Speaking Spanish In The United States Is Not A Crime

Speaking Spanish In The United States Is Not A Crime

No, English is not the official language of the United States.

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Many bilingual people in the United States have been told the phrase, "Speak English! This is America!" or something of the sort. That mentality is what led to two Mexican-American women being detained by a border patrol agent.

Ana Suda and Mimi Hernandez went to a gas station in Havre, Montana and were having a conversation in Spanish as they were buying eggs and milk. This was supposedly so suspicious that a border patrol agent, named Agent O'Neill, decided to stop and question them. He asked them where they were born and Suda was taken aback by the question so she asked him if he was serious, to which he responded, "I'm very serious."

The conversation was then taken to the parking lot of the gas station and the agent asked the women for their identification. As Suda recorded the encounter on her cell phone, she asked O'Neill what his reasoning was for asking them for their IDs and he stated,

"Ma'am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here, and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here."

Obviously, his excuse makes absolutely no sense because hearing someone speak a language other than English does not mean that they are an immigrant. Suda also recognized how ridiculous his justification was and asked O'Neill if she was being racially profiled, but he said,

"It has nothing to do with that. It's the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store, in a state where it's predominantly English-speaking."

Many Americans tend to equate being American with speaking English and that is why another common phrase told to someone not speaking English is "Speak American!" However, English is not the official language of the United States. There is no official language. This is a fact that many people tend to gloss over because they want to use the English language as a weapon against someone who either does not know the language or was not speaking it at the time. English is typically associated with whiteness and when some people hear a language other than English being spoken in the United States, they see it as not only an attack on the language but also an attack on white people.

Agent O'Neill may have felt annoyed or uncomfortable hearing Suda and Hernandez speaking Spanish in a state where English is mainly spoken, so he attempted to prove that the women were undocumented immigrants as a way to justify his annoyance. He ended up finding out that the two women were actually U.S. citizens. O'Neill then handed them back their documentation and told them they were free to go after keeping them in the gas station parking lot for about 35 to 40 minutes.

One of the most upsetting parts of the entire encounter is that when Suda's daughter saw the video of the agent questioning her and Hernandez, her daughter asked, "Does that mean we can't speak Spanish anymore?' That's very sad." Nobody should ever be made to feel ashamed of their heritage.

Being fluent in more than one language should be celebrated, not hidden. Suda told her daughter that she is intelligent for being fluent in two languages and that she should be proud of it. She then explained why she gave that response to her daughter and said,

"I want her to know she can speak Spanish in whatever place she wants and nothing happens and no one is going to stop her just because she speaks Spanish."

The conversation that Suda had with her daughter inspired her to reach out to the American Civil Liberties Union to see if anything could be done about her experience with Agent O'Neill. So far, they have tweeted their support.

Cover Image Credit:

Jose Moreno

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The R.Kelly Documentary Proves That Black Women Are Some Of The Most Underappreciated People


It took a period of 25 years for these women to be believed.

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Let's face it, there is a level of safeguard for the wealthy and famous compared to others. You have seen in the news the amount of time it takes for a celebrity to be shamed or punished when breaking the law or doing what is not expected of society. To this day, Chris Brown did not get that much social backlash from the of domestic abuse of Rihanna, Mark Wahlberg career still flourished after assaulting and racial slurs a Vietnamese man, XXXTentacion was charged with domestic and aggravated battery by strangulation on his pregnant girlfriend and was only glorified after his death and many other stories of celebrities. One Celebrity, R. Kelly, that has been in the spotlight the past 10 years, but now recently since the documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, has had many claims and evidence against him of kidnapping, domestic abuse, pedophilia against him.

This all started when R. Kelly marries 15-year-old Aaliyah in 1994. The marriage lasted months and resulted in an annulment with Aaliyah claiming emotional distress and emotional pain from Robert. R. Kelly then goes on to have a relationship with other underaged girls and as reported by some of them be physically and sexually abusive to them. A lawsuit is filed against him in 1996 by Tiffany Hawkins but is not noticed by the public. Chicago Sun-Times investigates alleged sex-crimes and in 2001 the first sex tapes emerge.

Throughout the years more sex tapes, lawsuits, restraining orders have emerged until a trial of 14 counts of child pornography in May 2008 occurs. The jury found Kelly not guilty. All of this was in the shadows as he continued to flourish in his career and his fans steadfast by him. Then in July 2017 the news of a sex cult breaks, these victims break their non-disclosure act and report that this cult started with them underage and one of the women file a criminal complaint towards him. January 3, 2019, Surviving R. Kelly premieres on Lifetime. January 9, 2019, R. Kelly is under investigation in Georgia.

It took a period of 25 years for these women to be believed. Most importantly 25 years of the black woman being pushed in the shadows.

Abuse as a social system is taken seriously, but in many cultures, it can be rarely discussed or hidden. The black community can tend to keep isolated and quite for a sense of community and "no snitching". That generation of abuse is normalized. You hear jokes of people connecting their parents beating them as punishment when they were younger or older men always being predatory towards the younger women in their life. Black women feel the need to be strong and let's face it, may not feel that even their own community have their back at times.

I can't imagine what these women and young adolescents were going through, asking for help and no one was listening. No one believed them also because how could a person in the spotlight with this much power and notoriety do something like this? Anyone is capable of inflicting abuse no matter the status. We must stop being oblivious and start believing the victims. I feel as though this was pushed under the rug for all these years even so because these were minorities, these were women that maybe came from different backgrounds or didn't have the same means to be addressed to the public be heard and respected of their abuse. Media coverage is positioned to cover stories that resonate with the public more, as although an estimate of 42% of missing children are black, media coverage usually focuses on affluent wealthy white people who are missing girls. This became known as the "missing white girl syndrome".

Minorities can be dehumanized through these experiences and not perceived innocent even when they are the victim. After this documentary aired, so many people were victim blaming and blaming the parents instead of the perpetrator himself. This big picture lies in a system of gender and race-based violence, specifically on black women since I can personally relate. I know what you're thinking, we should be discussing domestic and sexual violence as a whole? And while that is important, I'm tired of these specific voices not getting heard because there are a time and place for everything. And currently, I am rooting for the black woman's space. I've had so many people in my life belittle my feelings and own experience of what it is to be a black woman and navigate this pain of abuse and it must end.

To find a resolution, we need to start truly listening to the victims. We must be their voice for them at times when they don't have it. We must teach men to not harm and change the idea of what masculinity is. We must change the norm of dehumanizing minorities by introducing the idea that we can have multiple facets personalities, emotions, constructs in the media. This all starts with a conversation in our homes, at school, at work, and most importantly on the media.

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