Si usted habla español

11 Jan

Here are the signs that were posted at playgrounds in Milford, Delaware:

original

If, like me, you don’t read Spanish, you might just presume that the Spanish language sign is a translation of the English language sign. But according to David Edwards at The Raw Story… it says something a little different: “You must have a permit to play in this field. Violators will be subject to police action” (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/01/07/racist-sign-threatening-spanish-speakers-removed-from-playground-in-delaware/).

After photos of the signs went viral, the city of Milford took down the signs, and the schools superintendent Phyllis Kohel, who physically removed a couple of signs herself, claimed they must have been posted in “error.”

That’s some error. While Kohel “certainly assume[s] there was not an intent to discriminate,” I can’t help but agree with blogger Delaware Dem, who described it as “an obvious intimidation tactic and a not so subtle ‘Whites Only’ sign” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/07/racist-playground-sign-delaware-anti-latino-sign_n_2427133.html?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews). Intentional or not, the Spanish-language sign was (1) intimidating and (2) just another version of “Whites Only.” What I’d like to hear from Kohel is less on debatable intention, and more acknowledgment of impact.

And here, I’d like to point out an interesting facet of this story: the existence of the signs went viral after conservative radio host Dan Gaffney posted it on Facebook. That’s right: Gaffney is a conservative.

Quick self-check: does that challenge any bias or assumption you have about political affiliation and antiracist activism? I’ll admit: it does mine. I have a tendency to associate political conservatism with social conservatism (to put it politely) and even bigotry (to put it bluntly).

But as a recent NPR Talk of the Nation discussion “After ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Debate, The State Of The GOP” reminded me, that’s just another stereotype. Guest commentator Republican Representative Steve LaTourette cited party extremists (and our attention to them) as the reason that, as a listener put it, “there’s a negative stigma that associates Republicans with social conservatism,” when “by and large most Tea Party people [for example] are just interested in paying fewer taxes and balancing the budget” (http://www.npr.org/2013/01/09/168967267/nprs-political-junkie-ken-rudin-recaps-the-week-in-politics).

Here, I’ll offer another mea culpa: I’ve allowed my education about the Tea Party to be dictated predominantly by news headlines about outrageous things Tea Party members say, which, when I think about it, is utterly irresponsible. Did I expect to read coverage of the fair and reasonable things the Tea Party stands for? Of course not.

What I owe the Tea Party and myself is more intentional and active challenging of the stereotypes that conveniently reaffirm the way I’ve become comfortable seeing the world. Because, actually, I like the world in which I see fuller, more complex Tea, Libertarian, Republican, Green and Democratic Parties.

** Thanks to my friend EB for the article.

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