In an interview this week with a local radio station, Alaska’s longest serving elected representative Don Young (R-AK) referred to immigrants as “wetbacks”, “My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
The media is trying to explain it away by saying “he’s always said what he thinks.” Indeed. He tried to mea culpa it by saying it’s a term from “during my days” growing up on a farm.
Transcript from KRBD:
“The last time that I’ve seen where agencies considered the wishes of local people was 10 years ago,” he said.
“What are we doing? We’re not cutting any trees or doing anything positive,” he said. “They say we have a restoration project. But they’re not restoring anything. They talk about it, but they’re really not restoring anything. So that’s the hostility — the people that are concerned about losing their democracy or their freedom. It’s very evident.”
“I really think that everybody should consider my 10 percent solution,” he said. “Everybody put 10 percent of their salaries, including those on government welfare, so everyone has something in the game – a little skin in the game – including all the agencies and the whole bit; you’d balance the budget.”
“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” he said. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
Young is also being investigated by the Ethics Committee right now, which seems to confuse him because the rules “were different back then”. He said, “The frustrating thing is they’ve gone back to 2001. There is such a thing as a statute of limitations. There were different rules then. I think they’re trying to apply this year’s rules to 2001.”
While ‘wetback’ is considered a racial slur, Young claims in a statement that he meant no disrespect — and really, that is the problem. The GOP is so out of touch that they are openly disrespectful and sometimes they don’t even know it. Then they try to claim they’re not racists/sexists/bigots because they don’t hate people, but the real issue is that they are spreading filth and making things tougher for a group of people while being lawmakers.
See, imagine this: When you use the word ‘wetbacks’ and then vote against immigration reform, people might question your intentions. They might not think you’re the best person for the job. They might think you’re out of step. They might think you’re a hater.
If you have to use the term “during my days growing up” to excuse your racial slur, you shouldn’t be in office anymore. Here’s Don Young’s statement of apology:
“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. 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. America must once and for all tackle the issue of immigration reform.”
It’s too bad Don Young never had any opportunity to hear that some people are offended by ‘wetback’. Not from anyone in his party, certainly. None of his family or friends told him. None of his colleagues told him. He didn’t hear it from talking to any immigrant friends. He didn’t read it in any of the papers I hear they get in Alaska.
And that is the exact point. The GOP is out of touch because they choose to be out of touch. These things wouldn’t happen if Don Young and the Republican Party ever got outside of their epistemic closure tent and met a few people that think differently from the way they do.
The road to hell was paved with good intentions, so it doesn’t matter if he meant no disrespect. He’s a lawmaker and he should know enough to know better.