Comments From the CNMI Women Association Sure to Create Further Division

March 7, 2011

"The American ideal is not that we all agree with each other, or even like each other, every minute of the day. It is rather that we will respect each other's rights, especially the right to be different, and that, at the end of the day, we will understand that we are one people, one country, and one community, and that our well-being is inextricably bound up with the well-being of each and every one of our fellow citizens."
––C. Everett Koop

Members of the CNMI Women Association met with Senate Vice-President Jude Hofschneider at the Multi Purpose Center to express their views on status for the legal, long-term guest workers. It is not clear why they did not express their views on this issue at the Senate hearing.

Some of the comments quoted in the Saipan Tribune  demonstrate a shared ignorance of the women and even xenophobia. Former NMC president Agnes McPhetres was quoted as saying that FAS was “only a temporary” status “since nonresident workers can eventually become U.S. citizens once their U.S.-born children petition them.” This is untrue! Not every nonresident worker has U.S. citizen children. In fact, there are probably thousands that have no U.S. children, are unmarried or have families in their homelands. No law should be based on procreation or family status.

The Saipan Tribune quoted McPhetres:

McPhetres said efforts must be focused in trying to assimilate the diverse cultures of nonresident workers into the local culture. 
If you want to be part of the CNMI, please be part of the CNMI and don't bring the foreign element into the culture of the CNMI. Be part of the CNMI!” she emphasized.

What a shockingly racist remark! When the CNMI government approved bringing in tens of thousands of foreign workers to build their economy, of course the foreigners brought their cultures. Does McPhetres expect that people who were invited to work in the CNMI and were continually renewed, should abandon their national traditions and cultures and adopt those of the indigenous people? How about U.S. citizens from the mainland? Should they all abandon their cultures and traditions when they move to the CNMI also? Incredible!

Another remark that is sure to raise eyebrows was attributed to the president of the organization, Susana Blas Deleon Guerrero who wants to “implement the sole use of the CNMI's official languages-Chamorro, Carolinian, or English-in the workplace and only allow conversations in the foreign workers' native language during break time or after work." She also recommended that students must take two Chamorro language subjects in high school to encourage even the children of nonresident workers to converse using the indigenous languages.”

Certainly, allow students to study and learn the indigenous languages. However, it is very unlikely that foreign students will start conversing in the indigenous languages. We have multiple foreign language courses at our high school including Latin, German, French, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic. I have yet to see any of the students, even those taking AP language courses, conversing in these languages unless it is their first language.

It is discriminatory, and under certain circumstances may even be illegal, to deny foreign workers the ability to converse in their own language at the workplace. Filipino nurses are suing Delano Regional Medical Center in California in an EEOC lawsuit for discrimination for exactly this requirement. Attorneys from the Law Offices of Rheuban & Gresen, who are representing the nurses stated:
The lawsuit challenges the hospital's language policy that required Filipino employees to speak only English at work. In 2006, the nurses were called to a mandatory meeting and warned that they could not speak their native Tagalog or other Filipino languages at the hospital, even while they were on breaks. The nurses say that while the hospital wanted to ban speaking Tagalog, other employees were allowed to speak Spanish or Hindi while at work.

Their complaint alleges the hospital subjected the nurses to humiliation, intimidation, and threats of surveillance. The nurses state they were warned that if they did not stop speaking Tagalog, then the hospital would install surveillance cameras to monitor them.

The EEOC has accused Delano Regional of violating federal civil rights laws by creating a hostile work environment for Filipino employees when the hospital encouraged other hospital employees to report them for speaking Tagalog. Additionally, the EEOC believes the hospital singled out Filipino employees for discipline. The EEOC's lawsuit is seeking an injunction against discrimination, changes to the hospital's policies and financial compensation for the affected employees.
The comments made by these women reflect a supremacist attitude where the belief that their culture and language are somehow more relevant or superior than other peoples’ traditions, culture and languages. All of the people of the CNMI are community members, whether they are residents or nonresidents. All should be respected and their cultural diversity should be appreciated. It is disturbing that these women would voice such truly racist thoughts.

UNESCO states:
Cultural Diversity reflects the respect of fundamental rights

Culture is a set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group. It encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, values systems, traditions and beliefs. Respecting and safeguarding culture is a matter of Human Rights. Cultural Diversity presupposes respect of fundamental freedoms, namely freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom to participate in the cultural life of one's choice.


TAGLISH said...

That’s hypocrisy! She’s definitely ignorant. CNMI depend on tourism business and they’re avoiding diverse cultures of people who play vital role in this industry.

FYI, Ms. McPheters get a load of this; workers in this industry speak Japanese, Russian, Chinese, etc. , are they exempted from your recommendation? Have you notice those Filipino, Chinese, Korean and Haole little kids dancing hula, would you prohibit them from joining? Crazy thoughts! Crazy!!

Ms. McPheters and her group should be dealing with much bigger issue here on CNMI. Violence against women and children is very alarming on this very small place, help them!

Anonymous said...

more and more CLOWNS are popping out hahahahaha!

Anonymous said...

Now that's a bonafide federal civil rights violation. It could even be argued that the CNMI's instituting "official languages" is discriminatory and illegal. No US state that I know has an official language or languages. And, contrary to popular belief, there is no official language of the United States.

Anonymous said...

mcpheteres has always been prone to ignorance. her statements border on abject racism.

Captain said...

I went through circumstances over the years, that I required English be used. It was required on Fed jobs and communicating on the radio also.
But NOT to the extreme that the foreign nationals could not speak their language on breaks, on the transport,in a gathering, or when not on duty.

My airplane flight crews were required to use English in the course of their duties.
The exception was when one of the crew did not understand my command and another quickly translated it to the person.
This also was the same for my boat crew and also the construction crews, while on duty.

The reason for this was for safety purposes.
It was so everyone knew exactly what was happening, weather in an emergency or just general daily work duties.
It prevented many emergencies and injuries as I or any of my people in the chain of command could quickly counteract a 'bad' or potentially dangerous instruction between fellow workers, especially when we were in close quarters and/or working around machinery or flying low over the jungles to make our drop. We were all on the same page and did not want to lose or injure anybody.
all of the logs and daily reports had to be in English also.
OSHA also required for safety reasons.

This requirement was one time challenged, but the use of English was upheld in court (and also EEOC) this came about involving a construction incident after I dismissed some people that did not comply thus causing a couple of people injuries due to the fact the operator, and some others did not understand what the spotters relayed over the radio to the crew working under the crane.

This present situation with the women seems to be an extreme case ignorance and bigotry.
I am surprised that Ogumoro is not involved in this. (maybe she is)
This sounds like something she would do.

BTW, I just got a reply from my Daughter and granddaughters who are all nurses at Kaiser Hospitals in Oahu, Hawaii.
They stated, "while in the operating room, ALL are required to speak in the English language so that any directions and procedures can be understood by all immediately". (my daughter is a surgical nurse)

The other two granddaughters said about the same and also specifically when they are working in the ER, or ICU English is required.
(They do not know how to speak Tagalog or other than English). They all work around doctors of multiple nationalities and many Phil. nurses along with some other ethnic groups.

Anonymous said...

This isn't a matter of having to speak English in operating rooms or on Airplanes. This English language is being used as a repressive tool. The real intent was made clear through the other statements about sacrificing someone's culture and heritage for that of the racist.

Anonymous said...

The women are right about the local languages, which all people living here should learn to speak.

Unfortunately, they then make the mistake of including English, thus putting themselves, the linguistically oppressed, on the side on the linguistic oppressor.

What's going to end up happening is locals and nonresidents collaborating to destroy the local languages by speaking English to each other all the time.

Anonymous said...

6:21 everyone here should learn how to speak English. plain and simple.

If some want to learn to speak local languages, great. But, I have seen no locals who favor non-locals speaking the local languages.

Anonymous said...

Why should everyone here learn to speak English, "plain and simple?" The proliferation of English is the single worst thing to happen here in the last 30 years.