As readers of the Contrarian know from the recent piece on Billie Jean King, my game is tennis. I’m not much of a golfer, but I can recognize a wild tee shot that lands deep in the rough. That is especially true when the shot comes from a politically correct politician aiming to protect women.
The Ladies Professional Golf Association wants players on their tour to be proficient in English, for obvious reasons. These ladies attain celebrity status and are much in demand for interviews. The LPGA recently implemented a rule that would have penalized players, some of them Koreans, who failed to improve their English skills.
This drew much criticism, and I agree that the measure was too harsh. The LPGA, however, listened to their critics and showed good sense. They dropped the rule and will instead enlist tutors to help the women improve their English skills. The matter should have ended there. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat and state senator, saw the dark hand of discrimination and xenophobia at work and rushed to the rescue with legislation, SB 242. The measure adds the word “language” to the list of protected characteristics in the state’s Jesse Unruh Civil Rights Act, and makes it illegal to prohibit the use of any language at a work site without justification for the necessities of business.
The senator told reporters this was the right thing to do, and said “you cannot discriminate because of language.” This drew predictable cheers from those who see women golfers in need of more government protection, but this legislative shot landed far outside the fairway. The senator even considered barring the LPGA, which did not prohibit any language, from using golf courses in California.
It seems to have escaped the senator’s notice that in 1986, through Proposition 63, Californians made English the state’s official language by a vote of 73 to 27, normally known as a landslide. One of the primary backers of Proposition 63 was S.I. Hayakawa, a Canadian-born English professor and former U.S. Senator for California. The voter-approved measure is not discriminatory.
The ability to speak English is also a requirement for citizenship in the United States. No court has ruled that this requirement constitutes discrimination against women or anybody else. Indeed, English fluency is a key to success in America. Correct usage of English is particularly important in air traffic control, medical practice, law enforcement, and dealing with the public in general.
California law already protects the language rights of employees, except, again, for justifiable reasons. Senator Yee’s bill could easily make it difficult for business owners, many of whom are women, to maintain control over the languages used in their companies. It invites lawsuits, which is doubtless part of its purpose. One could also see this bill as a back-door version of official bilingual-education policy, which California voters also rejected through Proposition 227 in 1998. That also seems to have escaped notice.
So what do we have here? A few female golfers had a problem with the LPGA, which quickly solved the problem by itself. That should not be the occasion for ill-advised legislation that will make life more difficult for other women, and everybody else. This reactionary gambit proves that women have more to fear from crusading politicians than any old-boy network.
The LPGA should remain free to set, and change, its own rules. If any woman’s English skills are lacking, it is in her own best interest to improve them. If the governor of California can do that, so can the women. Senator Yee and his colleagues should leave sports alone and try their hand at balancing the state budget and eliminating California’s massive waste and corruption. Swing away at those and let the ladies play golf.