Xenophobia rears its ugly head on CTA buses, trains

Here’s a CTA Tattler Tale from Derek about intolerance and group embarrassment:

“I was riding a crowded #6 bus southbound this evening when a group of three young men got on and began speaking in a language that I didn’t immediately recognize. However, I did hear them clearly pronounce the word “Sí”, like Spanish. An older man sitting next to them heard it too, and started talking to them. I couldn’t exactly hear what he said, but he finished with “you need to speak English.”

“I was already a little bit embarrassed by that statement, but I realized that what he had said had been even worse when one of the young men responded, “We are not terrorists, don’t worry.” Luckily, one of them spoke very good English, and was able to explain that they were Italian, which seemed to allay the man’s fears. It didn’t, however, stop him from engaging in rampant stereotyping of Italians all the way down LSD:

“Italian–that’s what they speak in New York, right?” (with a mock Italian accent)
“What’s your daddy’s name? Is he named Vito?”

“Everyone in the vicinity was thoroughly embarrassed by the man’s behavior, and there was a lot of nervous laughter in my part of the bus. I wanted to apologize to the Italians on behalf of Americans in general, but I left the bus before either the man or the Italians, so I can just hope that perhaps one of them reads CTA Tattler.”

OK, here’s Kevin again. This reminds of the time I saw a woman scold two South Americans for speaking Spanish. She walked right up to them on the Red Line and said: “English! Speak English! If you’re gonna live here, speak English!”

Really people, a little tolerance goes a long way. We need more of that these days.


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  • I spreche Englisch nicht.

  • Back when I was a kid, we had the expression, "mind your own business" (or, optionally, "mind your own beeswax"). I think that it is time that we bring this back to everyday life. Too many people are all over other people's business for no reason other than just to be a busybody. If it doesn't affect you, then it is none of your business. It's not like these people were trying to have a conversation with this person. They were talking amongst themselves and the conversation should not have concerned the older man.

  • In reply to eBob:

    Apparently, age has nothing to do wisdom. The guy sounds like some old, miserable coot, with nothing better to do than cause trouble. If he's new to Chicago, he'd better learn the ropes, fast! This isn't the kind of city where you can get into mindless confrontations with strangers, and walk away unscathed.

  • The next time you hear someone say "speak English" in Chicago, go up to them and say, "Potawatomi! Potawatomi! If you're going to live here, speak Potawatomi!"

  • With the number of people being shot in Chicago, for seemingly no reason, you would think people would learn to mind their own business.

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