"Wetbacks" Is Acceptable Language at National Review Online

On Tuesday, National Review Senior Editor Jay Nordlinger posted an online column entitled "Against Growth!" On the subject of conservative reaction, during the 1980s, to the Reagan presidency, Nordlinger wrote:

"Truth is, some conservatives lamented that he had indeed "grown" in office. He had gone out of his way to accommodate liberals and moderates, and to accommodate the Kremlin. He was raising taxes, spending like crazy, welcoming wetbacks, pursuing arms control."

Apparently, it did not occur to Nordlinger that the word "wetback" is deeply offensive to the Hispanic community. In fact, in a follow-up post, Nordlinger responded to colleagues and online criticism about his choice of words. Rather than apologize, however, he expressed defiance:

Look: I am not a politician. I'm a writer. And if you don't like what I write -- for heaven's sake, there are 8 billion others you can click on. I would further say to the complainers, using a phrase I've never liked, frankly: Get a life. Get a frickin' life.

Nordlinger explained that his intent was to describe the mentality of Reagan's critics. Yet he couldn't help being dismissive, adding:

If people wet their pants on seeing the word "wetback," this country is as far gone as the most pessimistic and alarmist people say it is.
Two more words: Good grief.

Founded in 1955 by segregationist William F. Buckley Jr., the National Review is on a racist roll. In April, it fired writer John Derbyshire after he published a column in which he presented ideas he's taught his children about race, which included "avoid concentrations of blacks" and "stay out" of their neighborhoods. That same month, contributing writer Robert Weissberg was fired for his ties to the white nationalist group American Renaissance.

Meanwhile, Nordlinger remains on staff. A former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, his National Review bio states that he writes on politics, foreign affairs, and the arts. Ironically, he is a recipient of the 2001 Eric Breindel Award for Opinion Journalism, given by the News Corp. to a journalist who demonstrates "love of country and its democratic institutions."

It is deeply troubling that neither the National Review nor Nordlinger recognize his words as hate speech. "Wetback" is as offensive to Latinos as the N-word is to African-Americans and
F----t is to the gay community. Even if we accept Nordlinger's argument that he was characterizing the views of others, "wetback" is not a word that reasonable people use in conversation. One National Review Online commenter noted that the site's own comment filter blocks use of the word.

Then again, the National Review is not known for being overly concerned with political correctness. Last year, writer Victor Davis Hansen asserted that Obama was not an "authentic" black like Herman Cain "as defined by Southern mannerisms and darker complexion." In April 2010, the magazine's all-white symposium on the effects of the recession on blacks concluded, "discrimination is not a sufficient explanation for black unemployment."

But the National Review has hit a new low with Nordlinger's column. Not only are they further sullying their own reputation, they are reinforcing stereotypes of conservatives as out-of-touch and racist. And this is the outlet that, according to their media kit, is "America's most widely read and influential magazine and website for Republican/conservative news, commentary and opinion?" Epic fail.

Worse, National Review management does not realize that there are links between hate speech and violence. Words have consequences. Consider that over the last few years, as the illegal immigration debate heated up, violence against Latinos spiked. Last year, the FBI released its latest figures on hate crimes. Hate crime against Latinos rose from 45% in 2009 to 66% in 2010. And as Mark Potok from the Southern Poverty Law Center has pointed out, most hate crimes against Latinos are under-reported, due to fears of deportation among the undocumented.

Sadly, the National Review remains oblivious to what is acceptable in America in 2012. They should be ashamed of providing an outlet for such blatant bigotry. It dishonors the legitimate legacy of Reagan, and insults millions of Latinos. Nordlinger has things backwards; it is not this country that is "far gone," it is he who should be.