Jemele Hill: Tom Brokaw Doesn’t Realize ‘Ostracized’ Latinos Avoid Learning Spanish

Tom Brokaw, Jemele Hill
AP/Getty Images

Former ESPN host and current writer for the Atlantic Jemele Hill weighed in on the controversy du jour surrounding former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw.

Brokaw is facing blowback after suggesting Latinos should work harder to assimilate in the United States. Hill claimed the veteran newsman’s comments are not only “ignorant” but purportedly ignore the reality that many Latinos avoid learning Spanish, not English, over fears they’ll be “ostracized.”

“I hear, when I push people a little harder, (people who say), ‘well, I don’t know whether I want brown grandbabies,’” Brokaw said during his appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday. “I mean, that’s also a part of it. It’s the intermarriage that is going on and the cultures that are conflicting with each other.”

“They ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak Spanish, and that they feel comfortable in the communities,” the 78-year-old journalist continued. “And that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”

Hill said it was “quite clear” that Brokaw was surrounded by who she described as “fragile white people” when he made the comments, seemingly ignoring the fact that his fellow panelist was PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who is African-American. She then cited Brokaw’s remarks as some sort of confirmation that he “clearly hasn’t spoken with actual Latinos.” Hill failed to define what qualifies for a “real” Latino. “[I]t’s funny how it’s OK for white folks to only socialize w/ white folks but when POC do it, it’s threatening,” the Atlantic writer continued.

Responding to a tweet criticizing Brokaw, Hill said what made the former anchor’s remarks so “ignorant” is that Latinos not only learn English, but avoid learning Spanish because they don’t want to feel ostracized.

Following a backlash led by leftists and Latino activists, Brokaw apologized via Twitter, writing that he felt “terrible” that his “comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture.”

The apology failed to quell the blowback, prompting him to issue a second one, tweeting: “[I] am sorry, truly sorry, my comments were offensive to many. [T]he great enduring [A]merican tradition of diversity is to be celebrated and cherished. [Y]amiche, thank u for your comments. [L]et’s go forward together.”

Brokaw continued that he “never intended to disparage any segment of our rich, diverse society which defines who we are” and reiterated his “strong belief” that “diversity — dynamic and inclusive – is what makes America.”

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