Forever Young: Alaskan Member Apologizes After Discussing How His Family Used To Have “Wetbacks” To Do Their Work

220px-Don_Young,_official_photo_portrait,_color,_2006On the very heels of the GOP pledging to reach out to hispanics and repair the damage of the last election after an array of anti-women and anti-hispanic comments, Alaska Rep. Don Young stepped forward to show that such a face lift is not likely to occur with party leaders speaking from the eighteenth century. Young has long been a liability for the GOP with a long line of allegations of unethical and corrupt practices.


The 79-year-old Young is the second-most senior Republican in the House. He insisted that he “meant no disrespect” in referring to the workers on his father’s farm in central California as “wetbacks.” It appears that he was entirely unaware that the term was derogatory.

He made the comments on the radio station KRBD in Ketchikan, Alaska, in observing that “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.” It seems doubtful that this is the first time Young called such workers “wetbacks,” which means that he has likely used the expression previously without anyone objecting or informing him that it is viewed as an insulting and derogatory term.

Young is a leading anti-environmental legislator who has long been condemned for his close connections to lobbyists and industry groups. His latest allegations of misconduct has him under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for the alleged failure to report gifts on his annual disclosure forms, misuse of campaign funds and false statements to federal officials. He was recently also placed under investigation by the Justice Department over other gifts that he allegedly accepted in return for political patronage.

Young was also the chair of the committee that approved the “bridges to nowhere,” two proposed Alaska construction projects costing hundreds of millions that became the very symbol of congressional waste.

What is remarkable is that Young just treated his continual role as the subject of corruption charges as his unique signature as a public servant. Indeed, complaining about such corruption in Don Young is like complaining about the weather: “I’ve been under a cloud all my life. It’s sort of like living in Juneau. It rains on you all the time. You don’t even notice it.”

Despite years of congressional excess and self-dealing, the GOP has continued to support Don Young who is preparing for yet another run for office. His service to lobbyists in Washington results in massive campaign contributions that keep him as one of the principal “rainmakers” of waste and corporate windfalls in Congress. However, remember his wise words, complaining about Don Young or the weather is useless. He is just part of the permanent front of corruption that hangs over the Capitol.

Source: Fox

56 thoughts on “Forever Young: Alaskan Member Apologizes After Discussing How His Family Used To Have “Wetbacks” To Do Their Work”

  1. @Blouise… Sigh.

    WV is one of the most racist states in the union. And, as I said above, yes, some people have a lot of racist crap “under their hoods.” But Byrd apologized for his views and came out strongly for civil rights. This is from his Wikipedia page:

    “He filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and supported the Vietnam War, but later backed civil rights measures and criticized the Iraq War. He was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s, serving as a recruiter and leader for his chapter, but later left the group and denounced racial intolerance.”

    And here’s his apology for the “white nigger” remark:

    “I apologize for the characterization I used on this program … The phrase dates back to my boyhood and has no place in today’s society … In my attempt to articulate strongly held feelings, I may have offended people.”

    If you think you have better evidence, go try to change the page and see what happens. But the comparison here is with Byrd, who screwed up sometimes with his language, but apologized, and these Republicans who tend to screw up a lot on their language (outreach indeed) and then offer these non-apology apologies. But it’s really worse than that. It’s really about the policies, and on policy, the GOP is all about hurting minorities because that helps them with their base. Here’s Lee Atwater on the Southern Strategy:

    <>

    Anyhow, you managed to find one guy in the Democratic party, long gone now, who was a racist at one point in his life, and then denounced it. Show my a denouncement like that from Don Young. I’ll wait.

    And while I’m waiting, I’ll remind you that the GOP is full of mostly white guys, many of them who are openly racist all the time, spewing crap like this every chance they get. Find me some current Democrats who do that.

    To suggest that both parties are the same on race is ignorant and offensive. The Democrats are the party of tolerance for all races, religions, and orientations. The GOP is full of a bunch of old racist farts who listen for dog whistles to tell them how to vote. The southern strategy is still alive and well (Willard Romney used it with his Foodstamp crap, his welfare lies, etc). The anti-immigration wing of the GOP is so racist and crazy that even the smart Republicans can’t manage to shut them up.

  2. Byrd? Byrd apologized for his membership in the KKK so okay, good on him? Bull-twinkies! How about his filibuster of the Civil Rights Act or his words in 2001: “There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time, if you want to use that word. ” The list goes on and on and on where good ol’ boy Byrd is concerned.

    BTW … anyone ever tried to be black in West Virginia. Let’s give it a shot:

    States on West Virginia’s borders—————–Percentage black population

    Ohio ——————————————————–12.4
    Virginia —————————————————-19.8
    Pennsylvania ——————————————–11.3
    Kentucky ————————————————–8.0

    West Virginia—————————————3.5

    Steve Fleischer may not have said it right where taxes were concerned but where good ol’ Byrd’s and the Party system is concerned, he got it right.

  3. Dredd, I got the jist of what you were talking about, and I’m trying to say that the idea that this applies to Rep. Young seems like a bit of a leap. Sure, we all tend to gloss over bad things in the past, and sure, much of that is an unconscious decision to help us deal with guilt, or whatever, as with the neo-confederates trying to say the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, or like Ron Paul trying to say we could have bought the slaves from the south (completely ignoring basic facts, like the Cornerstone Speech). But why subscribe this to some unconscious act when you don’t have any proof that this man is actually doing that?

    Let me put it this way… Unless you can sit Don Young down and talk to him, and delve into his psyche, you have no way of knowing if he’s just reaching back into his mind and grabbing a word from under his hood that he no longer realizes is racist (or maybe he never thought it was racist). This would be a stretch, since we know that Don Young has a history of this kind of crap, that he was alive and well during “Operation Wetback,” and that a US congressman who is almost 80 years old hasn’t ever been told that the term “wetback” is racist. He’s a rabid anti-immigration GOP dinosaur who’s fought against equality all his life and depends on the votes of like-minded people to keep getting re-elected. Why assume that it’s some deep-seated psycho pathology or something when the most obvious answer is that he knows damn well what he’s saying, and he does it on purpose as a dog whistle?

  4. Scott Supak

    Thanks for responding to Steve Fleisher’s post so well. I had begun a response but had to stop to take care of an issue. By the time I got back your post had addressed my frustration with his entry.

  5. What (now don’t get ready for the sky to fall) Bron said and ap as well.

    This guy is a racist dinosaur.

  6. Scott Supak (@ssupak) 1, April 1, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Dredd, again, why be so kind to this person? There is absolutely no evidence that this man’s prejudice is “under the hood.” The term wetback has always been derogatory. He had first hand experience with Operation Wetback, a Federal program of mass deportations. His use of the term was offhanded, but that doesn’t mean he’s just using it carelessly. It’s a dog whistle to his racist constituents who don’t want immigrants in the US. And his half-assed non-apology apology is further proof that he knows damn well what he said, and he doesn’t care, because, 1, he’s a racist, and 2, it’ll help him get reelected.
    =================================================
    You neglected the introduction to my comment which was:

    This gets back to the Mike S post Saturday.

    The propaganda going back over a hundred years takes a toll on the human mind.

    In that thread Mike S pointed out, inter alia, that propaganda is one of the primary reasons for the under-the-hood institutionalization of racial prejudice which is still rife in our cultural amygdala.

    On the Mike S post I quoted text concerning some scholarly work in that regard:

    … historians nowadays tend to be interested in different facets of memory, especially “collective memory” and its mirror image, forgetting. Among other things, we want to know how a society or community’s memory of important events changes over time. Those changes often involve forgetting what we once knew — or thought we knew.

    For example, the Yale historian, David Blight, has shown that during the first 50 years after the Civil War, the majority of white Americans largely forgot the harshness of slavery and came to remember the institution as relatively benign. A southern, romanticized version of slavery took shape thanks to a proliferation local Civil War museums and the desire of political and cultural elites to forge reconciliation between the North and the South.

    Bipartisan cultural practices of denial that become institutionalized flow in the cognitive rivers below the level of our consciousness:

    Probably 98 percent of your reasoning is unconscious – what your brain is doing behind the scenes. Reason is inherently emotional. You can’t even choose a goal, much less form a plan and carry it out, without a sense that it will satisfy you, not dis­gust you. Fear and anxiety will affect your plans and your ac­tions. You act differently, and plan differently, out of hope and joy than out of fear and anxiety.

    Thought is physical. Learning requires a physical brain change: Receptors for neurotransmitters change at the synapses, which changes neural circuitry. Since thinking is the activation of such circuitry, somewhat different thinking re­quires a somewhat different brain. Brains change as you use them-even unconsciously. It’s as if your car changed as you drove it, say from a stick shift gradually to an automatic.

    (Toxic Bridge To Everywhere). It takes more than readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic to take the pollution out of those subterranean rivers in our national psyche.

    That is why it is still there polluting our nation.

  7. He used a dehumanizing expression… and, IMO, he conveyed exactly what believes. I’d put money on it.

  8. John Barleycorn: “So anyway…before you throw stones at Mr. Young ponder the interesting dynamics.”

    What, exactly, about the dynamics of Alaskan politics should stop me from “throwing stones” at a racist? Is there some quirky twist about running for office in Alaska, as, say, opposed to Alabama, that excuses racist remarks? We’re supposed to give him a pass because a very large, lightly populated state has an odd political dynamic? This makes his racist remarks excusable?

  9. Dredd, again, why be so kind to this person? There is absolutely no evidence that this man’s prejudice is “under the hood.” The term wetback has always been derogatory. He had first hand experience with Operation Wetback, a Federal program of mass deportations. His use of the term was offhanded, but that doesn’t mean he’s just using it carelessly. It’s a dog whistle to his racist constituents who don’t want immigrants in the US. And his half-assed non-apology apology is further proof that he knows damn well what he said, and he doesn’t care, because, 1, he’s a racist, and 2, it’ll help him get reelected.

  10. Steve Fleischer, nice stretch. Sen. Byrd apologized for his racist views in his past, so the Democrats didn’t have to “tolerate” his behavior. HE ENDED his bad behavior, apologized, and was forgiven by the members of his party. Many former racist Democrats became Republicans when LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act, because the Republican Party tolerates the racists. Not the Dems. That’s the whole basis for the southern strategy.

    Our the FICA tax went back up after having been cut as part of Obama’s stimulus program. Apparently you’re unaware of this fact, so when you speak, you make it sound as if the tax was raised. This is disingenuous. But perhaps you were unaware of this fact. In the future, I suggest you study the matter before suggesting that “Washington” raised your taxes, when, in fact, the temporary cut in your taxes simply expired.

    I’d say it’s time you got more in touch with the US, and especially the basic facts of what are going on. It’s like you’re living in a foreign country.

  11. “It appears that he was entirely unaware that the term was derogatory.”

    What on earth led you to this conclusion, Professor? Just because he gave that impression doesn’t mean it’s true. This guy is a Bullshitter, and I say that in the philosophical sense (HG Frankfurt, On Bullshit, Princeton Press). So, he’s just trying to convey an impression. I’m sure he knows damn well that the term is, and always has been, derogatory. See “Operation Wetback.”

  12. Young is dirty and has been for years. I wonder if his corporate sponsors will continue to funnel him money?

  13. RIP his dearly departed wife (2009). She held his hand through thick and thin in years past.

    Interesting state of affairs in Alaska. Some history for your readers and my guess is yourself as well.

    Mr. Young was defeated in ’72 by Nick Begich who perished in a plane crash. I think it was a year or so latter and Don Young succeed him (appointed).

    Mark Begich, (democrat) the son of Nick, recently defeated Ted Stevens (republican) under a cloud of oil tax corruption and is now the junior senator from Alaska.

    Ted Stevens for what is is worth also perished in a plane crash shortly after his defeat while in the process of trying to clear his name and legacy.

    Currently Alaska is getting ready to put the pen in Governor Sean Parnell’s hand that will decrease oil taxation by approximately two billion dollars a year.

    The same Sean Parnell who inherited the governors mansion as Lieutenant Governor after Sarah Palin decided not to finish out her first term seeing as she figured she might as roll with Presidential Hopeful John McCain as his V.P. selection.

    Interestingly enough Palin unseated the former Junior Senator from Alaska Frank Murkowski after his first term in the republican primary and she went on to victory in the general election.

    Murkowski ran for Governor originally and was elected as a sitting US Senator. To paraphrase his reasons for running…”to get a gas pipeline built”.

    He appointed his daughter Lisa Murkowski after elected who was confirmed by the Alaska Legislature to succeed him in the US Senate. She is now the senior US Senator from Alaska.

    The same Lisa Murkowski who just succeeded in winning a write in campaign for the US Senate to secure another term. I think that has only happened twice in American history.

    So anyway…before you throw stones at Mr. Young ponder the interesting dynamics.

    Don’t forget to vote next time around Alaskans, and Do you know the dynamics of the last 40 plus years of the congress men/women near you beyond the headlines?

    Or are you all just a bunch of “wet backs”? I joke but I do not think just the state of Alaska is full of such flavorful national representation.

    These are the folks that we trust with just what again exactly?

  14. Can you imagine being the one tasked with explaining his error to this 79 year old idiot? That must have been a real fantasyland ride.

    “right now Washington is almost a foreign country” (Steve Fleischer) … yep

  15. Washington is full of people disconnected from the rest of the country.

    Look at Sen. Byrd (now deceased) of West Virginia; wasn’t he some “executive” in the KKK? The point is that both parties tolerate behavior that the rest of the country has long recognized as unacceptable.

    Perhaps more disturbing is the disconnect between our “leaders” and the people that they govern.

    On 1/1/13, we all experienced a 2% decrease in our incomes (the FICA tax). Washington seemed to regard that tax increase as necessary, acceptable and just.

    But listen to the howls stemming from the 2.3% sequester budget cuts, those cuts were considered draconian.

    Time that Washington politicians got more in touch with the U.S.; right now Washington is almost a foreign country.

  16. We used to have a rag & bone man that came through our neighborhood. My dad always refereed to him as a ‘Sheeney’ I was about 12 or 13 before I learned that was a slur. But then again that was around 1960 and it was a lot more obscure that ‘wetback’. I can’t imagine Rep Young really didn’t know that was pretty insulting.

    Meanwhile the GOP thinks all they need to do is work on the way they say things

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