Sunday, November 01, 2009

No English? Here's a citation.

20 cops in Dallas gave out at least 38 citations to drivers who couldn't speak English--for not being able to speak English. An excellent opinion article on the incident here.
Besides the fact that all of these cops lack common sense, what else is going on?
Is it racism? Xenophobia? Frustration at not being able to communicate? Does it really matter what we call it? It's ugly, and it needs to be stopped.
We may be over a lot of the racism against blacks (except for the racist belt, apparently). But other minorities are still discriminated against on a regular basis.


JorgenMan said...

From the report I heard, I don't think that it's anything quite that nefarious, at least in most of the cases. As I recall, there was a "failure to speak english" drop-down menu entry in the officers' in-car computer. Most of these officers were rookies, and mistook the entry as a listing for a ticketable incident.

Now, you'd think that an officer who has some sensitivity to race issues should second-guess that computer prompt. The other question is why the officers' probably-more-seasoned partners didn't correct the mistake.

However, I've met enough lazy cops that I imagine this being a case of negligence, rather than outright racism.

Tim said...

I agree stupidity--I mean negligence--had something to do with it. I think often, though, racism/xenophobia isn't blatant, but is still plays a role.
I can't imagine anyone who wasn't at least a little bit xenophobic going along with the citation unless they were incredibly stupid or incredibly lazy.

Mommy Bee said...

Frankly, I think a country has a right to have an official language, and those who choose to live in the country have an obligation to work on learning that language. If someone has been here long enough to get a drivers license or a job (or citizenship), then I would expect them to be able to speak at least some of the language of the country. I'm not saying they have to be totally fluent, but if they literally speak no English at all then I am not comfortable having them driving cars (where all the street signs are in English for starters...).

I don't see it as a racial thing,(although I know it happens across racial lines), I see it as a matter of practicality and safety. I would apply the same policy to myself if I moved to Japan or France--learn the language if you want to stay--otherwise accept that you are only a visitor and don't try to act like a citizen.

There's a law stating that commercial drivers must speak English--honestly I don't see why private drivers shouldn't need to as well--like I said, if the signs are in English then it seems like that should be prerequisite. I'm not saying that the officers in these situations weren't racist, or lazy, or both...but I don't think the basic notion is wholly off base.

Tim said...

My parents lived in Switzerland for two years. They tried to learn the language beforehand, but really, how much can one learn before one lives there? And it's hard to have a job without a car (at least in some areas). You can still understand road signs without knowing the language.
I definitely agree that it's important to learn the language, but that takes serious time, and I don't think it's a necessity to know the language in order to drive.