Monday, January 28, 2019

What Brokaw Got Right

On Sunday's Meet The Press roundtable discussion, Tom Brokaw (beginning at 45:20 of the video below) dared to speak his opinion, remarking

And a lot of this we don't want to talk about but the fact is on the Republican side a lot of people see the rise of an extraordinarily important new constituency in American politics- Hispanics, who will come here and will be Democrats. Also, when I push people a little harder, I hear "I don't know whether I want brown grandbabies." I mean, that's all a part of it. 

It's the intermarriage that's going on. It's cultures that are conflicting with each other and I also happen to believe that Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. It's one of the things that I've been saying for a long time. They ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English and that they feel comfortable in their communities. That going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.

As I type this, "grandbabies" is being flagged, and like Spellcheck, I don't find the term in general use. However, your mileage may vary and it may be as common in your circle as it presumably is in Brokaw's.

Similarly, at the end of the video, Yamiche Alcindor is seen disagreeing with Brokaw, contending that second-generation Cuban-Americans in Miami typically speak English. That probably is accurate, though Alcindor refers to having grown up in Miami and presumably is less familiar with current practice there. Additionally, there are Hispanics in every state and the interest in assimilation in language and otherwise probably varies (though my experience some 1200 miles away is similar).

Unless more light than heat could be thrown onto the topic, that should have ended it. However, as long as we have politicians, we will have individuals prone to exploit remarks such as those of Brokaw. Politico reports

NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw apologized Sunday evening for comments he made earlier in the day on "Meet the Press" calling for Hispanics in the U.S. to “work harder at assimilation."

The comments from the former host of "NBC Nightly News" sparked a quick backlash both on social media and on set from PBS "NewsHour" White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who joined Brokaw on the "Meet the Press" panel. Hours after his comments aired on NBC, Brokaw apologized for them online.

"I am sorry, truly sorry, my comments were offensive to many. The great enduring American tradition of diversity is to be celebrated and cherished," he wrote on Twitter, part of a flurry of posts backtracking away from his earlier remarks. "I am sorry - I never intended to disparage any segment of our rich, diverse society which defines who we are... Finally, I am sorry I failed to convey my strong belief that diversity - dynamic and inclusive is what makes America"...

Among those who voiced their displeasure with Brokaw online was Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), whose twin brother Julián Castro is running for president.

“.@tombrokaw, for a celebrated @NBCNews journalist who spent years chronicling American society you seem stunningly ignorant of the Hispanic community in this country. Unfortunate to see xenophobia pass for elevated political commentary @MeetThePress,” he wrote on Twitter.

But in what sense does he believe Brokaw is "stunningly ignorant of the Hispanic community?" If you assume it is because he is arguing (as did Alcindor) that Hispanics are anxious to learn English, think again. Politico adds "The Texas congressman also retweeted users who had their own stories of being hit or feeling unwelcome for speaking Spanish in the U.S."

Alcindor implies that Hispanics already are assimilating (at least in the matter of language), which is a facet of becoming fully American. By contrast, Castro suggests "they're not- and what's so wrong about that?" (He is, however, right about references to "Mexicans.") Brokaw, at least initially, believed otherwise.  Encouraging outreach "on all sides," he is concerned  "all their kids are learning to speak English and that they feel comfortable in their communities."

Brokaw's perception of language amongst second-generation Hispanics is highly questionable. However, he is right that cultures are "conflicting with each other" and that there are a lot of Americans- probably a majority of non-Latinos- who are wary of being outvoted as the concentration of Hispanics rises. Brokaw should have limited his remarks to that.

He is right, also, that only with probing do people typically evince sentiments they believe would prompt a charge of "racism."  Pretend they don't exist, and someday these voters might elect a guy who portrays immigrants as rapists, drug pushers, and criminals.

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