Want Steak? Speak English!

Six months ago, Joey Vento (the owner of Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia) put up a sign in his restaurant that reads, “This is America — when ordering speak English.” He states that he added the sign to encourage immigrants to learn the language.

Of course, a bunch of whiny, immigrant activists have labeled his actions as racist. Roberto Santiago, executive director of Philadelphia’s Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations (the organization’s name conspicuously missing a hyphen, most likely due to someone’s poor knowledge of English punctuation), says that Joey is expressing the message that “I don’t like these brown faces in my community and I will do everything I can to get them out of there.”

What a load of crap! The sign doesn’t say anything about brown faces, Latinos, or even Spanish-speaking people. People like Roberto Santiago — who encourage immigrants, legal and otherwise, to snub US society and expect everything to be bilingual to serve their own selfish needs — are actually suppressing immigrants by encouraging them to be unfit for US jobs and more fit for welfare. Joey did not make the issue racist. It is Roberto and other like-minded, self-centered, myopic individuals who are playing the race card for their own personal gain.

I don’t care what color someone’s skin is or where they came from; in my position I work with a lot of immigrants. In fact no one on my development team is actually from the United States; instead they are from India, Australia, Iraq, Ukraine, and China. They are all educated, English-speaking, legal immigrants. I support them, and admire their integrity and determination. On the other hand, my less educated, Spanish-speaking, most likely illegal immigrant gardeners — who probably make about eight bucks an hour after their dual-language-speaking boss pays them under the table — do not deserve any sympathy or respect for refusing to learn English or for crossing the border illegally.

I understand that Joey is not necessarily making a stand about illegal immigrants, only that immigrants should merge into US society by learning the language. He’s right. And I have yet to find a legal immigrant who disagrees. If a Korean immigrant comes here and expects to speak only Korean, works only with Koreans, and celebrates only Korean culture that person is not contributing to US society and should just go back home. The same applies to Mexicans, Germans, Italians, Swedes, Japanese, and everyone else. Blend in! Contribute to US society! Communicate with others around you! Speak English!

But I have a stand on illegal immigrants, as well as a stand on non-English-speaking immigrants. They (the ubiquitous “they”) say that illegal immigrants do the jobs we Americans refuse to do. That’s what high school and college students are for; they will gladly mow the lawn, wash cars, and work in fast food restaurants. Prison workers can work the farm fields. California is supposedly one of the country’s largest producer of fruits and vegetables. If these illegal workers are so plentiful and cheap and “good for California”, why is it that most of the fruits and vegetables in my local supermarket come from south of the border? Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil…

It is because of lazy, uneducated, illegal immigrants that I and other English-speaking individuals must endure product packaging in both English and Spanish. It is because of lazy, uneducated, illegal immigrants that buses drive around town advertising some unknown thing in Spanish that 75% of the people living here can’t read anyway. It is because of lazy, uneducated, illegal immigrants that the crime rate is higher than it should be because they can’t make a standard living. It is because of lazy, uneducated, illegal immigrants that insurance and health care are so expensive.

I sent Joey an email:

Yay! I support you in your lonesome effort to encourage immigrants to learn the language and assimilate into US society. As a child, I lived in Germany. Could I expect everyone to provide everything in English to me? No, I had to learn German. I find it quite appalling that many immigrants to the US expect the opposite. Thank you very much for making a stand!

This is America — speak English.

7 Responses to “Want Steak? Speak English!”

  1. Sean D. Martin

    On NPR this morning Carlos Mencia was being interviewed as part of a series on immigration. One of the points he made was that many folks aren’t bothered by immigrants being here. What rankles is the strong impression given off by many immigrants that they don’t like this country; that their allegiance and interest lies elsewhere. If you want to come here because you like this country, or believe it offers you better opportunities, fine. But don’t refuse to learn the language. Don’t insist on speaking (for example) only Spanish. Don’t insist on maintaining strictly Spanish culture. Don’t hold rallies saluting just your Spanish heritage.

    It’s insulting and disrespectful to say “I want to come to your country because I believe it offers me more than the counrty I left, but by the way I will always think more highly of the country I left and refuse to blend at all.”

  2. Francisco Aravena

    Hey, as much as I respect your point of view, there’s one things you Americans need to know: America is not a country; is a continent. The country called The United States of America speaks English and, hopefully, it will remain like that. The continent called America includes a lot of countries, and most of them speak Spanish. I’m sure you know that America is called like that because of Americo Vespucius, the sailor who realized Columbus had mistakenly taken this newly discovered continent for India. And the reason the people of the U.S.A. is called “american” is because of the British: it was the only part of the continent where they’d go.

    I’m sure you don’t care and I agree it’s not important. But since you’re speaking about national identities, languages and such, I thought you could use a more rigorous… language.


  3. Sean D. Martin

    Fair points. But certainly when most of the people in the world refer “America” they mean the US, and when they talk about an “American” they mean someone from there. Not someone from Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru or any of the other many states that exist on the two continents.

    For most people in the world, to mean the entire continent when they say “America” they would have to explain that is what they refer to. Because the default understanding would be that they meant the country USA.

  4. Manny

    This is an issue about race and to call your gardeners uneducated is a bad choice in the fact they maintain your yard because YOU DON’T have the proper knowledge or physical dexterity to do the work. Yes they have to settle for the meager pay you give them but they’re getting over on you because you are paying them to uproot weeds and planting seeds like you do in kindergarten in an egg carton (Do you pay gardeners since your daughter won’t do the chore?). The Spanish language has almost the same number of speakers then English (they are a neck in neck in the race to be the #2 most spoken language in the world. Latin America is not only below the border, Spanish was the official language of the Philippines after the conquest of Spain. And just for the record Spain in Europe is a Spanish speaking country. Spanish is also used as a primary language in African states and territories. Spanish is also the language most studied in US universities. Instead of taking such such pride in the English language which sounds like the sputtering of a dying engine. You should learn to speak some Espanol, or Francias or Italiano or any other language in that case. Embrace the differences in verbal communication, you racist.

  5. richard

    Manny, you fail to comprehend basic concepts while making quite a few lame assumptions at the same time. Thank you for the entertainment! Breathlessly awaiting more inanities!

  6. Sean D. Martin

    Manny, I hire a gardener. I hire many tradespeople to do work. And it is not because I lack the knowledge or physical dexterity to do it. But because I have other things I would like to do with my time, and I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to pay others to do some things for me.

    As for it being an issue about race, or racism… Who is the racist? The person who essentially says “I’d like people who come to live in my country to make the effort to learn the language, to bring the culture they come from but to also meld into the culture they have chosen to join.” (that would be Richard). Or the person who essentially says “I know nothing about you but you must be too dumb or lame to do your own yard work. You should learn other languages just because and if you don’t you’re a racist.” (That would be you, Manny.)


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