Ehrlich: No Apology On Multiculturalism
Governor defends his remarks after backing Schaefer
C. Benjamin Ford and Steven T. Dennis, Gazette.Net (MD), May 12
ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. rejected calls to apologize for his remarks last week describing multiculturalism as “crap” and “bunk.”
Ehrlich defended his comments on talk radio as “common sense” and declined to apologize Tuesday.
“We celebrate our ethnicities quite appropriately,” he said, noting that he was once named “German of the Year” for Maryland. But he said multiculturalism, which he defined as separating people into different groups, was wrong.
“In America we have a singular culture, common values and a common language,” he said. “It’s a common history, it’s a common culture. … We should not separate ourselves. This is a melting pot society. … I think we need to get back to our roots, which is to celebrate the melting pot.”
On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed a resolution expressing “deep concern” over the governor’s “ill-chosen remarks.”
“The County Council suggests to Governor Ehrlich the phrase ‘I’m sorry’ as appropriate to the occasion,” according to the resolution.
However, the council did not seek a similar apology from Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D), who sparked the brouhaha at last week’s Board of Public Works meeting.
At the meeting, Schaefer, notorious for his curmudgeonly views, went into a tirade over slow service he received at a McDonald’s restaurant, according to published reports.
“I don’t want to adjust to another language. This is the United States. I think they ought to adjust to us,” Schaefer was quoted as saying. “The people who come here should become part of American (sic), become Americanized and speak the language.”
Ehrlich (R) supported Schaefer’s comments during a stop in Montgomery County last week.
“There’s no such thing as multiculturalism,” Ehrlich told reporters before a lunch meeting with business executives in Rockville Thursday. “It’s one culture — American.”
Ehrlich said that while it is important to celebrate the ethnic diversity of the country — “This is a nation of immigrants,” he said — the different groups need to make up a “singular culture” and speak English.
Speaking on a talk radio show on WBAL in Baltimore, the governor said, “I reject the idea of multiculturalism. Once you get into this multicultural crap, this bunk, you run into a problem. With respect to this culture, English is the language. Should we encourage young folks here to be assimilated, to learn the culture and the values? Of course. There’s a major distinction to ethnic pride and multiculturalism.”
University of Maryland political science professor Ronald Walters expects neither Schaefer nor Ehrlich to receive much political fallout from the issue.
The remarks tap into a growing anti-Hispanic movement in parts of the country, Walters said.
“Resentment is deep,” he said.
But the governor’s and comptroller’s remarks have sparked criticism from politicians and community leaders, particularly in ethnically diverse Montgomery County.
Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), who sits on the Board of Public Works with Schaefer and Ehrlich, said that the remarks by both were “very unfortunate.”
“I’m not sure what ‘multiculturalism’ means, but I do believe that America’s strength is its diversity.”
Kopp said she could understand Schaefer’s frustration with not being able to communicate with someone, but “to move from that frustration to a general conclusion that sounds like it’s anti-immigrant, that’s not William Donald Schaefer.”
Kopp noted that Schaefer had vetoed a bill that would have prohibited bilingual government documents.
Elected officials and community activists held a news conference in Silver Spring on Tuesday to tout the benefits of multiculturalism and immigrants to society.
Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Mount Rainier, who attended the news conference, said last week that Schafer’s remarks come at a bad time because the Democrats are trying to build up a base among new immigrants.
“To have someone who is a leader in our party and has done a lot of good things for our party — it’s really disappointing,” said Ramirez, who was born in El Salvador. “Disappointing as a Democrat and disappointing as someone who speaks another language as well.
“I don’t think anyone would dispute that you should learn to speak English. I also don’t believe you need to assimilate and lose your culture.”
Montgomery County Councilman Thomas E. Perez (D-Dist. 5) of Takoma Park, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republican, last week called Schaefer’s remarks unfortunate. He said Schaefer should return to that McDonald’s to sit down and have lunch with the employee who served him.
“He’d learn that person is no different than anyone else in this country,” said Perez, who also attended Tuesday’s news conference.
Local Leaders Want an Apology
Darragh Johnson and Matthew Mosk, Washington Post, May 12
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s remarks last week dismissing multiculturalism as “crap” and “bunk” echoed across the state yesterday, as Democratic and Latino leaders demanded an apology and Ehrlich defended his comments as “utter common sense.”
In Montgomery County, the County Council unanimously passed a resolution expressing “deep concern” over the governor’s “ill-chosen remarks” and suggested “the phrase ‘I’m sorry’ as appropriate to the occasion.”
In Baltimore, Mayor Martin O’Malley (D) addressed the issue — in Spanish — during his weekly radio address, saying, “Few of us would be here if our non-English-speaking relatives hadn’t struggled for a few years — or decades — to learn English.”
In Takoma Park, a half-dozen state and local Latino leaders and about 50 immigrant advocates gathered to decry Ehrlich’s “far right” remarks and call for more resources to teach immigrants English.
And in Annapolis, reporters crowded around Ehrlich in the State House foyer, asking him to explain the comments he made on a call-in show on WBAL-AM radio Thursday.
“The words stand on their own,” Ehrlich (R) replied. “It’s a common culture, and the last message we want to send out is for people to separate themselves. We should celebrate the common American culture, the common American values and the common American language. I think that’s common sense.”
Read the rest of this article here.