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An Open Letter to Diversity's Victims

Exclusive commentary by Greg Lewis
August 12, 2003

Those who promote what they call "diversity" have insisted that American schools provide instruction in both English and Spanish so that Hispanic children will not have to learn English. As near as I can determine, the reasoning is that Hispanic people living in the United States are at risk for losing their cultural identity if they learn the language spoken by the overwhelming majority of their fellow citizens.

Until 1998, California's liberal educators and administrators managed to buck common sense and the wishes of 85 percent of the state's Hispanic population to perpetuate their "separate but equal" doctrine of bilingual education. Proposition 227, which passed with a landslide majority in that year, effectively put an end to the practice in California. By August of 2000, the average reading scores of the state's more than one million Hispanic elementary students had improved more than 20 points across the board, confounding liberal educational segregationists.

In fact, because children who don't learn to speak "standard" English have a much more difficult time achieving job and career success, liberals who still blindly support bilingual education are condemning a significant portion of Spanish-speaking children to second-class economic citizenship. One can only hope that in the near future Hispanics taught in their native language will claim victim status and bring a class-action lawsuit against the arrogant, agenda-driven educators who still hold out for bilingual education for not giving them the linguistic tools they needed to take advantage of the wonderful economic opportunities that would have been available to them had they been "forced" to learn English. This is one of the few instances I can think of in which the American legal profession might actually distinguish itself through class-action litigation.

California, you will recall, was also the state which tried to railroad its citizens into recognizing Ebonics (that is, so-called African-America English) as a language, and to give credit to (primarily) inner-city students for having been raised to speak a dialect which is inadequate to the demands of the world beyond the circumscribed confines of their neighborhoods. How much better off would everyone involved be if the same effort had been put into teaching African-American children English as a second language?

Simply put, bilingual education doesn't provide students whose first language is not standard English with the single most important skill they need for making their way in the broader culture. The fact that that broader culture is what its adversaries denigrate as "white" culture begs the question. To succeed in America — with a number of relatively minor although often highly visible exceptions — it's important to speak, read, and understand English as most Americans speak it. There's nothing cruel or unfair in that; it's just the way it is. And when liberals try to downplay that fact in the name of diversity or multiculturalism (or whatever the liberal buzzword du jour happens to be at the time), they're cynically appealing to a kind of cultural vanity that almost every one of us possesses. People don't want to be told that the way they speak (or dress or behave) won't gain them credence with a majority of Americans.

In this case, however, the appeal to cultural vanity is destructive. It results in a kind of collective blind spot among the blacks and Hispanics who allow themselves to be hoodwinked into believing that when they walk into a job interview for a responsible position and say, "Yo, 's up?" the person sitting across the desk from them — whether black or white, male or female — is going to throw some internal Ebonics switch and reply, "You go it."

I'm not talking about a McJob. I'm talking about a position for which there might be some competition, one whose pay starts in the high twenties or low thirties. I'm talking about a job for which the company that hires you is going to invest as much as $5,000.00 or more in instructors' salaries and the infrastructure necessary to support a good corporate entry-level management training function and to compensate you for the weeks you spend in training; that is, in order to provide you with everything you'll need to take advantage of an opportunity they want to see you succeed in.

Because we need to get something straight. Companies want to see their employees succeed. They don't care what color your skin is. They don't care if your first name is Lakeesha or your surname is Gonzales. (Well, they wouldn't if there weren't Federal regulations telling them they had to.) They want to see you do well, no matter your ethnicity or skin color. Corporate success is a win-win proposition. If you do well, you help the company you work for do well. If the company you work for does well, then there are expanding opportunities for you to move up to positions of increasing responsibility for which you will be rewarded with higher salaries and greater benefits.

And I can tell you: By the time you get to be regional Vice President of Sales overseeing a 15-state territory, or are appointed Corporate Head of Creative Development, or are chosen as one of the four key team members charged with opening your company's new European headquarters in London, England . . . you're going to be damn glad you listened to all those teachers who, while respecting who you were and your ethnicity and your cultural heritage, nonetheless insisted that you learn your way around the English language, that you learn to communicate not just with your homeboys and homegirls but with other English-speaking human beings in the broader culture.

And it doesn't really have anything to do with someone's respecting or not respecting who you are or where you came from, anyway. It does have to do with something that has very deep roots in the American soul. It has to do with a set of fundamental human values that we Americans hold sacred. Among the most important of those values is that every young person be given the opportunity to prosper through the exercise of his or her talents and skills. You may have heard the words "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

If it seems as though you have to compromise your identity or your integrity to accomplish these things, let me say this: It is actually those who promote "diversity" who ask you to deny your individuality and your humanity by insisting that you assume a collective identity as a member of a racial or ethnic or cultural group. Membership in these groups is reductive; it restricts your horizons and diminishes the likelihood that you'll be successful even in articulating your own personal aspirations, let alone achieving them.

Make no mistake about it: The values on which this country was founded are universal values which transcend culture and history and race and nationality. And no concept as flimsy and restrictive and, ultimately, indefensible as diversity should be enough to sway you from your chance to use your talents in the service of truly positive and universal values. Don't let diversity destroy your soul and rob you of the chance to be who you truly are.

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