NoSpanish

‘We speak only English, no Spanish!’

A flyer left on my front door inspired this essay for the Houston Chronicle’s Gray Matters vertical. It was a response to an emphatic “No Spanish!” from a lawn service man, a phrase that triggered an equally emphatic response in me.

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It was the exclamation point that got me.

There, in the last paragraph of the flyer stuffed into my front door by a local lawn service trolling for new business. There, amid the grammatical errors, misplaced apostrophes and random capitalization.

There, at the end of a phrase that left me simultaneously ice cold and boiling mad: “We speak only English, no Spanish!”

The words — underlined for emphasis — scraped against my skin and stiffened my spine.
Their meaning, in clumsily coded language with no nuance or subtlety, could not have been any clearer: We don’t hire or service your kind.

That’s right. My kind.

Latinos. Spanish-speakers. Immigrants.

“We speak only English, no Spanish!”

I’d heard that kind of message before. As a child growing up in New Jersey. As a young girl walking through stores with my mother. As a journalist working in newsrooms where education was not a barrier against ignorance.

Click here to read the rest of the essay.

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