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RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.: Black, Brown Republicans merit respect — not condemnation

I’m no healer. I’m a journalist. A reader recently suggested that those roles are one and the same.

She wrote: “You, as a journalist, have a huge platform to make greater strides in healing the root cause of racism by encouraging understanding and caring for each other.”

So it’s on me to end racism in America? No, thank you. It’s not my job to bring Americans together or mend a divided country or build a better society.

It is my job to make people think, simplify a complicated world and tell good stories that capture the imagination.

That said, if I were in the business of healing, I’d focus less on transforming America into a better country and spend more time making Americans into better people. The country is fine. It’s some of the current inhabitants who are broken.

In a better world, we’d all have more empathy and tolerance. If we encountered a stranger, or someone who believed things that seemed strange to us, we’d respond not with hostility but with an open mind. We’d celebrate cultural and political differences instead of trying to wash them out. We’d eschew arrogance and elitism and carry ourselves with humility and grace.

And the first person in line for the makeover could be Sunny Hostin, co-host of “The View.” That talk show is not a news program, and so it follows that Hostin and her fellow co-hosts are not journalists.

Hostin, a former federal prosecutor, is paid to express her opinions on television, but that doesn’t make her a broadcast journalist. I can prove it. Recently, after arguing with fellow panelist Lindsey Granger, a Black Republican, Hostin essentially challenged Granger’s right to exist.

“I feel like that’s an oxymoron, a Black Republican,” she said.

And when Granger noted that another panelist, Ana Navarro, a Latina, is also a Republican, an exasperated Hostin responded by widening her attack.

“I don’t understand Black Republicans,” she said. “And I don’t understand Latino Republicans.”

Lovely.

It’s OK that Hostin doesn’t understand how people of color could affiliate with the Republican Party. Obviously, that is not part of her world. What’s not OK, however, is that she isn’t the least bit interested in trying to understand.

A real journalist would be curious about Black and Latino Republicans — these POC of the GOP — and want to know what makes them tick. When we don’t “understand” something or someone, we follow our curiosity until we figure it out. We solve mysteries. We don’t simply declare ourselves stumped and move on.

Meanwhile, neither Black Republicans nor Latino Republicans owe anyone an explanation for their political leanings. And they certainly don’t need me to defend them. That’s good. Because I’m not here for that.

African American and Latino Republicans are free to believe what they like and vote however they please. In fact, it’s perfectly understandable that they think the answers to some of our policy challenges lie in the Republican Party, especially at a time when Democrats appear so bereft of ideas and so lacking in solutions.

I’m Latino, but I’m not a Republican — or a Democrat. I think both political parties are a hot mess, and I often have trouble telling them apart. Even when there are bright line differences in their policies — as with abortion — the tactics and schemes they use to achieve their goals all come from the same grab bag.

Besides, the Democratic Party doesn’t deserve a blank check from nonwhite voters for all eternity. For those keeping score at home, Democrats failed African Americans by not moving forward on police reform after the murder of George Floyd by a former police officer in Minneapolis two years ago. They also failed Latinos by pretending to care about fixing the immigration system and giving the undocumented legal status, but never delivering on that front either.

These days, with Americans disagreeing so vehemently about so much, some people seem to think they’re entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of the kind of peace and tranquility that comes from being surrounded by the like-minded.

We need a lot less of this impulse in our society, and we could use a lot more etiquette. The Founders were brilliant, but they got one thing wrong: The first and thus most important freedom isn’t freedom of speech, religion, the press, the right to assemble or petition the government; it’s the freedom to be ourselves.

In these perilous times, that’s the freedom that is most at risk — and the one worth defending with all our might.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is crimscribe@icloud.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.

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