No Engish, No Service

I came across this earlier today. The gist of it is that a small diner in North Carolina posted a sign saying they will not serve you if you don’t speak English. The reason? Two incidents of Latino customers who couldn’t speak English, which made the staff feel “uncomfortable.”

This infuriates me. It makes me clench my fists and increases my heart rate. It makes me ashamed to be American.

This was triggered by two interactions with non-English speaking customers. Count them. One. Two. Whew! I don’t know about you but that was way too much for me to handle. Having people point to pictures on a menu and use fingers to indicate quantities is just too stressful. They don’t really need to eat anyway. I mean, they don’t speak English, so they’re hardly even people, right? (Too far?)

The staff said that the interactions made them feel uncomfortable. That is one of the most insensitive, obtuse things I have ever heard. I guess when you never leave the state you were born in your comfort zone is comparatively small. I live in a country where I don’t speak the language fluently, and have traveled to many where I don’t speak the language at all, so I am in those customers’ shoes everyday. Trust me, the staff were not the uncomfortable ones in that exchange. There is nothing more uncomfortable than not being able to express yourself, and the more mundane the task (like ordering food), the worse it is. I am grateful for every person who has ever slowed down their speech, used gestures, or any other communicative method to help me understand. My greatest wish for America is that it acquires such a patience and acceptance for things that are, well, not American. If anyone hasn’t noticed, the world extends just a little bit beyond our borders.

The owner claims that this is not a racial issue, but merely a language gap. That’s like saying “I’m not a racist, I hate everyone equally.” The sign posted reads: “God bless America and All who protect and serve our great country. Our Staff are sadly not Bi-lingual. We only speak and understand American.” First of all, learn some capitalization rules. Second, American is a nationality, not a language. I’ll concede that it is a dialect, but if they want to get that picky I want to send some of my English friends there and see if they’re refused for not speaking “American.” Third, that’s not racist? Bull-fucking-shit. God blesses America but not the country that you’re from because we’re better than you. P.S. We don’t speak your language and can’t be bothered to deal with you. Either learn English or go away (Just leave, it’s easier for all of us). Yours truly, Uncle Sam.

I’m teaching English overseas so that people all around the world will be able to communicate. English is the closest thing the world has to an international language, but that’s no excuse for Americans to sit back and let the rest of the world do all the work. Everyone else is learning our language. An English speaker can travel just about anywhere on the planet and get by just fine. There will be people who speak some English, but more importantly, there will be patient, understanding, tolerant people willing to help. America, let’s please do our part to meet them half way.

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One Response to No Engish, No Service

  1. cscobirds2 says:

    Great post,I couldn't agree more.

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