Friday, November 17, 2017
The new face of employment discrimination:
By Jasmyne A. Cannick (Columnist)
Published November 18, 2011

Spanish speakers preferred

Unemployed African-Americans have more than just “ethnic” sounding names, criminal records, and their educational background working against them now, when trying to pass the first phase of the employment application.  Today, almost all job postings either require applicants to speak Spanish or make it clear that they prefer those who do, to applicants who don’t.

The irony is almost inconceivable considering that African-Americans are the direct descendants of slaves who, upon arrival to the U.S., were given two things—Christianity in the form of a Bible and a new language, English.  Prohibiting slaves from speaking any language other than English, two hundred years later, we’re now being punished for Mistah’s English Only law.

Today, while it is the official language of the land, when it comes to English, being able to speak, read, and write it, seemingly is no longer a requirement for assimilation—at least in California.

Which in theory, I don’t have a problem with—if you come here and don’t want to learn English that’s on you.

What I do have a problem with is, turning around and saying to generations of English speaking Americans, in particular African-Americans, that because you don’t speak Spanish, you aren’t qualified to do any job in the State of California.

And while I agree that there are some jobs where it helps if employees speak Spanish, it shouldn’t be industry norm for employers to require all job applicants to speak Spanish.  Not when California’s unemployment rate is at 12 percent and many of those unemployed do not speak Spanish.

Similar to the President, most African-Americans don’t speak a foreign language.  Unlike our African brothers and sisters who are usually trilingual—speaking English, French, and their tribal language–because it wasn’t a requirement in order to graduate from high school, many African-Americans never took up a second language nor did we ever think that we’d need to in order to get not just a job but any job in California.

It’s no secret that this is a particularly hard issue for Black lawmakers and civil rights leaders to wrap their heads around, hence their silence on it. For them, it’s much easier to scream and shout on television for jobs for Black people.  Because at the end of the day, they all want to be seen as a champion and leader for and of Blacks—not as a racist, as anyone who brings up anything even remotely negative about Latinos is made out to be.

However, with over 16 percent of African-Americans nationwide unemployed, this cannot be about a popularity contest.

Captivating sound bites about jobs for Blacks on television is not going to be enough, because when those jobs come, if 90 percent of them require applicants to be bilingual, then what?

Wanting employers to hire employees who do not speak Spanish is not racist.

It’s understanding that if I go to Mexico and seek out employment that I had better speak Spanish.

It’s recognizing that if employers are going to mandate that job applicants being bilingual in order for employment consideration, lawmakers need to get with the program and require high school students take and pass four years of a foreign language, preferably Spanish, in order to be eligible for a high school diploma.  Because not doing so amounts to setting up future generations of non-Spanish speakers for failure.

It’s allowing qualified candidates to make it through the first phase of the employment process without fear of being disqualified because they don’t speak Spanish.

It’s about common sense and recognizing that not everyone in California or America for that fact speaks Spanish and until Wikipedia changes it, English is still the official language of the land whether you chose to speak it or not.

A former press secretary in California State Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection of race, sex, politics, and pop culture from an unapologetically Black point of view.  Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.


Categories: Opinion

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