The lobbying of the u.s english movement since 1983: a campaign via the media in quest of national unity
par Victoria Riposseau
Université de Nantes - Maitrise IRT Anglais 2010
As we have now determined U.S ENGLISH has been considering that the culture and language brought by the different immigrant groups who came to settle in America are a threat to the national unity. For U.S ENGLISH, some cultures were less compatible with the American culture than others. In this part, we will see to what extent U.S ENGLISH has been charging and blaming Hispanics for this division in the nation. The roots of this anti-Hispanic attitude will be explained further on when highlighting the relationship U.S ENGLISH had with some anti-immigration groups.
In this part, by the use of the word Hispanics? we will suggest the persons of Latin origin living in the United States, people of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican or South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race as defined by the United States Federal Bureau.
Before analyzing the evidences of U.S ENGLISH`s anti-Hispanic attitude, it is necessary to recall Gellner's definition of nationalism: nationalism is primarily a political principle, which holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent. ... Nationalist sentiment is the feeling of anger aroused by the violation of the principle, or the
feeling of satisfaction aroused by its fulfillment?(Gellner 1). As we mentioned previously, U.S ENGLISH is more than just a patriotic movement aiming at language legislation but can be considered a strong nationalist organization. In the light of Gellner's definition of nationalist sentiment, it seems that in the United States it was the presence of Hispanics, and more particularly their leaders, that U.S ENGLISH has been considering as a problem.
In his monograph written in 1985, Hayakawa expressed his worries about the increasing size of the Spanish-speaking population in our nation?( Annex IV, l.194). The fact that the word Hispanic? appeared twenty six times in this ten pages length monograph whereas the word Asian or Chinese appeared only nine times is another evidence of the concern Hayakawa had for the Hispanic community of America. But more than the size of this community, Hayakawa worried about their political influence on the nation. He wrote:
The ethnic chauvinism of the present Hispanic leadership is an unhealthy trend in the
present-day America. It threatens a division perhaps more ominous than the division
between Blacks and Whites. ... The present politically ambitious 'Hispanic Caucus' looks
forward to a destiny for Spanish-speaking Americans separate from that of Anglo-,
Italian-, ... Americans.(Annex IV, l.275-277)
In those lines Hispanic leaders were blamed for having separatist views and a chauvinist attitude. Chauvinism can be defined as fanatical patriotism, the belief of the superiority of one's group, that is to say the hatred of other nations. Often associated with racism, chauvinism is the exaggerated belief in the supremacy of one's nation?95. It is true that some Hispanic leaders have had political ambition like the National Council of La Raza, the US largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. But there are no evidences that they aimed at a political takeover of the nation as Hayakawa explained in his monograph. Their goal was to defend and protect the rights of Hispanics in the nation. Hayakawa said that those political organizations led by Hispanic leaders threaten a division perhaps more ominous than the division between Blacks and Whites?. In this sentence the political ambition of Hispanic leaders was overstated. In his monograph, Hayakawa also talked about heavy pressures from Hispanic organizations? and explained that none of these divisions is simply a quarrel about language?(Annex IV, l.369;392).
One may wonder why Hayakawa declared war to Hispanic leaders and not to Chinese or Italian leaders. He himself explained that:
It is not without significance that pressure against English as the official language
95 "chauvinism." Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition. Philip Lief Group 2009. Thesaurus.com. Web. 11 May 2010.
legislation does not come from any immigrant group other than Hispanic: not from the Chinese or Koreans or Filipinos or Vietnamese; nor from immigrants Iranians, Turks, Greeks, East Indians, Ghanians, Ethiopians, Italians or Swedes. The only people who have any quarrel with the English language are the Hispanics... The aggressive movement on the part of Hispanics to reject assimilation and to seek to maintain - and give official status to- a foreign language within our borders is an unhealthy development(Annex IV, l.393-397).
In fact, Hayakawa considered that Hispanics represented a threat to the nation because of their language ability and especially because they had been trying to maintain and protect their native tongue in front of the hegemony of the English language in the nation. Considering that they have been claiming that Hispanics children should have the right to be taught in the language of their heritage, at public expense?(Annex IV, l.329-333), Hayakawa accused Hispanic leaders to try to pass an official bilingual legislation for the United States declaring both Spanish and English the national tongues of the nation. But we must differentiate between trying to protect one's native language and giving it an official status. As we demonstrated in part one, under the United Nations Declaration of Rights, ethnic minorities should have the possibility to maintain and promote their ethnic identity through State programs. Furthermore, ethnic pride and belonging to the American nation are not incompatible because people do have multiple identities. In his monograph Hayakawa himself showed his pride for his Japanese heritage and later Mujica put the emphasis on his Hispanic origins which was not considered as a chauvinistic attitude by U.S ENGLISH. In fact, we can consider that it was U.S ENGLISH itself that showed a chauvinistic attitude by claiming to protect the American nation from, what they described as, the Hispanic invasion?. This attitude is better described by the concept of cultural nationalism. It consists in overemphasizing the aspects and values of a particular culture in front of other cultures. It is the establishment of the primacy of one's culture upon others.
In most of their publications, they have been idealizing American culture. Their goal being to protect and promote American culture, they tended to present other cultures, and more particularly the Hispanic one as inferior. This communication strategy is known as the Rank's model of persuasion 96(Suresh n.p). It consists in intensifying the strong points of the organization they support and downplaying their weak points while intensifying the weak point of their opponents. Evidences of this attitude can be found in the monograph written by Hayakawa. He has been presenting Hispanics as the least educated minority in the United
96 This theory was developed by the theorist Hugh Rank in 1976.
States? (Annex IV, l.254). Putting forward the rate of drop outs in schools and their lack of academic achievements was a strategy to justify the necessity of an English Language Amendment. He used the results of a report by the American Council of Education published in the Washington Times in July 3, 1984 to justify his views:
The report says 50 percent of all Hispanics youths in America drop out of high school, and only 7percent finish college. Twelve percent of black youths and 23 percent of whites finish college.? Eighteen percent of Hispanics in America who are 25 or older are classified as functional illiterates, compared to 10 percent for blacks and 3 percent for whites(Annex IV, l.257-261).
Hayakawa compared Hispanics to Blacks and Whites but not to other ethnic minorities. It seems that the author wanted his readers to think that not only Hispanics are the worst educated minorities but also that other minorities are not to blame. The emphasis was clearly on the weak points of what he presented in this document as his enemies?. Raul Yzaguirre, a Hispanic civil rights activist, president of the National Council of La RAZA said in the 1990s that U.S ENGLISH is to Hispanics as the Ku Klux Klan is to Blacks?(Crawford 1992). This comparison highlights the pressure U.S ENGLISH put on Hispanic leaders and the Spanish-speaking community in the United States.
It seems that the presence of foreign-language speakers in the nation worried the author to the point that he accused them of disuniting the nation. This was purely a nationalist attitude: the author accepted foreigners in the nation but as long as they were not too numerous. His strategy was to present the Spanish-speaking population of the United States as victims of their own leaders. Hayakawa accused Hispanic leaders of gaining power and fame? on behalf of the Spanish-speaking community (Annex IV, l.394-395). Hayakawa even made a direct appeal to the Spanish-speaking community when he wrote: One wonders about the Hispanic rank-and-file. Are they all in agreement with their leadership??(Annex IV, l.382). Denouncing the abuses and the misguided attitude of Hispanic leaders was a strategy to attract Spanish-speaking people`s support for U.S ENGLISH.
Similarly, we can consider that U.S ENGLISH has separatist views in this document. I welcome the Hispanic... influence on our culture?(Annex IV, l.245). In this sentence, the author implied that our? culture was under their? influence and that their? culture was not part of ours?. In other words, Hispanics were presented as remaining outside national culture and their influence was considered unwanted. According to Gellner, two men are of the same nation if and only if they recognize each other as belonging to the same nation. In other words, nations maketh man?(Gellner 7). In the light of this definition, we can conclude that
by marking a distance between us? and them?, Hayakawa excluded Hispanics from the American nation.
As we previously showed, U.S ENGLISH used other techniques to stigmatize or charge Hispanics for the supposed linguistic division in the nation. In 1989 in the Albany Times-Union, the movement produced an advertisement in Spanish to gain support from the non-English speaking Hispanics in the state of New York. In this advertisement you can read If you cant' read this ad don't feel badly?, suggesting that if you can read it you have to feel guilty(Annex IX). It is yet another technique used to blame immigrants of Hispanic origins. This advertisement clearly expressed a kind of 'Hispanophobia'. Similarly, in the light of this anti-Hispanic attitude, one can consider that their 2008 advertising campaign was another attempt at stigmatizing Hispanics and it was not without significance that U.S ENGLISH chose to associate a man of Latin or Hispanic origins with unwanted? immigrants because anybody else could have been chosen, a man of Asian origins for instance.
One needs to be cautious because in the late 1980s U.S ENGLISH were accused of 'Hispanophobia'. The movement then changed its attitude towards the said ethnic group having since 1993a Hispanic Chairman. This change of attitude can be understood as a change in the communication strategy on the part of the movement to gain support for their cause. Under M. Mujica`s leadership U.S ENGLISH`s members increased from 165,000 in 1993 to over 1.8 million today. The fact that U.S ENGLISH is no longer associated with anti-immigration and hate groups can explain the increasing support people show for this movement. The choice of Hispanic Chairman allowed U.S ENGLISH to clear itself from any form of anti-immigrant feelings. Since 1993, the movement has not been overtly attacking Hispanics like it did in the past. As demonstrated in this analysis, they imply their opinion by the use of the dichotomy between the successful Hispanic embodied by Mujica and the low-skilled immigrant with a cleaning job in the 2008 campaign.
Some evidence of U.S ENGLISH`s anti-Hispanic attitude has been demonstrated, and now we need to analyze the roots of such a 'Hispanophobia'.