"Speak English, Bitch:" Advocate Says Viral Racist Video Represents Ugly Trend

"You," says the Grand Junction woman in a Facebook video. "Your kind. You're the ones that gives brown people the bad name. Just fucking want to get something for nothing. Well, get your ass a job if you don’t have one."

At that point in the clip, which is on view below, an exchange of Spanish prompts the woman (later identified as Laura Bennett, who has publicly apologized for her language) to bark, "Speak English, bitch. It's America." Then, after encouraging the person capturing the video to "put me on YouTube — go for it," she announces, in a statement that bespeaks both prejudice and inarticulateness, "Down with Mexicans that don't learn the language of the world. Goddamn wetbacks."

At this writing, the video, posted by Grand Junction's Wendy Flores, has been viewed nearly 700,000 times, and it's prompted a wide variety of responses, as evidenced by the comments left on the 99.5 KEKB Facebook page after the station shared it. Castigation like this...
Oh my gosh!!! How shameful!! These people outta be embarrassed. This will spread through social media like a plague and it will come back to her. juxtaposed with excuses from those who found Bennett's anger over what was reportedly a dog left in a hot car to be understandable. One defender wrote: "Everyone is all being judgmental, she has a right to her opinion!!!!"

And then there's this:
This is a perfect representation of Grand Junction right here in the video.... The only town I've ever witnessed a whole family yell every racial slur at a homeless person on the street. This town is ugly.
Ricardo Pérez, executive director of Grand Junction's Hispanic Affairs Project, an organization devoted to "addressing the needs of the new Hispanic immigrant community in the region," doesn't go that far. In his view, the video, and the woman's easy way with slurs, "does not represent the values or the feeling of the American people." But at the same time, Pérez considers the video to be representative of a recent and troubling rise in racist attitudes, as well as corresponding concern among the immigrants who are all too often the target of such hatred: "I know families are expressing fear like never before in the last five or six years."

 HAP was launched in 2005, and according to Pérez, "We have had experience working with our community, with our elected officials, with law enforcement agencies, human services — and we were really happy to see the advance in how we are learning from each other and how we are aware of the values that we can support together in order to create a better society, a more human community."

As evidence of this positive shift, Pérez notes a 2006 meeting with members of the local Minutemen organization — a group focused on stopping the flow of Mexican nationals over the border into the U.S. "We had a very frank but very friendly conversation," he recalls. "We identified our differences, but we also identified that we love this country — and we created a very good relationship with the president of the group."

Lately, though, Pérez has sensed a change in too many residents of the area, which he attributes in part to "some of the comments we hear in the national media from specific leaders in the United States."

Pérez doesn't mention Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by name. But when he's asked if Trump is contributing to this situation, he replies, "Probably. These leaders are collaborating with some in the media to create these conditions, and suddenly, there is a door open based in manipulation and ignorance. We've asked our immigrant families if this is happening, and they're saying, 'Yes. We are hearing more and more comments like the ones in the video.'"

As such, Pérez doesn't shrug off the video as an anomaly. "This is a very sad situation," he says, "and a very critical time for this country."

The Hispanic Affairs Project released a statement inspired by the video. It follows the clip and the text Wendy Flores posted alongside it.

Wendy Flores post:

This right here is what's wrong with the world. People acting out of spite and hate towards a different race. Judging someone without knowing them . "You, your kind give the brown people a bad name" first off, my mother is legal in the United States. My father has worked hard in the oil rigs so my mother can raise her children and give us a very privileged life. They always pay their taxes and have had absolutely no government help. They have taught us to help people and to work hard to earn the life we want. My parents have sacrificed so much so much for us, and it breaks my heart the way they get treated because of their broken English. I know they can speak English. And I know my mother understood every single word they said. But how can you respond to that when you see your child crying because he doesn't understand why they are saying that. What do you do when your 6 year old granddaughter is so scared she can't stop crying in the car. They say the way you treat people speaks more about your character and who YOU are as a person. These women are a disgrace to humanity over all. America is a diverse country. And that's what makes it such a wonderful place to be a part of. We are all human beings trying to survive. Remember that next time you are trying to bring yourself up by putting someone down.

Hispanic Affairs Project statement:

Our Love for the United States of America

In the spring of 2006, a group of leaders from the Hispanic Affairs Project had the opportunity to attend a private meeting with the Rocky Mountain Minute Men of Western Colorado. Our two organizations could not have had more intensely opposing views on immigration and immigrants. After watching a documentary about the experiences of immigrants crossing the border from Mexico, we had a conversation about our differences and our recommendations to fix the broken system of immigration. Although we did not change our conflicting views, we left the meeting with a greater mutual respect. Both groups love the United States of America. In the midst of our differences, we found friendship and left behind many of our misconceptions about each other. This week a national leader and a Grand Junction woman were in the media projecting with similar language ignorance and lack of compassion toward the newcomers.

Throughout the years, Hispanic Affairs Project, HAP, and our immigrant community have worked hard to cultivate relationships with our receiving community, with elected officials, local organizations, social services agencies, and governmental entities. In the diversity of our community, we have great potential to strengthen the values that unite us.

We need to work together to promote integration and celebrate our diversity, one of our country’s most powerful and unique attributes. Immigration, resulting from economic forces, armed conflicts, and natural disasters will continue as it has since the birth of the United States. Right now we should take advantage of the opportunity to speak frankly about racism, discrimination, unequal opportunities, and ignorance as real problems in our communities. Here in western Colorado, we have progressed, but we still have a long way to go. HAP is an organization affiliated with Welcoming America and Welcoming Colorado. We have resources that we would like to share with the community to facilitate a society where all of us can feel safe and proud to be who we are.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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