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Understand it by using the right comparison
A May 7 letter writer, responding with “chagrin” to an earlier article about “micro” racial slights (Variety, May 3), wrote that her grandchildren felt complimented rather than insulted when they were told how well they spoke French while visiting France. That misses the point. Her grandchildren were obviously visitors in France. The reason it is objectionable to tell nonwhite Americans that they speak good English is because they are Americans and have spoken English for their entire lives (exactly as the writer’s grandchildren likely have done). Commenting on their English skills suggests that they are not Americans but rather just visitors, like the writer’s grandchildren were in France.
What would the writer think if people told her grandchildren that they spoke excellent English? That’s the appropriate comparison. America has been multicultural for generations, and perhaps the growing emphasis on microdiscrimination is a sign that people want that fact to hit home.
Bonnie Wilkins, Roseville
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.