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.
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.