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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Culture > Language > Newt Gingrich’s “ghetto” Comment Isn’t Just Offensive, It’s Indicative of a Bigger Problem

Newt Gingrich’s “ghetto” Comment Isn’t Just Offensive, It’s Indicative of a Bigger Problem

LatinaLista — Newt Gingrich’s comment in a speech about bilingual education equating Spanish as the language of the “ghetto” isn’t just offensive and insensitive — it’s problematic

Because obviously in his mind, and we can assume the same of other Anglos who don’t know Latinos, speaking Spanish is symbolic of someone who is illiterate with no class or dignity.

In essence, in a roundabout way, Gingrich expressed what all these city ordinances making English the “official” language are saying: English is the superior language.

Critics will be quick to point out that of course English is superior in this country because this is the United States, but the sad fact is this attitude exists by every American citizen who doesn’t want to know another language and feels he/she doesn’t need to learn.

It is an attitude that has historically done great psychological damage to other cultures who have settled in this country. From Native Americans who were all sent to government schools to “Americanize” them and make them forget their language and their Indian customs and traditions to Hispanic children who were punished for speaking Spanish on school playgrounds.

It is this kind of attitude that has contributed to the caricature of Americans overseas as loud-mouthed, ignorant buffoons who expect English everywhere.

Somewhat ironic given that that is the same argument made about Spanish-speaking immigrants here in that they expect Spanish everywhere.

Yet, the non-English speakers I know either try to communicate in very broken English or with inventive sign language. They don’t have the expectation that they will be spoken to in English, unless they are somewhere where they know there is someone available who understands them in Spanish.

Gingrich has recorded two YouTube messages – one in English and one in Spanish. Though he admits that his choice of words was poor, he doesn’t apologize and he stands by his initial assertion that English must be learned in order to advance and progress in US society.


Gingrich’s English message

For some reason though, he’s felt the need to take Spanish lessons himself.


Gingrich’s Spanish message

But he is right about English is the language in this country for advancement. What Gingrich doesn’t know is that there is not one Latino family in this country who doesn’t know that fact — life is just easier knowing English.

However, even after the YouTube messages and all the damage control his campaign is doing, Gingrich still conveys the pervasive attitude that Spanish is a second-class language.

And if Spanish is given such little respect, it’s no wonder why brown-skinned or accent-tinged Latinos are treated the same, undocumented or not.

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