It was early morning on the Election Day (Nov 3, still remember?). The poll will open at 11am, so I decided to canvass at the entrance of the Metro on our part of the neighborhood (near the 53rd and the Lackawanna st.). This was the last stretch on the campaign trail and I was asking my commuter neighbors if they were planning to vote that day.
“Actually I went to Davis Hall this morning to vote but found the poll opens after 11.” – one of my commuter neighbors responded with frustration as I approached him.
“..But look, I’m not going to vote for you” – he continued – frankly and thankfully.
Not that I was surprised, I was curious to find out more.
“You’re the only candidate who has a flyer with Spanish translation on it. I think people in this country should assimilate – not stay apart.”
“I agree on the assimilation part, but see..” I was quick to respond and tried to explain more before he rushed into the Metro.
I wasn’t quite sure if this neighbor had a chance to take a look at the part of the English flyer where it talks about my plan to get Latino and other communities involved into more civic activities so that everyone in the city can benefit from such services. How can this be interpreted as a message against assimilation – I wonder.
The intent of adding the Spanish translation was to reach out to the fairly large and yet growing members of the Latino and Hispanic communities. We thought these members are most likely to feel more comfortable to get our campaign message in their own language. Thus the translation part was neither a message against assimilation, nor should be interpreted as a disregard against the dominant language of the land, English.
But look, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Most of the public service announcements from our own city come in Spanish translation. If you can remember, several months ago, the city council decidedly defeated a proposal making English as the only official language of the city.
What makes our country great is not how we speak or how we lead our way of lives, but how much respect and tolerance we show to our fellow citizens who don’t do the same as we do. Thus when it comes to diversity, the publication of a campaign flyer in a second language is just not a different matter.