Tancredo Calls La Raza "A Latino KKK"
by Charles Lemos, Thu May 28, 2009 at 08:05:57 PM EDT
Today on the Rick Sanchez Show on CNN, former Colorado Congressman Tommy Tancredo, who earlier in the week joined the chorus of deranged conservatives in calling Judge Sotomayor a racist, went a step further and derided the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court for her association with the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization.
TANCREDO: If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view anyway, nothing more than a Latino -- it's a counterpart -- a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses. If you belong to something like that in a way that's going to convince me and a lot of other people that it's got nothing to do with race. Even though the logo of La Raza is "All for the race. Nothing for the rest." What does that tell you?
RICK SANCHEZ: Alright. We're not talking about -- we're not talking about La Raza -
TANCREDO: She's a member! She's a member of La Raza!
Well, that's enough for me go out and join La Raza.
Here's how National Council of La Raza self-describes:
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) - the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States - works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Through its network of nearly 300 affiliated community-based organizations (CBOs), NCLR reaches millions of Hispanics each year in 41 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. To achieve its mission, NCLR conducts applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy, providing a Latino perspective in five key areas - assets/investments, civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic status, and health. In addition, it provides capacity-building assistance to its Affiliates who work at the state and local level to advance opportunities for individuals and families.
It is disturbing to see the criticism of La Raza rear its ugly head. As someone who self-identifies as Hispanic, it concerns me that some of these attacks are little more than an open season on Americans of Hispanic origin. Michelle Malkin, for instance, might take a Spanish language class and a Latin American history class to boot. She attacks Judge Sotomayor for being a member of an organization called "The Race.' The words 'la raza' do translate as 'the race' but 'la raza' is also a cultural construct that means 'the people' (though NCLR translates it as 'the community' which is also apt). It is how we Latin Americans self-describe and celebrate our unique blend of Iberian, Native American and African races and cultures. It is why in Latin America October 12th is called el Dia de La Raza. I may be as white as snow but I am a member of La Raza because it is about a wide definition of culture not a narrow one of race. La Raza is about hispanidad not the color of one's skin.
Via The Colorado Independent, Lisa Navarrete, a spokesman for the NCLR, responded this way to Tancredo's ignorance:
"He doesn't know what he's talking about," National Council of La Raza spokesperson Lisa Navarrete told The Colorado Independent. "He's defamed our organization and told falsehoods about our organization without any basis in fact or evidence. That's not who we are or what we do.
"If you look at Mr. Tancredos' record, he's often spoken about things he doesn't know anything about."
While the stakes couldn't be higher, with Sotomayor poised to become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court, Navarrete sounded more weary than incensed over Tancredo's latest antic.
"He's at the far extreme of the Republican Party," she said. "He's someone who has been instrumental in alienating the Republican Party from the Latino community. We've been urging the Republican Party to try to outreach to the Latino community, and they did a good job of it until they let people like Tom Tancredo take over the debate on immigration."
A congressman from the 6th Congressional District until he retired last year, Tancredo has made statements over the years threatening to bomb Mecca, calling Miami a Third World city and suggesting the U.S.-Mexico border wall separate Brownsville, Texas, from the rest of America.
It's not the first time the Latino civil rights group has been inaccurately characterized by Tancredo, Navarrete said, though he hasn't gone so far as to compare NCLR with the Ku Klux Klan before.
"He is a leading spokesperson and a leading figure in the anti-immigrant extremist movement, and as such we're a target for anti-immigrant extremists," Navarrete said.
Two years ago, before giving up his failed presidential campaign, Tancredo famously sang "Dixie" standing in front of Confederate flags in Columbia, S.C. His audience: a secessionist group and others called bigoted hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"He has hung around with a lot of bigots," Navarrete said, "that's where he's getting his information, or misinformation from."
Tancredo piled on the information, or misinformation, during his CNN appearance, making the charge NCLR's "logo is 'All for the race, nothing for the rest.'"
"What he said was our motto is not our motto," Navarrete said, giving Tancredo the benefit of the doubt that he meant motto, not logo. "It's not anybody's motto. He doesn't really know what he's talking about if he doesn't know the difference between a logo and a motto."
As for the phrase Tancredo finds so offensive? "It was a phrase that was found in a document from a college student group more than 40 years ago but has nothing to do with our organization," Navarrete said.
More from Think Progress and the vile attacks on La Raza:
The La Raza line is the latest right-wing attack on Sotomayor. Right-wing groups have been waging war against La Raza since the 2006 immigration rallies. Conservatives, including Rep. Charles Norwood (R-GA), claim the group "supports racist groups calling for the secession of the western United States as a Hispanic-only homeland." The right-wing blog Stop The ACLU calls La Raza "an anti-white extremist group."
These attacks promoted by Drudge are only going to escalate. Of course, the characterizations are wildly false. La Raza is the nations largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization that focuses on such nefarious issues as civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic status, and health. Used to these attacks, La Raza has a long fact-sheet debunking the unhinged claims of the right, including pointing out that La Raza translates as the people, not the race, as the right wing suggests.
And as an aside, I'll encourage Ms. Malkin to learn the difference between a Lusitanian and a Hispanic. Though the term in the United States has morphed from being an ethno-linguistic designation to being a racial qualifier, the term Hispanic, hispano, in Spanish reflects language-speaking abilities, not race. To be a Hispanic, one must speak some form of Castillian Spanish as your native language. Native Portuguese speakers are Lusitanians. Benjamin Cardozo was a Luso-American, not a Hispanic-American. Surely, Ms. Malkin, you cannot be this intellectually incurious.