We are all guilty of language ideologies, aka certain ideas about a language or set of languages. We've been socialized into associating certain things (social class, education, etc) with certain languages and varieties of those languages. Arabic is not free of such attitudes, nor are Arab countries where English and French are present. The view that fos7a (standard) is the "real" form while 3amiyeh (colloquial) is the informal form is a language ideology on its own. The belief that foreign languages are more prestigious than Arabic is another. But, sometimes, the perceptions of a language have nothing to do with language itself, rather with race, religion, gender, to name a few.
The latter was the trigger for Adrian Richard Vergara in the city of San Diego in the United States. While commuting via public transportation, the man decided to sit right next to a teenage Syrian refugee who happened to be talking with a friend on FaceTime ... in Arabic. That's when Vergara's eardrums burst into a violent episode fueled by racism and discrimination. It could have been Islamophobia, Arabophobia, or just a phobia from anything that presents itself far from the hegemonic white standard.
The Arabic language provoked the man who then ripped out the earbud from the boy's ear and angrily asked: "What trash are you speaking?" When the teen responded "Arabic," the man violently attacked him.
"Fu*k Arabs!" Vergara reportedly yelled during the assault.
On Monday, the 26-year-old pleaded guilty to the Oct. 15 assault after security footage on the trolley identified him as the attacker, according to The Washington Post. Just days after the brutal beating, the man was arrested on Oct. 22 for an unrelated drug charge. While in custody, authorities were able to link him with the ongoing hate crime investigation.
The man is expected to receive his five-year sentence next month.
The 17-year-old teen, who remains unidentified, expressed disappointment in the fact that bystanders did nothing to help when he was being assaulted. Not one person came to his defense.
"It wasn't just what happened that made me mad and made me sad," he told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "It was the silence of the others. ... Why they didn't help me? Why they did nothing while I was being beaten?"
The teen moved to the U.S. with his family in 2016. In a statement to Fox 5 San Diego, the teen explained that this wouldn't be the first time a member of his family had been subject to a hate crime. His brother fell victim when they first moved to the U.S. but the family chose not to report it to authorities at the time. They, however, approached things in a different manner the second time around.
"We came to this country under the belief that we would have civil rights and liberties and safety," he said. "When the attack happened to my brother we realized that this wasn't true for everyone."
"I decided to file the police report because we can't stay quiet about this," the teen added.
Hate crimes against Arabs & Muslims have been on the rise in the U.S.
Over the years, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has reported an unparalleled rise in bigotry targeting Muslim-Americans, immigrants, and other minority groups since Donald Trump was elected president of the U.S.
A 2018 study published by researchers at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom also revealed that Trump's anti-Muslim tweets were a reliable predictor of the level of attacks against Muslims during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and onward into the first few months following his election.
"Go back to your country" incidents are growing in numbers, according to CAIR. In August, a Muslim teenager wearing a hijab was harassed, insulted, and assaulted by a woman sitting behind her on a bus in Brooklyn. The latter made remarks about the "rag" on the Muslim woman's head and told her to go back to her country. She then proceeded to spit and throw a cup of soda at the teenager. At the time, the NYPD also declared this a simple harassment case. The CAIR-NY had called on the NYPD to investigate the event as a hate crime, which led to officials attempting to locate the unknown female.