Former “NBC Nightly News” host Tom Brokaw appeared on the panel of this Sunday’s “Meet the Press” and made several comments about his reservations to immigration, both illegal and legal.
One was a rather outré remark about how some Brokaw has spoken with are unsure whether they “want brown grand-babies.” In another, he said that “Hispanics should work harder at assimilation.”
The first was undoubtedly over the line — bringing up unnecessary, distracting questions of race and sex — and exactly the kind of comment liberals will normally seize on to shut down any real conversation about immigration.
The second, though, was a perfectly reasonable call for immigrants to take responsibility for moving themselves and their families into the mainstream of American life — something that in the not-too-distant past was considered an unchallenged bromide.
Guess which one sparked the wave of indignation and the apology?
So, first, what Brokaw said on Sunday.
Tom Brokaw: “The Hispanics should be working harder on assimilation. They should be making sure their children learn English.”
Meanwhile, many of the white people in America can barely speak english, read, or write.pic.twitter.com/EWQPbw6Xgm
— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) January 27, 2019
“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 extraordinary important new constituency in American politics, Hispanics, who will come here and all be Democrats,” Brokaw said.
“I hear when I push people harder, ‘I don’t know whether I want brown grand-babies.’ That’s also a part of it. It’s the intermarriage that’s going on and the cultures that are conflicting with each other.
“I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation,” he continued.
“That’s one of the things that I’ve been saying for a long time, that they ought not to be codified in their communities but make sure that all of their kids are learning to speak English and they feel comfortable in the communities. And that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”
During the panel discussion, there wasn’t pushback on the “brown grand-babies” part, but the part about assimilation drew a rebuke from PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.
“I would just say that we also need to adjust what we think of as America. You’re talking about assimilation,” she said. “I grew up in Miami, where people speak Spanish, but their kids speak English. And the idea that we think Americans can only speak English, as if Spanish and other languages wasn’t always part of America, is, in some ways, troubling.”
And then the show ended and Twitter ran amok with responses:
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) January 27, 2019
— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) January 27, 2019
.@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 https://t.co/nKoLhjWdbk
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) January 27, 2019
And then, of course, there was the inevitable apology.
i feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture
— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw) January 27, 2019
And the equally inevitable rejection of the apology:
You misspelled, “I apologize for my ignorant and demeaning glib generalization.”
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) January 27, 2019
You don’t feel terrible for saying them, you just feel terrible some people were offended? Got it, Tom.
— ResisterSister (@asweetgrace) January 27, 2019
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists also said Brokaw didn’t go far enough.
“To assert that the U.S. is not the melting pot that the country prides itself on being, is disinformation as the U.S. has always had immigrants and a mixture of races, religious beliefs and languages in its history,” a statement from the group read, according to Fox News.
“It is these values in fact that makes the country fascinating and has spread the ‘American Dream.’ The ‘sorry some Hispanics were offended’ apology tweeted by Tom Brokaw earlier this evening is not an apology at all. It only further demonstrates Brokaw’s lack of understanding of what forced assimilation does to communities.”
So, in short, nothing short of prostrating himself before the mob and then committing career suicide would be acceptable in this situation.
The great irony here is that what Brokaw was saying was held to be the “American Dream” for so long. American culture is a fluid thing, but it requires fluidity on both sides and more adaptation from immigrant cultures than from the larger culture. That’s not bigotry, that’s common sense: When you’re coming to any country to make a life there, it isn’t that country’s obligation to adapt to you, if just because you’re an individual from a group entering a much larger pool.
The dirty truth here is that too many immigrant communities in the United States are not interested in fully assimilating — or have “advocates” who claim they don’t need to. And Brokaw pointed that out.
By contrast, Brokaw’s “brown grand-babies” has gotten relatively little attention (or the fact that Brokaw apparently hangs out with an awful lot of bigots if this is the impression he’s getting), and there’s a reason why: It’s become a liberal article of faith among liberals that no immigrant ought to assimilate, that assimilation itself is a dirty word.
One can debate how much this is a sort of anaphylactic overreaction to the belief on the cultural right that assimilation ought to be encouraged or a matter of cynical electoral manipulation — demographics is destiny, after all, and the more people in cloistered communities that can be manipulated to vote en masse for one party, the better — but the fact is that the article of faith is there.
For liberals, everyone who questions it is anti-immigrant in general and anti-Latino in particular.
Except they aren’t. This was, up until very recently, not only an acceptable opinion in the eyes of the media but the beau ideal of the immigrant experience.
Now, for the mere crime of uttering the truth, Brokaw’s reaping the wrath of the liberal hate machine.
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