Press release from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Jan. 27, 2019:
Today, The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) reprehends both the commentary and apology by journalist, Tom Brokaw, as well as the lack of response by NBC News to the inaccurate representation of Hispanics’ need to “assimilate,” comments by Brokaw on the Meet the Press segment with Chuck Todd.
Despite disappointment by veteran journalist Brokaw, NAHJ applauds Yamiche Alcindor (PBS NewsHour White House correspondent and political contributor to NBC News and MSNBC) for taking the opportunity to “fact check” the false remarks. As Yamiche begins to point out, by saying a group “must assimilate” is to label America as being one-dimensional and consists of a single culture. 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. It is these values in fact that makes the country fascinating and has spread the “American Dream.”
Brokaw’s comments also ignore the fact that most U.S. Hispanics are born in the United States; English is their native language. His position bolsters stereotypes that U.S. Hispanics are all foreigners, prejudiced as the “others”.
Speaking Spanish is an important component of U.S. Hispanics identity. The Pew Research Center reports that 88% of U.S. Hispanics (of the more than 55 million) say it is important to them that future generations of Hispanics living in the U.S. be able to speak Spanish.
According to a report by the Instituto Cervantes research center, there are an estimated 52.6 million people in the U.S. who speak Spanish; 41 million of them are native Spanish speakers and another 11.6 million are bilingual. Contrary to the comments by Brokaw today, a large portion of the Hispanic population is actually bilingual, especially within the Hispanic youth population.
“Assimilation is denying one culture for the other”, said Hugo Balta, NAHJ president and Senior Producer at MSNBC (NBC’s cable news network). He continued, “Hispanics are no less American for embracing their country of origin or that of their ancestors…being bicultural and bilingual is a strength in an increasingly multi-ethnic, multilingual society.”
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.
NAHJ will continue to reach out to NBC News leadership in an effort to use this unfortunate incident as an opportunity to discuss journalistic standards in the accurate representation of minority communities.