American TV journalism legends apologises for stating an opinion:
NBC News personality Tom Brokaw, who has returned to regular on-air commentary after a brush with #MeToo issues, has run into more controversy over thoughts about immigration he shared on Meet the Press.
Appearing as a panelist on the Sunday morning show (see video via Twitter below), Brokaw said when he “pushes” Americans on the subject of immigration, “They say, ‘Well, I don’t know whether I want brown grand-babies.’ That’s also a part of it, 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. … You know, 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. And that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”
After the startling take started to ricochet around Twitter — fueled, of course, by right-wing bloggers and activists but also by stupefied Brokaw partisans on the left — the NBC legend responded via Twitter.
“I feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture,” Brokaw tweeted in the first of a multi-part apology. In addition to highlighting his work over the decades on immigration coverage, he emphasized the end of his Meet the Press remarks, which called for “both sides” to work on assimilation.
It took Brokaw no fewer than 10 tweets (see the full sequence below) to express himself. He started out defensive and then repeatedly apologized, blaming his Twitter account for “failing” him “at the worst time.”
The lesson here, which Brokow has clearly failed to learn, is not to apologise, because you can never been contrite enough to fully satisfy the easily offendable. And that’s putting aside the more important issue whether you have anything to apologise for in the first place. Brokaw’s comment about assimilation would have been entirely uncontroversial to most people throughout most of the American history, but Tom has had a misfortune to be honest at the height of the Age of Multiculturalism, when the motto ex pluribus unum has been completely reversed and “diversity” is considered to be the ultimate virtue and the ultimate good, as well as an end it itself.
Of course the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. Everyone should work harder at assimilation. If you reside in a different country for a period of time, for example for a contract work, you should be a good guest, but if you intend to spend the rest of your life somewhere else than your country of birth you should make the effort to fit in and “go native” to the extent possible. That includes learning and using the official language of your new country, not necessarily at home – though all practice helps – but certainly in public situations (as opposed to demanding bilingualism from your fellow citizens and the state). It of course includes accepting the laws of the land and the more informal national values. It includes getting to know your new home, its history, its people, its traditions, its mores, and making an effort to understand them and trying to share in them. It includes making an effort to embrace your neighbours – and I agree here with Brokaw that it takes two to tango.
It doesn’t mean (to use the Australian context) that all migrants need to start wearing Akubra hats, address everyone “g’day mate”, and convert to irreligiosity, which is the main religion in Australia – though of course they can if they want to; after all, these might all be the things that attracted them to Australia in the first place. But it does mean that you can’t pretend that you’re still living in Syria, Somalia or Guatemala, while thinking your new country owes you and expecting everyone else to adjust to you rather than the other way around.
For me, as a migrant, all this seems completely common sense and uncontentious, which probably makes me a bad migrant in the eyes of the political activists – I must have internalised racism and thus acquired the false consciousness. Pity me.
P.S. Seventeen per cent of marriages in the United States are interracial (up from 3 per cent fifty years ago), of which almost 40 per cent are white-Hispanic.
P.P.S. The late Samuel “The clash of the civilisations” Huntington was worried towards the end of his life that while all the previous waves of migrants over the centuries have managed to successfully integrate in a generation or three, the Hispanics might be a more difficult case, since the migration to them merely means moving across the border and not across the ocean, with all that proximity and virtually unbroken connection entail. See his last book “We” for a discussion of this concern.