Rep. Don Young Apologizes for “Wetbacks” Radio Comment

Here’s an idea for my Republican friends: since you guys are re-branding and are concerned about your image, it’s probably not a good idea to refer to Hispanics as “wetbacks”. Now I know being racist or remembering not to be racist can be hard for my friends in the Republican party. However, it would behoove you to be cognizant of the fact that such racist language doesn’t play too well in the general public.

Perhaps someone within the party élite needs to remind Alaska Congressman Don Young of this fact (yeah, where are you, Reince Priebus?). I know trying to forget the fact that 71% of Hispanic-Americans voted for President Obama in November can be hard. But, I’d like to think that America’s shifting demographics — you know, it’s browning? — should make a seasoned politician mindful when speaking on the issue of immigration.

This from The Hill:

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) issued an apology Thursday after using the term “wetbacks” to describe Latino workers on his family farm.

During a sit down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect,” Young said in a statement to the Alaska Dispatch.

Young made the comment during an interview with KRDB-FM radio in Alaska about the current immigration reform legislation being debated in Congress. Young said he feared that the country had exported too many vital industry jobs, while agreeing that automation and technological advances had reduced the number of labor positions available.

“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” he told the station. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

In the statement to the Dispatch apologizing for his remarks, Young says that he believes Congress should “once and for all tackle the issue of immigration reform.”

“Migrant workers play an important role in America’s workforce, and earlier in the said interview, I discussed the compassion and understanding I have for these workers and the hurdles they face in obtaining citizenship,” Young said.

Listen here:

Transportation and Infrastructure committee budgetYoung has represented his Alaska district in congress since 1973, and he is 79-years-old. He’s not exactly as ancient as John McCain, but still a paleocomservative by today’s standards. My guess is that being cut off from the lower forty-eight and living in Alaska makes it hard to keep up with social trends like the non-acceptance of racially derogatory words. Because, according to Young “he meant no disrespect,” when he used the term “wetbacks” to describe Hispanic migrant workers. After all, he was in fact speaking in the interest of the need for immigration reform, right? Surely he isn’t racist at all, right?

This from POLITICO:

“During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” he said later Thursday, according to reports. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays, and I meant no disrespect.”

Young went on to praise the role migrant workers play in society and called for the country to address immigration reform.

Oh well, it’s not like he “blacked out” like Alabama State Rep. Joe Mitchell did recently (more on that soon). That said, maybe as an act of contrition Don Young makes a strong push for immigration reform by getting his fellow Congressional Republican cohorts in line, yes?