August 04, 2009
Last week (July 25-28) the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) held its annual conference at Chicago's McCormick Place West. The conference was originally scheduled to be held in Kansas City, Missouri, but organizers moved it in order to "punish" that town after its mayor had the audacity to appoint one of the Minutemen to an official position.
I decided to pay our friends at La Raza a little visit. One of the workshops, "Lessons from Lucero: Overcoming Hate at the Local Level," sparked my curiosity particularly. With Orwellian-style hate crimes legislation pending in Congress, I was interested to see exactly what "overcoming hate" meant.
Lisa Navarrete, [email] Vice President of NCLR, introduced each of the workshop's speakers after lamenting the "wave of hate"(a La Raza catchphrase) against Latinos that she seemed to believe was sweeping the country and making it hard to pass "comprehensive immigration reform".
The first speaker was Jose Perez [email him] of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the successor group to the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. Some readers might recall that Judge Sonia Sotomayor's connections to this organization were an issue during her confirmation hearings—a development that Perez spent some time deploring.
He expressed amazement at the idea that anyone could ever consider his organization a "hate group" and quoted a statement from its website:
"As the leading advocate for Latinos in New York and the Northeast, and known nationally for its work in educating the next generation of Latino lawmakers, LatinoJustice PRLDEF is well-positioned to bring attention to the need to cultivate more Latino leaders in professional fields and in decision-making positions."
When he finished reading he lifted up his head and asked incredulously, "Now, does that sound like a hate group?"
Of course, Perez's inability to imagine how anyone could ever call a group with such an agenda a "hate group" illustrates how deeply ingrained the double standard is when it comes to ethnic activism. Take the same exact paragraph and replace the word "Latino" with the word "white" and Perez would probably be among the first to decry it as the manifesto of "racists" and "supremacists."
Indeed, Perez was quick to use exactly these words in describing another organization. A lawyer by trade, Perez spends a lot of his time locking horns with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). And he repeated the SPLC's smears about FAIR being headed by "white supremacists" and "tied to the KKK".
Perez condemned work place enforcement raids for creating a "climate of fear". In the process he slipped and used the word "alien" to describe foreigners. He apologized immediately and told the audience: "I never like to use that word. We're all humans on this planet".
Perez spent most of his allotted time talking about the work he does investigating "hate crimes" against Latinos. If the stories he told happened as described, I wish him every bit of luck bringing perpetrators to justice.
However, it is a pity that Perez and LatinoJustice are nowhere to be seen when non-Latinos fall prey to racially motivated attacks—like the white family that was recently attacked by a black gang in Akron, an incident the police did not think fit to classify as a hate crime despite the fact that gang members shouted "this is a black world" as they descended on their victims.
Next up was Ellen Gallagher [Email her] of Welcoming America, a Massachusetts-based group that focuses on "building trust" between Americans and immigrants. Apparently, she and her pals go to towns where Americans have "clashed" with foreigners and hold events, such as "unity picnics", where these two groups can talk about their "shared values" and Americans can learn how to be more "welcoming".
One of the things they apparently do at these meetings is play the "immigration board game" Players can roll dice and go around the "undocumented loop" trying to land on squares with "good" news like "You take part in the Church sanctuary movement", and avoid ones with "bad" news such as "You were detained in a raid. Go to detention".
All of this, of course, is little more than psychological warfare against Americans, attempting to make them feel guilty and ashamed of defending their country and their culture from invasion and displacement—as though wanting to keep illegal aliens out of your country was any more "immoral" than wanting to keep strangers from camping out on your front lawn.
Last to speak was Stacy Burdett [send her mail] of the Anti Defamation League. She said that her organization would stand with Latinos on the immigration issue. "We Jews have spent thousands of years being the stranger, the other", she said. "We know what it's like when someone says: 'you see those people? They're not really one of us. They have their own agenda.'"
She said that the ADL would continue its fight for "comprehensive immigration reform" and that "this issue is at the top of our domestic agenda".
The panelists then took questions from the audience. Many of these questions were actually quite heartening, revealing just how much good work we in the patriotic immigration reform movement have been doing.
One person asked about what they could do to change the anti-immigration attitudes they encounter. Gallagher told them to speak from their hearts, because "when you speak from your heart, people listen".
Perez had a more sinister comment to make. Blaming much of the problem on talk radio and the media, he said that much of the problem comes down to "controlling, not controlling, attempting to influence" media discourse. Perez's slip in word choice betrayed his totalitarian impulses. He went on to say that it is "irresponsible" for television networks to give a forum to people like Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan and that Latinos need to work on getting those kind of people off the air.
Someone from Oklahoma complained to the panelists about the tough immigration laws passed in his state and how they seemed to have taken "any spark of hope away from Latinos who are undocumented". He lamented the supposed cowardice of Oklahoma politicians. "Their constituency speaks louder than their heart speaks to them", he said. (Heaven forbid politicians actually listen to their constituents!)
Lastly, a blogger asked about how to expand the pro-immigration movement's online presence, because "we've been outnumbered online for a long time".
All of the panelists took their turns deploring the many "offensive" comments posted online about immigrants. The ADL's Burdett said it had been working on trying to get newspapers to stop allowing anonymous posting as a way to change the tone of online discussion on immigration.
When the Q & A was over, I decided to walk around the rest of the convention center to see what else La Raza had set up. The brief tour I took served to emphasize the vast disparity in resources between our side and theirs.
McCormick is a huge building with enough room to accommodate tens of thousands of people. Walking around the convention floor, I saw booths for virtually every major American corporation, all happy to donate millions of dollars to La Raza even while many of them struggle to make a profi t. Among others:
And yet at the same time, all of that should make any American patriot swell with pride. Despite the other side's corporate money, we've held up well against them over the past few years. The speakers at the workshop I attended repeatedly expressed their anger and frustration at how so-called "xenophobia" and "stereotypes" had worked to defeat recent attempts at granting amnesty.
The fact is that, because of us, wrecking America hasn't been quite as easy as they thought it would be. Let's try and continue to frustrate them.