Video: This Is How People Reacted When They Heard A White Mom Tell Her Adopted Latina Daughter To Speak English
It seems like every other day there’s a new viral video of an old Trump supporter or a young white bro telling a Latinx person in the US to stop speaking Spanish. Recently, two elder women angrily ordered a Puerto Rican manager of a Central Florida Burger King to go back to Mexico when they overheard him speaking Spanish in a private conversation, while two Mexican-American women were detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection just for speaking Spanish at a Montana supermarket. The xenophobic and racist attacks, both verbal and physical, have made many feel like it’s dangerous to speak their own tongue or like an outcast for communicating to their parents or grandparents in the only language they know.
The English-only movement has further divided a country, with those ignited by the bigotry of the Trump administration unfoundedly threatened by just the sound of a person of color speaking another tongue and others who understand there is no official language in the US supporting the linguistic freedom and multiculturalism that allegedly makes the nation exceptional.
On an episode of What Would You Do?, host John Quiñones confronts the schismatic topic.
During the nearly 9-minute-long segment of the ABC series, a white mother tells her adopted Latina daughter to only speak Spanish and instructs her to order a hamburger instead of a traditional Latin American dish. Using hidden cameras to record the very common, but in this case staged, scenario, viewers get a peak of how ordinary people behave when they witness dilemmas that either compel them to intervene or mind their own business.
During the segment, Michele, the mother, and Isabella, the daughter, are grabbing a bite at a diner in Orangeburg, New York. The child asks the Latina waitress for arroz con leche, to which her mother responds, “Isabella, stop speaking Spanish. You’re American. That is not your language. What is wrong with you?” The first person to overhear, an elder white teacher, engages with the duo, telling Michele she doesn’t think she’s going about the situation “in the right way.”
“She should be proud of her Spanish language, not to be made to feel like she’s doing something wrong,” she tells the mother. Later, she even advises the mom to learn Spanish and tells the young girl that Spanish is a beautiful language.
When Quiñones, himself a Texas-born Mexican-American, reveals his crew and asks why the woman intervened, she responded, “When it comes to children, I go from a mouse to a lion. I just don’t like anybody taking advantage of a child.”
In another scene, Isabela asks for arroz con pollo. Michele, visibly upset, scolds the girl. “Isabella, in English,” she demands. “I brought you here to give you a better life, and I want you to speak American.
This time, another teacher in a nearby table overhears and decides to offer Michele a quick lesson — in patience.
When Michele stresses that she just wants her daughter to speak English because they’re in the US, the teacher sympathizes with her. “I know. I’m a teacher, and I get it. But you’re not going to get anywhere demanding it, and you can’t get frustrated by it.”
She then turns to the girl and attempts to rationalize her mother’s actions. When Isabela asks the woman “do you think it’s wrong to speak Spanish,” she replies, “Not to mommy, because mommy doesn’t understand that. It’s good manners if you are with other people that don’t speak it, to speak English.”
When Quiñones pops out and confronts the patron, he asks her why she didn’t flat-out tell the mother she was wrong. The woman, who noted that Michele would have had better results honoring rather than attacking her daughter’s native tongue, said she was “getting very frustrated” and “was thinking maybe it was very bad,” but doesn’t know why she didn’t challenge Michele more on it.
In the next case, it’s a Puerto Rican diner who overhears the conversation. Not immediately making any comment, when Michele steps away, Isabela engages with the patron, who informs her she, too, speaks Spanish. “Yo hablo español,” she says, before asking if the young girl likes living in the US. “That’s good that somebody loving adopted you,” she says.
When Michele returned, she asks the woman if she agrees that her daughter should be speaking English instead of Spanish, to which she responds yes. At that moment, her partner, a white man, appears puzzled and chimes in: “You speak Spanish,” he tells his girlfriend. “I don’t make you speak English.” He then reacts to Michele, saying, “She [his girlfriend] speaks Spanish whenever she wants, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
When Quiñones comes out, he asks why the couple reacted the way they did. The boyfriend didn’t agree with the mother, explaining, “that’s who she is. That’s part of her identity.” As for the girlfriend, who was more sympathetic to the mom, she disclosed the discrimination she and her family experienced as Latinas in their predominately white neighborhood speaking Spanish and hoped the girl wouldn’t share her same fate. “I was a little annoyed in a way,” she said, “… but I’ve dealt with that.” She continued: “my mother spoke no English, and I had many fights when I was a teenager, people who would make fun a lot of times.”
Finally, in the last performance, it’s a white woman who is married to a Greek immigrant who is shaken by the confrontation. Angry by the conversation she overhears, she checks in on Isabela the moment her mom steps away, asking the girl if she wants her to call someone for her own safety and soon after informing a manager of the situation and urging them to phone officials who could help the girl.
When the mother returns, the woman confronts her.
“We’re foreigners, so I don’t really understand what you’re talking about.” After Michele responds, “I just want her to be more American,” the woman questions, “and just forget about where she came from?” She continued: “We’re from Greece. We would never forget where we come from.”
Michele suggests that it’s different because her daughter is from Mexico, to which the woman, furious, says, “so you guys don’t accept Mexicans in your family?”
She added: “This is a melting pot of thousands of different people. My husband is Greek and my kids will speak Greek.”
Quiñones, who appears in the midst of the argument, informs the patron that she is on a TV show. The woman, who says she’s glad it’s fake because she was about to punch Michele, reaffirms that the US is a country where everyone is supposed to be welcomed and could proudly speak with their language.
Meeting the actress who played Isabela, the woman tells her, “You would have been coming home with me tonight, and you would have been speaking English, Spanish, and Greek.”