News Item:
English-only cheesesteak fight goes on.

That’s right, we’re not in Baghdad, not in Mozul, or Tikrit, we’re at 9th and Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, where early last summer, Joe Vento, the owner of Geno’s Steaks, made national news by posting a sign on his sandwich shop.

If you’ve never been to that particular corner of the city, two steak shops, Geno’s and Pat’s, sit opposite each other at the intersection, and each does a landmark business.  At any time of the day, in almost any kind of weather, the lines at the order windows can be half a block long, or longer.  Vento posted the sign in question at about the same time illegal immigration started gathering headlines, and it’s pretty obvious the sign was meant to make a statement.

It reads –

This is America.
When ordering, please speak English.

Plain, simple, and to the point.

When the sign hit the news, it caused a national debate, and the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission got involved.  Why?  We’re guessing the city wasn’t all that pleased with the kind of publicity the sign was bringing.  This is the City of Brotherly Love, after all.  Maybe it was Be Kind to Humans Week too, we’re not sure, but in any event, the Commission charged Vento with discrimination.

There’s no doubt that the sign itself was the basis for the charge.  The Commission couldn’t really expect a bunch of kids taking orders at a fast food joint to understand customers who didn’t speak english.  Could they?  Sounds silly, right?  I mean, human relations and all aside.  So it had to be the sign, and more likely than that, Vento’s refusal to take the sign down.

Eventually, the media hoopla and nightly news coverage faded, and things went back to normal on 9th street.  Customers kept ordering their steaks ‘with’ or ‘without’ [cheezewhiz, that is].  That’s the way the ordering process goes, “One wit’, two wit’out”, and yes, there is another sign, explaining the procedure, which customers will hopefully adhere to.  Now don’t get me wrong, the folks working the counter aren’t as strict about the rules as say, the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, and placing your order in that fashion does keep the line moving.  You order, you eat, you belch.  That’s what 9th and Passyunk is all about.

On January 31st of this year, a full six months after the story first broke, Vento was notified that the Human Relations Commission is going to proceed with the case.  They apparently have decided that he, and his sign, are in violation of the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, a law which prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodation, and housing, on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.  On that basis, as it’s outlined, there should be no case here at all.  There is no record of any of Vento’s employees ever filing discrimination charges, there’s no evidence that any customers have been turned away, and they certainly aren’t housing anyone behind where the sandwiches are made.

It’s all about the sign, and political correctness, there’s no other logical explanation, and if political correctness does happen to win out in this case, that could set an ominous precedent for business owners.  Will employers, in the future, be required to hire employees who cannot speak English?  Will employees, existing and new, who deal with the public on a daily basis, have to be fluent in more than one language?  How many languages would be required in order to appease?  Which languages would be ‘correct’, and who would decide?

Ok, granted [so sit back down], that all may sound a bit far-fetched, but is it, in today’s political climate?  Every snowball I ever made, back when I was a kid, gathered weight, and momentum, as it rolled down the hill.

Link: Courier Post

Cartoon from Sid in the City

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