Speak Freely. Americans should be respectful of those who speak languages other than English.


Manahil Nadeem, Editor in Chief

For months now, my Facebook and Twitter timelines have filled with horrifying videos of immigrants being berated by Americans for speaking their own languages. In grocery stores. In parks. In restaurants. This phenomenon has spread almost everywhere.

“Speak English, you’re in America,” they say.

“Go back to where you came from,” they yell.

It appalls me to watch this happen to my own country. A country that I’ve loved and called my home for 17 years. We pride ourselves as the land of the free and the home of the brave, and yet still we can’t handle if someone speaks in a language we can’t understand. It’s hypocritical. The social and political atmosphere we’ve created is built on one aspect: fear. We’ve become so fearful of the people around us it has started affecting our basic social manners. We’re scared of hearing something we don’t understand. In essence, we’re scared everyone is a terrorist. We all know it’s wrong. Our own ignorance scares us.

While I’ve never experienced anything like this before, I feel particularly connected to this issue as I speak two languages. I’ve always been proud of speaking two languages and considered it a talent even since I was little. For the past couple of months, I’ve started to question that. I’ve become more aware of what language I’m speaking outside of the house. But bilingualism should be something we are proud of, not something we fear. Knowing a different language is a testament to someone’s intelligence and mental capacity, not something to be discriminated about. Language is a connection to one’s homeland; stop taking that away from people.

“America is a melting pot,” we proudly say. It’s time we start living up to our own saying. To me, a melting pot doesn’t just mean there is diversity, but the diversity is also welcomed. Whether we believe it or not, this is not just happening right now. It’s okay to not understand. It’s okay to be confused. I assure you the woman in the grocery store speaking in Arabic is only asking her son to grab something for her, not planning a terrorist attack.

I encourage you all to be empathetic, kind and patient. Our country cannot grow if the people don’t start becoming accepting. Stop criminalizing languages. Stop criminalizing the people around you.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Manahil Nadeem at [email protected]