May 14, 2004

Language Rights in Maryland?

Today's Washington Post reports that Maryland's Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., has called the concept of multiculturalism "crap" ("In Md., Multiple Views of Multiculturalism", by Darragh Johnson and Matthew Mosk). This includes the use of languages other than English:

"The goal here is assimilation, the goal here is to strengthen the melting pot that is American, not to separate outselves out," Ehrlich (R) said in an impromptu call to WTOP Radio yesterday morning...

Ehrlich's comments came last week in defense of state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D), who had announced he would no longer eat at McDonald's because of an encounter with a Spanish-speaking cashier. On a WBAL-AM radio show, Ehrlich said: "I reject the idea of multiculturalism...With respect to this culture, English is the language."

Leaders of various ethnic groups responded in the typical way -- typical and obvious, except that the point is apparently too abstruse for the governor and co. to grasp it:

"It's very, very important that you learn the language," said Angelo Solera, a Latino activist in Baltimore. "...But people have to understand that it takes time to learn English."

Duh. Why some politicians fail to grasp this fact, and why they also fail to understand that their goal can be achieved only if they spend some money financing English as a Second Language classes for legal immigrants, is a continuing mystery. (Well, it's a mystery if one assumes that they're sincere and not just posturing for political purposes.) But Ehrlich is unfortunately right in line with the other English Only folks around the country.

The article also emphasizes Ehrlich's own ethnic German background, which he is proud of -- and it points out that "the Baltimore school system was bilingual for many years, with classes taught in both German and English...Before World War I, there was a large contingent of German immigrants in Baltimore and, as a result, an extensive German subculture." Moreover, as a Johns Hopkins political science professor observes, "[I]t took generations for the assimilation the governor talks about to occur."

Posted by Sally Thomason at May 14, 2004 07:42 AM