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Column: We all need to work hard to assimilate

February 5, 2019

Pobrecito Tom Brokaw.

Last month, the veteran journalist made a few remarks about Latinos and assimilation that he ended up apologizing for a few days later. Some people agreed with him, others se despeinaron and still others espulagaron el assunto to find the kernels of truth.

I’m mostly paraphrasing, but Brokaw said that “the” Hispanics ought to work harder at assimilation, and that they ought not to stay in their communities but instead make sure that their kids learn to speak English and feel comfortable with everyone else.

I got news for the guy who read the news for years: We’ve been assimilating for generations, Homes.

Across America but especially in the Southwest, a lot of us are bilingual and bicultural, even though it drives our parents and grandparents crazy when we stumble to remember how to say El Padre Nuestro or when we name our kids a non-Hispanic first name such as Bernadette or Ashton. We open taquerías in neighborhoods where they go crazy for our green enchiladas and treat a torta like a delicacy. We leave el baile del dolar and la vibora de la mar out of weddings in lieu of the money tree and the seating chart, pa ’que no digan.

We go to school with teachers who think we’re being defiant when we say tamal instead of tamal-ee and Pedernales instead of Perdynales. We smile when those same kids ask us if our our people came over legally, como si nada. We gently correct the nice lady at the market who believes we are shopping for chorizo instead of quiche florentine.

I know, he didn’t mean Us. He meant Them. But then Brokaw said that when he pushes people to talk, oftentimes they’ll say they’re not sure they want brown grandbabies — y aqui sale el peine, because we’ve all heard a version of that ugliness before.

Offensive remarks are held back when rudeness doesn’t get a free pass — and that goes for every one of us.

In those moments when we humans are at the kitchen table and there’s nobody around to police the politically incorrect notions we all hold in our hearts, our truth comes out.

And the truth is, we all need to work harder on assimilation. Right, Tom?