The aim of this paper is to chart Jane H. Hill’s claims in her paper “Language, Race, and White Public Space.” White public space is made up of ideas and acts that institutionalize and produce bigotry. This research would demonstrate how language fusion represents and promotes bigotry. Language fusion is a great example of white public space. Mock Spanish is a well-known example of language mixing. This demonstrates the different ways in which white public space portrays bigotry. This research will demonstrate her points, and there will be evidence to back up her claims. Five ethnographic claims will be addressed and explained using Mock Spanish as an example.
Jane Hill begins by pointing out that though all languages should considered equal, in practice this is not the case. Other languages such as Spanish, have a relegated status. For instance, Puerto Ricans often experience this kind of racism. The difference between Spanish and English is usually shocking. A good example is among bilingual speakers. Bilingual speakers often fear to be fluent in both languages because they will be viewed as being “more white” especially when that fluency is in English. Moreover, they are not confident of speaking Spanish in public spheres since they are afraid of being viewed as dangerous and impolite. In contrast, those who speak English in Public only worry about trivial issues such as accent. This is instrumental in promoting racism because it assumes that English speaking whites are linguistic orderly while the Spanish are linguistic disorderly and dangerous on the basis of the language rather than character.
Jane Hill further asserts that using neutral words from another language in a negative way is another way of demeaning other people, and therefore racist. For instance, the word macho in its pure sense means male. However, when used in the English context, it means someone who is overly masculine. Other words from Spanish are also used in a derogative manner. For instance, a Tucson clinic had its X-ray department restrooms labeled casa de pee pee. While white speakers often practice this, it is quite rare to find Spanish speakers doing the same.
Moreover, she argues that using mock Spanish elevates the status of white people despite the fact that using it demeans the state of Spanish speaking people. This is achieved through direct indexicality. Direct indexicality is the use of non-referential meanings both known and understood by speakers. Most people who use mock Spanish often claim that it is a result of interacting with other Spanish people. Moreover, they are assumed to have a sense of humor or funny. It usually makes them desirable. However, it is ironic that they are ignorant of the fact that the use of these Mock Spanish words is sometimes offensive.
When White people use Mock Spanish, they at times use indirect indexicality. Indirect indexicality is in contrast to direct indexicality. This happens when the use of words is never acknowledged. Jill for instance says that most White people using forms of Mock Spanish do not consider it an offense or racist (p.4). In these contexts, the use of Mock Spanish always portrays prejudices towards the historically Spanish speaking people. For instance, generalizations such as “Chicanos and Latinos are stupid, sexually loose and politically corrupt usually paint them in negative light. One great problem is that some Whites usually deny using this form of prejudice. Worse still, some they often try to justify their demeaning generalizations about Hispanics. For instance, statements such as “Mexicans just do not know how to work” (p.4) are demeaning. What is perhaps shocking is the fact that few people often acknowledge the consequences and implications of these statements.
At times Mock Spanish promotes hate speech. Due to immigration disputes between Mexicans and Americans. People against immigrants often use derogative messages targeting particular groups. For instance, demonstrators in California held posters written Adios Jose. Sometimes, it is not only aimed at immigrants, but it is used to address Spanish speakers as well. The coincidence with racist jokes makes it even difficult to identify whether they are aimed at a group or whether they are just jokes.
The use of Mock Spanish achieves White elevation in two distinct ways. First, direct indexicality makes the users have desirable qualities. Then, through indirect indexicality the negative implications of using offensive words are avoided. This promotes the racist notion that “whiteness” is the norm. Jane Hill reasons that most historically Spanish speaking people have a different understanding when the use of Mock Spanish is concerned. When Whites use Mock Spanish, they often make a lot of grammatical errors. Furthermore, rude words are also used and may portray Spanish speaking people as rude people. The racial undertones are usually conspicuous and Spanish speaking people are usually aware of them. At first, they may pass off as making an effort, but, gradually, it becomes clear that there is something negative. For example, in an interview, Jane Hill reports that a Chicano girl noticed that her teachers only use Spanish when they want to say something negative.
Though mock languages often depict and promote racism, they can be used to promote anti-racism. When they are used to acknowledge and negate the problem of racism, they may prove to be successful. For example, young White and Black friends always use this method to mitigate the harmful effects of racism. Black friends would sometimes call their White counterparts “nigger” in a humorous way. In this way they are more enlightened on the effects of using negative words in Mock Languages situations. As a result, they will reduce the effects of racism.
In conclusion, using Mock Spanish highlights racism in a number of ways. First, when Whites and Spanish speak their language, they are not considered equals. Then, Whites use direct indexicality and in the process, they appear congenial despite offending Spanish people. Moreover, at times they use indirect indexicality to distance themselves from the harmful implications of their utterances. The use of Mock Spanish also highlights its use in Hate Speech and finally, it is used to promote the notion of White elevation. Though its use has many negative effects, when used to acknowledge and mitigate the negative effects of racism, Mock Spanish and other mock languages can be used positively.
Hill, Jane H. “Language, Race, and White Public Space.” American Anthropologist, vol. 100, no. 3, 1998, pp. 680–689. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/682046.