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We’re Long Overdue on Learning to Speak Spanish

Black news - editor's opinion - learning Spanish and immigration lawsIn the May 30, 2002 issue of The Journal, I wrote a column with the same title as this column. I pointed out that two community leaders, Billy Williams, former owner of Berry and Sweeney's Drug Store, and local businesswoman Jaylene Moseley advocated for the learning of Spanish as practical matter of keeping up with the times and improving our opportunities in school, business, and living in America, in general.

In recent events in Pasadena I have observed how the need for speaking Spanish is impacting our lives. I recently represented two employees in the Pasadena Unified School District who were told that they would be fired and replaced by two other employees, in part, because they didn't speak Spanish. I was successful in getting the judge to deny the District's attempt to fire these two school employees on the basis of their apparent lack of language skill. I note that these two individuals both have Spanish speakers in their families and the district merely looked in their files to determine that they didn't speak Spanish.

As wrong as I may think it is, it is a reality in life. I didn't want to learn to use the computer, but I had to. In the case of the School District it may be just coincidental, but the fact is that we now have a Latino Superintendent of Schools and no Black member of the Executive staff.

Next week's lead story is about how a community Health Center created by Black males over fifteen years ago is now headed by a Latina. It now has eliminated most of the Black staff. Further, there has been no community outreach nor any outreach for staff, patients, or other program participants in this newspaper, ever.

In all fairness, my recent conversation with Ms. Margie Martinez, Chaps executive director, ended with her telling me that future job opportunities would include advertising the positions in The Journal. I note that the City doesn't advertise jobs in The Journal either, yet they say they are following the guidelines and that they are equal opportunity employers. That's easy to say, but I'm looking for the evidence.

It's folly to keep protesting and bringing lawsuits against the discrimination that favors Spanish speakers. We can do all of those things, but unless we start requiring the teaching of Spanish in school and setting up classes in Black churches, the problem will persist.

In my 2002 article, I talked about how my wife reminded me that we'd better learn computers or we will find the doors of opportunity closed to us and our kids. As usual, she was right and the doors are closing fast. We learned the computers and, likewise, we'd better learn Spanish. I noted that the PCC class of 2002 had all seven of its valedictorians born outside the United States. I suspect that the pattern hasn't changed much. In my article, I also wrote about local Jazz/Gospel saxophonist Ron Brown and how being a Japanese speaker has opened doors for him internationally.

The people of Arizona can complain all they want about Mexicans but the America of one language is over, just as the period of legalized discrimination is over. Tragically, the traditional leadership of Black America has not chosen to embrace the future. In the Sixties we used to say to the so-called leaders that they should, "lead, follow, or get out of the way." Now, they need to pick up the banner of Bilingualism as part of their program for the 21st century. We can be like the Arizonans and bury our heads in the sand, but learning to speak Spanish will become as necessary as learning to use computers has become. Wake up!

 

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