Perhaps you’ve seen this video of a Manhattan attorney yelling at two women for speaking to each other in Spanish:
• You live in New York City and you’re offended by the sound of people speaking languages other than English? Jeepers, man, it’s time to pack the U-Haul and get the hell out of town.
• As best I can tell, this man was not party to the conversation that set off his outrage. Yet he felt entitled to wade in and start instructing people to act according to his preferences. Why on earth would he feel like he deserves to interfere in somebody else’s conversation?
I mean, besides the fact that he’s a white guy?
• Notice, too, that the mere fact of speaking Spanish is enough for this man — an attorney, mind you, somebody who probably knows a thing or two about “probable cause” and “due process” — to threaten to bring the full weight of the federal government down on the people whose conversation he interrupted. Speak Spanish and you might end up in custody. Speak Spanish and you might be deported. Chilling.
He saw something. He said something.
This is the authoritarian impulse made manifest. It assumes that differences are evidence of illegality, and it let’s society’s winners show just how much they believe the levers of government are built for their own use, as opposed to protecting the rights of all people. This is an ugly incident. I’m not sure that it’s all that unusual.