Monday, November 19, 2012

Watching My Own Prejudice!

When non-African Americans approach me speaking Ebonics, knowing that is not their normal mode of communication, I immediately respond with standard American English to bust the stereotype; the pre-judgment, because that's what prejudice is, pre-judging. When I, as a non-Latino, approach an olive-skinned person who fits the stereotypical profile of a Latino, and speak to him/her in Spanish, that is also prejudice because I'm pre-judging that person as a Spanish-speaker, perhaps one with limited English skills. Why aren't I making the same assumption of Whites, Blacks, and Asians who speak Spanish as a first language? It's prejudice, of course. Someone, a long time ago, warned me that assuming someone is a Spanish-speaker simply because of appearance is a form of racism.

Here is a comment one of my blog readers posted: I have to say not every Hispanic or Latino speak Spanish. Some people never learned it because they were trying to assimilate more into an English speaking society. They went to school and English is what they spoke. They may have been born to people who have been living in the United States longer than 3 generations and started to lose their Spanish dialect.

Over the years, I've learned the hard way that many Latinos in the US don't speak Spanish. I once got into work-related argument with a supervisor who happened to be an English-only Latino. I took my work-related frustration out on him by speaking to him in Spanish just to irritate him, and that did irritate him.

Because of my exuberance in speaking a second language, in this case Spanish, I find it hard to resist the temptation to initiate a conversation in Spanish if I happen to prejudge someone as being Latino. Truly, I need the practice, which is why I travel to Spanish-speaking countries every chance I get, or at least do my shopping in areas where Spanish is heavily spoken. I'm making an effort to avoid prejudging people and at least get familiar with people first and not assume.

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