By: Herman Baca, President
Committee on Chicano Rights
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), that claims to be the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., will host its 40th annual convention in San Diego, California this weekend.
Presidential candidates, Republican John McCain, Democratic Barack Obama, a long list of politicians, corporations, government agencies and thousands of people from thru-out the nation are expected to attend. Politicians will be present vying for this nation’s so-called Hispanic vote, along with U.S. corporations showing their concern ($) for Hispanics, and government agencies, INS/Border Patrol/ICE/Pentagon etc. recruiting for law enforcement and the military.
As the NCLR convention attendees arrive in San Diego, California, the “Vietnam of the Southwest,” (because of the immigration issue), political activists have begun to raise questions, asking if the NCLR convention will,
· Be another gala fiesta like the past 39 conventions?
· Finally address some of the pressing political issues affecting this nation’s 40 million Chicanos and Latinos,
· Demand political action and accountability from politicians in attendance?
After being involved for the last 40 years in electorate and movement politics my personal opinion is the 40th NCLR convention will be just like the other past 39 conventions. A re-run, a-political, smoke and mirrors, pretty sounding political speeches, a few issues addressed, but as always a lot of fun and frolic, with beer, food, entertainment, music and?
The reason for my statement above is that NCLR along with its member affiliates, in my opinion are either unable or prohibited from involving themselves politically due to their dependency and constrains placed on them by their corporate and government financiers. In other words one does not bite the hand that feeds you!
Unfortunately the above comes at a period of our history when 40 million Chicanos/Latinos, the U.S. so-called largest minority are facing the worst political/economic/social crisis in their history, and are in dire need of accountability from our political leadership.
What I have witnessed (and I am certain I’ll see again) after 40 years of involvement is every 4 years, starting with the Viva Kennedy campaign in 1960 and every other presidential election are,
· Mexican-Americans/Latinos being asked to vote for “the better of the two evils!”
· Few (if any) demands made of political candidates!
· After the election (as in 1960) political “leaders” complaining about receiving little or NOTHING in return for their support!
· No one saying or doing much politically until the next presidential election, four years later!
Many will argue that the NCLR convention is only highlighting the “progress” we have made, and how “important” we are politically. While I agree some progress has been made (for individuals), politically the blunt reality is that for the majority of people of Mexican ancestry - things in the U.S. are worst in 2008 then in 1968!
In fact, I would argue that the only thing that has really changed for the masses of our people - is demographics.
While our numbers have increased, so has our status for being the favorite whipping boys for every perceived ill afflicting U.S. society.
Case in point is, hate crimes against Latinos and especially Mexicans have increased by 35% in 2008 due to scapegoat, race baiting, demonizing, and hate prompted by white supremacist, nativist Minuteman, KKK and supporters, i.e. right wing politicians, the news media, TV personalities (Dobb’s, O’Riley, Beck, etc.) and loud mouth (Savage, Hendy, Hedgecrook, etc) rating seeking radio talk show hosts.
Worst yet is the fact that the Democratic control U.S. Congress, Republican President Bush and even presidential candidates Obama and McCain have all proposed draconian military/law enforcement measures, under the guise of seeking solutions to the so called “immigration” issue.
Hate government policies have now spread to places such as Iowa, Alabama, Pennsylvania, etc., and have even crossed the Pacific Ocean into Hawaii, where a Honolulu City Councilman (Rod Tam) of Chinese ancestry publicly stated, “we don’t want any wetbacks.”
Questions for our people in the U.S. and conference attendees are, where will the present hate campaigns, and government policies end?
· A South African type apartheid system for persons of Mexican ancestry?
· Reparations to Mexico as in the 1930’s?
· Round ups of Mexicans as in Operation Wetback in the 1950s?
· Interments like the Japanese during WWII, or worst the Jewish people experience in Nazi Germany?
Another question is how and why has scapegoat, race baiting, and demonizing of Mexicans become fashionable and acceptable to U.S. society?
The reasons I am certain are numerous, but Hispanic elected officials such as Governor Richardson, California State Senator Ducheny, Assemblypersons Saldana, Salas and organizations like the NCLR leadership must also share the blame. After Hawaii’s “Hispanic” community pleaded for help, assistance, and condemnation of the racist slur, the “Hispanic” leadership (with deafening silence) refused to even acknowledge receipt of the correspondence.
The above is further political proof that the problem of franchising our people is historical and structural. It is obvious that under the present political system, based on corporate and government funding that organizations such as NCLR, and Hispanic elected officials will never be allowed to change the political and economic status for Chicano/Latinos in the U.S.
Only power that comes from ORGANIZED PEOPLE AND MONEY will do that. The question remains, where are our organized people and money?
In other words, “one cannot show up to a high stake poker game and except to sit at the table with no poker chips!”
On the other hand as I stated, “EVERYBODY LOVE A FIESTA,” especially in San Diego, California and Tijuana, Baja California!