In response to recent announcements regarding a proposal to make English the official language of the state of Oklahoma, Sen. Jeff Rabon on Thursday stated he would do everything in his power to ensure such a measure would not win the approval of the Senate.
Rabon said he felt the state should be doing more to honor the fact that Oklahoma is home to numerous sovereign nations with unique languages and cultures that deserve the respect of the Legislature.
“I feel like this highlights an intolerance and insensitivity to our history and background,” said Rabon, D-Hugo. “Oklahoma is the quintessential melting pot. We have folks here from all over the world, but we also have more than 40 Indian tribes all with their own unique language. I think we ought to be going the other direction and doing more to honor and highlight the fact that we have so many sovereign nations with their own languages and cultures.”
Rabon noted that Oklahoma is home to numerous families whose relatives immigrated to the state of Oklahoma, and in many communities, native languages are still spoken. Rabon pointed to areas such as Krebs and Okarche where Italian and German, respectively, can still be heard in local shops and restaurants.
Rabon called the proposal divisive and unnecessary and questioned what practical purpose the legislation would serve.
“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” Rabon said. “I see it as divisive and disrespectful to our Native American brothers and sisters, and it’s the wrong thing to do. No one has explained to me what we’re trying to solve by making English the official language. If there is a problem with signage, then we can take care of the problem in another way.”
Rabon explained that Oklahoma’s unique, multi-cultural heritage sets the state apart from any other state in the region.
“We had the indigenous peoples here prior to the 1600’s, then the tribes that were moved to Oklahoma in the 1800’s and then a significant percentage of those participating in the land run were immigrants,” Rabon said. “We were really the last bastion of freedom - another Ellis Island. To seek to do something like this is unnecessarily divisive. We ought to be proud of our heritage and our identity as a home to people from numerous backgrounds.”
Rabon said he would work to defeat the proposal in the Senate, and said his stance on the issue was motivated by a desire to treat Oklahoma’s diverse population with respect and decency.
“I’m not opposing this out of disrespect for English, but rather out of a respect for others and for our uniqueness and individuality,” said Rabon. “It’s the wrong thing to do, and I’ll work as hard as I can to defeat it in the Senate should it get this far.”