The Immigration debate is never far from the headlines. The latest entry in the conversation comes courtesy of veteran journalist, Tom Brokaw. Last Sunday on Meet the Press Brokaw, expressed some opinions on Hispanic communities.
First on the growth of the Hispanic population and its impact of Republican election math:
“I hear when I push people a little harder is, ‘I don’t know whether I want brown grandbabies.’ That’s also a part of it.”
Then on assimilation:
“I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. 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 the communities.”
First, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room that Brokaw’s comments express a very common sentiment. It is not hard to visualize someone saying they don’t want brown grandkids, and everyone has heard the “learn English” narrative for a long time. But these comments are off base and here is why.
- English is not the “official language”.
Contrary to popular belief, English is not the official language of the United States. It is the dominant language, which is the reason most immigrants try, and do learn it, but that doesn’t preclude speaking other languages.
- Hispanic children usually know English.
Anyone who works in a school knows that most 2nd generation immigrants know English. The parents may struggle with the language but by and large, 2nd generation Hispanics are proficient in English. And the proficiency of all Hispanics in English has been on the rise for a while.
- All Hispanics are not “brown”.
The people who are afraid of having “brown grandkids” may be surprised to know that all Hispanics are not brown. Not that it should matter… but many of them are white and identify as such.
- Hispanics are not an electoral monolith.
Just as Hispanics are not all brown, they are also not all liberal. Many are very religious and have conservative values. Just last week President Trump was touting a recent poll that showed him gaining grounds with Hispanics. So, if Republicans are already lamenting a shrinking voter bloc on the basis of the race and nationality of immigrants, then that says more about them and their outreach efforts than it does the immigrants themselves.
- Why does assimilation only work one way?
When the topic of assimilation comes up, we are usually talking about people of color or immigrants assimilating to white, American culture. Yet this country will be majority-minority by 2045 and some areas of the country already are. If Tom Brokaw’s logic holds true, shouldn’t people in places like New York, Los Angeles, or Miami start trying to learn some of the different languages and customs of the heavy immigrant populations around them? Does it not make sense for a white English speaker living in China Town to adapt to his surroundings by the logic put forth in Brokaw’s argument? If people expect assimilation on a macro level, then maybe we should expect the same on a micro level too.
Tom Brokaw has endured the wrath of people on Twitter for his comments. But at the end of the day, what he said was a commonly held view and it needs to be addressed with logic and facts as opposed to just condemnation.