Antiracist Bridge-Building: Sources and Solutions to U.S. Discomfort with Multilingualism

Tiana Vargas, and Dr. Doug Downs, Department of English, Montana State University, P.O. Box 172300 Bozeman, MT 59717-2300

In the U.S., racism is often overlooked due to progressive social movements, transitioning from direct violence, like segregation or genocide, to indirect forms. These indirect forms look like excusing racist remarks or jokes and practicing a tolerance for xenophobia, just to name a few; however, while indirect forms may not seem malicious, they often lead to similarly violent conclusions. The racism in America today is often categorized as “gentle racism” or “micro-aggressions,” and manifests in social conditioning that normalizes these forms of violence as nonviolent. My focus is on the impact of racist language that creates stigmas, specifically, the American discomfort with multilingualism. My research uses language demographics and interviews highlighting issues that minority groups face because of multilingualism and the hegemonic resentment caused by speaking Spanish in English spaces. I acknowledge that not everyone speaks a second or third language, but for Spanish speakers, we must recognize the racist and violent frameworks facing those whose first language is not English. 
Along with demonstrating the latent racism in U.S. attitudes toward multilingualism, I present a potential solution involving advocacy for second-language education during early primary levels. There is a distinct inequality in the U.S. push to ensure English proficiency in foreign-born children, compared to its complete disinterest in English-speaking children learning a second language. These disparate methodologies disregard inclusivity and reciprocity, which limit the ways English-speaking and non-English speaking students might otherwise be able to aid in the others’ mutual understanding. Strong research such as Liane Brouillette’s (2012) study offers insight into possibilities for multilingual instruction; she provides an incredible example of how to teach an unfamiliar language to a child, through stimulating art that limits fear of learning a foreign language, which could shape foreign language classes for English speakers. My presentation considers such approaches for their antiracist value.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Tiana Vargas

Institution: Montana State University Bozeman

Type: Poster

Subject: Interdisciplinary Studies

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 8
Date/Time: Tue 5:00pm-6:00pm
Session Number: 5508