Nashvillians Say No to English-Only Amendment

This story was a little personal for me, because it’s my hometown. I’ve followed Nashville politics since I was a child. I was always fascinated by it and it’s what sparked my interest in politics in general. So when I began to hear this debate for English only vote spew out into the national media spotlight I paid closer attention. My attention was not on what I believed Nashvillians would do, but what influence from the national media may sway their vote.

You have to live in Nashville to really understand the culture of the city. It’s not what many people think of it as some cowboy hat wearing, horse riding country music listening big small town. Ofcourse you will see some cowboy hats, but its normally tourist wearing them. If you are walking down on 2nd Avenue or even a few spots on Broadway you may hear some live country or blues music being played at night from some of the bars, but it is Music City. You will hear Gospel, Blues and even some Hip Hop too if you go to the right places.

If you want to mess everybody up, just walk into Tootsie’s (famous country music spot) wearing a Public Enemy shirt like I did back in the early 90’s. I was thirsty, but that’s another story.

Nashville has a growing immigrant population that’s has made great contributions to the culture and heritage of the city for decades. We don’t have many racially related crimes, nor does the city discourage cultural diversity. Growing up in Nashville helped form my views and experiences regarding race, but I’ll talk about that more in a few weeks.

So you may understand why I was a bit disappointed with Councilman Eric Crafton’s proposal for English-Only. I personally believe it was to raise his own political profile for his own future aspirations, but that’s hearsay.

The final vote was 32,144 for English only and 41,752 against. Obviously this was a very low voter turnout, but I’m happy for those who did turnout to vote.

The measure would have forced all Metro Nashville government business to be done in English, with the council allowed to vote on exceptions. Metro’s legal department contended early on that conflicts with federal law would enmesh Nashville in litigation for years to come.

So by defeating the measure, Nashville will not be the largest city in the nation with an English-only rule in its charter despite dogged efforts by Metro Councilman Eric Crafton, who spearheaded the amendment.

Councilman Crafton and his Nashville English First group argued that the city would save the city money in translation services and become unified as the result of more immigrants learning English.

We have got to speak English. We would be divided as a country if we don’t. We can’t do a lot about the illegal immigrants that are here, but they won’t be able to go get government services because they won’t be able to read forms. This country is based on English.” — Kevin Ferrin

I respectfully disagree with this idea because it tends to omit the notion that we are a country of immigrants. Whatever happened to the Great Melting Pot philosophy? This country is based on many things both good and bad, but we have already seen what happens when you put up exclusive signs. You may not see a physical sign that says “English-Only”, but regardless if it’s out in the open or hidden in our hearts, the use of divisive language is harmful under any translation.

Even Councilman Crafton said he is glad the special election is over. He has been trying to get the charter amended for two years; first failing after former Mayor Bill Purcell vetoed a council vote on the issue and then failing to get it on the November ballot over a technicality in timing. Well I hope you’re happy and keep your word by not bring it up again, but I’m sure some devotee of division will raise it up once again. Perhaps we should bring back the Colored & White’s Only signs too.

I love how Maria Rodriguez, Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition used a familiar civil rights quote that was recently used in the inauguration benediction by Rev. Joseph Lowery. She said, “Voters are not duped anymore. They know when they see bad policy that is going to be costly and that’s not progressive. … I guess brown can stick around in Nashville.”

References & Inspirations:
The Tennessean – 01/23/09 “Nashville’s English-Only Measure Defeated
The Tennessean – 01/23/09 “Quotes about English-Only Measure
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One thought on “Nashvillians Say No to English-Only Amendment

  1. I’m glad they’ve said no. Here in London, I hear at least six different languages per day. I’ve gotten used to it and I’ve now grown to love it. I really am uncomfortable with the thought of coming back home and living in a place where people are denied basic and humane services, with language being used as the excuse for us to do so.

    It’s about time that the US became like every other progressive country in the world. Even children in Europe are taught and speak more than one language. But I guess America can’t do that because we iz stoopid? And for the record, we speak English in America because our land was colonized by the English. The Spanish lands around us were colonized by the Spaniards. Neither English nor Spanish was the original language. So, it seems absurd that we would impose an English only rule – when they don’t even do that in England (the land of our colonizers).

    And furthermore, the English only rule is actually quite focused on our Spanish speaking Mexican immigrants. Need I remind everyone that these same Mexicans are/were the original owners of the land we now call the USA. They are the descendants of the native people that we call Indians. We stole their land, their culture, their lives – but apparently that wasn’t enough. We want to find ways to do even more. Frankly, perhaps its even fair that they reclaim their land and kick the rest of us out of America. Lets see then how many people will cling to the idea of one language only.

    I’m done. Thanks for the blog.

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