California Legislators Fight Divisive Ethnic Battle

Democrats are pitting African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos against each other.

SACRAMENTO—Republican legislators had often been criticized for being divisive when they held up the passage of state budgets to exact concessions—something that has subsided after the 2010 passage of Proposition 25, which requires a simple majority to pass budget bills.

Yet the fading of Republican power has not led to an era of Kumbaya. In fact, the state Capitol recently has been plagued by some of the ugliest and most divisive political battles in years as Democrats fight one another over ethnic-related issues. A new bill that recently passed a Senate committee is likely to keep the hostilities boiling.

The flashpoint was in March, after Asian-American legislators backed away from their previous support of SCA 5, a constitutional amendment that would have asked voters to repeal Proposition 209. That was the 1996 statewide initiative that banned racial and ethnic quotas in the state university systems and other public facilities.

Asian-American voters feared that their kids would face discrimination in university admissions if the new measure passed—and they put pressure on their legislators to back off. But some of SCA 5's supporters, who remain intent on reviving the issue, were livid at how it all played out.

The Sacramento Bee reported on "racially tinged reprisals," including allegations that an unrelated bill by an Asian-American assemblyman was killed by Latino and African-American legislators purely as retribution. Several Latino and African-American legislators withdrew their support for state Sen. Ted Lieu's congressional bid given that Lieu signed a letter asking the Assembly speaker to shelve the bill.

A cooling-off period seems in order, yet some of the same legislators who backed SCA 5 also are backing a bill that could lead to the reinstatement of another controversial ethnic-related policy: bilingual education.

In 1998, voters approved Proposition 227 mandating that public schools teach immigrant students with instruction that would be overwhelmingly in English. Sponsored by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz, the measure basically ended public bilingual education programs that were said to have delayed English fluency because they taught kids heavily in their native language. It won with 61 percent of the vote.

The measure wasn't only about methods of English instruction. Supporters of Prop. 227 argued that bilingual education was an impediment to assimilation, so it got caught up in the immigration debates even though Unz had opposed Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative that restricted public services to unauthorized immigrants.

Yet the death of bilingual education has remained a sore point for many Latino legislators. Last week, a Senate committee voted 7-0 to approve SB 1174 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Huntington Park/Long Beach. It would ask voters in November 2016 to "amend" Prop. 227 by deleting the English-immersion requirement and leaving it up to local education officials. The bill is a clear effort to reinstate bilingual-education programs.

Indeed, Lara's statement on the vote laments the reduction of such programs. Given the evidence that immersion is a quicker way to teach immigrants English, bilingual-ed's backers now champion the method as a way to help kids maintain their Spanish-language heritage.

Unz thinks that current legislators don't really remember the old debate, but ultimately will be forced to back down in a fashion similar to what happened after parents learned about SCA 5.

"For most of a full generation, almost all young immigrant students in California have been taught English as soon as they started school and generally learned it perfectly well within a few months," Unz told me on Friday. "If the California politicians and school administrators were crazy and stupid enough to try to switch back to Spanish-almost-only instruction, they'd encounter such a gigantic grassroots revolt they'd be politically annihilated in very short order."

That's a relief, but it still raises a disturbing question: Why are some California legislators so eager to revive these old ethnic debates that will lead to nothing but bitterness and division?

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  • R C Dean||

    The inevitable end game of tribal politics. At some point, the tribes can no longer loot enough from their common enemy, and turn on each other. No surprise.

  • Toki Wartooth||

    Im gonna put a TW on this thread, as ir may cause blackout, hyperventilating and undue concerns involving isms if the readers aren't prepared for it.

  • susan221||

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  • Pope Jimbo||

    I think the problem is with everyone labeling themselves as a hyphenated american.

    Take a page from our enlightened legislature here in Sunny Minnesota: Rename your problem away.

    We have a problem with asian carp making their way into our waters. Did our fearless leaders let that worry them? NO! But they were worried about the negative connotations of using "asian" in the name of these horrible fish, so the leaped into action and fixed everything by renaming them to "invasive carp". Problem solved.

    So I think that all these legislators in CA should just rename themselves into "invasive-americans". That goes for white folk too. Only true americans like Liz Warren would be able to call themselves "American" from now on.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Ooops, forgot the link to the story out our legislature's shining moment in history.

    http://www.twincities.com/loca.....ota-senate

  • Paul.||

    What you're seeing is classic behavior found within any pool of incompetents. When you can't solve the actual problem before you, you do the few, limited (and often irrelevant) things you CAN do.

  • From the Tundra||

    *facepalm*

    Remind me why we stay, Jimbo?

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Weather
    Vikings
    Low Taxes

    Because we don't want to be Wisconsin cheese heads!

  • John||

    If everyone is a "minority" no one is. Affirmative action was a great racket 60 years ago when the country was overwhelmingly white, blacks were the only big minority and there was little intermarriage between blacks and whites.

    Once other minorities became significant and blacks and whites and other groups started intermarrying affirmative action quickly became a ludicrous privilege grab. That was okay for a while but now other minorities are wanting to get in on the grab and intermarriage has made it increasingly hard to tell who is really a "minority" or what that term even means today.

    A good number of white people, especially in the South, have at least a little bit of black blood in them. It was not unheard of in the Jim Crow South for light skinned black people to pass themselves off as white and marry white spouses and have mixed race children. If I find out tomorrow my great, great grandfather was one such person, can I now call myself black for affirmative action purposes? I don't see why not.

    The whole thing is quickly falling apart. Hopefully the race hustling Prog coalition will go with it.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    If I find out tomorrow my great, great grandfather was one such person, can I now call myself black for affirmative action purposes? I don't see why not.

    Neither do I since Elizabeth Warren can reap benefits by claiming to be Native American.

  • Seamus||

    And there really *was* something called the one-drop rule regarding African ancestry (but not American Indian ancestry--otherwise Winston Churchill would be a non-white).

  • R C Dean||

    affirmative action quickly became a ludicrous privilege grab

    It was always a ludicrous privilege grab. The only thing that has changed is that its unsustainability has become apparent.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    You don't get it - it's not the supporters of affirmative action and bilingual education who are being divisive - it's the *opponents* who are being divisive, because if only they shut up and let these laws pass, there would be no division!

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Affirmative action and bi/multilingualism are two completely separate issues, that is unless you're a socon and/or protectionist union thug who opposes free trade.

    Economic freedom = multilingualism

  • grrizzly||

    I'm very much in favor of multilingualism. I practice it too. This is exactly why I support the English-only instruction in the classroom.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Nice try protectionist.

    It's none of the government's business what language people speak or teach.

  • WTF||

    Really? It's none of the government's business what government schools teach?

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    I wasn't talking about government schools which I do not think should exist, I meant that government should not concern itself with what language people choose to speak or teach.

  • grrizzly||

    Go back to Progville, troll. Children of immigrants will become bilingual if they study English at school. They can practice their native language at home. If you were an immigrant or at least had a US passport to travel abroad, perhaps you could even understand this line of reasoning.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    So your definition of a prog is someone who believes in capitalism and free trade? That's bizarre.

    If you believed in school choice and freedom of speech then perhaps you could even understand my line of reasoning.

  • grrizzly||

    I took you for a prog because you displayed narrow-mindedness typical of them. Instead of trying to understand why children benefit from studying in the language other than their mother tongue, developing true bilingualism, you threw the "protectionist" slur at me. As you stated above you cannot imagine why people, who are not caricatures of your limited imagination, would favor the English-only training. That's the prog mentality.

    I can use to some extent five languages. I'm an immigrant, and English is not my first language. So, I know a bit about the topic.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Whether or not someone learns a language other than their native tongue is not my problem, freedom of speech and economic freedom on the other hand are actually concerns of mine.

    Why do you oppose school choice and freedom of speech?

  • Eric Bana||

    @ grrizzly

    If immigrant children and grandchildren do not study their heritage language in addition to English at school, the heritage language will be largely lost by the third generation.

  • Eric Bana||

    If you favored multilingualism you would not favor English-only instruction. English-only policies contribute to the near total loss of the immigrant language by the third generation, which is the reality. Bilingual/multilingual education promotes bilingualism and multilingualism.

  • wadair||

    But why is it the public schools' (the taxpayers') responsibility to maintain foreign language fluidity to multiple generations?

  • Eric Bana||

    I argued for no such thing. The issue of bilingual instruction is completely separate from the issue of taxation and public schooling. If schooling was completely private and voluntary, bilingual education would be an excellent practice for schools and education. English-only education is a silly idea if costs are not prohibitive.

  • grrizzly||

    Teaching the children of Latino immigrants in Spanish is not bilingual education. It's monolingual. Teaching them in English is. This is the point we disagree on.

    Now, if the Anglos were sending their kids to Spanish-language schools that would be a different matter. I could consider it myself, if I had kids. But that's not what the actual controversy is about.

  • Eric Bana||

    I'm arguing that children of Spanish-speaking immigrants should ideally be taught in Spanish and English. Not speaking Spanish in academic contexts closes a lot of doors for them as they generally do not develop academic or formal competence in Spanish in addition to outright losing Spanish competence (especially in the third generation where the non-English language is often almost lost completely).

    Again, I want much less taxation and public schooling. The merits of bilingual education is its own issue for me.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Stagnation caused by left-wing economics turns people into grumpy foil-headed socons who scapegoat minorities and turn to conspiracy theories for answers.

    Free markets and free trade on the other hand creates diversity and fosters social liberalism.

  • John||

    Affirmative action by treating some ethnic groups better at the expense of others, fosters exactly the kind of racism and hatred Progs claim to want to end.

  • WTF||

    Revealed preference vs. stated preference.

  • Paul.||

    Republican legislators in California had often been criticize for being divisive, yet the fading of Republican power has not led to an era of Kumbaya.

    Welcome to any progressive city or state in the Union. The evisceration of any GOP representation has naught to do with racial harmony.

    It was once pointed out by an astute observer that Seattle, being a town pretty much uniformly run by progressive liberal Democrats, is often criticized as being the most racist city in the Union.

  • RG||

    Isn't Boston fairly similar? Philly used to be pretty racist, too.

  • Paul.||

    Well, the point about Seattle is that it's not actually racist (unlike Boston).

    the issue in cities like Seattle is that it's chock-full of progressives, so the race baiting/indignation industry is perpetually in high gear. To generate interest, members, support and money, it must have something to rail against.

    It's all fake. There are people who will spend an entire (and not entirely un-lucrative) lives and careers talking about race and 'working' with community members. And at the end of that career, they will have actually produced nothing of value.

  • RG||

    And it works, because the victim mentality is still strong.

  • Paul.||

    No one in a progressive city wants to deny there's racism. It's a Möbius strip of bullshit.

  • Will4Freedom||

    I'm so sick of putting people into little sub-groups. Race, gender, sexual preferences.... even age. Look, we're all living here in the U.S. and want it to be a good place to live, work and raise a family.

    Yeah, we differ on what the looks like and how to accomplish it, but we can work that out with civil discussion.

    We are Human and Americans. Nuff said.

  • Will4Freedom||

    Edit button, please. I'll help write it!

    "...what that looks..."

  • JohnZeus||

    Because pandering = votes. Duh.

  • Sevo||

    You guys are missing the point here:
    In CA, it is STILL the GOP's fault! It doesn't matter that they are an endangered species, they have magical powers to continue to cause any and all obstructions to the proggies' agenda!

  • DarrenM||

    I blame the Whigs.

  • Eric Bana||

    Ignoring the issue of what public schools should or shouldn't do with public money (which is very important), not having bilingual education is just silly unless the costs are prohibitive. Almost all kids who grow up in this country are going to acquire English and will have English as their dominant language even if another language is spoken at home. Not educating kids in their heritage language prevents them from becoming academic/full bilinguals who can function well in formal contexts in their heritage language.

    Many people recognize the benefits of learning a foreign language, but when it comes to a heritage language they get up in arms. Silly.

  • Illocust||

    Do we really benefit from promoting the use of other languages, though? And note when I say we, I'm not talking about the individual who learns the languages, I'm talking about we as in the people who are forced to fund their education.

    America has a population of about 300 million. The entire EU is only about 500 million, and all of Latin America is 600 million. We are the current language of trade and we are fast moving to become the only language of science (we share with french, but it's dying).

    If individuals want to spend their own time and money learning another language that's one thing, but what benefit do I get out of being forced to foster an education program that will slow the dominance of English?

  • Eric Bana||

    The issue of taxation and public schooling is something we agree on in general, I think (much less of both). The benefits of English speakers learning a foreign language (or developing a heritage language) are related to the fact that billions of people on the planet do not speak English as a native language or second/foreign language.

  • Illocust||

    Actively promoting other languages in our population seems to ignoring the long term in favor of the short term. I'm kind of viewing it like failing banks. We're bailing out languages from cultures that don't have what it takes to become an international trade language and that gets rid of some short term problems caused by trouble communicating. But by doing so, we are delaying the world moving towards a more unified language and all the massive trade benefits to be had from that. (I'm sorry for the atrocious grammar. It's the end of final's week in my senior year of engineering. My brain is starting to dribble out my ears.)

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    If you believed in free trade then you would understand the importance of multilingualism.

    You speak as if Ethiopian is one of the languages in question. Spanish and French are still major languages and non-Chinese people who know Chinese are only going to become more valuable. As California crumbles economically more and more people will leave and California of course has the most Asians so it would make sense for western population centers with more economic freedom like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Seattle and Portland to invest in Asian languages.

  • Eric Bana||

    @Illocust

    I agree that if everybody had a common language for international communication it would be very helpful. The point is that that is not the case, and I doubt not learning a foreign language is significantly going to encourage others to learn English.

    You assume that English will be the dominant international language in the future, but that may not be the case. French used to be the dominant international language, but that has changed (although French still plays an important international role.) Before French, Latin played a large international role in Europe.

    The crux of the issue is that not knowing a foreign language closes many doors for people. Again, there are billions of people on the planet who do not speak English as a native or second/foreign language.

    And getting back to heritage languages, the trouble of learning a foreign language is almost absent when one is working from a heritage language context. Providing education in the heritage language allows people to much more easily be bilingual or multilingual. Throwing those opportunities away is a total waste.

  • PaulW||

    My wife is an SLP. Many kids have very bad speech delays due to parents not speaking English at home.

    I fail to see how forcing me to pay for bilingual education solves this problem. If anything, we should be ensuring that kids get the chance to learn english earlier.

    Learning another language or being bilingual is good. Not having a firm grasp of English is bad to a degree that is much much worse, both in our society and in the entire world.

  • Eric Bana||

    You've misinterpreted me on two counts. I also think you unintentionally misused the word 'speech delay'. They surely don't uniformly have speech delays as in speech disorders.

    I'm not arguing for children of immigrants to not study English. I'm saying children of non-English speaking immigrants should ideally be taught in the immigrant language and English. This way they can become fully bilingual in prestigious registers for both languages.

    Also, I want much less taxation and public schooling (maybe no public schooling). Bilingual education is its own issue.

  • Restoring the Dream||

    It's not that they won't learn their heritage language, but the oft-demonstrated fact that they do not learn English- ending up in a language ghetto that serves only the interests of the race hustlers.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    You obviously don't believe in free trade.

    Enjoy living in your ever-shrinking anti-globalist bubble.

  • Eric Bana||

    the oft-demonstrated fact that they do not learn English

    That is completely false and a main reason why people wrongly oppose bilingual education and efforts to improve heritage language maintenance. Nearly all third-generation immigrants (the grandchildren of immigrants) speak English in the U.S. and are dominant in English. Even the vast majority of the second-generation of Spanish immigrants is not Spanish dominant.

    Furthermore, maintenance of a heritage language does not mean not learning English in the context of the U.S.

    http://www.pewhispanic.org/201.....g-latinos/

  • antisocial-ist||

    I'm just gonna pour me an ipa and kick back. With any luck, these kind of things will continue and, I can watch the entire grievance industry cannibalize itself over the next few years.

  • Moogle||

    Do I care? Let the ideological filth slaughter one another. People are filth. Scum. Burn them all.

  • kevrob||

    The charge against bilingual ed as it was being taught, and still is taught in other US states, is that the students are taught main academic subjects in the language other than English, on the theory that when - one could say if - they become fluent in English, they can switch over and learn Math or Science in the common tongue.

    Meanwhile, those who speak English as a first language are going to immersion schools where the language they are learning - French, frex - is the main language of instruction.

    See any problem there?

    BTW, "dominance in the heritage language" shouldn't be a goal of a government school. The excuse for having the government run schools in the first place was to "make Americans" or "good citizens" out of people, many of them immigrants. It isn't to preserve a subculture in a linguistic bubble. If you are going to force me to pay to educate somebody else's kids (I don't have any), then at the very least teach them to be able to communicate with me. *

    I speak very poor Spanish, can read a little Latin, but in no way do I consider myself fluent in either tongue. I do think that is a lack in my education, which wasn't on the government's dime.* I would dearly love to speak my ancestors' language, Irish, but that would
    involve a time machine and keeping the Saxons from suppressing
    the language back in Ireland. :)

    Kevin R

  • kevrob||

    *Standard Libertarian disclaimer: Parents should pay to educate their own kids, anyway they want, at their own expense or with the voluntary help of others.

  • Waffen Hans||

    I love watching the enemy devour itself in front of my very own eyes.

  • steve baker||

    Crazy though he may be, Charles Manson may prove to have correctly predicted a race war, although he had the races wrong.

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