Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not Speaking English Equals a 204$ Fine in Texas

image Well officer friendly strikes again.  Until Ernestina Mondragon decided to challenge a fine that she received for daring to drive while not speaking English, officers were fining people.  The police have the official job of keeping the populace safe, however; what is considered to be a legitimate threat is often filtered through the needs and concerns of dominant bodies.  These fines are a small step towards criminalizing the Latin@ community.  Anti-Latin@ sentiment is proudly embraced by the media (think Lou Dobbs), which not only informs cultural mores but avidly repeats discursively problematic theories.

Whenever law enforcement engages in open prejudice against people of color, there is always a reasoned explanation and this case is no different:

The authorities say they are investigating, though one possible explanation has been offered by the police department. The officers may have been confused by their squad-car computers’ drop-down menu of infractions, which displayed a federal statute on English proficiency that applies to commercial drivers. The Dallas Police Department does not enforce that statute.

Why is there always some measure of confusion, when applying the law to bodies of color?  Police officers accidentally use racial profiling to stop people who just happen to be driving while of color. It is only happenstance that this regularly occurs in neighbourhood where every0ne knows only White people make enough to live.  There are some neighbourhoods that Whiteness does not even want a person of color delivering a pizza after dark, much less attending local neighbourhood watch meetings and so the police are only doing their due diligence ensuring that bodies of color are afraid to even drive through.

Somehow, European (read: White)  undocumented workers are not considered a threat, so there is no need to round them up like animals, deny medical treatment, separate families  and in some cases subject the women to rape.   The US uses coercive economic policies in the Global South to ensure poverty and then has the gall to punish them, when they make a bid for a better life and enter the US without the correct paperwork.  Chants of illegal immigrant are screamed with all the virulence of a racial epithet. Then we have the ever popular confusing their taser with a gun.  Of course, that only leads to the death of people of color, so no reason to be concerned. 

Criminalizing Spanish, is criminalizing Latin@ people.  Language in part reinforces culture and tradition and if one is aware of such things, it instils a sense of pride and worth.  These are not values that Whiteness wishes to see in bodies of color.  Defeat is meant to be our default position thus making resistance and a demand to be counted less likely.  

The police will continue to say that such action was accidental but when it is examined within a culture that has declared war upon Brown and Black bodies, it can hardly be seen as such.  Whiteness has taken purposeful action to construct Latin@’s as decidedly un-American and until such discourse changes, these accidents will continue to happen.