January 7, 1997
An amendment to the Alabama Constitution states: "The legislature and officials of the state of Alabama shall take all steps necessary to insure that the role of English as the common language of the state of Alabama is preserved and enhanced." Say what?! Considering some of the senseless sentences I have to decipher every day, I would say that the state of Alabama should give us all our money back.
Perhaps the state of Alabama realizes that it has been backsliding. Maybe that is why it insists that drivers be tested for licenses only in English. Martha Sandoval, a Mexican immigrant who lives in Mobile, doesn't understand. She is suing the state Department of Public Safety for refusing to test her in Spanish. The lawsuit represents all legal immigrants in the same boat, so to speak. Ms. Sandoval is being represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
If it is not Confederate flags flying over Montgomery it is something like this. Most states offer written driving tests in languages other than English. Some states even allow interpreters. But not Alabama. Once again our state insists on presenting its nasty side to the rest of the nation, wasting time and money in court.
It will be interesting to hear the state's argument when the case comes up. Presumably, it will argue that highway safety concerns are the reason for insisting on driving exams in English only. I can see two big problems with that. First, the amendment does not mention driving. Second, in a state in which one third of all residents never finish high school it is intelligence, not language, skills that we should require on our highways. If the state of Alabama insists on discriminating, then it should discriminate on the basis of something that matters.
- Dan Silver