Education is no excuse for ignorance

Gloria Diaz, Photography Editor
Gloria Diaz, Photography Editor

With the Mexican culture having a large impact on our culture, I like to think that we as Americans have begun to accept the customs and its people. I guess I was blinded by the openness of Southern California.

Recently, I read about a Tennessee judge telling an immigrant mother to learn English and to use birth control. Judge Barry Tatum adds in his court order that the mother could end up losing her daughter if she does not fulfill this requirement.

Yes, there was an amount of neglect when the mother failed to immunize her toddler. But what audacity does this judge have for telling a mother to learn English or else? It hurts to see that someone with such a high level of education has made such an ignorant remark.

Judge Tatum thinks he can tear this family apart just because the mother has not assimilated to the culture. The reality is that the 18-year-old Oaxaca, Mexico, native probably doesn’t have more than a sixth grade education and very little reading skills, as is the case with some immigrants. I have to say that this was the case with my father and all of his brothers and sisters. It is a sad fact, but it is reality.

Sustaining that he was only opening her eyes to the options available to her, Judge Tatum defends his ruling with saying that he was looking out for the best interest of the 2-year-old girl. Her best interest, seems to be taking her away from her mother. Yes, this is the best interest for the child.

Why not order the mother to find employment? Why not help the mother find affordable day care for the child while she finds a job? Judge Tatum wants to offer opportunities to the mother, then suggest those that do not show a level of idiocy and rather provide sympathy and assistance.

In the article, Lebanon, Tenn. (whose 2000 Census data shows an 83 percent white population) residents supported Tatum’s decision saying immigrants have a moral obligation to learn to speak English. I want to meet the people who agree with this. Does this only happen in the rural South? How would this issue be treated here?

Let’s see. A judge makes an outlandish remark in court and the media swarms around this one story and one issue. Then the American Civil Liberties Union and all other civil rights groups would be forging a fight to get the judge sanctioned. There would be protests, vigils, petitions and any other form of protest there could be. For those who think Los Angeles is a place where superficial surf-heads live, take a look and see all that these so called “beach bums” would do to make sure a racist remark does not leak into a court that looks after the “best interest of the child.” I call this statement racist because I am confident Tatum has not made such orders to non-immigrant mothers.

So I dare to ask the question that was on my mind since I read the article. Can Tatum learn to speak fourth-grade level Spanish in six months? I highly doubt it. I have met students at the University of La Verne, who after taking four years of Spanish in high school and college have yet to gain a fourth-grade level understanding of the language.

On a final note, one resident was quoted in the article saying, “I know if I was in Mexico I would make an effort to learn Hispanic.” Since when has Hispanic been a language?

Gloria Diaz, a senior journalism major, is photography editor for the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at

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