Gonzales and La Raza

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My last post somewhat obliquely considered an objection to President Bush's nomination of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general. That objection relies on some expectation that he would be unable to carry out his duties enforcing the law on the issue of immigration, and the support for this is primarily from the fact that he wants to change immigration law. My argument is that this line of reasoning almost exactly parallels the Democrats' arguments against confirming John Ashcroft to the same position four years ago. It was a bad argument then, and it's bad now. What I want to assess now are all the foaming-at-the-mouth claims about Gonzales that go beyond the more reasonable (but still indefensible) argument I already dealt with.

Around the internet it's not too hard to find conservatives, I'm sure many of them racist themselves, claiming that Gonzales belongs to La Raza (NCLR), a group they say is un-American and insisting upon racist policies. They've been claiming Gonzales is a racist Hispanic supremacist who wants the southwest to become its own country. They say La Raza is a Mexican version of the KKK, which somehow is supposed to be supported by the fact that the term means 'the race' in Spanish. How is that racist? Maybe they have deeper views that they don't admit to, as the KKK actually does (look at the KKK website for all they'll admit to publicly). I haven't seen anything showing that they agree with the one seemingly racist quote I've seen that they supposedly say in private (though even that apparently doesn't necessarily mean what's it's being said to mean). It even goes so far as taking a quote as a declaration of war that obviously just means that Mexican citizens in the U.S. are still technically part of Mexico. Two things make me suspicious of all these claims, besides the fact that some of them are just outrageous. One is that these things seem to be originating from sources where white racists are clearly present (who think George P. Bush is a sign of Mexican invasion of the U.S.) who are at least adding fuel to the fire but are possibly actually originating much misinformation in the process. The other is that I always give someone the benefit of the doubt when I know little about them. I haven't seen enough to justify what people are saying here. Given that Latinopundit, whom I consider a political moderate, defends the outgoing president of La Raza, I just can't believe much of what I've been seeing.

Even La Shawn Barber has bought into some of this. All I want to argue is that there's little to no evidence of any of this, even to the point of doing to illegal immigrants what some do to Islam -- painting them all the same way. Christians who take the Bible seriously should have no trouble saying that Islam is a false religion but admitting that many Muslims are peaceful, and many Muslims are Americans with many core American values. They can work with Muslims on political matters, as Bush has insisted on doing. They can recognize the good that is in Islam because there is good in everything God created, and the doctrine of common grace teaches that God's work is present in everything, even in false religions. Similarly, illegal immigrants did something wrong. They violated the law. They deserve some penalty for that. That doesn't, however, require that we treat them without compassion. Some of the people Jesus dealt with had done things worse than being somewhere without going through the proper channels. They repented, sure (which Bush's plan will require), but Jesus treated them as if they hadn't even done it. I don't think an immigration policy should go that far, since legally repentance doesn't justify removing of all penalties, but showing more grace to illegal aliens who are in fact contributing the American economy and could do so more if they paid taxes and were regulated and kept track of (why wouldn't we want to do so in an age of higher security?) can only be a good thing. It's not rewarding lawbreakers any more than God rewards us for sinning. It's extending grace and recognizing their contributions despite their lawbreaking. It's desiring to make them part of our country despite their illegal entry. It's like what we do with criminals in prison when we try to help them reform. It just doesn't take sending them to prison to do it.

That's why I have little problem with the basic idea Gonzales has had Bush construct. It really depends on the details, of course. There are ways to do this very badly. I don't want them to follow Jesus' example exactly and treat them as if they entered legally, the way Jesus said God will do in the parable of the workers who all started at different times in the day but got paid the same amount as a flat wage for the day. The reason is because we're in a situation where we still want to discourage doing it the illegal way. There needs to be some difference. That doesn't mean the penalty needs to be as severe as it is, especially for those who can show they've been here for longer and have been working to help the American economy. It doesn't even mean that they can't ever be allowed on the path to citizenship, though it shouldn't be as easy for them as it is for those who begin the path legally. Maybe it should cost them more money. It should definitely require more time, and it should have lots of demonstrations of responsibility and contribution to America through work and perhaps other ways. In general, I like the president's idea, though I may end up disagreeing with the details.

That may explain some of why La Shawn and I differ on our attitude to Gonzales, but there are other things that I find inexplicable. She says he belongs to La Raza, a group that at times has defended more radical views than the one I just outlined. I don't know if the group is monolithic or if it's more like the NAACP. I don't know if Colin Powell and Condi Rice are members of the NAACP. I suspect that they are. Even if they're not, there are moderates and conservatives within that group, and belonging to it does not in any way require subscribing to what some of its more radical members (who have happened to occupy leadership positions of late) will say. I believe Ed Brown, who blogs at Vision Circle, is a member of the NAACP. If not, he very well could become one easily. He's a black moderate who thinks many black conservatives are way too harsh on the NAACP but agrees with much of what someone like Bill Cosby has said positively about the solution to racial problems coming from within black America. If La Raza is similar to the NAACP, then I don't see how being a member of it should tell us anything about Gonzales.

Even so, I haven't seen anything that supports the claim that he's a member. Maybe he is, but just stating it doesn't make it so. The only evidence I've seen so far is a statement from La Raza defending Bush's choice of him on the grounds that we haven't had "one of us" in the cabinet since Mel Martinez resigned to run for the Senate and that there has never been a Hispanic attorney general. If "one of us" could only mean "a member of our organization", then this would count as the evidence I haven't seen, but the most obvious meaning of that phrase is that they meant a Hispanic. There's no question that they were putting both him and Martinez in that category, and I haven't seen anyone saying Martinez must belong to La Raza on the grounds of this quote.

Finally, I'm not so sure much of what's been said about the group is even correct. Are they really racists? If so, what kind of racism is it, and is it the kind that would prevent a member (assuming he agreed with their views; see above) from becoming attorney general? Many people think affirmative action is racist (and not just against whites but against blacks) on the grounds that it's harmful along racial lines and therefore is institutional racism. I don't know many people, even conservatives who agree with this very strongly, who think those who advocate affirmative action should be considered unqualified for attorney general on those grounds. It may be a reason not to want the person in the position but not for doing what was done to Ashcroft in labeling him as a racist because of something that had little to do with race (and the black man involved admitted as much). Here it may be no different if he merely holds views that many will think harmful along racial lines but not intended for harm and not because of any views having to do with racial superiority or moral subordination.

Here's what I know about La Raza. They support keeping track of illegal aliens, which requires giving them ID. They also want to be able to fine them for traffic violations, so they support giving them licenses. They want to go further than President Bush in relaxing some immigration laws and lowering penalties for others. I'm not sure about all the details here, but I know their view is more extreme than his, which is one thing that leads me to doubt that Gonzales is on the same page as them. As far as Gonzales, I know that he was worked with and even been a leader in groups promoting Hispanic advocacy and progress and overcoming discrimination and other illegal or immoral activity directed against Hispanics. Some of these groups have had some connection with La Raza, though what that connection amounts to is hazy.

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8 Comments

I actually didn't say they were a racist group; I said they were racialist. And there's a link in my post to an article on WND that stated he was a member. He was on the Board of Directors of one of La Raza's affiliates. I guess this is what WND based their statement on.

Addendum: As an example why race organizations are not the best way to get things done is the comparison I made with the Council of Conservative Citizens, or whatever they're called. That group is called racist, or at the very least, racialist. I tried to make the argument that one can say the same about La Raza and the NAACP.

My main problem with Gonzales is that he may belong to a group that seeks to flout our immigration laws, more money for more free health care for more illegal aliens...when/where does it end? This is why Bush is conservative enough for me. You should see the looks on people's faces when I say that!

I don't think I said that you called them racist. Enough other people did call them that, though.

The problem with the term 'racialist' is that it could mean anything. Some people use it to mean people who believe in the reality of race. Some use it to mean people who believe race is biological, with that defined as impossible. Some use it to mean those who think there are biological necessities due to race, e.g. differing levels of intelligence or moral properties of deserved subordination. Some don't want to use the word 'racist' because they don't believe there are races, so they use 'racialism instead. I can rule some of these out for how you were using it, but I wasn't sure exactly what you meant.

Is there evidence that they flout immigration laws? That requires encouraging people to break the law and gloating in the fact that people break the law. I haven't seen anything saying they do that except the one false accusation that the president of the organization's comment (that I gave the more reasonable interpretation of) requires that attitude, which it doesn't.

What they have proposed is lowering penalties for those who break those laws and even making some of the things made illegal in those laws legal. That's no different from the NRA advocating more kinds of guns legal and lowering penalties for those who don't register their guns. It's not equivalent to flouting laws or to asking the government not to enforce laws. Maybe you disagree with changing the law on this, but that would be like someone opposing the NRA on those other things. It means you can defend the laws as they stand. It doesn't mean you can accuse them of undermining the laws as they are right now any more than the NRA undermines the rule of law.

As I said before, having been at one point a leader in a group associated with them does not mean he endorses their whole agenda or even much of it. Groups will affilliate (i.e. work together) for any number of reasons. In this case I would imagine both groups seek to support the legal needs of Hispanics. I saw nothing that declares anyone belonging to this affiliate of La Raza takes any political views whatsoever. An example from another sphere might be an animal rescue association affiliating with PETA because they have some goals in common but not agreeing with PETA on everything, especially their most radical views.

Jeremy,
Thanks for a more thoughtful approach to immigration. My views are similar to yours. I believe immigrants legal and illegal make this country great. Thanks you for looking at this as more of a compassion issue. What I would be interested in reading is some facts on whether illegal immigrants are really putting a drain on the economy. I suspect the exact opposite. LSB gives that "free health care" mantra. What are the facts on such issues? Crime and illegal immigrants? etc. I suspect that a person being illegal doesn't make them more likely to be criminal nor does it make them more likely to get sick.


brad

The way I see it, offering some sort of program along the lines of what Bush and Gonzales support is really quite practical, on a pragmatic level. The illegal immigrants are here, they aren't going away--our economy couldn't afford it for one, and under the current state of affairs we have no way to track who they are. If we give them some sort of legal status, it's good for them, and it's good for us because then we'll know that the only people who aren't here legitimately are the bad guys. We're already paying for education and healthcare for these people's children since many if not most of their children are citizens, so it's really just an administrative record keeping change.

People actually thing that George P. is a sign of Mexican invasion of the US? Man, there sure are some kooks out there.

It�s a moral imperative�either you allow racism in your society or you don�t. La Raza is a racially centered organization so it�s bad�end of story. You can�t have it both ways otherwise your argument is rendered moot. I�m a bleeding heart Liberal with an M.A. in anthropology from a major western university. I can tell you that folks like me are increasingly tired of multiculturalists who care more about their ethnicity over their nationality! We have a country we love to live in. People like you want to destroy it. If people like me, your base, are saying this now, you�d better wake up and react to the new reality of America!

Either you allow racism in your society, or you don't. Sure. But there are two independent questions. One is whether this is racism to begin with, and I looked through their stuff and didn't detect any obvious racism. I'm still waiting for someone to back up such claims, and you just continued the rhetoric without any support for it.

You seem to make the mistake of confusing racially-centered organizations with racist organizations. An organization dedicated to addressing wrongs against a particular group identified in racial terms is not necessarily racist. Then you say that denying your ridiculous claim renders my argument moot? How? If it renders it moot then my denial of the claim makes some conclusion come out true regardless of my argument. What conclusion is that, and how does it follow from the denial of your ridiculous claim? I'm saying that this organization, as far as I know, is not racist. In distinguishing between acknowledging race and being racist, I allow for that possibility, which doesn't make anything moot. It opens up the door for my argument. I just don't understand what you're saying.

I agree with you that ethnicity shouldn't be valued higher than nationalist in a country where every ethnicity is fully accepted and part of the national community. I think that's just about the way things are, with some exceptions, but politicians are going out of their way to make it that way, so that counterbalances the ways that people are disenfranchised because of their ethnicity enough for me to say that it's strange to find your identity in ethnicity as opposed to nationality when you're technically an American. That's why it seems so strange for me to see Americans who were never anything but Americans to try to find their identity in African traditions that have nothing to do with them or their family (or in many cases even their ancestors if it involves parts of Africa that slaves never came from).

Still, you sound like you want to make such things illegal! That's nuts! You're saying that sort of thing is racism, and you're complaining that anyone would allow racism. So you want to prevent people with laws from pretending they're African when they're not? You want to prevent people with laws from forming together with people of their own race to seek to stop what wrongs still exist against their race? I just can't see how that sort of thing is racism, and if anything in the neighborhood is racism it would be preventing such things, not doing such things. It may be that some people involved express racist sentiment when doing it or advocate policies that would turn into institutional racism, but the mere fact of gathering together with people of your own race is simply not racism.

People like you want to destroy it. If people like me, your base, are saying this now, you�d better wake up and react to the new reality of America!

I almost deleted your comment because of these two sentences. The reason I didn't is because it just reflects badly on you and has no bearing on me. I can't even understand what you're trying to say. First of all, I don't know what "people like you" refers to. I can't think of any group that I belong to that wants to destroy this country. I certainly don't. I'd like to see this country run in a just manner, and impugning the motives of those you disagree with (all the while not clearly saying what it is you disagree with them about) is a most ineffective to try to win someone over to your position.

As for my base, I'm completely at a loss. I have a base? You sound like you're talking to a politician or something, and if I were a politician my base would probably not include people who describe themselves as bleeding-heart liberals. It might include libertarians. It might include the religious right. It would definitely include compassionate conservatives. I just have no clue what you're trying to say.

As for the new reality of America, you sound as if you think I'm some old-fashioned person who has grown up with some old way and not adjusted to some change. If you have a graduate education, I'd be very surprised if you're much younger than I am, since I'm still working on my own graduate degree. If you've had your degree for more than a few years, I suspect you're the older of us. So again, I'm not sure what you're trying to say in telling someone who is probably younger than you that there's some new America to wake up to.

Now if you'd like to discuss the content of the post, go ahead. If you'd like to offer reasons for controversial claims, that too is welcome. Simply spouting off hateful rhetoric and making ridiculous claims without argument is not welcome here. As a philosopher, I'm used to ridiculous claims. I make them myself at times. They do need arguments, however, and I can't detect any in your comment.

This comment is an explanation and a warning. Someone has been leaving comments on this post insulting me and calling me names, accusing me of saying things I didn't say and making claims about people's motivations rather than actions. It went so far as assuming I was coming from a liberal standpoint, which I just thought funny, and he was painting all liberals (not that I'm one by any reasonable measure) with such a broad brush that it was just completely unfair.

I extended much grace to this person, trying to interact despite the outright offensiveness of how this person was talking. Many of his points were worth making, but I just couldn't leave the comments here once he ignored my warnings to be respectful, to refrain from insulting people, and to stop saying things in the way he was saying them. I would have been happy to allow his comments on here if he had been nice and willing to discuss. He seemed to want to insult everyone who says something slightly different from him, wildly speculating about evil motives on my part and assuming omniscience on the part of a senator. It got worse instead of getting better, so I deleted the whole mess. It wasn't as if it wasn't clear what kind of discussion I was expecting.

On an issue as emotionally loaded as this one, I try to extend as much grace as I can, but enough is enough. Further comments of that sort will be deleted as well. Real discussion will continue to be encouraged. It had nothing to do with the fact that this person disagreed with me or considered my positions naive and unsupported. It was what he said about my and others' motives and the insults he continued to throw at everyone who disagreed with him, including people with important things to say who did not deserve the things he was saying.

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