Latinx lawmakers respond to Tom Brokaw's suggestion that Hispanics should 'work harder at assimilation'

Tom Brokaw Mike Coppola/GettyNBC anchor Tom Brokaw.
  • NBC journalist Tom Brokaw suggested Hispanics should try harder to “assimilate” during Sunday’s episode of “Meet the Press.”
  • The comments sparked outrage among viewers, who labelled them as racist.
  • Some Latinx lawmakers, including Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquín Castro, responded to Brokaw’s comments.

On Sunday, NBC’s Tom Brokaw said “the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation” during an episode of “Meet the Press,” quickly earning the ire of viewers around the country who labelled his words as racist and out-of-touch.

Some of these critics included Latinx members of Congress who took to Twitter to condemn the long-time NBC journalist’s words, including Joaquín Castro, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Brokaw, who seemingly tried to apologise for his words in a series of bizarre tweets, made his original comments during a panel discussion over Americans’ perceptions of immigrants and immigration, under the context of Donald Trump’s demand for a border wall.

The reporter began by saying that Republicans view Hispanic immigrants as people “who will come here and all be Democrats.” Brokaw said some white Americans who he has interviewed have told him they don’t want “brown grand-babies” and are scared of “inter-marriage” and “cultures that are conflicting with each other.”

“I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. That’s one of the things I’ve been saying for a long time,” he said. “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, and that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”


Read more:
Tom Brokaw apologizes after saying ‘the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation’

In a series of tweets, Castro – whose brother Julián is one of the first major Latinx politicians to launch a presidential bid – explained why Brokaw’s comments were xenophobic.

“To give some context as to why this matters, in Texas into the 1950s (and perhaps after) Spanish was literally beaten out of children,” Castro said. “At many schools if you spoke Spanish you were hit by a teacher – spanked with a ruler or paddle.”

Assimilation is often a delicate subject among the US’s Latinx population. As Castro explained, Latinx parents often felt reluctant to pass down the Spanish language to their kids because they associated it “with notions of shame and inferiority.”

“That’s one reason why I find it so ironic that often times Hispanics today are shamed if they don’t speak Spanish,” Castro said.

A 2017 Pew Research study found that the closer a US adult with Hispanic ancestry is to their immigrant roots, the more likely they will identify as Hispanic. The study found that 97% of immigrant adults from Latin America or Spain say they are Hispanic while second-generation adults with Hispanic ancestry – US-born children of at least one immigrant parent – self-identify as Hispanic nearly as much.

But by the third generation, which Pew identified as a group made up of the US-born children of US-born parents and immigrant parents, Hispanic self-identification falls to 77%. By the fourth or higher generation, only half identify as Hispanic.

“Yet another irony is the fact that many who prefer getting rid of ‘hyphenated Americanism’ refer even to second, third gen Hispanic Americans as ‘Mexicans’ – rather than Americans,” Castro added in another tweet. “It’s as if no matter how long you’ve been in this country you’re not ever really an American.”

The Texas congressman wasn’t the only Latinx lawmaker who condemned Brokaw’s comments. Democratic Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona, an Iraq War Veteran, tweeted a picture of him in military garb, telling Brokaw that he thinks he assimilated “pretty well.”

George P. Bush, the Texas land commissioner and son of Jeb and Columba Bush, also hit back at Brokaw on Twitter, saying he is one of those “little brown ones” and that his grandparents – George H.W. and Barbara Bush – loved him.

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