His Ethnicity Aside, Jindal Is the Last Person Who Should Champion Assimilation

From The PublisherThe angle of Bobby Jindal being a hypocrite on the issue of immigration because he’s an “anchor baby” is played out. We get it. His parents immigrated from India to Louisiana when his mother was pregnant with him, the 14th Amendment says he’s a natural-born citizen who’s qualified to run for president, and now presidential candidate Jindal says illegal immigrants’ children born in the U.S. shouldn’t have birthright citizenship.

That talking point is in dire need of a nap.

So let’s do, at least for a moment, what Jindal has been trying to get us to do for years and forget about his ethnicity. Forget about the fact that he’s Catholic, not Hindu. Forget about the fact that he goes by Bobby (as in Brady) instead of his given name, Piyush.

If he wants to reinvent himself from the son of Indian immigrants into just another Southern governor who stirs up fear of brown people for political gain, who am I to judge? After all, from Don Draper to Mickey Rourke’s face, America has a rich history of brooking reinvention.

Now, even if we set all of that aside and pretend that he’s as white as he pretends to be, Jindal is still the least qualified person in America to tell immigrants they should assimilate and speak English. He’s the last person in a position of power who should go on Sunday morning shows and proclaim “Immigration without assimilation is invasion.”

Does Jindal even know he appoints people to — and signs budgets that fund — an agency that actively fights tooth and nail against his notion of assimilation?

Why? Because he’s the governor of the only state in the nation with a program like the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), a state-funded agency whose mission “is to support and grow Louisiana’s francophone communities through scholarships, French immersion and various other community- and language skill-building programs.”

Yet the same governor who appoints members to the board of CODOFIL — whose very mission is to preserve and promote French culture and the French language in Louisiana — is also going around saying “You either want to become an American and be all in, or you don’t.”

Resistance is futile. Prepare to be Jindaled.
“Resistance is futile. Prepare to be Jindaled.”

“Assimilation” is synonymous with homogeneity, losing one’s distinctiveness. And the Borg. One definition of “assimilation” is “the state or condition of being absorbed into something,” as into English-speaking, American culture. And the Borg collective.

Or in the words of Jindal, “Let’s insist on being the melting pot. Let’s forget this politically correct liberal notion that we’re not a melting pot anymore.”

Meanwhile, CODOFIL sponsors French immersion programs, as in, you spend your entire day speaking just French, in an environment where everyone around you speaks only French. Does Jindal even know he appoints people to — and signs budgets that fund — an agency that actively fights tooth and nail against his notion of assimilation?

I would say maybe we could determine how much he values the work of CODOFIL by how much he’s cut its funding since taking office in 2008. But, then again, what programs haven’t been cut under his tenure? (FYI: He stripped $100,000, or 1/3 of the agency’s operating budget, from CODOFIL’s funding in 2012.)

For those who aren’t familiar with why CODOFIL exists, let me give you a little history lesson. A few hundred years ago, exiles from French-speaking Canada settled in South Louisiana. Their descendants are known as “Cajuns.” You may have heard of them. A few of them still speak French, but not nearly as many as just two generations ago.

The non-French-speaking powers-that-were considered speaking Cajun French “ignorant,” so they instituted rules to literally beat it out of my dad’s generation.

Why? Because Cajuns like my father, who failed first grade because he didn’t speak English, were punished corporally if they were caught speaking French in school. Seriously. It seems the non-French-speaking powers-that-were considered speaking Cajun French “ignorant,” so they instituted rules to literally beat it out of my dad’s generation.

Not surprisingly, by the time I came along, the Cajun French language (which is a slightly different brand of French from what you might hear on the streets of Paris) was considered by many of my elders as less than worthy of passing down to the next generation (i.e., me). As a result, even though I was 15 when she passed away and I visited her regularly with my dad, I never actually shared a real conversation with my paternal grandmother. She spoke about as much English as I spoke French, which was next to nothing.

So thanks in large part to a bunch of waspy know-it-alls who insisted on forcibly assimilating (there’s that word again) the indigenous population into their idea of Americana, I might have shared a whopping dozen or so words with my grandmother over the course of nearly 16 years.

Thankfully, some people back then noticed what was going on and took action. After watching his culture begin to vanish before his very eyes, former state legislator and former congressman James Domengeaux began a crusade in the mid- to late ’60s to reverse the decline of the use of the French language in the state, including in schools. He traveled around the state campaigning to make Louisiana — the same state Bobby “Assimilate and Speak English” Jindal purports to govern — a bilingual state through French language education.

The culmination of Domengeaux’s efforts came in 1968 when the Louisiana legislature created CODOFIL (which means it’s older than Bobby Jindal). According to the act that created the agency, CODOFIL is empowered to “do any and all things necessary to accomplish the development, utilization, and preservation of the French language as found in Louisiana for the cultural, economic, and touristic benefit of the state.”

In other words, assimilation can eat a bag of dicks as far as Louisiana is concerned.

CODOFIL was created out of a desire to keep Louisiana bilingual. Meanwhile, Bobby Jindal, driven by a desire to be president, has joined the “speak Amurican in Amurica” crowd. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised Jindal is willing to ignore his office’s connection to an entire culture for political expediency. He’s been doing that with his own family’s culture for years.

I wonder if he thinks Louisiana would be richer and stronger if we just threw our unique French culture into that melting pot and became more like Iowa. He seems to like that state a lot.

I can’t help but wonder if Jindal thinks my grandparents, and their parents, and their parents, and their parents were bad Americans — invaders who were born here, or at least subversives, perhaps — because they never assimilated and spoke only French. According to him, they never went “all in” on being an American.

I wonder if he thinks Louisiana would be richer and stronger if we just threw our unique French culture into that melting pot and became more like Iowa. He seems to like that state a lot.

I wonder how someone who claims to be a visionary can be so obtusely myopic.

I also wonder how many of my fellow Cajuns have signed on to Jindal’s message of “assimilate and speak English.” If enough of them do, perhaps our distinct Cajun culture and peculiar French language deserve to resume their course from the 1950s and die a gradual, unceremonious death.RedShtick-Top-ColumnStop

About Jeremy White

Jeremy White
Jeremy White is an engineer by education, but a smartass by birth. He managed to overcome the obstacles presented by his technical background, and has brilliantly devised a way to make a living making fun of people.

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