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Words Like Bad Breath Essay

1787 words - 8 pages

“How to Tame a Wild Tongue”, an essay by Gloria Anzaldúa, is not relatable for most monolingual speakers, specifically English-only Americans. Packed with her thoughts on speaking insecurities, unknown identity, and social pressure, one would believe it to be a universally understood piece of writing; all individuals face a form of these problems at some point, in some way. However, several of the feelings and experiences she shares are overlooked and not embraced by a welcoming audience. Her explanation of being confused of which language or dialect to speak, frustrated by a mispronounced name, and stung by “linguistic terrorism” (Anzaldúa 34-40) feels foreign to readers. Some of her accounts come off as bizarre or exaggerative, full of complaints and self-pity to unknowing ears. The common experiences are overshadowed by the unknown and unthinkable, creating a gap, then diminishing credibility. Her problems, and those held by many others, are naturally not seen by all, and each will never be fully understood.
If one were to ask a white man or woman if they believed race was a serious social issue in the United States, they would most likely reply 'no'; the answer given would differ from African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or other minorities (CNN, “Poll: Most Americans see lingering racism -- in others”). While a white woman may be ignorant to racial inequality, gender discrimination is real to her- yet the white man may be blind to this also. For American-English monolinguals, language intolerance is seemingly non-existent. We have never heard, “don't speak English here,” or felt suspicious glares when conversing with a friend in Wal-Mart. We live in our own little world that makes it almost impossible to truly experience another's perspective. “We tend to stick with people that are similar to us while avoiding people that are different. It's often comfortable to be among people that are like us, and identifying by similar traits can provide a sense of belonging and community. But when we avoid others who are different, … [it is] easy to make generalizations about them based on very limited knowledge” ( UN Cyberschoolbus, “Understanding Discrimination”).
As a society, we are a self-centered, unaware group that shrugs off 'silly', 'unnecessary' complaints of others, but the first to riot when our toes are stepped on. The way we live will not change without a change in perspective, one that is very difficult to explain, as well as listen to. Our society strives for importance and position, harassing those of a different color, culture, and religion. Those we even call our own are not safe. White men and women are expected to enjoy certain activities or foods, have a family, good education, and behave a specific way. In addition, while we do not feel linguistically persecuted, we are- but this belittlement is well disguised under our pale skin. Possessing the wrong English dialect can be just as shaming, problematic, and alienating as...

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