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In a viral video posted on Dec. 23, a Massachusetts woman can be heard asking two Chinese international students to “speak English so everyone can understand you.”
The Daily Hampshire Gazette reports that other passengers told her that the students were having a private conversation and that the United States has no official language.
“I love every country,” the woman said. “But it would be nice if when they come to America, they could speak English.”
The Gazette also reports that the five-minute-long encounter also included a police officer boarding the bus. In the video, the woman can be seen advocating for herself to the officer, saying that the passengers filming her and standing up for the students were “harassing” her.
It’s unclear where the original video is from, but it’s been reposted online to several accounts. This particular version has garnered 3.7 million views on Twitter. The video labels the woman who approached the students, “a racist white woman.”
“Another passenger saw this, stood up to this, and put her in her place,” Twitter user @Kerrrry, who posted the video, wrote. “Also, she said she wants to go viral so let’s help her out.”
A racist white woman on a bus in Amherst, Ma., attacked a couple foreign college kids for speaking their language. Another passenger saw this, stood up to this, & put her in place.— Kerry 😈 (@KerrrryC) January 22, 2020
Also, she said she wants to go viral so let's help her out.😏 pic.twitter.com/hK5XP5jcU5
Replies to the video are varied in opinion. Many Twitter users feel the woman was in the wrong, saying the students have their right to privacy and applaud the person filming for getting involved. Others aren’t quite as encouraging–they’re closer to agreeing with the woman in the video.
“This is 100% about racism,” Twitter user @JoSwedishMamma wrote in support of the poster. “As a white person who speaks Swedish to my kids, no one has ever told me to speak ‘English in US.’ Instead I often get compliments that I’m teaching my kids another language. If I was a person of color I’m sure that would be quite different. Call it out.”
This is 100 % about racism. As a white person who speaks Swedish to my kids,no one has ever told me to speak “English in US”. Instead I often get compliments that I’m teaching my kids another language. If I was a person of color I’m sure that would be quite different. Call it out— Johanna K. (@JoSwedishMamma) January 23, 2020
Conversely, Twitter user @_DeWayne_L expressed that some may feel “insulted” having to listen to others speak in a language they do not understand.
“Maybe not handled in the right way but it’s not racist to believe people who are staying in the country for a decent amount of time should speak English in public while in America,” the Twitter user wrote. “Not my own personal belief but people often feel like they’re being insulted.”
Maybe not handled in the right way but it’s not racist to believe people who are staying in the country for a decent amount of time should speak in English in public while in America. Not my own personal belief but many people often feel like they’re being insulted.— Coy DeWayne Lampe (@_DeWayne_L) January 24, 2020
Some users found the situation familiar. They said they’ve been told similar things. A Spanish professor shared a story from when the educator was speaking the language to their mother—also on a bus.
“We were talking in Spanish when this ww (white woman) told me we were in America and I needed to speak English or go back where I came from,” the professor wrote. “No one stood up for us or said a thing. Never felt so alone.”
About three years ago I was on a bus in LA with my mom. We were talking in Spanish when this ww told me we were in America and I needed to speak English or go back to where I came from. Mind you, I’m a Spanish professor. No one stood up for us or said a thing. Never felt so alone— Dr. Mari (@academicmami) January 23, 2020
it happened to my parents when they came to the us and this man threatened to take me (a child at the time) away from them bc they werent teaching me english i wish someone wouldve stepped in like this man did bc from that point forward my parents barely spoke any arabic with me— natalie (@nat_alie02) January 23, 2020
So this is happening many times to International students everyday in eastern Germany, we should speak german on public transportation, well no one can’t stop me speaking my language beautiful Bahasa Indonesia otherwise she/he will have problem with me.— ∆ Starboy💫 (@starrrbouyyy) January 23, 2020
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Brooke Sjoberg is an editorial intern for the Daily Dot studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also the Daily Texan's Life and Arts Editor and an editorial intern for Texas Connect magazine.