Nashville Dodges the English Only Label

by Emily Norton
Special to iVoryTowerz

At a time of celebration for diversity in America, the proposal for an English-only amendment in Nashville came as a shock. Introduced by Metro Councilman Eric Crafton, The Nashville Tennessean noted "the measure would have forced all Metro Nashville government business to be done in English, with the council allowed to vote on exceptions." While Crafton labeled his intentions as unifying and cost cutting, the message in between the lines reads racism and intolerance. It seems unbelievable that this be suggested in a progressive arts city like Nashville. If English-only were to be assumed, the Music City that welcomes tourists from far and wide would become an exclusive metropolis defying America's merry melting pot title. I cannot be convinced the narrow-minded "One Country, One Language" sentiment accurately portrays this nation. Are we not one country, many people, many cultures, many languages, and nonetheless united?

Fortunately, the greater portion of Nashville erupted in protest. Signs of "Speak up Nashville" incited outrage and debate against the controversial amendment. Late last week, the votes were in, and the measure was overruled. Crafton handled the loss well, and Mayor Karl Dean says Nashville is ready to move forward from this blip on its screen. But my issue is with the final tally. The results show that there were many, 32,144 to be exact, who were in favor of English-only, beaten by a mere 9,608 votes. What does that mean for the future of immigrants in Nashville, or other southern cities? It almost appears that Nashville's leaders are manipulating the defeat of the legislation to their advantage, making weighty claims, such as Dean's statement that this outcome "[reaffirms] Nashville's identity as a welcoming and friendly city and our ability to come together as a community — from all walks of life and perspectives." In my opinion, the petite nineteen percent margin indicates that perhaps the Athens of the South is less accepting than such a triumphant call indicates. Majority rules, but the minority of voters in this English-only special election was too large for comfort.

(The promotional graphic is from the Speak Up Nashville campaign, which offered its materials for free.)

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Suzie Raven said...

This made the front page of BBC Mundo the other day - obviously giving a bad name to a southern U.S. city that may not be well too well known internationally.

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