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Revitalized after the passage of California's Proposition 187, the English language movement continues its national campaign for restrictive language laws at the local, state, and federal levels of government. Thus far, the English language laws and initiatives adopted or urged have addressed government speech - the language of government employees and of government communications, records, and publications. English language laws adopted by the states have not yet extended to public speech (such as newspapers and other media) or to private speech (such as language in the home). Yet, individuals speaking a language other than English have increasingly come under attack in their schools, their workplaces, and even in their homes and places of leisure. This article explores the parallels between incidents of language discrimination and the English language movement, concluding that the movement and the resulting government English language laws, especially those adopted by initiative, encourage attacks on nongovernment speech ("language vigilantism"). Recognizing this linkage, the article articulates an activist agenda to protect language autonomy in public and private settings.


excerpted in A Reader on Race, Civil Rights, and American Law: A Multiracial Approach, Timothy Davis, Kevin R. Johnson, and George Martinez, eds. 2001