“Wild tongues can’t be tamed, they can only be cut out,” wrote Gloria Anzaldua in her bilingually titled book “Borderlands/La Frontera.”
That’s how Anzaldua, a Chicana writer born in Texas, described her experience growing up in Texas under a “English-only environment.”
Statements like hers feel so deep to me — they always string a cord when I think about the unfriendliness and history of English-only policies. I can feel it in my stomach, all the words I had to swallow when I was a kid growing up bilingual in the Southwest. I feared my ability to speak another language would seem disrespectful, or somehow not “American” enough.
The United States has never had an official language, but there have always been calls by some English speakers to make it theirs (and theirs alone). For some, maybe they think this means not having to “press 1 for English” anymore on the phone, or being able to skip the language screen when they use an ATM.
The reality of English-only laws in this country is much darker.