Courtesy of citizen.education
Late last month, Tom Brokaw, former anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” went on “Meet the Press” and said, “Hispanics should work harder at assimilation.” Brokaw used the word “assimilation” to refer to immigrants adapting and adjusting to the notion of American life. The reality of the matter, like it or not, is that the United States is a multi-ethnic country with no official language, and that’s how it should be.
When discussing Donald Trump’s much wanted funded border wall, Brokaw highlighted the importance of assimilation, adding “[Hispanics] 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.”
Not only are Brokaw’s comments redundant, but also insensitive given the fact that as a natural born citizen from South Dakota, Brokaw is oblivious to the hardships that many immigrants face trying to balance cultural differences in the United States.
No one understands this narrative better than I do. As first generation American, I often find myself trying to balance my cultural differences, trying to stay true to my Hispanic roots and at the same time trying to conform to the American lifestyle. I remember becoming more self-conscious about this during my transition from elementary school to middle school.
My first year of middle school was definitely a cultural shock to me. All my life, I had attended a bilingual elementary school where speaking Spanish and English was expected. It was also a predominately Hispanic school. Both the linguistic and racial diversity of the school made me feel accepted and welcomed to such a diverse community.
This quickly changed upon entering middle school. It was there where I first learned what it feels like to be a minority. As I entered a predominantly white middle school, it became obvious to me that my acceptance would come at the expense of my assimilation to this new “white” culture.
Growing up, I have been a witness to the countless trending stories on the news over white natural born American citizens being dissatisfied with other individuals for not speaking English. In May of last year, Aaron Schlossberg, a New York City lawyer, went viral after his racist rant against Spanish speaking employees. Just because the employees weren’t speaking English, Schlossberg indignantly said, “My guess is they’re not undocumented so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them taken out of my country.”
The only derogatory comment wasn’t the Spanish the employees were speaking but the offensive remarks Schlossberg was making. As a matter of fact, Brokaw’s and Schlossberg’s comment communicate the same message: we don’t want your identity to fit the American identity.
To those who believe that Hispanics aren’t “American” enough, in 2000, 19 million Hispanics said to be English proficient. As of 2015, 35 million Hispanics said they were English proficient. To further suggest that Latinos and Hispanics are conforming to the American lifestyle just fine, 71 percent of second generation Latinos who have at least one immigrant parent speak Spanish to their children and by the third generation, only 49 percent of Latino parents speak Spanish to their children.
Yes, this is an English dominated country. It is not, however, the official language of the United States. Because of this, individuals shouldn’t feel entitled to single out a person for speaking another language other than English. After all, the United States is a melting pot for a reason. It’s not a melting pot where immigrants forget about their culture and melt into one standard American identity, but one where different groups of people come together to form a diverse and multi-ethnic community.