Earlier this year, my family and I took a vacation to San Diego. On our way down, we stopped at a vista point. A man offered us some peanuts to feed the ground squirrels. He assumed that since we spoke Hmong, we did not speak English. So, he spoke broken English to me and my husband.
“Peanut. Here. Give. [He points to the ground squirrels]. Squirrels.”
I paused, looked at him in puzzlement, then took the peanuts. My husband said in Hmong, “Honey, koj puas hnov nws hais lus rau wb zoo li wb tsis paub lus Miskas (Did you hear him speak to us as if we didn’t speak English)?”
“Tej zaum nws tsis paub hais lus Miskas pob (Maybe he doesn’t speak English)?” I said.
We had heard the man speak English to other people right before he offered us some peanuts. I couldn’t refrain myself from laughing, so I turned my attention to Jade and Sage while the man spoke in broken English to my husband.
My husband responded in coherent English with no accent. After he heard my husband speak English, he spoke perfect English back. If I was the man, I would’ve been so embarrassed. He made a fool out of himself because of his stupid assumption about minorities.
That’s the problem I have with those who are not sensitive to minorities. They assume too much. Someone who speak another language doesn’t speak English. Someone who doesn’t speak perfect English is stupid. Someone who doesn’t speak perfect English is deaf. I had a foreign exchange classmate in college and she complained about how English speakers raise their voices at her when she asks them to clarify what they had said. She’s not deaf. She just needs clarification because English isn’t her first language.
Don’t make assumptions about another person or you’ll just end up looking like a stupid ass.