I turned on the t.v. on Monday night to watch the Home Run Derby. I originally wanted to watch it on mute because Chris Berman, you know. But I'm so glad I didn't. What I witnessed was not only a pretty brilliant display by Yoenis Cespedes but a pretty brilliant interview in both English AND Spanish by the ESPN reporter. The reporter was clear and efficient, asking the question first in Spanish, receiving the answer, and then providing the translation for both the question and answer in English for both the at-home viewers and those in the stadium. If you didn't know, Cespedes is Cuban and has been in America only since 2011. Consequently, he still struggles with English. I've taken 4 years of Spanish, but if you forced me to stand in front of 40,000 people, with cameras broadcasting to millions of homes, AFTER I'd just belted 25 home runs and asked me Spanish-only questions, frankly, I'd probably crap my pants before I could even stammer out a simple greeting. So to me, it was not only an impressive move by the reporter but also a kind gesture.
Apparently, parts of America didn't think so. You can read a pretty great article by Gregg Doyel here. He says what I feel probably a great deal better than I could.
What bothered me most about reading Doyel's article or seeing it on Deadspin was not just seeing America show its panties one more time (because America does some ugly shit a lot of the time) but that the majority of tweets and messages I saw were from young people. In my mind, I kept looking for the skinhead or the toothless redneck or the 85 year old granddad who "just doesn't know any better". But that's SO NOT WHO I SAW, and I guess the fact that I was looking for those types of people reveals my own stereotypes and prejudices to some extent. Or just a misconception that somehow we are growing more tolerant with each passing generation.
Any time I hear someone grumbling about "English-only America" I hear the struggles of my students (and their parents). When I read messages that proclaimed "You're in America, learn to speak English" I see these mothers and fathers, sitting in a parent conference, heads bowed in shame or indecision, trying to understand as their 12 year old straddles two worlds. I see their fear in coming to school because they feel that they can't interact. I see my students who struggle to remember nonsensical English grammar rules while still maintaining fluency in their own home language, whatever it may be.
So, needless to say, I was infuriated by these tough guy tweets and all of their bravado and ignorance. I am so tired of talking to kids about bullying, day in and day out at school, only to see that they really aren't the worst offenders.
Some of these people, whether they're spewing hate about Yoenis or someone else, will say that they're just kidding -- that they're just trolling for a fight or a retweet. Others will proudly stand behind their freedom to say whatever the hell they want. Others might just be finding their courage from a keyboard and relative anonymity. Whatever the reason, I personally think it's pretty laughable for some 25 year old loudmouth to wave the First Amendment as permission to tell another human being to "speak English or go back to jibber-jabber land".
Actually, the only laughable part, to me, is that almost every one of those English-only demands, in fact, contains multiple and glaring grammatical mistakes. And you're speaking IN YOUR OWN NATIVE LANGUAGE, YOU JERKS!
Note: This is where you should hear me giving a huge, defeated sigh.
So just as I was about to give up on America there on an unassuming Monday night, this video rolled across my Twitter timeline. By the way, I adore my Twitter timeline. I've said it before, and I'll say it again and again. If Twitter is really an echo chamber, I'm glad that I found a group speaking what I like to hear. It's about a 9 minute video, but I promise you, it's worth your time. (I should also note that it came across my Facebook feed as well -- thanks Taylor Fratina for posting. I like what she says too!)
I really do believe we are growing more tolerant generation by generation, but like with any other struggle, there are bumps along the way. And sometimes those bumps are getting all the press because they're the loudest and most insane (to me at least). But I've got a lot of hope in the crop of kids coming up. Don't let me down, kids.
For the record, I never noticed that they were a mixed-race couple. I want to think that it has to do with my ability to look past such outdated prejudices but it might have just as much to do with my lack of paying attention. Also, I'd like to know when the girl in the aqua tank top will be old enough to run for President. She's totally got my vote.