‘Speak English’ Signs Can Stay in Philly Shop
Philadelphia’s Commission on Human Relations had made its decision. The owner of Geno’s Steaks doesn’t have to take down signs that read “This is America: WHEN ORDERING ‘PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH.'”
The commission in a vote of 2-1 decided that Geno’s signs did not violate Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance, according to an Associated Press report.
The dissenter on the commission, Commissioner Joseph J. Centeno, believed that the “Speak English” sign combined with another that said management reserved the right to not serve individuals, amounted to a message to non-English speakers that their business was not wanted at Geno’s.
Joe Vento, the owner of Geno’s, posted the signs in 2005 over personal concerns related to immigration reform and because of the numbers of customers coming to his store who did not speak English. Geno’s along with Pat’s King of Steaks are Philadelphia’s most well known places to buy cheesesteak.
Mr. Vento, who had threatened to take the case to court if the commission did not rule in his favor, has said that he never refused service to anyone because they could not speak English. The area surrounding Geno’s has seen a large number of Hispanics and Asians move there in recent years.
Interestingly in light of the Geno’s case, a new study by New American Dimensions contradicts the perception by some, perhaps including the owner of Geno’s, that recent immigrants are not interested in learning English.
According to the research, seven in ten Hispanics say immigrants should learn to speak English. Eighty percent of foreign-born Hispanics polled said immigrants should speak English while 60 percent of those born in America answered the same way.
“Our study demonstrates that the notion that Hispanic do not want to integrate into U.S. society is erroneous,” said David Morse, president and CEO of New American Dimensions, in a press release.
Thomas Tseng, principal and co-founder of New American Dimensions, added, “Our research shows that Hispanic immigrants would like nothing more than what previous generations of immigrants have achieved: to become American.”
The Geno’s case may also speak to another finding of New American Dimension’s poll. Fifty percent of respondents felt that “Hispanics are often treated like second-class citizens in the U.S.”
Discussion Questions: What are your thoughts on the signs posted in Geno’s? Do retail establishments and/or workers give immigrants just cause to believe they are treated as second-class citizens?
- ‘Speak English’ Signs OK at Philly Shop – The Associated Press/Google
- Acculturation & Beyond – New American Dimensions