Sarah Garrecht Gassen: ProEnglish group speaks xenophobic language of 'The Code'

2013-07-18T00:00:00Z 2013-07-18T11:10:16Z Sarah Garrecht Gassen: ProEnglish group speaks xenophobic language of 'The Code'Sarah Garrecht Gassen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

'American" doesn't mean "white." But before we get to that, a quick detour.

The name of the group is "ProEnglish." It's involved in a lawsuit filed against Pima Community College on behalf of a woman who says the college discriminated against her because she's an English speaker.

Some people describe ProEnglish as part of the nativist nationalist anti-immigrant hate group movement, but they describe themselves as "the nation's leading English language advocates."

ProEnglish wants English to be the official language of the United States. Their position, as they make it, is xenophobic, discriminatory and small-minded, but hey, it's a free country. Believe what you want.

But I couldn't help but notice the awkwardness and punctuation problems in the press release ProEnglish sent out last week.

Now, I know that I'm speaking from a place of privilege. I have the benefit of editors and copy editors saving me from my own errors - and even with that safety net I'm certain my boo-boos have, on occasion, made it into print.

The following is from the press release ProEnglish sent out last week.

"Attorney John Munger will have filed a lawsuit on Monday on behalf of plaintiff Terri Bennett against Pima County Community College 'It is outrageous how Ms. Bennett has been mistreated and discriminated against by Pima County Community College based on her cultural background as an English speaker.'" 

Small potatoes, perhaps, but details count when one is publicly positioning oneself as a crusader for the English language.

The lawsuit alleges that Pima Community College violated Terri Bennett's rights when it suspended her for, according to her account of the college's correspondence, disrupting class and displaying "intimidating behavior to students, faculty and staff."

Bennett, who speaks only English, says she is the victim of retaliation by PCC for complaining to officials that students in nursing courses spoke Spanish during class, which she says created a distraction and impeded her learning. She was assigned to work in a group where, according to the lawsuit, "Ms. Bennett was the only first-language English speaker, and the other students spoke primarily in Spanish."

A situation like this can't go unexploited. It's too juicy.

Munger is representing the plaintiff in court, but ProEnglish is giving "moral and financial support." Munger is a well-known Tucson attorney who has served on the Arizona Board of Regents, is active in Republican politics and ran, unsuccessfully, for governor in 2010.

Munger will no doubt reap some ultra-right-wing street cred from hooking up with an outfit like ProEnglish.

ProEnglish is speaking a language all right - but it's not English.

It's the language of The Code.

The Code where "our national identity" means white, not brown. Us, but not them. We all know who the "them" are, wink wink.

But if you don't, let's turn to a column that Phil Kent wrote for the May 2010 edition of Middle American News - it's about U.S. demographic trends making whites the minority by 2050. Kent writes:

"If this trend is not reversed -and it could be if an immigration moratorium were imposed - what Vassar College author Hua Hsu labels America's white 'centrifugal core' will slowly disappear. This leads to big questions: What will be the values and ideas of a multicultural America? What will it mean to be white after 'whiteness' no longer defines the cultural mainstream?

"Hsu notes that a glimpse is seen with the popularity of black-originated hip-hop. It opposes the pop mainstream and isn't assimilating into a traditional, single white iconic image of style- and growing numbers of young whites purchase such music."

My heavens. Lederhosen just aren't catching on with the kids today, are they?

The fear code is usually more discreet, as it was Monday when Kent stepped to the lectern and let rip this heartfelt self-promotion:

"It's a sad day that we're here filing this suit," Kent said. "For this woman to be persecuted and insulted, discriminated against. We have your back here at ProEnglish. We are not going to allow this to stand … justice must prevail here."

Kent and his ilk - code groups like ProEnglish and Americans for Immigration Control - feed on the fear and the delusion of white cultural victimization that they stoke.

"It's disgraceful what Pima Community College has done," Kent said Monday.

"Check out our website at www.proenglish.org."

No translation needed.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen writes opinion for the Arizona Daily Star. Her column appears on Thursdays. Email her at sgassen@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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