To The Reader's Forum:
The insistence contained in letters such as Mr. Douglas O. Beardsley's (June 27) that immigrants learn English in order to receive basic social services, seems to me, if not overtly racist, suffused with a nativism that is unworthy of the noble American tradition. White Protestants (a large percentage of our county's population), who have always enjoyed the highest level of freedom in this country, may lack the necessary empathy to appreciate the situation in which these immigrants find themselves; as a Catholic who has, if not personally, at least an institutional memory of historic discrimination, I write to express my outrage at such small-mindedness. Had Mr. Beardsley's letter been more coherently written I would attempt a point-by-point rebuttal; as it is, I simply wish to offer a few thoughts for the public's consideration.
I believe that the push for English as the official language can be attributed more often than not to a desire for protection from a perceived threat. The tendency to fear those who are different is unfortunately a very normal part of being human. Yet as hard as it may be for us in tiny, sheltered Chautauqua County to believe, a lack of English literacy should not be interpreted as indicative of malevolent intent. These immigrants (and their children, citizens of this great land) came here to work; they came here for a better life. America has been and will continue to be a land of opportunity for all God's children, regardless of race or native language.
The United States is becoming more and more multi-ethnic. If whites react to this reality with fearful nativism, this demographic transition will be marked by racial tension, civil unrest, and economic disruption. If, on the other hand, we set aside our baser inclinations and embrace in a spirit of human brotherhood all those who come to this country to seek the blessings of liberty, the country's new ethic composition could open an epoch of unprecedented opportunity and productivity. But the change is coming one way or the other. A final word to my fellow whites, particularly to those who share my Republican affiliation: You need to become comfortable with minorities because very soon they won't be minorities anymore. It's a great country E pluribus unum!
James C. Marsh