American society is divided — there is no question about it. Racism is a driving force behind much of this division. Most people aren’t racist because they hate another race — they’re racist because they fear that the “other” race will overtake their own. In some cases, seemingly insignificant differences in culture and language causes people to differentiate between each other.
This is obviously an immature thought because after all, we are all part of the human race, and I am sure even if we were all the same color or spoke the same language, we would have found something else to divide us. The thought that another race might take over scares many people to the point where they start forcing their culture and language onto others — causing conflicts.
In Texas, two major ethnic groups that clash are White Americans and Hispanic Americans. Some White people believe America is a “Whites-only” country and that all Hispanics are “illegal immigrants” from Mexico who should know English before they ever step foot in the United States. On the other hand, some Hispanic Americans fight back by speaking publicly more often in Spanish to promote their culture as they take pride in it, even though they might know English well.
When I asked Hannah Ruiz, president of the Hispanic Student Association (HSA) at UT, about whether all Spanish speakers should learn English before they enter the U.S., she said that HSA “admires public officials and private companies as they have promoted bilingualism in many aspects of society such as in public schools, job positions, public transportation, voting booths, and in many other spaces. HSA appreciates all cultures and languages and we aspire to influence others in a positive manner through our actions.”
While it is great that HSA appreciates all cultures and languages, the problem starts when people say that they “aspire to influence others” HSA might have good intentions but like many others, they are failing to realize that trying to "influence" others causes division.
People don’t like to be patronized. The acceptance of other cultures and languages can only be achieved if both White Americans and Hispanic Americans are willing to accept bits from each other’s cultures. First, they must stop forcibly imposing their own culture and language onto others.The second step is to see themselves as humans first, White or Hispanic.
For instance, in public areas when you see someone speaking in Spanish, you should understand that they or the person they are talking to may not be comfortable speaking in English. On the other hand, a conversation between three or more people, where there is somebody who does not know Spanish, should take place in English, otherwise it may seem that you are alienating the English speaker and intentionally disrespecting them.
This is just one scenario. People could learn to respect each other and in return gain respect for themselves. When they stop imposing their culture, then people could take a hearty step to adopt something from another person’s culture as a friendly gesture. We must also remember that people are not as bad or as different as we think — it is only an ingrained concept that society has been forcing in us from the very beginning of our lives.
Batra is a computer science and rhetoric and writing junior from New Delhi, India.