In a small Maryland county, a group of county commissioners just voted in favor of sending an English-only bill to a future hearing. Carroll County is predominately white and just a small fraction of its residents speak anything but English. So why are the Commissioners entertaining a bill that has little to no impact on its residents? Before you chalk it up to small town political boredom, consider this – local arenas are where the far right tests its legislation and builds political power. It doesn’t matter that these bills are likely unconstitutional and certainly undemocratic; they serve a larger purpose to the anti-immigrant movement – criminalize foreignness from the ground up.
According to the Carroll County Times the commissioners “received backing from Suzanne Bibby, director of government relations for ProEnglish…Bibby argued that an ordinance that designates English as the official language does not promote racism, but rather it promotes the ‘melting pot’ ideal in Carroll.”
ProEnglish is an organization that does as its name describes, relentlessly promote legislation and policies that favor English as the official language of the United States. It weakly contends the relevance of “Official English,” largely by arguing that most other countries retain a national language. But while ProEnglish would like to convince Americans that its agenda is uncontroversial, this could not be farther from the truth.
ProEnglish was established in 1994 with the oversight of its founding chairman, the white nationalist John Tanton. In fact, it is Tanton’s second English language interest group, formed after he left the first, U.S. English, as a result of a racially charged memo that surfaced in 1988. In it, Tanton notoriously asked, “As Whites see their power and control over there lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?”
For his part, Tanton is credited as the chief architect of the contemporary anti-immigrant movement, having founded, funded, or otherwise supported a constellation of nativist groups. These beneficiaries, known collectively as the John Tanton Network, have become notorious for their numerous collaborations with white nationalists and ethnic separatists—even going so far as to employ a few for themselves—in addition to their frequent exhibitions of unmitigated racism.
As a part of this alliance, ProEnglish operates under U.S., Inc., the Network’s financial umbrella, which acts as its parent organization. KC McAlpin, the group’s longtime executive director, left in 2010 to become John Tanton’s right-hand man as president at U.S., Inc. As board members, both men continue to shape ProEnglish’s undertakings.
By faulting a “pluralistic” excess in this country, ProEnglish seeks to “unite” the United States by trampling the rights of minorities.
Robert Vandervoort, executive director of ProEnglish, formerly ran the Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance, a group he organized in direct support of the work and efforts of white nationalist thinker Jared Taylor and his group American Renaissance. Vandervoort has also attended events held by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, an organization that, among other conservative efforts, distributes books by Sam Francis, a major intellectual benefactor to the modern white nationalist movement who argued for “white racial consciousness.”
Researchers in Maryland say that Vandervoort attended the conference of the HL Mencken Club last year, where ProEnglish’s presence was heavy. The HL Mencken Club hosts speakers such as mainstay nativist Pat Buchanan, and Richard Spencer, founder of the online magazine Alternative Right and executive director of the National Policy Institute. Both of the aforementioned organizations frequently argue for the genetic superiority of white, European-descended peoples, as well as promoting equivocal examinations of extremist political movements like fascism.
Carroll County is far from the only county to fall victim to ProEnglish’s manipulating. Nor will it be the last. When the measure does come up for a hearing, Carroll County’s residents would do well to expose the real proponents of the policy. And send a clear message that their community won’t be used as a guinea pig.