’t allow them sanctuary.
“They walked through some of the most hostile, hot, barren, dangerous country in the world. They were sent by poor families so terrified for their safety that they paid many thousands of dollars and entrusted their children to criminals hoping they might arrive in America and be safe.
“Our hearts are not touched by these children. We want the law enforced. This is our country. Ours. And we don’t have to share it. Not now. Not 75 years ago.
“Yes, these are children whom we’ll send back to be raped, maimed and killed. They aren’t our children. Our children are precious.”
Photo: New York Times
Speaking of animals…
If THAT is Martin’s sense of humor, then he has a SHIT sense of humor.
I have not seen this article before. I can’t say I’m disappointed because I expect white males to be awful and they have to prove to me they’re not. What’s a little surprising is how matter-of-fact he is about his racism and xenophobia. You’d think his PR people would’ve trained him by now not to talk like that to reporters.
This statement came across my tumblr dashboard today w/o any further explanation, information, etc. I haven’t received a response to my simple question of “Why?”. This post isn’t a direct response to the OP, so much as my thoughts around this sentiment, as I’ve heard it plenty of times in many situations in my life, and I’ll consider some basic assumptions based on what I know about the OP, namely that he is a white man living in San Diego, California which has a considerable resident population of people born outside of the US—from Mexico, largely.
First, I can’t imagine a situation in which it is not xenophobic to make a generalised statement to an un-named group of people in which one demands that this group of people should learn your language.
This is not to say that life in general would not be simpler if everyone involved had a common language. That goes without saying, but statements like this imply that the subject of your statement hasn’t already considered that this is probably a good idea. I guarantee you, someone who is in a situation in which a lot of people speak a language that they don’t speak has considered how much easier it would be if they all spoke the same language. Telling people that they should learn your language is patronising, narcissistic, and rude.
Learning a foreign language is not easy for many people. If you’re one of those for whom this comes naturally, consider yourself lucky and learn one. For the others, learning a new language becomes more difficult as one approaches adulthood. English is considered to be one of the harder languages for non-native speakers to learn, owing to its many “exceptions to the rule” when it comes to spelling and pronunciation. These are, themselves, the result of the English Language’s history of absorbing words from literally all over the world (following the path of colonisation, naturally).
Also, when people say this, there’s an underlying assumption (sometimes outrightly stated) that people who are in the US and who don’t speak English are somehow being inconsiderate or disrespectful or that they’ve at some point made a decision to not learn English. My first-thought reaction to this is always: It’s not all about you! Again, English isn’t easy to learn. People who don’t speak English are in the US for lots of reasons. People who migrate to the US without fluency in English do so for many more reasons, and not a single one of them is so they can be a nuisance to Ugly Americans. These people generally understand (in my admittedly limited, though representative, experience) that their assimilation into and success in US society would be simpler with fluency in the common language. Many of the people you encounter who have immigrated to the US from Mexico and who don’t speak English are likely poor people who might be working more than one low-wage job in the US. Even someone who has only one low-wage job might not have the resources (ie, money for classes) to learn a foreign language.
Immigrants historically settle in communities with people of similar background, reducing the need to learn a foreign language. This is true throughout history, around the world, and is not likely to change any time soon.
People who say things like this (and other, sometimes more blatantly racist statements) often say, “But my friend/spouse/sibling-in-law is [insert type of Brown Person] and agrees/doesn’t get mad/thinks this is OK to say!”.
I believe you. I do.
I believe you without a doubt, without qualification, and without even needing to confirm that this person you described exists and, in fact, doesn’t mind when you say these incredibly dehumanizing things. I believe this because People of Color (POC) are all individuals and all have different ways of managing the racism that is directed at us consistently and constantly when we live in the US. Many of us start to agree with parts of it, or tell ourselves it’s “not that bad”, or “that’s just how things are”, etc. This doesn’t make it The Right Thing To Do. Also, don’t use your friend/spouse/sibling-in-law as a human shield. Fight your own goddamned fight & try to understand this on your own.
“But English is the Official Language of America.”
English is the Common Tongue, really. Besides the fact that the US just doesn’t have an Official Language, nothing would really change if it did. When a country has an Official Language, this generally means that matters of Law & Business are conducted in that language. In the US, these are already conducted in English, & it’s already required that those petitioning for US citizenship should demonstrate fluency in English so… what is there to gain from declaring an Official Language, really? You can’t really penalise people for speaking another language—what would that do for tourism and foreign relations?
In closing: It’s not all about you. Quit being a jerk. If it bothers you that much, then take some Spanish classes. I say that knowing more languages means you can talk to more people. The French say, “La personne qui parle deux langues en vaut deux!”
This makes me so angry. My parents came to the U.S. when they were well into adulthood and learning a second language was a slow and painful process. They are still not fluent, though their comprehension is pretty good. They don’t primarily speak in their native language to piss off racists, but because it’s easier for them. Why should they have to make things more difficult for themselves in order to make an American bigot feel more comfortable?
Also, the are-you-making-fun-of-us? issue that sometimes seems to be at the heart of these English-only campaigns:
We don’t spend all our time talking about you. Your nail techs, gardeners, servers, taxi drivers, dry cleaners, etc. are probably talking about things that are far more interesting than your Anglo ass. Quit being so paranoid.
But there might be occasions when we are talking shit about you. We have to deal with your racism. I think you can deal with being made fun of in a language you can’t understand anyway.
As the post-election quarterbacking heads into its second month, pundits are now turning their gaze on this forgotten group, wondering, if Asians are so good at math, why didn’t they vote Republican? The fact is that 73% of Asian Americans cast their ballots for Obama – that’s a higher percentage of Democratic support than even the coveted Latino bloc.
David Brooks started opining in the New York Times just a few days after the election, wondering how the “party of work” lost Asian Americans. Because, you know… they are such hard workers.
Over at Slate Richard A. Posner performs the post-mortem. And conservatives are getting in the game, too. The American Conservative is pondering the “loss” of the Asian American Vote. And the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute asks Why Aren’t Asians Republicans?.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good thing that the media is paying attention to the political power of Asian Americans, even if it is after the elections.
But all the discussion about Asian voters seems to neglect… Asians. As one white male after another opines about why Asian Americans voted the way they did, where are the voices of Chinese, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese and Filipino Americans? Sure, Slate quotes the Pew Research Center report from last summer (that Asian American groups criticized for reinforcing the old “model minority” stereotype and overlooking many current needs and issues) and then even brings up the “new Jews” comparison.
What all these writers seem to have forgotten is that we are still in the room. And we even speak English.
I have seen quite a few articles wondering why such a high percentage of Asian voters (73%) went for Obama instead of Romney and almost all of them have made me deeply uncomfortable. As OP states, they’re nearly always written by white American men who are examining Asian Americans in this creepy, dehumanizing way. Stereotypes abound.
What’s particularly obnoxious about the articles examining the Asian vote is that hardly any of them to mention how diverse the ‘Asian’ demographic is, especially in terms of class, which is what a lot of these analyses focus on. But no—Asians are just an indistinguishable mass. Same with ‘the black vote’ and ‘the Latin@ vote’.
Meanwhile, whites have always been carefully broken down into many distinct sub-racial demographics: soccer moms, rural, urban, blue collar workers, the wealthy, the religious, students and young people. It’s only very recently that I’ve seen main stream media outlets acknowledge the fact that whites—no matter their other demographic characteristics—vote as a racial bloc.