A few days ago, celebrated newsman, Tom Brokaw, made some comments that torqued more than a few people off. He quickly apologized, of course, but his apology has been described as “tepid” at best. I listened with interest to what he said, and one of his assertions really caught my attention.
His comments were directed at our Hispanic population here in the good, ol’ US of A. In general, he said Hispanics should try harder to assimilate and that “they ought not be just codified in their own communities” (whatever that means). The inevitable accusations of racism were quickly hurled at him for such statements, and he attempted to cover his tracks just as rapidly.
The Big Uproar
I have to say, I can see why the big uproar ensued. I’m surrounded in life by a significant number of Hispanics, and they seem (in my experience) to be folks who make considerable efforts to be Americans. Naturally, first-generation immigrants often have accents and sometimes struggle with English; but more often than not, second-generation Hispanics are virtually indistinguishable from the rest of us. From what I can see, Brokaw is dead wrong on this point, and other journalists have quoted statistics to prove him erroneous.
But that leads to his statement that garnered the bulk of my attention. As he was discussing relationships between Hispanics and the rest of our culture, he said that some people tell him, “I don’t know whether I want brown grandbabies.” That declaration gave me great pause. I may be naïve, and I hate to disparage anyone by name, but I think Brokaw made that one up out of whole cloth. Who in the world would say that to him (even if they were actually thinking it)? I’m guessing that it supported his narrative, so he just thoughtlessly blurted it out.
The guy writing this (me) has a brown grandbaby. I didn’t realize she was a brown grandbaby until Brokaw pointed it out. (We also have a black one and a red one, too, but who’s counting—Brokaw, I guess.). We have a few white ones, also, but we don’t make those kinds of distinctions in our family. They’re all our grandbabies, we love them, and that’s that.
Go Ahead, Assimilate Me
To be honest, I never thought of our little grandchild as a “brown grandbaby” until Brokaw “codified” her on national TV. She’s our grandbaby, and it never occurred to me that there should (or could) be an extra adjective thrown in. Her father (my son-in-law) is a full-blooded, second-generation Hispanic who speaks better English than me and is as American as apple pie. In fact, he just might be more assimilated than I. I tend to emphasize my Italian roots quite a bit (although, I still can’t speak the language).
The point of my little tirade against people like Mr. Brokaw is that we already have enough going on in this country to tear us apart. We don’t need any help from pontificators of myths and fabrications like them.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]