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White people need to realize that there is plenty of America's apple pie to go around

Esther J. Cepeda on

CHICAGO -- Take enough undergraduate psychology courses and you'll internalize a simple precept: Your perception is your reality.

For instance, if you go around terrified that people with skin slightly browner than yours are coming into the U.S. to rob your land of its apple pie and baseball, you're going to worry about whether America speaks more than one language at home.

I got an email the other day from a nativist think tank with the subject line: "More than one in five U.S. residents does not speak English at home."

"Oh no!" you might think. "We don't want large swaths of the American population to not speak English, the international language of commerce and higher education!"

Of course we don't. But, rest assured, there isn't anything near a critical mass of people in the U.S. who don't want all citizens to learn and be fluent in English.

Upon opening the email, I learned the rest of the story: "67.3 Million U.S. Residents Spoke a Foreign Language at Home in 2018. In nine states, one in four residents now speaks a language other than English at home ... a number equal to the entire population of France."

 

The France comparison is a red herring -- 20% of our population speaking another language at home is nothing to fret about. And more context: About 1.2 million people over the age of 5 reported speaking French at home, according to 2017 Census estimates. Another half million speak Italian.

Another million or so speak German at home, plus half a million speak "other West Germanic languages." Nearly a million people speak Russian, and half a million speak Polish.

Throw in Serbo-Croatian, Ukrainian and other Slavic languages, plus Armenian, Greek and Hebrew, and together you have another 1.3 million.

Oh, and just to clear away any confusion: These are not counts of people who don't speak English, they are of people who speak both of these languages in their homes. The Census bureau breaks these numbers into the categories of "Speak English 'very well'" and "Speak English less than 'very well.'" Most of those who responded said they spoke English "very well."

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