Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sprouted from Bad Seed: The National Race-Based Roots of English Only

Long before English Only arrived in Nashville, its advance was generated by a single individual and supported by a host of connections to racist and supremacist hate groups. According to research of the Southern Poverty Law Center:

In 1982, [John H.] Tanton created U.S. Inc. to raise and channel funds to his anti-immigration network. The following year, he created his second major vehicle, U.S. English, which made a cultural argument — that the English language was in mortal danger of being made irrelevant.
All contemporary organized anti-immigration and pro-English groups have spun off from Mr. Tanton's work. Yet, Mr. Tanton has a legacy, according to SPLC, of collaborating with anti-Hispanic and anti-Black groups like the Council of Concerned Citizens (itself the outgrowth of the segregationist and anti-Semitic White Citizens Councils of the 1950s).

After early successes (helping pass English Only statutes in 30 states), Tanton's racist predisposition became public knowledge. News came that one of his organizations accepted $1.2 million from a "Neo-Nazi organization, tied to the Nazi eugenics program of the 1930s" and committed to "racial inferiority and superiority."

During a 1988 Arizona English Only referendum some of Tanton's personal memos became public. According to SPLC:

The memos were replete with derogatory references to Latinos, reflecting a kind of entrenched bigotry that had only been suspected before. They complained mightily of the high Hispanic birth rate suggesting that Latin American immigrants would bring political corruption to the United States.

The memos included a demographic punchline that depicted Hispanics as hyperactive breeders and revolted many readers:
"[P]erhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down."
Recently these anti-immigration and pro-English groups are tied to conspiracy theories of Mexican plots to re-conquer the southwest, pseudo-scientific publications devoted to the idea that African Americans are less intelligent, Holocaust-denying organizations, and a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. You should go read the whole thing for the sobering details. Not to be missed are the derogatory "racial mixing" comments from a retired Vanderbilt professor who served on one of Mr. Tanton's boards.

I ask the moderates and African Americans on the Metro Council who signed on to Eric Crafton's English Only bill and any Nashvillian who would sign an English Only petition: is this the kind of hate-ridden legacy that you prefer to embrace?


  1. John Adams tried to pass legislation making English the national language with the creation of a National Academy to define the language. Congress rejected the idea as undemocratic.

  2. Trying to link John Adams to the contemporary English Only movement is a bit like saying that, because Robert E. Lee called slavery a "moral & political evil" on one occasion, the Confederate General was the first cause of the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement.

    The most appropriate response to Jud is, "So, what?" The organizational, political, and financial connections between John H. Tanton and "English Only" as a movement are clear. The fact that English Only supporters point to something John Adams did one time as their inspiration does not produce any actual movement connections to a man who has been dead and gone for over 200 years.

  3. And after you check out the FAIR viewpoint on SPLC, check out this little expose on FAIR, which includes the comments:

    Although FAIR professes to support a just and fair immigration policy, its policy rhetoric is often inflammatory, clearly anti-immigrant, and partisan .... FAIR rejects criticism that it is racist, xenophobic, and anti-immigrant. Such criticisms are leveled not only by liberal and pro-immigrant groups, but also by many conservatives and such business-oriented publications as the Wall Street Journal.

    FAIR, like these other nativist organizations, originated with Mr. Tanton, who did not get good SPLC reviews.

  4. I believe John Tanton wrote a long response to that SPLC hit job. I remember seeing the response somewhere, but not on the SPLC's site, a few years back. I'll try to find it. Maybe you can find it. I'm sure you want to present all sides involved.

    The Wall Street Journal periodically calls for open borders -- "Let there be open borders" -- in its editorials and performs hit pieces of its own that are full of inaccuracies.

  5. That quote is not from SPLC. I did add it to show that sources attacking sources can themselves be attacked from third sources.

    You can cite any source you like. I rarely delete comments; you'd have to do a whole lot more than defending your argument with sources to get deleted from Enclave.