The Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino released this statement following comments from NBC news host Tom Brokaw on assimilation in the United States:
“When we understand history, we better understand the present. The comments by Tom Brokaw underscore the distortion of American history that has for too long painted a false picture of the Latino community, and place the ongoing lack of understanding in this country on center stage. Even as the southwest United States is covered in cities with Spanish names, streets and a scattering of memorials to the 500 years of U.S. Latino history, we still use the word ‘assimilation’ blindly. The food, music, and even cities in the U.S. are living testaments to the rich tapestry of interwoven cultures that tell the American story.
Learning Spanish or English as a second language is always an asset, and should not be seen as an ‘assimilation’ requirement. Based on the founding dates of some of our first cities and capitals across the country, one might ask, ‘who assimilated to whom?’ While we find these comments from Tom Brokaw troubling, the larger point is that this is our shared American story, and has always been.
We can no longer ignore or overlook the harmful effects of leaving gaps in teaching our history. Ignorance, biases, and false assumptions about our community do every American a disservice, and rob us of a pride that make us all stronger. The need for a Smithsonian National American Latino Museum is all the more necessary on our National Mall when even distinguished journalists like Tom Brokaw get our history and our present wrong.”