Black Teens Can’t Speak Spanish: Turned Away From Summer Jobs

Black Teens Feel the ‘Bilingual Preferred’ Summer Job Blues

We Black folks really need to be thoughtful about this. As a Black male living in Atlanta where immigration is occurring at a brisk pace and seeing unemployment amongst Black youth consistently at high levels, I can understand the frustrations of a young Black person in this predicament.

The solution is not to side with reactionary Americans who are attacking immigrants with English only rhetoric and other threats. Since immigration IS happening and will continue to happen, siding with reactionary segments of the population that are overwhelmingly white is the completely wrong action to take.

Black citizens know that whites in the US have not been and are not friendly to us. This means we need to side with brown and black immigrants, not the whites that have made life hard for Black people for centuries. This is a critical moment. Can we afford to be stupid?

Use common sense here. I’m not saying that this will be easy. But it is possible. Whereas, trying to convince whites to give us a fair shake has been a centuries long project that has left us very little to show for it. Everything Black people have attained in this country we’ve won with blood, sweat and tears. Whites have opposed ALL OUR GAINS.

What does all of this mean practically? Blacks in the US need to get active in our elementary school system school boards. We need to run grassroots campaigns for the boards, win positions and implement Spanish courses in elementary school, not high school. This is crucial. In high school, it is too late for kids to become fluent in the way that is needed for articulation on a job. Spanish courses in elementary school should be our priority.

The predictable windfalls of this plan will be:
1) Black youth will be competitive in the job market along with immigrants and those whites willing to get with the program instead of playing the fear game they’ve stuck with for hundreds of years.

2) Blacks and spanish speaking immigrants will forge closer cultural and social bonds if they can communicate more fluidly. This enhanced closeness due to shared languages will be valuable on a political level as these kids become adults who need to form political coalitions.

3) It has been long understood that being bilingual at an early age facilitates better mental faculty in other areas of study. Simply put, learning a second and third language helps you think better in your other courses.

We need to prioritize getting Spanish courses in Black elementary schools. This should be part of a plan for a Black/Brown future in the United States. Don’t be tricked by the white nativists who are currently attacking our immigrant brothers and sisters.

Know your friends! Know your enemies! Be smart!

7 Responses to “Black Teens Can’t Speak Spanish: Turned Away From Summer Jobs”

  1. Will you ever stop crying? Says:

    White people are not your enemy. And in fact, most of the people I have met from Mexico like black people even less than do us whites… Wonder why that is?

  2. Since you generalize so much on your website, let me throw back to you some generalizations…White people like Mexicans, Asians and most people of color because they have respect for themselves and work to make a better life. They don’t dwell on the past or their misfortunes and blame other people. Each individual is born with gifts and liabilities, regardless of your color. Why not try inspiring people within the community, like Barak Obama does?

  3. Each individual is born with liabilities? I don’t agree but that is neither here nor there because I gather that we come from very different worldviews altogether and you probably have no interest in that deep an interrogation of the matter.

    I will say that I think I understand why the line of personal responsibility has become so popular. There is a long history in the United States of attempts at wiping the slate clean, pretending that history didn’t happen. And if you know the racial history of this country, it is easy to understand why the establishment would want to do this. It is much easier to blame the poor and others who cry foul to the system if no one knows any history. Much more difficult if people are informed about how those who have so much actually got what they have and how the predecessors of those who have so little ended up that way.

    Knowing very little beyond historical soundbites makes actually dealing with problems a difficult task. Much easier to focus on the ‘gifts and liabilities’ of individuals now than try to understand and contextualize the past.

    I suggest we actually deal with all that has happened and craft real solutions to move forward. Not just inspiring rhetoric like you know who but actual solutions rooted in public policy from the grassroots.

  4. Mike Zion Says:

    Great reading. I agree with all sides. Americas past as lots of dark sides. All races have a tendency to point fingers. I believe relationships in
    all cultures are doing better. We have alot to fight for. We all need more job creation which I got many ideas. Learning spanish is great idea. I been studying it and plan to teach the kids. All people of all races have bad apples. Everyone has the right to there thoughts I just hope it constructive. I don’t blame my family the way I was raised although I acknowledge it. I hate to say it but at times you have no choice but to let things go. People of today of a certain race souldn’t pay another race anything. We sould fight to do better for the future.

  5. “Black Teens Can’t Speak Spanish: Turned Away From Summer Jobs”

    I do agree that Spanish courses should begin in elementary schools to make them more marketable in the future when these jobs want people who are bilingual, because as of now, the job market is horrible and I am not sure what the future will hold. As an African American from New York City who sees the spanish speaking population in the workforce growing everyday, I think it is unfair that I have to learn a foreign language to get most work in the U.S., but right now there is nothing I can do, but to “when in Rome, do as..” I know a little spanish from courses I’ve taken in high school and college, but not enough to speak it fluently.

    Reflecting back to the article, it is obvious that the teens need a summer job right away and despite of their qualifications, they are turned away simply because they don’t speak spanish. It takes time to master a foreign language. As of now, no one would expect an African American teenager (not mixed with Hispanic) to know fluent spanish because foreign language courses start in middle school or high school. According to the article, the managers who turned the black teens away were racist against blacks (or probaly non-hispanics all together). Why? The article said that some of managers want to hire someone who was bilingual. First question managers ask applicants was “do you speak spanish.” When they answered no, manager replies “we want someone that is bilingual.” Many of the employees already working there did not even know a lick of English (only Spanish). Bilingual means speaking more than one language, not just “english” and definitley not just “spanish.” The “bilingual policy” was not only non-specific, but also reversed to keep these black kids from getting a summer job. It would have been more conveient and time efficient to post a help wanted sign and clearly post that they want someone who can speak “english and spanish.” Its that easy. And the businesses would not have to be criticzed of being racists. According to the article, another obvious factor of subject of racism were that only Hispanics were working in many of the businesses the black teens were rejected from.

    Like the kids, I’ve been rejected as a teenager from a few jobs in Queens because I did’nt speak spanish and a few of the employees already working there did not speak spanish. The truth behind it was that It was based on business needs, but I thought it was unfair because I am an American and I had to know Spanish to work at a retail store where most of the customers “speak english.” It was’nt as bad as the kids who wanted summer jobs because they were from Southern California. Overe there, the Hispanic population (spanish speaking) is much larger than here in New York and unlike non-hispanic whites, have fewer resources to relocate. Being turned away from jobs were a everyday struggle to compete with the hispanic immigrants. I went to college and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing to escape from low paying jobs that many black Americans depend on that are being “reserved” for immigrants. To my surprise, now some of the higher paying jobs in my field I want require bilingual skills even though it is not posted on the job description and some people who can’t even speak English well are getting them. I’ve had a few supervisors who were horrible at English and have no degrees, but simply got promoted because the hiring staffs think they are “bilingual” because they know “some English.” I know “some spanish” and its required, but that would’nt be good enough. Is this not America. I know its a melting pot, but many people here “speak english.”

    To prevent all these problems, especially with blacks, the elementary schools should start spanish speaking classes early. Its bad enough that blacks in America are still being discriminated by some whites, but they will continue to be discriminated by them and some Hispanics unless we find more common ground with Hispanic immigrants (other than simular cultures) and the key to that common ground is the “same language.”

  6. Charles E. Says:

    You might enjoy learning about parents who have begun to think outside the box when it comes to educating their kids.
    Our oldest son finished 8th grade last June 2008 in Prince William
    County, VA. During that year he began to have what we thought were indifferent or apathetic feelings about school. He started mentioning that he would love to study somewhere different than a regular high school. We took him at his word and we researched study abroad programs for students that age.
    That search led us to a program that took 14-year-olds and allowed them to live with host families and study intensive Spanish. Our son lived for 25 weeks in two different cities in Spain from September to April. He
    studied the language and culture and has been certified bilingual. Our son also learned learned Portuguese.
    I can’t begin to tell you how his self-confidence and maturity have
    soared! Many people thought we were crazy for sending away a boy that young to live with strangers, I escorted him on both trips (he came
    home for winter break) to have a point of reference and know the layout of the cities and home environment. It was probably one of the
    best opportunities that we will ever be able to give our child. He is most
    appreciative to have had it.

  7. I agree that we should be taught spanish in elementary school.. maybe not for a grade but there will be a class that is optional, free (of course) and taught by people who do not have an american accent.. because a lot of times when people think they can understand spanish because they’ve taken a class or whatnot and then they step into the real world and find they can’t understand native speakers because of their accent! lol Some schools already offer spanish courses in elementary school but we need to broaden this option. Sin duda!

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