This is America…Not.

March 23, 2008

A cheeseburger restaurant in Philadelphia posted a sign saying “This is America. When ordering, speak English.” And The Commission on Human Relations found the sign doesn’t violate the city’s fair practice ordinance. AOL is doing a survey right now. So far, over 90% of the surveyed think it’s not discriminatory. And among all the surveyed, only 9% said English is not their native language.

From a legal perspective, I think the city council’s judgment is right: the restaurant is not likely a state actor, so 14th Amendment doesn’t apply even if the restaurant has clear discriminatory policy. To me it is more an issue of logic and arrogance.

I agree that if I had a restaurant in the US, I would want my customers to speak English, or Spanish, or at least the language that the person who’s taking the order can understand. Yes, it would give me headaches if a person orders in some language whose name none has even heard of. It is simply impractical to hire linguists as my restaurant staff. But if I had to put up a sign, then “Please order in English” is good enough. There is no point putting some fake patriotic language, a bald eagle and a star-spangled banner on the sign, which is exactly what the sign look like in the news.

What has America to do with speaking English anyway? Does it mean it is “unamerican” to speak a language other than English? It is “unbritish” if it has to mean anything.

The funniest thing is that the owner of the restaurant said that he did this because he is concerned with increasing immigration issues. Unfortunately he’s not a Native American, which makes himself a bona fide immigrant.