by Yessenia Gutierrez
Asians have surpassed Hispanics in percentage of new immigrants. They are more likely to come legally, hold college degrees, and have higher incomes than the general population, “despite being predominantly first-generation immigrants.”
Let’s contextualize the differences between the two groups. As mentioned, Asian immigrants are more likely to come legally, and according to a new Time article, Asian undocumented immigrants are more likely to have overstayed their visas or vacation time. They are more likely to hold college degrees, which contributes to the differences in material wealth. Furthermore, if legality were the only obstacle to success, Asians would not surpass African Americans in this measure.
Time and again I’ve heard people discuss their standards for what a “good” minority is. People complain that many Hispanics don’t learn English, as if it were a purposeful act of contempt for the United States.
However, the ability to speak English depends on factors such as how long the person has been here, prior exposure to the language, ability to spend time studying, the city they live in, and prior educational levels. Some Hispanics live in cities where Spanish actually predominates. How many times have we heard this about Miami? This makes it not only easier to simply speak Spanish, but actually makes it harder to practice English.
Still, you not only need time to practice the language and people to practice it with, but also confidence to speak it.
Many of us know people learning English who are embarrassed to practice because of their heavy accents and the stigma that surrounds it. Furthermore, let’s not forget that some immigrants struggle to read and write in their native language, much less in their adopted country’s language. These facts do not make them less deserving of basic respect, and does not invalidate their hard work and achievements.
Another qualm against Hispanics is our apparently incessant need to speak Spanish in public, even when we know English — the argument being that it’s rude.
This is a ridiculous argument. We’re allowed to speak Spanish to other Spanish speakers, period. This is little more than a fear of the unknown and an arrogance that extends to other languages and cultures in sometimes more blatant forms.
I understand the frustration if a job candidate can’t communicate in English, or if you can’t ask a shop owner in English for help. But when you overhear conversations in Spanish, you have no right to complain about their perceived lack of assimilation. These are private conversations that can be spoken in whatever language speakers so please.
While it’s a great story for news outlets to compare the two racial-ethnic groups, there is little reason for Hispanics to compare themselves to Asians in America, especially if the comparison is being made to disparage Hispanics.
Originally from Miami, Florida, Yessenia Gutierrez is currently completing a double major in Biology and Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.