GOP Rep. Steve Womack's 'Friendly Advice' to Mexican-American Constituent: Lose The Flag

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There are many things foreign that seem to ignite immediate anger from Republicans, and one of those things is the sight of an American citizen displaying pride for their ethnic heritage, particularly by saluting the flag of their immediate ancestors, particularly if those ancestors happen to come from anywhere outside of Europe.

Want to pass immigration reform? Lose the flag.

That's the “friendly advice” Congressman Steve Womack (R-Arkansas) had for one of his Mexican-American constituents during a town hall meeting in Fort Smith.

Watch the very awkward exchange, and read more about the GOP's inability to comprehend ethnic and racial minorities below the jump.

The video is courtesy of Democratic tracker American Bridge. An attendee wearing a Mexican flag identified himself as a Mexican-American Fort Smith resident, and then visibly nervous asked Womack what his position on immigration reform was.

“I respect the whole border thing, I respect that,” he said. “I want to ask if it is a possibility to legalize the 11 million immigrants that are here in this country, that are here and are contributing to the progress of this country.”

Womack said legalization was possible, but offered a one-word answer whether immigration reform was likely to pass this session:


Womack proceeded to rant about how America is a land of laws and made a slippery-slope argument, that if we turn our eyes away from the law this one time to pass immigration reform, what next are we going to do.

The exchanged became very awkward when Womack turned his back to his constituent and voiced his concern to the rest of the audience about the young man's display of the Mexican flag.

“I don't want to put this gentleman on the spot, but it does, just a little bit-okay, honestly, more than a little bit-it does strike me as a bit odd that I would get a question as to why we shouldn't just automatically make it legal for people who didn't come here under a legal circumstance with a flag of another country draped around his neck,” Womack said.

The remarks generated strong applause from the people there, most of whom were probably Republican supporters of Womack.  

“I want to say this to you…this suggestion, good old friendly advice, that if you want to win friends and influence people on the issues that you're talking about, I would suggest a little different approach in terms of my attire when I'm appealing to an audience like this,” Womack said.  “I mean, that's just a little friendly advice, ok?”

Womack is not the only Republican to offer this sort of advice.

In a op-ed published on Politico, GOP Louisiana Governor “Bobby” Jindal blamed racial inequality on minorities being too proud of their heritages, a day after thousands rallied at the March on Washington 50th anniversary demonstration.

Jindal, who's real name is Piyush, lamented that minorities place “undue emphasis” on heritage. He urged Americans to resist “the politically correct trend of changing the melting pot into a salad bowl” comprised of proudly ethnic identities. Minorities , it seems, are to blame in advocating for “separateness.”

Here's some friendly advice to Jindal, Womack and the rest of the Republican Party: Maybe minorities will “assimilate” to your satisfactions if Republicans stopped supporting and creating systemic inequities preventing minorities from progressing and “assimilating.”

Though America has made significant progress since the March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom in the 60's, according to research done by the Center for American Progress, the unemployment rate of African Americans is typically twice as high as that of white Americans, while the Latino unemployment rate is about 50 percent greater than the rate for whites.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, African Americans' median weekly earnings were $674, and Latinos' earnings were $549. In comparison, whites earned $744 each week.

From 2009 to 2011, the number of African American minimum wage workers increased by 16.6 percent, and that of Latino minimum wage workers increased by 15.8 percent. On the other hand, Asian Americans in minimum wage positions decreased by 15.4 percent, and whites only increased by 5.2 percent.

Despite African-Americans being only 13% of the population in America, and Latinos 17%,  Black and Latino students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement for violating minor school rules like the dress code, carrying a cell phone, or talking back to a teacher.

African-Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of all confined youth today.

Could all this be why minorities feel so different?

In order to aid in combating a lot of these social issues, The Civil Rights Movement brought us the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and anti-poverty legislation of the mid-late 1960s, such as the Food Stamp Act of 1964.

This summer, the conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of its enforcement power, and as a result, Red States began to implement all kinds of voter oppression laws against minorities. Also this summer, the House GOP voted to eliminate 100 percent of funding for food stamps from the Farm Bill. As a result, food stamps are currently unfunded in the federal budget.

Because of the sequester and the failure to compromise by Republicans, thousands of kids across the nation won't be part of Head Start this year, 4,410 kids in Texas alone. A large percentage of them are minority children.  

And according to Republicans, who again is advocating for “separateness”?

There are countless of social and economic benefits to immigration reform — which will generate billions of dollars to our states' economies, the national economy, and even social security — and what Republicans are most concerned about are displays of heritage pride?

Give us a break.

About Author

Omar Araiza

Staff writer Omar Araiza covers immigration, Latino voters, the U.S.-Mexico border, and LGBT issues. He is a proud South Texas native, born and raised in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Omar tweets from @AraizaTX.

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