Sunday, May 02, 2010

Makes Me Think

This is the new hot political ad in the state of Alabama. Everybody's talking about it on the morning shows, around the dinner table. Wondering if it is racist. What does it mean? And last night some black young men yelled at Nathan to get our family out of "their" park. So!!! I have some new thoughts about racism and loads of ideas about the immigration issue. My perspective on the I.I. is quite unique because of my previous work experience. Let's start with the driver's license test issue. And for the purpose of this blog, I'm going to assume the immigrant is legal.

In general, a driver's license is required for put in an application for a legal job in Alabama. Where I worked (in the HR department of a poultry plant), we required a driver's license and a Social Security card. Let's talk a little linguistics here. When I went to work at the chicken plant, I had a specified vocabulary I had to learn. Spanish class never included deboning terms. Nor did I have the innate ability to translate for a medical exam. Each instance of translation has required me to learn a new sets of special terms. I had trouble the other day looking for saffron (I couldn't remember the word for spice- it had been so long since I used it). Of course if I was native or truly immersed in the culture, this would be much easier.

All immigrants agree on one thing: the easiest way to learn a foreign language is to get out and live and work in it. Those who don't have a job (i.e. the mommas at home) don't learn English. The children have it the easiest. They're required to go to school, and voila. If you can't get a driver's license, you can't get out and work a job in most places. These are not rich people with loads of free time for hiring tutors for English lessons. They are here to survive financially. Even if they do speak English conversationally, a driver's test is full of specific language that requires special tutoring.

I thought a driver's test was supposed to test if you were able to drive. Not speak English, especially specific vocabulary (like "pull to the shoulder"). It reminds me of black Americans having to pass a literacy test to vote. It's just a sneaky way of making it hard for an undesirable population to participate in our society. I'm not saying that Mr. Tim James is a racist. What I am saying is that those kind of ads pull in the votes of those who ARE (and there are many here). And in case you didn't know, many blacks are antagonistic toward Hispanics and would vote for this as well.

By making legal options harder for legal immigrants, you encourage illegal means. If the goal is curbing illegal immigration, there are better options. More to follow...

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