Bilingualism and HBO

Sometimes, someone writes an article that manages to touch upon more than one issue near and dear to me. Catherine Seipp managed to do just that when she wrote about Walkout, a new HBO film. Walkout is about historic injustice, circa 1968:

You’d need a heart of stone not to root for the plucky, fresh-faced kids in Walkout, a new HBO film about Mexican-American teenagers who in 1968 organized classroom walkouts to protest conditions at their East Los Angeles high schools. The movie, which premieres March 18, is directed by actor and activist Edward James Olmos, and depicts Latino students locked out of school bathrooms at lunch, discouraged from applying to college, and paddled for speaking Spanish in class. Their peaceful demonstration got them in trouble with school officials and beaten by police, while the teacher who inspired them was arrested and faced with a possible prison sentence of 66 years (the charges were later dropped). But in the end, by golly, the school board was forced to pay attention.

Seipp points out that, while the movie makes bilingualism seem like a wonderful thing it is, in fact, anything but:

The walkouts ushered in three decades of herding native Spanish-speaking students into a patronizing ethnic and linguistic ghetto, broken only when California’s Prop. 227 severely scaled back bilingual education here in 1998. As it happens, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the state’s anti-bilingual backlash, which began when Skid Row activist and Episcopal priest Alice Callaghan organized about 100 Spanish-speaking parents who wanted their Ninth Street Elementary children to learn English in class.

I’ve always thought that bilingualism is one of the worst curses the “educationalists” of the 1960s and 1970s visited on immigrant children. The language of power and money in America is English — not Spanish, not Chinese. If you want to get ahead, that’s the language you learn.

I had a vicarious run-in with the politics behind multiculturalism when I was a little girl in the early 1970s. My Dad, an English teacher, had attended a massive union meeting that was supposed to be about pay, and devolved into a free-for-all about curriculum. When bilingualism came up, my father, who was himself an immigrant, stood up and stated that he was opposed to it, because it prevented first generation children from mainstreaming at school and integrating into the larger society. He was instantly, loudly, and in a most ugly way, booed down as a racist pig. Only one person came to his defense. A tiny, old black teacher stood up and shouted at the crowd, “You listen to Mr. Bookworm, Sr. He’s absolutely right. If we keep going with this bilingual education, we’re keeping our children in the ghetto forever.” Thirty years later, that lady and my Dad both stand vindicated, but nothing changes.

The other thing Seipp’s article made me think of is the hugely agenda driven movies HBO is producing. A couple of years ago, Mr. Bookworm used Netflix to earmark at least 10 HBO films which we’ve been watching at intervals over the years. Or, I should say, trying to watch. Without exception, the movies he found at Netflix take place in the past, and portray a world in which evil white people (usually men) are oppressing (a) minorities; (b) women; or (c) gays (or any combination of these). There’s nothing subtle in these portrayals. The men are cartoon-like in their hatred for all these oppressed people, and the oppressed people are saint-like in their oppression. Some examples are The Affair, And The Band Played On, Vendetta, and If These Walls Could Talk, all of which you can read about here.
While it’s true that HBO has produced a lot of fine shows and movies, it’s really amazing how many of the movies are Left-wing, race baiting (with the race baited being white), anti-American polemics. They’re lousy movies, and they’re all available as part of the package for the enormous number of Americans who subscribe to premium cable packages.
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