Julián Castro: ‘Oppression’ Is Why I’m Not Fluent in Spanish

Appearing Sunday on MSNBC with Kasie Hunt, 2020 White House hopeful and Obama-era Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said he can’t speak Spanish fluently due to his family feeling internalized “oppression” to ensure he spoke English.

A partial transcript is as follows: 

KASIE HUNT: You say that you’re practicing your Spanish. How do you explain to people why you’re standing on stage with Beto who speaks Spanish and Cory Booker, who clearly demonstrated he speaks Spanish, and you didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. Why did that happen in your life?

JULIÁN CASTRO: I guess the best place to start is to say there are a lot of Latinos who have lived here for generations. My grandmother that I grew up with got here almost 100 years ago, in 1922. In my grandparents’ time and mom’s time, Spanish was looked down upon. You were punished in school if you spoke Spanish. You were not allowed to speak it. People, I think, internalized this oppression about it, and basically wanted their kids to first be able to speak English. And I think that in my family, like a lot of other families, that the residue of that, the impact of that is that there are many folks whose Spanish is not that great.

But today my daughter Carina goes to a bilingual program, and she goes there with people of different backgrounds. In other words, speaking a second language, whether it’s Spanish or another language, is celebrated today as something that we should admire and something that will help you maybe get — get paid more at your job and you know, is useful. That also is a sign of progress. I’m proud to live in a country where we’ve made that kind of progress in just a generation or two.

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