Daily Archives: May 16, 2006

English is #1

I have a question/comment/concern.

I am a middle-class white girl from the midwest. I am about as middle-of-the-road culturally as is possible. I do tend to lean left (okay, fall over to the left is more like it), but I am so very middle American.

I grew up in South Dakota. I didn’t even know anyone who was black, or Jewish, or hispanic, or Catholic, or Middle Eastern until I was in college. (I did have a Vietnamese-American friend in first grade, but her family didn’t stay in town very long.)

I’ve always struggled with the concept of racism, never really having been exposed to it overtly while growing up. The only minority we (not me personally, just we as a hick people) really got into hating were the Indians (or Native Americans, if you’re all PC like that, although I’ve never met an Indian who didn’t refer to themself as Indian), but since they were mostly on the reservations, that was kinda half-hearted, too. Sometimes, the Hutterites were mocked, but that’s kinda like mocking the Amish, so it didn’t go too far.

However, now I live in Los Angeles. There is a bit more diversity here. In fact, my whiteness is now in the minority. As is, I think, my middle-classness.

As I’ve mentioned before, my boss has a bit of a problem with people who aren’t her. Most of her dislike is reserved for black people, but she manages to find something wrong with almost everyone (including middle-class people like me).

The day of the march in downtown LA, everyone was afraid of how bad traffic was going to be.

It wasn’t. It was beautiful. It was amazing. You could drive from downtown to Santa Monica in ten minutes at 9 AM. That is a 45 minute drive.

So. On Friday, we had a couple volunteers in the office helping with a mailing. They & the boss went on & on & on about how that just proves that all the congestion is caused by illegals, that they should all be sent back, and on, and on, and on….I’m sure you’ve heard it before. The volunteers actually went far enough that the E(vil) B(oss) looked uncomfortable.

Everything they said bothered me. I have numerous rebuttals to the traffic issue (not everyone who attended the rally was an illegal immigrant. Many downtown businesses were shut down for the day. A lot of people purposely avoided the freeways because they were afraid of the traffic. etc. etc.)

The one thing that bothered me the most was the statement, “If they want to live here, why can’t they just learn English & be an American.” She went on to say that it was disgusting to see signs in more than one language, and that once (and she thought this was funny), she got a new washing machine, and the instructions were in a foreign language, so she called to complain about how the Mexicans were taking over, and it’s not like they could afford this washing machine anyway, and why were the directions in Spanish. The customer service guy told her that she was actually looking at French. ha, ha.

I’m not sure why that bothered me so much. Some of my thoughts on that are:
1. Why does everyone assume that English should be the only language spoken in this country just because the Brits (and other English speakers) were the most powerful illegal immigrants 300 years ago?
2. Since the US annexed much of Mexico (including Texas, SoCal, Arizona, & New Mexico), wouldn’t that just make a great majority of the population Spanish speaking right there?
3. What’s wrong with a bilingual country?
4. Why shouldn’t everyone be accommodated? Why is it wrong to have voting instructions in 15 different languages (plus, it’s fun to read those instructions in Tagalog & pretend I understand).
5. Why are some people, whose backgrounds probably aren’t English speaking, and who may not have come to the country through standard immigration procedures (like my family — here way before there was a government preventing us….although we are English, so there!) – we have a lot of “Mayflower” people – so concerned about this?
6. What would happen if no more Mexican or Central American immigrants came into the country (legally or otherwise) and all people who could not prove citizenship (again, those from Mexico & Central America only — those are the bad ones) were sent back? Who will cut your grass now, rich lady?
7. What is my obsession with making lists lately?

I feel that because of my background & experience, I really don’t get to say anything about this, because I am more closely associated (racially & culturally) with these idiots. I have never experienced racial discrimination. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced gender discrimination. So, does my opinion even count? Is it valid? Am I just trying too hard? What do I say to three wealthy women who make me feel nauseated by their warped world view?

I handled it by changing the subject. That wasn’t the bravest way to go; it certainly wasn’t sticking up for my beliefs, but I a) was too angry to come up with any of the good arguments I thought of over the weekend, and b) have a fear of rocking the money boat — if it were for personal gain, less fear, but it was for the gain of a much larger group, and I don’t want our beneficiaries to suffer because I can’t let something go.

Thanks be to all that is that I am getting the hell out of this job in 2.5 months.

Ten Things I Won’t Miss About Los Angeles

  • Traffic. Oh my fucking god, will I NOT miss the traffic. I have been lucky, that for the past year & a half, my commute has been less than 3 miles (currently 3 miles round trip!), and that I have the option of riding my bike or walking to work (which I do relatively frequently), but holy crap, I will not miss the traffic.
  • The lack of public transportation. I believe that there are certain areas in LA that have better public transportation that others, but overall, it sucks. There is so much resistance to bringing the light rail to the West Side, too, because that will bring in more homeless people & poor people. Which brings me to #3:
  • The absolute glut of entitlement, materialism & idiocy (including the extreme overuse of plastic surgery) exhibited by the more privileged, and the desire exhibited by the less privileged to act entitled, materialistic & idiotic.
  • The pollution. The chemicals. This place is killing me. I really didn’t suffer much from allergies while growing up, but it’s getting really bad now, to the point where I can’t clean (okay, so that’s not too bad) or drink anything with sulfites (latest development which includes not only wine, but vermouth! which I use to make martinis! I don’t think you understand how awful this is…)
  • Late summer – August & early September to be exact. The weather the rest of the year is awesome, and I have no complaints, but August kicks my ass. Of course, it did in South Dakota, too, so I can’t complain too much.
  • The lack of affordable housing. The condos down the street are going for a minimum of $750,000. Homes in the neighborhood are similar. If I want to live in LA, either I’m going to spend over a $1/2 million (if I’m lucky, it’ll be under $1mil), live in a less than desirable neighborhood, or move to Palmdale (if you don’t know where that is – consider yourself lucky. It’s worse, and further away than the Valley!)
  • Lack of bike lanes. There are so few bike lanes in this city, and the drivers aren’t good at honoring them anyway, so it’s kinda like suicide to road bike.
  • Lexus drivers. I have surveyed all drivers (informally, obviously) over the last 7 years, and most luxury car drivers are terrible drivers. Rolls & Bentley drivers are, for the most part, not awful, but Porsche, Lexus, Jag, MB, BMW, any fancy sports cars, & Cadillac drivers suck. Lexus drivers are the absolute worst, though. I think that when you buy a Lexus, you get a special dispensation allowing you to be a complete asshat on & off the road.
  • This city is really dirty. Even in the nicer, supposedly cleaner sections of town, it’s dirty. We keep having campaigns to “not trash California,” but I don’t think it’s working. I’ve never seen so much litter & trash in my life.
  • Lack of neighborhood – it’s so hard to find neighborhood stuff & friends & activities, because everyone is so spread out. People don’t work near where they live, and their friends don’t live in the vicinity, so no one does stuff together – we’re all too far away. I just want to have some nearby neighbors that I like, a bar that knows me, and a couple restaurants that know what I’m going to order before I do. I’ve had all of these things in LA, but not at the same time.
    • 10.a. The sprawl. It takes so long to get anywhere. I was invited out for tacos & margaritas tonight, but because the taco event is in Long Beach, and I am in Brentwood (at work, not home), I couldn’t get there until after 8 (see points #1 & #2), at which time, many people are done eating their tacos.

    I’m not sure if all of these concerns will be addressed by Portland. Some things I won’t know for sure until I get there (#10, for instance), but I’m positive that the cons of LA outweigh the pros of LA.

    Again, I’m grateful that I had this experience. I wouldn’t trade my 7 years in LA for anything. For one thing, I met the architect, and that is definitely worth it. I grew up here – not in the “I changed from a child-shaped person to an adult-shaped person” sense – more in the “I figured out who I am and became a stronger, more independent woman & I like myself” way.