Expression: "it's racist"


[i]A sign in a landmark Philadelphia restaurant asking customers to order in English is sparking controversy in the metropolis known as the “City of Brotherly Love.”

The owner of Geno’s Steaks said on Thursday that the sign, “This is America – when ordering speak English,” is intended to encourage immigrants to learn the language and assimilate into U.S. society, but one Latino activist said it’s racist.[/i]

It should be “it’s racism” or “he’s a racist”, shouldn’t it?

Hi floratang

No, racist is also an adjective. The person thinks that the sign’s message has racist qualities.


Yes, the Latino activist apparently believes that Latinos are unable to learn English. :smiley:

That is completely and utterly beside the point! Do you seriously believe that restaurant owner is acting out of kindness? If that were the case, how can he expect foreigners will be more eager to learn English if they are banned from public places as long as they don’t speak it? How and where are they supposed to learn then?

Discriminating someone because of their language is blunt racism and a sign saying ‘No Foreigners’ would have the same effect.

How such appalling, dictatorial practices can be legal in a so-called ‘country of freedom’ is beyond my understanding.

Besides, telling foreigners ‘this is America’ is doubly insulting. It amounts to rubbing in their faces that they are not in their country (or country of origin) and to treating them like complete morons.

:shock: , :frowning: , :evil: and outraged!

No, I don’t think the restaurant owner is acting out of kindness. However, I wasn’t talking about the restaurant owner. I was talking about the Latino activist who thinks Latinos can’t learn English. I think the Latino activist is racist also. And don’t imagine for a second that such “activists” represent the majority of Latinos living in the US.

For more than 150 years, immigrants to the United States have learned English, and nobody ever had a problem with it. Only in the late 1960s did “activists” decide that people should be protected from having to learn English – but not all people, only Hispanics. The result is that Spanish speakers all over the US have been made into a privileged minority who receive all kinds of services that other immigrants don’t. In my state only 2.5 percent of the population is Hispanic – and almost all of them speak English. Nonetheless, when I go to the ATM at the bank, I have to choose between Spanish and English before I can do anything else. My local supermarket provides bilingual signs, Spanish speech on the automatic scanners, and Spanish-language forms of various types for Hispanics who are not there. The same goes for government offices and various social agencies. The large Albanian population here doesn’t get this privilege, nor do the Russians and Poles, and the Arabs only get it in the town that is generally acknowledged as “Arabic”.

A few weeks ago the State of Michigan passed a law making English the official language of the state, and saying that no state agency has the obligation to provide documents or services in any language other than English (however, they can provide them in other languages if they want to). The US government passed a law declaring English as the official language of the US that same week. (Until a few weeks ago, the US had no official language.) The immediate reaction to the laws from Latino activists was to declare that the laws were “racist”. Racist against whom? If Albanians, Arabs, Cambodians, Chinese, Germans, Haitians, Hmong, Japanese, Koreans, Laotians, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians and people from all parts of Africa routinely learn English and function in it, why is it “racist” to expect Latinos to learn English also? Under the circumstances, it is the Latino activist who is the racist, because he is claiming that people of his race cannot be expected to learn English.

Most Hispanics don’t agree with the activist, and they go ahead and learn English. In fact, polls show that the majority of them are in favor of English being the official language, and are against Spanish-English bilingual education in the schools. So, the Latino activists represent someone, but apparently they aren’t representing Latinos.

You also have to think of the predicament of the restaurant owner: He has to be able to supervise everything that goes on in his restaurant, but he probably can’t learn every language that anyone who comes in might speak. If there is harassment or some other problem going on in his restaurant, the government holds him responsible whether he was able to understand it or not. He can be fined thousands or even millions of dollars in a lawsuit. On the other hand, if he requires his employees to speak English on the job, so that he can keep track of what’s going on, the government can sue him for that too.

If you don’t believe me, here are some interesting articles about situations like that: … ages5.html

The idiotic thing is that when English is necessary for the safety of employees in a dangerous workplace, the government may still sue the employer if he tries to restrict the use of other languages.

Hi Conchita

I’d just like to try to ease your mind a bit: Nobody has been banned from the restaurant in question, including people who can’t order or have trouble ordering in English.

While I may not agree with the wording of the restaurant owner’s sign, I do see his point to a degree. Let’s face it: Even vacationers who visit a country where they don’t know the language normally make an effort to learn at least a few basic words and phrases to use for the few days or weeks of their visit. It’s not only respectful of the country they’re visiting, but also helps them do things.

I’ve lived in Germany for a few years now, and I didn’t speak German when I arrived. I’m quite sure that if I hadn’t learned German, I would be criticized by my German neighbors. And rightfully so.

As Jamie mentioned, there are lots of Latinos in the US and the majority speak English. But there are also areas with concentrations of non-English speaking people. If not learning English is made easy for one particular group, I think it only hurts their chances of success in a country where English is spoken.

Have you by any chance ever heard the story about how German supposedly almost became the “official” language of the US? This story is well-known in Germany, but I’d never heard it before I came here. The story, as it is usually told in Germany, is that there was a vote in the US Congress in 1776 on whether English or German should become the “official” language of the United States and that German lost by just one vote. You wouldn’t believe how many Germans have told me this story. But, the story isn’t true.

As with most myths, there are some elements of truth — some events that actually happened but with each retelling of the story, the details changed. The story as it is known here in Germany is a myth. However, it also illustrates that the “English vs. other language” debate is nothing new in the US.


I know an elderly woman (actually many older people) who arrived from Iraq almost completely illiterate in her own language, but you can bet that after a few weeks she – like all the rest of them – could count, name the basic food items, do her shopping and order in a restaurant. It’s not rocket science, and it only takes a couple of hours for most people to learn those things – even grandmothers. This one took only a short time to learn basic phone etiquette also.

The sign in the restaurant does not say that customers must say, “Good day, my fair waitress! I would feel most deeply obliged if you would see fit to convey to my present location a serving of your incomparable coffee whilst I peruse your selection of comestibles.” The customer need say no more than, “Coffee, eggs, toast, please.” I’ll bet the menu also has enough pictures so that he can point to things and say, “This, please.” Since there may be more than 100 languages spoken in the vicinity of the restaurant (as there are in some suburbs of Detroit), which languages should the restaurant staff be required to understand, and which not?

It is well known that people of all races learn to speak English as either a first or foreign language. We see them every day. Therefore, if a Latino activist claims it’s racist to expect people to learn English, what he’s really saying is that Latinos can’t learn English. He is a racist.

Is the activist actually claiming that? Because this is not how I undersand the statement in Floratang’s post:

Surely it is more than clear that what the Latino activist found racist was the restaurant owner’s attitude and sign, not the fact that foreigners are expected to learn English. Perhaps you have more information than I. In this case, I agree with you, his attitude is impractical, even far-fetched.

To expect outlanders to learn the (official) language of their host country is only reasonable and logical. I also agree with Amy in this point. Speaking English in the USA should simplify things for everyone and improve relations overall. The question is that people should be required to do so in a civilized and polite manner, as I’m sure they normally are. Hopefully, cases like that of the restaurant owner in Philadelphia are uncommon, although liable to occur – and not only in the States, unfortunately.

Why on earth would someone be against bilingual education, especially if one of the languages is that of your family or country of origin?

:lol: See there, now, Jamie at his most formal and literary! You should do that more often. Hey, this gives me an idea for a game: someone would write something in such language and the rest would have to give their personal rendition or version of it. It would be fun and instructive.

Hi Conchita

It’s a good thing you didn’t say “Jamie at his most politically correct”. If you read closely, you’ll notice he used the word “waitress” instead of “server”. :lol:


As a matter of fact, I had noticed that and even mentally replaced the word. But ‘server’ hardly fits in this beautiful sentence of another era and would rob it of its charm!

Ah, the days are gone when things were not so complicated – apart from the language, that is!


Conchita, if you were here, you’d understand what I’m talking about. These activists make the charge of racism ANYTIME it is suggested by an individual, organization or government body that Hispanics should learn or should be required to learn English. Sometimes they call it “racism in disguise” or say it has a “racist intent”, and sometimes they just call it racism.

As I mentioned before, my state passed a law recently establishing English as its official language and saying that state agencies shall not be required to provide services or documents in languages other than English. The law points to exceptions already present in state law, such as court interpreting and other situations involving someone’s personal safety. Furthermore, state agencies can provide services and documents in languages other than English if they want to, so it will still be possible to take the written driving exam in Thai, Ukrainian and all the other languages presently offered. This law doesn’t change anything for 99 percent of our immigrants, but the Latino activists claim it is “racist”.

The general stand of Latino activists is that Latinos should not be expected to learn English at all, or to adapt to the local laws or culture. Some of the more radical ones say that the United States was “stolen” from the Hispanics, and they want so many Latinos to come into the US illegally that they will be able to “take the country back”. Their big problem is that this is not what the Latinos who come here want.

The Hispanic parents claim that it teaches their kids to be “illiterate in two languages” and prepares them to be “the future janitors of America”. Bilingual education sounds like a really great idea, and in controlled studies it appears to work, but in actual practice it cripples many students academically and causes them problems later on if they want to go to university. In some places it is possible for a student to get all the way through high school in bilingual ed, which in practice can mean that he doesn’t learn English well. One of my university students (herself Hispanic) claimed that the valedictorian at her high school graduation had somehow succeeded at staying in bilingual ed for most of her years in school, and could barely get through her speech in English.

There are cases documented of schools in which Hispanic immigrant kids performed terribly, while immigrants from other countries were quickly up to speed or even at the top of their classes. The only differing factor was that the Hispanics got bilingual education classes and the others didn’t. In some schools, the bilingual classes were abolished, and the Hispanic kids did as well as the other immigrants after that.

I read an interesting case in which a school (I’m sure this wasn’t the only one) was assigning children to bilingual classes based on their surnames alone. (The more kids in bilingual ed, the more federal money.) One Hispanic mother went in complaining that her daughter didn’t need bilingual ed because she was monolingual in English. She was told by the school administration that she was “trying to deny her heritage”.

Anyway, some Hispanic parents feel so strongly about this issue that at schools in New York and California they have organized “strikes”, where they all keep their kids out of school until the school agrees to teach them in English immersion. They say they’ll deal with the Spanish at home (or not).