Nev. Democratic Party at Fault for ‘English Only’ Controversy

Translating should not become a politicized event. Whether or not #EnglishOnly was shouted, a neutral translator should have been planned and provided for Latino and Hispanic caucusers.

Dolores Huerta nominates then-Sen. Hillary Clinton for president during day 3 of the Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Aug. 27, 2008.
Dolores Huerta nominates then-Sen. Hillary Clinton for president during day 3 of the Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Aug. 27, 2008. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

After legendary human rights and political activist—and longtime Hillary Clinton supporter—Dolores Huerta was silenced while attempting to provide English-to-Spanish translation services Saturday at a Las Vegas Democratic caucus gathering at Harrah’s Casino, the hashtag #EnglishOnly swiftly began trending online, and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) found themselves playing defense across social media. 

“The Bernie organizers were shouting, ‘No, no, no.’ Then a Bernie person stood up and said, ‘No, we need to have it; I can also do translation’ or whatever,” Huerta expounded in the Washington Post. “The person who ran the caucus said, ‘Well, we won’t have a translator.’ The sad thing about this is that some of the organizers were shouting, ‘English only! English only!’ The Bernie organizers.”

Actress America Ferrera, another Clinton supporter, co-signed Huerta’s version of events; but it wasn’t long before actresses Susan Sarandon and Gaby Hoffmann, both Sanders supporters, disputed Ferrara’s and Huerta’s claims.

Sanders supporter Erin Cruz also stepped forward to push back against “English only” claims, saying that neither Clinton’s nor Sanders’ camp was enthusiastic about the chaos that was unfolding.

Between the blurry video footage and conflicting reports, what was supposed to be an exercise in democracy has turned into a political circus.

The phrase “English only” is both politically and racially charged, and not merely because of its inherent bigotry. There is a movement in the United States that many critics call “English Only,” led by so-called patriots who believe that English should be recognized as the nation’s official language. This dismisses the prevalence of Spanish—the second-most-spoken language in the country—and marginalizes Spanish-speaking Hispanic and Latino people.

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