Dear Tom Brokaw and Megan Neely; Maybe try assimilating like Vivian Ho

Dear Tom,

Got to thinking about your “Hispanics should assimilate” comment, (along with a similar comment from North Carolina Professor Megan Neely, regarding Chinese students speaking Chinese in public, at Duke University.)  That story is here.

Megan Neely lost her job as Director, but remains teaching at Duke…although it was very clear, personnel wanted the names of those students…to deny them internships and other forms of discrimination.

Anyway Tom, (and Megan, too, if you’re reading) – first, neither of you are wrong.  Only your focus was sincerely and remains, 100% wrong. Not the more mundane, “incorrect.”  Wrong.

The focus Tom, (and Megan) is this:  You.  Rather than being the old man not yelling “Get off my lawn” you are the old man yelling, “I want you to sit on the lawn a certain way.”

So you as a former news leader, must demonstrate a willingness to learn. Because you’ve forgotten, learning through assimilation works as a two-way street.  Why not try your hand at walking a mile, (not 1,700 miles), in someone else’s shoes.  Here’s a thought.  Maybe give Vivian Ho a call to use as your guide!

(Vivian if you’re reading this, I hope you don’t mind my volunteering your awesome assimilation background.)

Vivian Ho is a good choice because Vivian’s a journalist, and sometimes arrested for, you know — committing journalism.  Thought you would appreciate that, Tom.  Vivian’s old-school.  When the east-coast raised, Vivian Ho attends a protest….she sometimes winds up booked! (Or maybe cite released since SF – Oakland host lots of protests.) Still, real journalism, Tom.

Vivian Ho – journalist – and lover of Mexican food.

Where to begin

Begin like most. And after a protest, a girl’s gotta eat. Please note Tom, Vivian Ho, is more than happy to participate in a conversation of the best Mexican burrito, carnitas, taco, in a specific area of San Francisco.  That’s Mexican food Tom.  Not Hispanic food.

How assimilation works

By the way, I had my first assimilation experience in Waco, Texas, after the Air Force sent Dad from Plattsburgh, New York, to Waco, to help close James Connolly AFB.  Dad pulled into a gas station, and I casually listened as Dad chatted with the gas station attendant. We were in the thick of Texas, Tom.  And I didn’t understand one word the gas station attendant said. Seriously.  Not a single word.  And Tom, I was born in America.

Eventually, I assimilated myself into school.  Sorta. – but the kids didn’t really assimilate to me.  One kid asked if I was from England.  (I am not making this up.)  But assimilating along, pretty soon I was drinking Dr. Pepper (invented in Waco) with a boyfriend, who introduced me to the love of my life.

The history of Tex-Mex food…with recipes!

Yep.  Tex-Mex food. Love at first bite.  Reading the treasure above, I learned…one man who owned a Mexican restaurant, figured out by feeding hungry children, the dropout rate slowed. Then he noticed school grades soared.  This brought a better return for state funding.  Yes, the caring for hungry little kids was a good move by the state, and noticed by Gov. Lyndon Johnson.  So the program birthed in a Houston, by the owner of Mexican food restaurant, later became the beginning of Head Start.

The business man assimilated hungry children into his life, and school scores soared.

Many years later, I moved to the Bay Area..and when I bit into a burrito and tasted rice — well, Tom.  My eyes could not believe what my mouth was tasting! Rice in a burrito was unheard of.  Eventually though, I realized what likely happened.

When our Mexican friends first came to the U.S., they opened great little holes in the wall eateries, with lines around the block, that grew into bustling enterprises.

Still, not every one is a good cook. In California, good cooks got to stay in the warmth of Southern California; but lesser cooks were forced to move the cold North..where no one knew too much about good, Mexican food.  Some wound up in San Francisco.  Windy and cold.

Still, the Mexicans coped.  They hired Asian busboys — some of whom their daughters fell in love with….and BAM!  The next thing you know, Tom, there’s rice in your burritos!  Bravo assimilation!

Tony Bourdain knew how to assimilate through food.  Same for Jonathan Gold. Both men knew food is love.  And Tom, if you haven’t seen the documentary “City of Gold” —do.  Here’s the trailer.

LA isn’t yet over the sudden death of Jonathan, the only food critic to be awarded a Pulitzer prize.  I think Jonathan would have appreciated…LA’s tribute to Jonathan seeing Jonathan was a one-man, assimilation band. . .and LA loved Jonathan Gold for it.  See the golden tributes LA made for him.

This is America Tom.  The America you separated yourself from.  Sure, you have a place in busy Manhattan.  But Tom, you have more places, away from the American public.  Both here and British Columbia.  And from your secluded life you insist people assimilate to your standards…which is not how it works.

Tom Brokaw’s Pound Ridge, New York retreat

Away from the maddening crowd, for Tom Brokaw

One example of real assimilation, Tom, is learning to be creative when government supports rules and regulations that works against, people.

For instance…

Come back to America, Tom. It’s nice. The food is good too.  If you come to LA, I will take you to the one place my famous reporter friend, Linda, says she has the best dessert of her life. And Linda’s been all over the place.

Thanks for reading, Tom and Megan.  Isn’t it great that it’s really never too late to learn?!


About bonnie russell

It's not about’s always about people.
This entry was posted in Civil Rights, Education, Free Speech, Journalism, MSNBC, NBC and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Dear Tom Brokaw and Megan Neely; Maybe try assimilating like Vivian Ho

  1. I can’t stop thinking about TexMex now. It is a passion we share, but for me it’s not fair. When I lived in San Diego, those little mom & pop, 2 table eateries were everywhere. I hit the one 2 blocks from my house at least once a week for a $4 burrito that would take me two days to eat. In upstate New York by Ontario’s shoreline, the closest Mexican joint is a 15 minute drive, and there are only 3 in the entire county (that I’m aware of). The real tragedy is that none of them are half as good as the worst spot in SoCal. Why did I move back here again?! Ugh! If Tom doesn’t take you up on that Mexican food, may I have his spot? – Ed


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