Linguistic repression in the USA

Even though 80% of the U.S. population is monolingual in English, the country does NOT have an official national language!

In spite of this fact, many people experience language-focused discrimination, repression, bullying, and violence. On this page, I share some of these incidents.

General articles:

Argument that language rights are civil rights: "If somebody yells at you 'This is America. Speak English,' that’s hate speech. If it crosses the line from hateful language to harassment, that’s a hate crime".



Band members assaulted in Nashville bar for speaking Spanish (October 2020)

Radio host harasses Spanish-speaking workers in New Hampshire (July 2020)

Woman and 15-year-old daughter physically attacked in public for speaking Spanish (February 2020, Boston)



Substitute HS Teacher Caught on Video Telling Latino Student to ‘Speak English, We’re in America’ (November 2019, Texas)

A group of nurses - hired by the Florida Health Department because of their Spanish-speaking abilities - are warned not to speak Spanish. (August 2019, Florida).

Puerto Rican woman accused of disrespecting the country she serves to protect because she spoke Spanish while in uniform (2019, Hawaii)

Gas station attendant hears customers speak Spanish, threatens to call ICE (2019, Illinois)

Woman yells at Puerto Rican woman, tells her to "go back to her country" (2019, Pennsylvania)

Chinese students at Duke University were observed talking together, allegedly “very loudly,” in a lounge. Two faculty members approached the director of graduate studies for their master’s program, biostatistics, to identify the students so they could be schooled about the better way to talk. (2019, North Carolina)



Woman in Virginia harasses family for speaking Spanish in a restaurant. (October 2018)

Man in Manhattan yells at Spanish speakers, threatens to call immigration (2018).

U.S. Citizens in Montana detained and questioned by a Border Patrol agent when he overheard them speaking Spanish at a gas station (May 2018).


New Jersey teacher punishes students for speaking Spanish and tells them they must "Speak American": The School Board ruled that the incident was neither biased nor racist, and the only punishment for the teacher (Ms. Amico, of Cliffside Park High School in NJ) was to issue an apology. In other words, only the students - and not the teacher - were actually punished.



Students in New Jersey walk out over teacher's comment to "speak American" (2017): 

Kentucky woman berates Latina shopper (2016): 

Idaho bus driver fired for pouring water on 8th grade boy, telling him to speak English (2016):

People removed from airplanes in the U.S. for speaking Arabic (2016):

Two Asian-American university students attacked for speaking Mandarin on train (2016):

Woman in Ihop restaurant berates Mexican woman for speaking Spanish, tells her to "go back to Spain" (2015) 

Minnesota Woman Brutally Assaulted For Speaking Swahili In Applebee’s (2015):

Whole Foods workers in Albuquerque suspended for speaking Spanish (2013):

Student Suspended for Speaking Native American Language (2012)

Candidate for city council prohibited from running for office due to her low English proficiency (Arizona-Mexico border, 2012)

Fined in Dallas for not being able to speak English (2009):

Nevada school district bans Spanish on the bus (2008):,magico&displayColumn=created&displayCount=1

NJ high school bans foreign languages:,jersey&displayColumn=created&displayCount=1

Student suspended for speaking Spanish in a Kansas City school hallway (2005):

Sephora employees: Hired for speaking Spanish, fired for speaking Spanish (2003): 



Texas judge threatens to take daughter away because mother speaks to her in Spanish (1995):