I may have linked to this before, but then, I realize that even on the internet, where there are archives of what I’ve said, I’m prone to repeating myself a lot. Anyway, watch this campaign ad for Alabama gubernatorial candidate Tim James:
This ad makes me feel physically uneasy, especially in light of the recent immigration law in Arizona. There will always be “love it or leave it”/”learn English” assholes, and there will always be politicians who give a wink and a nod to those voters, but this is pretty brazenly xenophobic.
If you see nothing wrong with the proposition outlined by this ad, consider: People need to take time to learn English. Even people who have put in the prior effort to learn English before they move here are probably not conversant enough to deal with the relatively technical language of a driver’s test. In order to learn English, one needs a class – it turns out that there are far more immigrants who want to learn English than there are adult ESL slots. Even ignoring that, in order to learn English, you need the means to pay for ongoing education. In many places, order to make a living you need to be independently mobile, which means a car. So now we have a problem – people need to get around in order to learn English, but there’s no way to do legally it without learning English.
So – will this lead to more people learning English and assimilating? Of course it won’t. It will lead to more people driving unlicensed. This means more people driving uninsured. This means more people driving cars they cannot get inspected because they aren’t legally allowed own them. This means fewer people aware of the rules of the road as they drive, which means more danger for all of us. It also means more foreign-looking (read: not white) people are criminals, which as the State government of Arizona has shown us, some people don’t mind too much. Now, this English-only DMV proposal falls short of making brown skin probable cause the way Arizona has, but it’s certainly in the same ballpark. The sad thing is that even while large swathes of the country are reviling Arizona’s new law, there are segments of the country, and clearly Tim James has pegged them as his people, who are driving pedal-to-floor into the bright, shiny racist future. I just hope they’re wearing their seat belts – there are a lot of unlicensed drivers down that road.