Posted on April 11, 2005


Adverse Diversity

PSA wrongly defends bilingualism


Daniel Clark



An organization called the Freedom Center has been running a public service announcement, which you've probably seen if you've watched any games on College Sports TV lately. The ad begins with a snooty-looking man seated at a restaurant, having just been served a basket of bread by the busboy.

What's 'bread'?

"Where's the whole wheat?" the man mumbles to himself as he fingers through the basket. He waves the busboy back over to his table.

"Scuse me, sir," the dark-featured busboy says in a thick accent, "something wrong?"

"Yeah, there's something wrong. You wanna get me some whole wheat?" he says. The busboy takes the basket, then brings another one to the table and walks away. "Hey, Amigo," the man derisively addresses him, loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear. "Hey, I asked you for whole wheat bread. This is not what I wanted. El Wheato?" he says, waving a slice of bread in the air.

Another restaurant employee, a blonde lady, brings the man a basket of whole wheat bread and says, "Sorry for the confusion."

"You know, that's the problem with these people," the man says to another customer at the next table. "If you want to serve Americans, you've got to learn the language. You know what I'm saying?"

"No, sir, I don't," the other man says in a tone of disapproval. "Enjoy your lunch." The first man looks around and sees that he's attracted the attention of the other customers, particularly those who are members of racial minorities. By the look on his face, it's clear that he feels like a heel as he begins to sink in his chair, while the scene fades to black.

"Imagine the power of one voice," the narrator says. We are left to suppose that the obnoxious, bigoted man might mend his ways, all because one of his fellow men had the courage to speak up.

But wait a minute. Something's still wrong with this picture. Apparently, that busboy really didn't understand what was meant by "whole wheat bread." Of course, that doesn't justify the customer's racist remarks, which is precisely why they were written into the script. Without them, the ad would fall flat.

To illustrate this, let's rewrite the scene so that the frustrated customer is polite to the busboy, but afterward still says to the other man, "If you want to serve Americans, you've got to learn the language. You know what I mean?" When that other man replies, "No sir, I don't," he is no longer the conscientious hero; he's just a blithering ninny. It's a good thing he's not waiting tables, because he'd probably be confused by bread, too.

If the ad were simply meant as a condemnation of racial bigotry, it could have made its point far more effectively by having the Hispanic busboy correct his own mistake, only to have the customer continue to berate him. Rather than letting the blonde lady apologize for his "confusion," he could have issued the apology himself, in a complete sentence. Finally, the second man could have objected to the first man's racially charged outbursts, instead of to his expectation that service employees be able to understand English. The ad does none of these things, though, because the actual target of its criticism is not racism, but assimilation.

The problem is that the diversity-mongers of society have blurred the difference between the two. Guided by the fallacious mantra that "diversity made America great," they dissuade immigrants from embracing American culture at the expense of the cultures from which they came.

By telling Latin American immigrants that they don't need to speak our language, they impede them from accessing the opportunities this country has to offer. Just to cite one example, no busboy who lacks the communication skills needed to serve bread is going to become a waiter anytime soon. That's a lot of tips he'll never see, but could have, if only he'd taken the unfriendly advice of his abrasive customer.

O Canada, we stand on guard for 3?

Not all forms of diversity are beneficial, or even benign. Multilingualism is one form that is particularly inhibiting. Take the Tower of Babel, for instance. When God wanted to prevent something from being accomplished, he introduced diversity.

In Canada, where bilingualism has occurred by accident of history, the result has likewise been chaotic. The last time predominantly French-speaking Quebec voted on secession, in 1995, the measure was only defeated by a margin of 50.6 percent to 49.4. A separatist victory would have geographically isolated the Maritime Provinces, which means that Canada would probably have dissolved into at least three different entities. If that had happened, few would have made the absurd claim that "diversity made Canada great."

Until the late 20th Century, the "melting pot" model of American society had spared us from any similar prospects. To the nation's detriment, that metaphor has fallen into disfavor among academics in recent decades. Anymore, students are taught that America is not a melting pot, but is instead more like a salad bowl, in which the ingredients do not blend into the whole. A tomato is still a tomato, a cucumber is still a cucumber, etc. The message this sends to immigrants is that they don't have to change in order to accommodate their new surroundings.

Or to put it another way, recent immigrants from Latin America are being told that they can't melt in the way that countless Italian, Polish, Chinese and other immigrants did in previous generations. Take a cucumber from Mexico and move it to Texas, and it's still a cucumber. While this philosophy is couched in sensitive rhetoric about "celebrating diversity," the message it conveys is that Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. are to remain perpetually foreign.

Paradoxically, the diversity-mongers portray the idea of assimilation as racially discriminatory. Hence, the man who says, "If you want to serve Americans, you've got to learn the language" is depicted as the racist. It is the other characters in the ad, however, who exhibit what the president refers to as "the soft bigotry of low expectations." They can't expect the busboy to be able to identify different kinds of bread, or even to communicate to others that he needs a basket of whole wheat bread, because to them he's just a pathetic victim of society.

It should come as no surprise that American high schools and universities have cultivated a Chicano separatist movement, whose stated aim is to seize control of the American Southwest and secede from the U.S. The very institutions that have promoted bilingualism, derided assimilation, and produced the cult of diversity have convinced a significant segment of America's largest minority group that they can never become fully American. Once that ideal of assimilation is discarded, secession appears to be a natural option. After all, it's a simple operation to extract a cucumber from a bowl of salad.

By encouraging immigration without assimilation, we're in the process of deliberately creating a Quebec of our own. It's difficult to think of anything more foolish, given that we've so recently seen evidence of its destructive potential.

Frederick Douglass: not confused by bread

More baffling yet is that the ad's sponsor, the Freedom Center, is a museum dedicated to the Underground Railroad, the secret network of passages that was used to help slaves escape to the North. One would expect that any organization created to preserve that history would understand the importance of literacy to the abolitionist movement. In the slave states, it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write, for the obvious reason that these abilities would equip them for life outside the plantation. When abolitionists decided that slaves needed to communicate in English in order to live free in America, nobody sneered at them for being racists.

In those days, if someone had suggested that freed slaves could survive in America without learning English, and that their continued reliance on their native languages should be celebrated, such a person would have been recognized as a scoundrel. Obviously, that's not the opinion the Freedom Center has of the person whose "power of one voice" stars in its PSA.

By all appearances, the Freedom Center is a well-meaning, respectable organization. While decidedly liberal, it is certainly not an organ of the radical, revolutionary Left. So why is it contributing to American disunity?

Its members probably don't believe that's what they're doing at all. That's because, to liberals, results don't matter; only intentions do. Assimilation may have a long and successful track record, but it seems so harsh. Telling immigrants that America will accept them exactly as they are feels much nicer, even if it is a false promise. That busboy from the ad might never hold a job above entry level, but think how good he must have felt when that other man stood up for him. The end result might not be what was hoped for, but so what? You don't always get the result you want when you order a basket of bread, either.



Return to Shinbone

 The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press 

 Mailbag . Issue Index . Politimals