The Voting Rights Act, first passed in 1965 and reauthorized several times, is a civil rights landmark whose purpose was to assure that blacks will not be denied the right to vote. Although blacks do not need, and never needed, foreign language ballots, the law was hijacked during its 1975 reauthorization by foreign-language pressure groups that had other political goals.
The U.S. has many problems with election machinery, but preventing blacks from voting is no longer one of them. The Voting Rights Act has long since served its original purpose and today is anachronistic and highly discriminatory against nine states that are still required to get Justice Department approval if they make the slightest change in any voting procedure.
Some argue that the U.S. needs to provide foreign-language ballots in order to accommodate native-born Americans who don't speak English. But that argument actually cuts in favor of Rep. King's amendment.
To any extent that it is true that the United States has large numbers of native-born Americans who don't speak English, this means that immigrants are not assimilating into U.S. culture but instead are keeping their native tongue into the second and third generations. All the more reason why America should provide inducements to learn English - such as printing ballots only in English.
America should not become a nation where immigrants continue to live in neighborhoods where they only associate with and do business with others who speak a foreign language, and let their children grow up without learning English. The result is that young people grow up isolated both from the country their parents left behind and from the culture of their adopted country.
Public schools used to be the vehicle by which the children of millions of immigrants from all over the world became Americanized into good and valuable citizens. In recent generations, public schools have failed miserably in their duty to teach English to the children of immigrants, instead allowing them to speak their native tongues in a system of language apartheid (aka bilingual education).
Those who demand foreign-language ballots are having a petty tantrum like French President Chirac who, although he speaks fluent English, deliberately spoke French in a one-to-one interview with President Bush last year, requiring Bush to have an interpreter.
Congress will make a terrible mistake if leadership doesn't allow representatives to vote on King's amendment to delete the requirement for foreign-language ballots from the Voting Rights Act. We don't want to be a bilingual nation and suffer the problems of other countries with "linguistic division."
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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