A small sign that initiated an English-only ordering policy at a famous cheesesteak shop was likened to signs of the Jim Crow era during a public hearing over whether the policy was discriminatory. The shop's owner said the posting was never meant to be offensive.
Cheesesteak Shop Owner Defends Policy
Joe Vento, the owner of Geno's Steaks, defended his policy before the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, which filed the discrimination complaint.
"This country is a melting pot, but what makes it work is the English language," Vento told the commission during a hearing that lasted more than six hours Friday. "I'm not stupid. I would never put a sign out to hurt my business.
In October 2005, Vento posted two small signs at his shop in a diverse South Philadelphia neighborhood, telling customers, "This is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING 'PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH."' He testified that he posted the sign because of concerns over the debate on immigration reform and the increasing number of people from the area could not order in English.
Camille Charles, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said Vento's signs harken back to the Jim Crow era when "Whites Only" postings were prevalent. She cited huge growth in the foreign born, Asian and Latino population in the area surrounding Geno's from 1980 to 2007.
"The signs give a feeling of being unwelcome and being excluded," Charles said.
Hey Camille, go to Flushing. Look at the signs that are only in Korean or Chinese. They make English-speaking people feel unwelcome and excluded. But they are legal and if you complain about them, you're called a racist, even though it's a public safety hazard if first responders can't understand the name of the store. Give it a rest. If you don't like it, don't eat there. People aren't being excluded based on race. They just have to order in English. How is the man supposed to operate his business if the customers fail to communicate what they need to him? Is he supposed to hire people who speak multiple languages in case someone can't communicate what they want in English? Sounds like political correctness in overdrive.
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