DEAR ABBY: You printed a letter from "Disillusioned American," who interceded when he saw a man in his 60s chastise a young couple for speaking a foreign language outside a Kmart. You called it an example of xenophobia.
I do not share either the opinion of "Disillusioned" or you regarding people who refuse to learn English or at least speak it in public. There are two Spanish-language TV networks in this country. Tell me another country that allows foreign language channels to operate, contributing to the fragmentation of that country. -- LAWRENCE IN AVON PARK, FLA.
DEAR LAWRENCE: Cable Network News (CNN) is an English-language network that is broadcast in more than 210 countries and territories in English. (In fact, someone recently told me she had seen me on "Larry King Live" while she was in Beijing -- obviously not a nation that uses English as its primary language.)
DEAR ABBY: I am proud of being not only American, but a Chinese American. I was raised bilingually and biculturally. Other than my Asian features, most people would be hard-pressed to find anything "un-American" about me.
However, occasional racist remarks are still thrown at me for no other reason than my appearance. Fortunately, that type of bigotry is fading, but comments and actions like that man experienced at Kmart are common and should be stopped. White Americans should be sensitive about any treatment of nonwhite Americans as different.
For example, I am frequently asked where I am from. When I answer "Pittsburgh" (where I was born and raised), the response I often get is, "No, where are you REALLY from?" as if I couldn't be from America. I know people are curious about my heritage, but Caucasians (even ones with accents) are not treated thus, so why are those of us with Asian features, but nonaccented English, treated this way? -- PROUD CHINESE AMERICAN
DEAR PROUD CHINESE AMERICAN: Don't be so quick to assume that Caucasians with accents are not also asked where they are from. In this country, anyone with an accent is considered "exotic" -- and as such, inspires curiosity. When people are curious, they ask questions. I know I'm right, because I have been guilty of it.
DEAR ABBY: I came to this country 20 years ago and attended college in the Midwest. I have also been accosted by such "patriots" on campus, in restaurants, and wherever I happened to be having a conversation in my language. My appearance does not give people any clue that I am not a "red-blooded American." I speak perfect, unaccented English, in addition to other languages, and I know there are many people like me.
Because I choose to speak another language does not mean I don't know English. I find it fascinating that Americans, when in other countries, expect people to accommodate their language needs, but do not afford the same courtesy to people who come to this country. -- THERESA B., HOUSTON
DEAR THERESA: Interesting point. And it's a good reason why American students should learn at least one foreign language. Our world is shrinking, and it doesn't revolve around us.
DEAR ABBY: If that gentleman wants to be politically correct, perhaps he should be speaking an American Indian dialect, since the Indians were here first and the Pilgrim fathers changed the language. (Only joking!) -- SALLY IN WILLOW GROVE, PA.
DEAR SALLY: Mini-ha-ha!
For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600