Eugene Cho

this is america. learn it or leave.

We live in a world and society of different worldviews. We all know this so then, the issue is how do we learn to co-exist as neighbors and with some common goals in mind.

While I’ll wait till tomorrow or this weekend (I’m currently speaking and working with some national Hispanic leaders) about the Arizona immigration bill, I want to show a video with you of Tim James (aspiring Alabama governor) that blows my mind. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s a view (since I hear this sentiment here and there) but that it’s part of a platform of a leader & politician seeking to be elected for governor. To be fair to Tim James, I know that there’s other things that constitute his “platform” but…

This is what I hear:

This is America. This is what it looks like. This is what it sounds like. This is what it should be. You’re with us or against us.

Never mind the 184,000 Alabama folks that speak a language other than English. This is very similar to the whole fiasco with the Asian female golfers being threatened by the LPGA – except it’s a whole different level.

Your turn. What do you think?


from the video:

In this advertisement, Tim speaks out on the issue of English only. Alabama offers drivers license tests in 12 languages. As Governor, he will push to have the test given in only one language, English. This strikes a sensitive issue with Republican voters who are deeply concerned about the issue of illegal aliens.

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32 Responses

  1. tom.fullmer says:

    I saw this on Yahoo yesterday and read some of the comments. Now I somewhat seriously wonder when the race wars start.

  2. Jin says:

    I thought it was one of those SNL commercials, but no one was laughing in the background. I loved that moment of deep thought before he asks “Does it to you?” This is the year that Charles Barkley needs to run for Alabama governor.

  3. Andy M says:

    So, if I were an legal immigrant, who does not speak English, but lived in a community full of people who speak the same language as myself, I would have to learn a whole new language just to be able to drive legally, even though I may never have any other reason to speak English?

    I could be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure that most of the people in this country who do not speak English, live in communities where the primary language is the one they do speak. Their children usually end up learning both the language of their parents, and English. How often does this issue of people not speaking English really cause a problem? I have more trouble understanding English speakers than I have trouble with people of other languages. Our own kids can often barely speak intelligible English, and we’re complaining about foreign languages? I don’t really think that this is a big issue.

    On one hand, if I moved to say France, I would expect that I should learn French, though as an English-speaker, I’m sure I could get by just fine without doing so. But why is it the government’s place to tell me to learn the language or “Get Out!”.

    I would be curious if these people, who would support our government forcing people to speak English, are the same people who have been screaming about “big government” for the past year and a half or more. Do we want more government control over people’s lives, or less? Or is it less for “us”, but more for “them”?

  4. Daniel Azuma says:

    You know, I was going to respond to this, but then I thought, why bother? When there’s someone who could go on television and say all that with a straight face, and when we know there’s a certain demographic for which such a message actually will win votes… what could we possibly say?

    Is it too late to move to Canada? My fiancee tells me all you need to do in order to get a Canadian citizenship is to know how to spell “mooose”.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eugene Cho and josh lunde-whitler, josh lunde-whitler. josh lunde-whitler said: RT @eugenecho: I appreciate this country but this is scary: "This is America. Learn it or leave it…" – […]

  6. James says:

    That is such a sad video. As a Canadian, it’s sad to look to the states and see how the recent immigration debate is starting to flare up into thinly-veiled racism. It seems whether immigrants are going to be welcome or not is no longer an issue that has anything to do with whether they’re legal or not.

  7. danderson says:


    The United States still takes in more immigrants than anyone in the world. That’s the problem with extremism. So apparently this candidate for governor in a Southern States speaks for all Americans. Don’t like him? Don’t vote for him. Please don’t cast these aspersions on “the states” like we’re some monolithic group of racists.

    I write as one who teaches a classroom full of Latino students.

  8. Joanna says:

    People who say stuff like that usually haven’t ever seriously tried to learn a language. To learn a new language when you are young and have access to the best educational resources can be hard enough. If you are newly arrived immigrant who is older, lacks access to classes and resources, has never had the chance to become fully literate in their first language or speaks a native language that is very different to English, the challenge of learning English would be massive. Yes, ideally immigrants should make an effort to learn the language of where they are immigrating to, but in the mean time I think their new community should be showing them a lot of grace because they’ve got a hard task getting used to a new culture and language.

  9. Kyle says:

    “Maybe its the business man in me…” or better yet, “Maybe its the racist in me…”

  10. As an Alabamian this makes me sick. The sad thing is that it will appeal to many, and sadder yet, many in our churches, including leaders. I hope he loses, but I fear that he’ll win

  11. chris scott says:

    While I think this man is wrong, and I personally have no qualm with a diverse society both culturally and linguistically, many countries around the world have much stricter language/immigration laws including South Korea, France, and many others. Some countries will not allow you to become citizen w/o being fluent in the majority language. All those in Arizona are asking is for immigration to take place legally. The controversy, in my mind, is how to enforce those laws ethically.

    Mexican President Calderon was outspoken in his critique of Arizona’s immigration law when his own nation hypocritically and systematically restricts even the slightest of immigration from the south of Mexico. Illegals who cross the border from Guatemala are forced to show papers, imprisoned, rapped, and subjugated in grotesque ways. Amnesty international called it a human rights crisis. Check it out here:

    We are the most free and open nation in the world, and there may be some downsides to it.

  12. James says:


    My apologies if what I said came across as a statement about the U.S. as a whole – it was definitely not meant to be. All I’m saying is it’s sad to see so many people (including Tim James) entering in the conversation of immigration make statements that come across so racist. My concern isn’t whether Tim James gets voted in, but he’s in a position of influence and people will listen to him regardless of the outcome at the polls.

    Whenever there is a debate around anything that involves marginalized groups, it seems that people’s true feelings often come up to the surface. A recent debate in Ontario, Canada was whether the government should support faith-based schools. The hope was that this would appeal to conservative Christians, when in fact many (including some that told me personally) said they were against anything that would help a Muslim get more money. The political party pushing for this lost the election primarily because of this.

    By the way, is “the states” a derogatory term? I’m sure I’ve used Americans use it, but you refer to it as if it’s derogatory – if so I’ll stop using it – there certainly wasn’t any offense meant by it.

    • Andy M says:

      I will just say, I did not read your post as a generalization about all U.S. Citizens.

      I also don’t see anything wrong with using the term “the states”. Any phrase can be used in a derogatory way, but I haven’t heard that phrase used like that.

      The faith-based schools situation you mentioned saddens me. It shows their true character when those christians will support “faith” based stuff right up until the point that it includes other faiths outside Christianity. The debate about whether the Ten Commandments should be displayed on government property here in the U.S. is the same thing. Christians want our faith’s symbols displayed, but we would throw a fit if the Islamic symbol was also.

  13. James says:


    I think Christians are often shooting themselves in the foot by having the “it’s us or nobody” attitude. If government is forced to either support the Christian faith exclusively or no faith at all, it will eventually find itself forced to choose no faith at all. So instead of being inclusive to all, we end up with something so secular it feels exclusive to anyone with any belief in God at all.

    So in the middle of the debate over whether the U.S. founding fathers wanted a Christian country, we have the National Day of Prayer deemed unconstitutional. The reality is that these kind of debates usually leave all people of faith as the casualties.

    • Andy M says:

      Very true. Though, we tend to shoot ourselves in more places than just our feet.

      I think it would be possible to be inclusive to all, without ending up denying all. It wouldn’t be easy, and it isn’t likely given our natural tendency to be afraid of those who are different than ourselves, but I think it is a possible and worthy goal.

  14. gar says:

    A funny mash-up of Tim James with Pulp Fiction:

    (warning: lots of cussing, courtesy of Sam Jackson… haha)

  15. Emily says:

    Oh my gosh. I have to say, I’m not that surprised, people in the South are just really racist. (not all of them, but a good bit of them) We have family in Alabama, and I’m kinda afraid to ask if they’re voting for this guy. I’m not surprised, but I am disgusted. If immigrants can’t drive, then it seems like there’s a much less chance of them finding work, which means poverty. So then I guess they either get out of Alabama or become the stereotype. Sad.

    • Bill B says:

      I don’t think it fair to make a ‘blanket’ statement against everyone in the South. In fact, it could be said that YOUR statement is bigotted and a stereotyped?

    • Tim says:

      a. You are out of you mind!!! I have been in the south most of my life and the majority of people don’t care about race.
      b. Why are they fleeing their own countries?
      c. Is it only America that expects people to learn the countries language?

  16. gar says:

    Oh, and I think Arizona’s trying to have a contest with Alabama to be the state least appealing to non-white folks:

    Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies Classes, Teachers with accents can no longer teach English

  17. mike says:

    This language is issue isn’t a big deal to me compared to the idea that is promoted by many a religious leader that in heaven and earth, God only speaks the language of Christianity.

  18. Bill B says:

    I think it makes sense that anyone living in the United States be able to communicate in the English language. Many of the problems we face have to do with the very fact that we are NOT communicating well. Granted, the language barrier isn’t the sole reason.

    Why give a drivers test in 12 different languages when all the road signs are in English??

    Having said all this, LET’S NOT DISCRIMINATE!

    • Tony Lin says:

      My parents had to take the test in Chinese. As I remember it, all the street signs they had to identify were in English just as you would see them on the roads. But the test itself (who has the right of way, drinking limits, etc) was in Chinese.

  19. Leah says:

    Maybe this is a stupid question, but how are you supposed to get to ESL classes and learn to read/write/speak English to pass the driver’s license test if you can’t legally drive there? Assuming that Alabama is no better than Tennessee in terms of public transportation that is probably not really a valid option.

    This is really just disgusting to me, as is the Arizona law. I think we would all do well to remember that ALL of our families came here from somewhere else at some point, and that in many cases whoever was in that first generation in our family to come here may not have spoken much English when the first got here. Would we have wanted our grandparents, great-grandparents, or whoever treated this way?

  20. […] Eugene Cho has a great video of Alabama governor candidate Tim James and his platform of english only driving tests. Check it out here […]

  21. los says:

    So much for a post racial society. Whoever came up with that idea doesn’t live in reality. The reality is that we are all racist regardless of your own race. We who call ourselves Christian should learn to admit our racism just like we admit that we sin. In some ways I’m glad that people are expressing their true feelings for immigrants; get it out in the open so we can talk about it – or at least protest. Hopefully the dialague continues.

  22. danderson says:

    Is there or has there ever been a society or culture in the history of the world that hasn’t been “racist?” We can talk about it ad nauseum, but how about in the meantime we give a cup of cold water to the least of these, and proclaim to the world that Jesus is the Bread of Life? That might be a little more difficult than “dialogue” but perhaps more redemptive in the end.

  23. It plays well to many today, and perhaps he just flat out believes it. I disagree with it. You end up losing some very good people in the process if you do that.

  24. […] I know that there are many of you that are engaging, debating, learning, and wrestling with the issue known to most as Immigration Reform or known to others as, “What the Arizona?” And these debates and discussion will continue with more and more incidents like this one. […]

  25. […] I know that there are many of you that are engaging, debating, learning, and wrestling with the issue known to most as immigration reform or known to others as, “What the Arizona?” And these debates and discussion will continue with more and more incidents like this one. […]

  26. […] of course, I shared this one with you last week. “Does it to […]

  27. Since a quarter of your state is actually First Nation reservations, sounds like if you’re going to do Driver’s Licenses in one language, it shouldn’t be English.

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One Day’s Wages

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the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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