Return of MEChA

by Ted on December 17, 2003

During the California recall, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante was harshly criticized for his refusal to renounce his involvement as a student in the Chicano student group MEChA. Critics frequently called MEChA a hate group, the equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan, or “fascist hatemongers”.

Bustamante handily lost the election, and MEChA as an issue didn’t seem to make much of an impact and many voters. But MEChA as an organization is still a presence on over 300 campuses.

There was much debate here on LoserNet about the truth of the accusations against MEChA. (Lots of background from me, Pejman, and Tacitus. In short, I thought that they were being unfairly accused, and Pejman and Tacitus thought that they really were a racist group.) We spent a fair amount of time going back and forth about the documents we could find using Google. But I thought that the debate suffered from a lack of input from or contact with actual MEChA members. Few people had had any direct contact with MEChA. (A few exceptions: Kevin Drum had a MEChA chapter at his high school, and Sappho had a personal experience at college.)

About a month ago, I thought that I’d try to contact some actual, current members of MEChA to see how they would respond to some of the controversies about their group. I sent out a lot of emails, mostly to dead email addresses culled from infrequently updated chapter web pages. Unfortunately, I’ve only ended up getting two complete responses, but they’re good ones. The first is from the MEChA chapter at New Mexico State University. (UPDATE: Not all responses are from NMSU; the questions were distibuted to other chapters as well.) A representative of the chapter distributed my long list of questions to members and assembled the responses, so it’s not any one person’s response.

The second response is from an individual who started his email by saying:

I want to emphasize that MEChA IS NOT A HATE/SEGREGATIONALIST/SEPARATIST GROUP

I’ve edited these responses slightly for spelling and typos, but I haven’t added or deleted anything. I have no independent ability to fact-check these responses.

1. During the California recall, Cruz Bustamante came under heavy attack from many on the right for his membership as a student in MEChA. MEChA was commonly described by conservative critics as a hate group, the Chicano equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan.

How would you respond to these charges? Since a genuine hate group would presumably deny that it was a hate group, what contrary evidence would you present to these critics in an effort to convince them?

A. MEChA is not a hate group. However, since these conservative critics have access to media such as Fox News or those on radio such as Rush Limbaugh, it is easier for them to get their voices heard.

Also, in the past, one thing that has hurt MEChA is a fear of infiltration. Therefore, for many years, MEChA has been to a certain extent reclusive to many, especially media. I hope that in some of the later questions I can answer the question as to how we are not a hate group, or an exclusionary group.

B. There has never been an incident in which a member of MEChA was charged or indicted for a hate crime. There were those in the 1960s who engaged in radical activities, but any intentions were aimed toward
institutions/establishments, not people.

2. How would you describe the goals of the nationwide MEChA organization? How would you describe the goals of your chapter? Are they different?

A. The goals of both are to educate not only “Chicanas/Chicanos” but everyone else. Promote higher education, while maintaining your roots. Just because you get a college degree, and might have an office doesn’t mean you should forget your history.

Another goal is to rid society of the stereotypes that plague all people, regardless of color or sexual orientation.

B. There is no “nation-wide” MEChA organization. The main goal of MEChA is to promote higher education while promoting and learning cultural history.

3. How tight or loose is the national MEChA organization? Is there a strong central authority, are chapters left alone to do what they want, or is it somewhere in between?

A. It is a tight organization; however, each chapter has its liberties. Because each chapter faces its own problems, it only makes sense to allow them to have their liberties.

B. There is no nationwide organiztion. There is a national conference held each year. Because there are so many chapters, it was agreed to develop “regions.” In order to gain input from chapters across the US, a coordinating council was established to help organize the conference. For the most part MEChA chapters are autonomous and work in the interests of their respective communities.

4. How often are there nationwide MEChA conventions or gatherings? What happens at nationwide MEChA conventions? Could you describe the national leadership- is there a president or a leadership committee, are they current students or alumni, is there a nationwide newsletter, etc.

A. Nationals are held once a year, but there are many meetings both regionally and nationally leading to the preparation of the national conference. Depending on whatever issues are affecting our people/communities, usually are discussed. The leadership is a committee of four current members, two males and two females, each from a different region. There is no national newsletter. However, the hosting chapter is responsible for keeping the chapters updated on the process.

B. As with any organization, there is a need for leaders. The national coordinating council consists of about 10-12 members(two members from each region mentioned above) The chairpersons of the council are one male and one female(to emphasize gender equality.) The national conferences usually consist of workshops on community organizing, leadership and team building, cultural history. At the same time, there are meetings held to discuss and plan national plans of action to address common issues facing communities across the US such as poverty, education, civil rights, etc.

5. If you had to characterize the official attitude of MEChA on racial issues, what would you say? How would you characterize the attitude of the other members of your chapter towards white people?

A. To many MEChistas, race is not an issue. Chicanismo is now more a state of mind rather than a state of being. Skin color, religion, sexuality, none of that is important.

B. There is no “official” attitude. However, MEChA is all inclusive: members are welcome regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender/gender preference, handicap, age, or color of skin.

6. What sort of activities does your chapter of MEChA put on? For example, what activities are you putting on this semester/quarter?

A. We have many guest speakers from around the country. We have a film festival, have a raza youth mentoring/tutoring service, as well as participating in a campus and city clean up. We have had Aztec Dancers, hosted many conferences, had food, toy, clothing, and blood drives. And many numerous activities, all of which go on year round, in Fall, Spring and Summer semesters.

B. Celebrations of Mexican holidays along with other organizations, food/toy drive for impoverished communities, leadership/teambuilding workshops

7. How would you describe MEChA’s role in campus life? Is it often involved in controversy? If so, what kind of controversies has it been involved in?

A. We are not often involved in controversy; however we are very active in the campus life. A few years ago, MEChA helped the Black Allied Student Association petition the university against a fraternity for flying a confederate flag, at a football game as well as at there on campus house. The fraternity continued to fly the flag, even after BASA had asked them to please take it down. This became a heated debate on campus and MEChA was the only other student organization to come to BASA’s aid.

B. MEChA is welcomed by our academic institution to participate in various activities on and off campus. The only “controversy” was addressing free speech on campus so that free speech areas are not limited to students.

8. Is your chapter of MEChA involved in politics as an organization? (This can be at the campus, local, state or national level.) If so, what political activities do you engage in? If the chapter does not officially engage in politics, do members do so on their own?

A. Although MEChA is a non-partisan organization, we have had a role in local politics. We had a mayoral and city council forum. We are very active politically, we just think that issues are more important than party affiliations.

B. MEChA as a chapter does not engage in politics. Individual members have helped with campaigns for people running for Mayor, state rep/senator, school district

9. How large is your chapter?

A. Currently our membership is 21. However, that fluctuates. It has been as high as 34, and as low as 12.

B. About 20.

10. Do you have any members of your chapter who are not Chicanos? If so, how many? How many members do you have who don’t speak Spanish? Is there any sort of policy or guidelines? As a white person, how would I be greeted if I were to express interest in joining MEChA?

A. We have a two Native Americans as well as Filipino-Americans, an African-American and an Irish-American. As for non-Mexican-Americans, which is typically considered to be Chicano, there are seven from other Latin American countries. Five don’t speak Spanish. Anyone is welcome regardless of race, as long as they are willing to help out with their share of the work we do on and off campus.

B. There are members in the chapter who do not identify as Chicanos, but are in it for various causes. Not all members speak Spanish. The only guideline is to have a 2.0GPA and a $10 membership fee. As mentioned before, members are welcome regardless of ehtnicity, nationality, color of their skin, etc

11. How do you recruit members?

A. We actively recruit at all our functions, and we also set up information booths at different times of the year throughout campus. Also the Chicano Programs allows us to set up at any activities they have and we are also allowed to put information in their offices.

B. Word of mouth, class presentations.

12. If a member of MEChA was dating a person of a different race, would that be controversial among members of your chapter? What if they were to marry a person of a different race?

A. Not at all. A few of our members are involved with people of a different race. It is not looked down upon or controversial.

B. Nobody would find it controversial. We would be happy for them.

13. What proportion of the members of your chapter would you say are politically left of center? What proportion are right of center? What proportion aren’t very interested in politics?

A. Many of our members most often are left of center. However, we feel that the issues are what are important, not the parties. Although given some of the right wing media has been the most critical and vocal against MEChA, it is easier to lean to the left.

B. A great majority are not interested in “left/right wing” politics. However they are interested in the “politicking” that affects our communities (legislation for funding, school district bonds, etc.).

14. Do members of your chapter tend to have any common academic or personal interests, other than Chicano issues? (For example, some campus groups attract a large proportion of pre-law students, some attract education majors, some attract people with an interest in music, and some attract people who just want a social outlet.)

A. All of the other organizations within Chicano Programs are based on academic majors. MEChA is open to students of all different majors, regardless of your college anyone can join. This makes for an interesting mix. It allows us to share our knowledge with one another, and makes it less competitive.

B. There are a wide range of interests outside of MEChA, politics, and civil rights. There members who are also involved in Christian groups, indigenous organizations, musicians, artists.

15. During the recall campaign, Cruz Bustamente was repeatedly called upon to repudiate MEChA, and he refused to do so. If he had repudiated MEChA, how would it have changed your opinion of him? Do you think that it would have affected his standing among Chicano voters, or do you think that it wouldn’t have caused much concern?

A. Well, although we closely followed the recall, I don’t know how it would have changed my opinion of him. Actually, we don’t know to much about Mr. Bustamante here in southern New Mexico. I do think it would have hurt him with “Chicano” voters, but it may have helped him with the “Hispanic” vote.

B. Personally, I think only people from California really cared about Bustamante.

16. What is the symbolism behind the lighted stick of dynamite held by the eagle on the MEChA crest?

A. To my understanding, it means that we as a people are about to “blow up.” Using the term as slang, it means that Chicanos and Chicanas are ready to become active in their community.

B. It symbolizes an explosion of knowledge.

17. Are you familiar with the group “El Voz de Aztlán”? What is your opinion of this group? How would you describe the relationship between MEChA and El Voz de Aztlán?

A. Many organizations are automatically associated with MEChA, because of the term Aztlán. However there is no affiliation. El Voz is one of these many groups. Even though there are some MEChistas that belong to some of these other groups, doesn’t mean that there is a relationship on a national level.

B. We have never heard of them

18. One of the founding documents of MEChA was “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán”. A number of MEChA chapters link to this document from their homepage. Are you familiar with this document? What is the role of this document in your chapter? What is your understanding of the role of this document in the national organization?

A. The documents are embraced differently by different chapters. Some use them as a foundation, other don’t use them at all. I would say the split is 50-50.

Remember that many of those documents were written in the 1960s, a decade of unrest and major civil rights turmoil. I think that if those documents were written today they would be vastly different.

B. As far as most people can come to consensus, it is a POEM. It plays NO role in our chapter.

19. One line from the preface to “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán” was frequently quoted: “Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada.” Many critics said that this was your motto, and that it was a racially exclusionary statement that was best translated as “For the Race, Everything. For Those Outside the Race, Nothing.” Is this accurate? If not, what is your motto? What is a good English translation of “Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada,” and how is the phrase used in your chapter and the nationwide organization?

A. The motto of MEChA is “La Union Hace La Fuerza,” which loosely translated means “Strength in Unity”. I had never heard that other “motto” until the media came out with it during the recall and I have been in MEChA since my freshman year in high school, I am in grad school, finishing in May. That is ten years that I have been involved with MEChA.

B. There is only one race. The human race. Its intended meaning is that we do everything for our communities. We do nothing for those who are against our communities. The phrase is not used by anybody for any reason.

20. What does “Aztlán” mean to you? Are there other meanings?

A. Aztlán is the native homeland of the Aztecs, prior to the migration south to Mexico. A sense of belonging to the United States. Many of us have heard people say go back to where you came from. This is proof that this is where we came from, this is where we belong.

B. Aztlán is not mythical. In indigenous history, Aztlán is the original homeland of a people who migrated south to establish indigenous communities in Mexico. Aztlán can be referred to as the present-day soutwestern US and Northeastern Mexico.

21. Some critics have charged that when MEChA refers to “Aztlán”, it refers to the Southwestern portion of the United States. They charge that MEChA would like to claim this land mass away from the United States. They charge that MEChA would either like to make this area part of Mexico, or make it into a new, exclusionary Chicano state.

They point to the MEChA constitution, which says in the preamble, “Chicano and Chicana students of Aztlán must take upon themselves the responsibilities to promote Chicanismo within the community, politicizing our Raza with an emphasis on indigenous consciousness to continue the struggle for the self-determination of the Chicano people for the purpose of liberating Aztlán.”

What does the MEChA constitution mean when it refers to “liberating Aztlán”?

A. To me it is a state of mind. If we don’t allow people to force assimilation on us, then we remain liberated.

B. There is no wish to take land and establish a “Chicano state.” The liberation of Aztlán refers to the liberation of ideologies so that people can find and realize their own identities and philosophies.

What do you personally think of this idea? What do you think the members of your chapter would think about this idea?

A. I don’t think that anyone is ready to declare war on the U.S. Also, just a bit of historical background. The official map to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, recognized by both the U.S. and Mexican Governments, shows in what is today modern day Utah, as the “Ancient Homeland of the Aztecs.” This map can be found at the library of congress in Washington D.C., however it may be difficult to find, as it is located in the basement with many other old maps. I have seen it myself and was able to make a black and white copy of it. When I get a chance I will send you the official name of the map.

22. The Sierra Times had a quote from a member of MEChA:

“Asked about his group’s ideology and intentions, Miguel Perez of Cal State-Northridge’s MEChA chapter replied: “The ultimate ideology is the liberation of Aztlán. Communism would be closest [to it].” Once Aztlán is established, continued Perez, ethnic cleansing would commence: “Non-Chicanos would have to be expelled opposition groups would be quashed because you have to keep power.”

What is your reaction to Miguel Perez’s statement? As far as you know, would MEChA officially support the idea of establishing a state anywhere in the world in which Chicanos had legal superiority over Anglos and other ethnicities? Would you or any of the members of your chapter of MEChA support the establishment of such a state?

A. I don’t know of anyone who has ever expressed an interest in ethnic cleansing. I don’t support this, and neither do any of our members.

B. That’s a radical way of THINKING. There is no clandestine movement to establish this “state.” Personally, I think Perez is misguided.

23. Some critics have charged that MEChA is an anti-Semitic organization. They point to an incident at CalPoly in 1998 where a printed MEChA conference program began by welcoming the participants to “Cal Poly State Jewniversity” and including a reference to the city of “Jew York.”

What is your reaction to that? Do you have any Jewish members? Has your chapter had any noteworthy contact, either positive or negative, with Jewish groups, synagogues, etc?

A. Our chapter, to my knowledge, doesn’t have any Jewish members currently. There have been some in the past, but religion has never been an issue. There is not a big Jewish community in our town, so it makes it difficult for us to network with any synagogues.

B. It is obviously another misguided mind blurting out what they might think is “harmless” lingo. I can see where it would be offensive to people whether they are Jewish or not. We do not have Jewish members because there aren’t any Jewish people interested in MEChA.

24. Would you be opposed to an organization which had the same sorts of goals and activities as MEChA, but was centered around Anglos rather than Chicanos? Why or why not?

A. If Anglos had been discriminated upon by other people for as long as Chicanos, Black, and any other minority have, then no, I would have no problem with it. I think the importance of groups like MEChA is to help those who have been oppressed throughout history.

B. There are such organizations. They are called fraternities and sororities. We have also worked with them on various activities.

25. I imagine that when this is posted, conservative critics will say that the answers that you provide are self-serving- that you are concealing the extremist views that are a part of MEChA’s current thinking. What would you say to those critics? Is there any sort of evidence that you can provide outside of your own words?

A. Well, according to that argument, every interview is self-serving. Are they not self-serving when they only present one side of the story?

The only evidence that can be provided is that of the community. The communities know the hard work that MEChA has put in. Going to tutor middle school and high school kids. Helping them fill out college applications, and financial aid papers. Raising food and money for those less fortunate. Taking coats and toys to the kids when it gets cold and the holidays are around the corner. As a proud mechista, I say to those who question my involvement, what I am doing today isn’t to help me, but rather those who come after me. I hope that what I’ve done today helps my children and that they do something to help the generation that follows them.

B. I really don’t care what they think.

{ 37 comments }

1

Keith M Ellis 12.17.03 at 5:08 pm

Thanks, Ted. That probably fairly represents the beliefs of the average MEChA membership.

I’d like to repeat, though, that as an native anglo New Mexican, I’ve not infrequently heard (usually half-jokingly) nationalist Chicano sentiment. Frankly, I’m sympathetic to some degree. One would have to know the history of New Mexico to appreciate why. John Nichols’s books provide an entertaining orientation for anglos. The 1967 Tierra Amarilla “courthouse raid” is a famous incident where many of these long-standing grievances boiled over into violence.

2

linden 12.17.03 at 5:14 pm

I cannot be the only person who believes that modern day Utah is too far North to have anything to do with the Aztecs.

It’s clear from some of the questions that there are members of Mecha who are indeed racists and believe Mecha’s ideology. The responsibility to purge these individuals and this noxious ideology rests with those who are not racist.

3

Keith M Ellis 12.17.03 at 5:18 pm

Linden: did you read the responses I read? ‘Cause it sure doesn’t seem like you did. “MEChA’s ideology”, from what I can tell from those responses, is not racist.

4

dsquared 12.17.03 at 5:29 pm

I cannot be the only person who believes that modern day Utah is too far North to have anything to do with the Aztecs

Well, I know I’m not the only person who believes that Angelina Jolie has a fetish for tubby Welshmen (I managed to convince a colleague yesterday), but it still doesn’t mean either of us are right.

5

neil 12.17.03 at 5:46 pm

There’s a fairly active MEChA chapter on the UC Santa Cruz campus. Last I heard, they were hosting an event with the even-more-active GLBT group to teach people to make tamales. I had to chuckle thinking of how many times I heard MEChA described as a “hate group.” Of course, the same people would probably describe GLBT alliances as “hate groups” as well..

6

Keith M Ellis 12.17.03 at 5:46 pm

Well, in his defense it should be pointed out that the Aztecs were pretty advanced and left many archeological ruins, none of which are in Utah. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t have some presence that far north, or that they didn’t have a presence there in their “pre-history”.

But, so? The Aztecs were native Americans, which doesn’t include the Spanish but does include lots of people that lived throughout the US.

I don’t quite understand the desire to connect Chicanoism to the Aztecs, unless it’s because they’re gone but were an empire…and they won’t object while, in contrast, the Pueblo peoples might.

7

Jeremy Leader 12.17.03 at 5:50 pm

So, Linden, what have you done to purge racists from any organizations you may belong to?

Based on the responses above, it sounds to me like these MEChA members clearly oppose racism, and their friends and aquaintances also don’t support racism. There may be racists elsewhere who have the requesite “2.0GPA and a $10 membership fee”, but I don’t see how you can hold these people responsible for the actions of members of other groups.

8

neil 12.17.03 at 5:54 pm

There’s a fairly active MEChA chapter on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The last I saw from them was a flyer announcing a joint event with a GLBT campus org, teaching people to make tamales. Yeah.. they sure are a separatist hate group..

9

Ted Barlow 12.17.03 at 5:59 pm

(Dr. Evil voice) Were they evil tamales?

10

A-ro 12.17.03 at 6:08 pm

If the Alaska-Siberia theory of how humans first settled the Americas is correct, then some ancestor of the Aztecs must have passed near Utah at some point, right?

11

linden 12.17.03 at 6:09 pm

“So, Linden, what have you done to purge racists from any organizations you may belong to?”
I don’t belong to any organizations. Too many racists.

“Linden: did you read the responses I read? ‘Cause it sure doesn’t seem like you did. “MEChA’s ideology”, from what I can tell from those responses, is not racist.”

Maybe you should reread my statement. I said “from the questions”.
In the questions there are examples of Mecha members who are indeed racists. If most non-racist Mecha members give a shit about having a legitimate organization that people don’t see as a hate group, then they should purge anyone who has an ideology of hatred and claims Mecha justifies such a thing. This is not complex. It’s quite simple. If I was involved in an organization that meant a lot to me and there were people out there giving my org a bad name, I would try to drum them out.

12

rea 12.17.03 at 6:17 pm

“The Aztecs were native Americans, which doesn’t include the Spanish but does include lots of people that lived throughout the US.

“I don’t quite understand the desire to connect Chicanoism to the Aztecs”

Chicanos are mestizos–persons of mixed race. Their ancestry is heavily native American, with some Spanish mixed in. Spanish colonists in the new world interbreed with the natives to a much greater extent than occurred in the English colonies.

Historically, they were oppressed as much or more by pure blooded Spaniards as they were by anglos.

Incidently, this is part of why it makes no sense whatever to call MEChA “racist”–members of the group take pride in the fact that they are of mixed race. “Segregationist,” “speratist”or “exclusionary” are barely conceivable, although I don’t believe they are accurate, but “racist” is absurd.

13

Mikhel 12.17.03 at 6:22 pm

I got into a pretty long argument with a couple of people on another site about this; basically, some people seem to think racial advocacy is equivalent to racism, and I disagreed. What was interesting (or maybe not) was that the person I was arguing against tried to equate Bustamante and MEChA to Haley Barbour and the CofCC, which was something I was actively crusading against at the time. Barbour (if you don’t know) attended a fundraiser sponsered in-part by the CofCC, took a photo with one of their members, and later refused to ask them to take it down. He went on to handily defeat Muscgrove.

My tangential commentary does have a point, though maybe not something people will necessarily agree with. I’m white; it often seems to me that some white people — who are not racist — want groups like MEChA to be racist, or find it too easy to accept that they are racist.

Look at Linden’s response above; how could anyone read the post I just read, and think that MEChA has a racist idealogy? I would submit that it comes from one of the two things I suggest: one, people often confuse racial advocacy with racism; or people of one race finding it too easy to accept that a group of an opposite race is racist. Tribalism, an evolutionary psychologist might say.

Racial advocacy means, to me, people of one “oppressed” race advocating for their race. I put oppressed in quotation marks because I can’t think of a better word: people of a race that is usually a minority, that has higher poverty rates and drug rates than the race in “power”.

All of that being said, it’s worth noting that Bustamante lost a lot of credibility when he used the n-slur in front of a large group of African Americans. Instead of eloquently explaning himself, he simply said “I slipped”.

14

Mikhel 12.17.03 at 6:27 pm

Linden has just explained himself somewhat, so I’ll retract the specific statement I made about him. As I was typing the post, his comment wasn’t there.

Still, Linden: from what questions? The questions that Ted asked?

15

Phoenix 12.17.03 at 6:37 pm

My room-mate here at CSU Monterey Bay is a MEChista, and in our lengthy conversations about various cultural and political issues, I have not seen the slightest hint of racial prejudice. She has always been more than happy to explain anything I might have questions about, and we relate through comparing our cultural differences (she is from the southern regions of Mexico, I am white/white/european mutt/white American). I have spent time with her fellow MEChistas, and even attended a few of their informal functions. More than anything else, MECha appears to exist for the same reasons most culturally active clubs operate – to educate others about history and traditions, and to form a cohesive unit within which like-minded individuals can develop their political and social priorities.

Of course, I may have been drinking evil home-made horchata and eating tamales with brain-washing power…but if that makes me more open-minded towards new cultural experiences and knowledge, then by all means!

16

tori 12.17.03 at 6:41 pm

Question #23 referenced a MECha conferenced program that had “Jew York” and “Jewniversity” printed on it. I am not Jewish, and I don’t know how a Jewish person would feel if confronted with such terms, but I know that I wouldn’t say something like that. Although I am not entirely certain such terms were intended to be unkind, they certainly were thoughtless. If I belonged to an organization that regularly used such language I would quit in protest.

17

drapetomaniac 12.17.03 at 6:43 pm

it often seems to me that some white people — who are not racist — want groups like MEChA to be racist, or find it too easy to accept that they are racist.

it often seems to me that some white people – who are god only knows – want to find not racist sort of white people who think MECHA is racist.

Racial advocacy means, to me, people of one “oppressed” race advocating for their race. I put oppressed in quotation marks because I can’t think of a better word.

why do you need one, “oppressed” does just fine.

honestly, in the sanctity of my own brain, i find mecha intemperate identity politics. then i see things like the comparsion between mecha and the ccc and mecha starts looking more appealing. as i believe i said in the sharpton thread, all the concerned white citizens have to do to make sharpton, mecha etc entirely without appeal is……………

18

Mikhel 12.17.03 at 6:48 pm

it often seems to me that some white people – who are god only knows – want to find not racist sort of white people who think MECHA is racist.

I’m not sure if that is a criticism of what I said or not.

All concerned white citizens have to do is… What?

19

Mikhel 12.17.03 at 6:53 pm

Thanks, Tori. I skimmed rather quickly over the post, as I’m doing some other reading at the moment.

I’d agree that that is certainly a racist comment; yet, I would argue two things: one, that it’s not enough (not nearly enough) to judge the whole organization as racist; having racist members in a group does not make the group racist.

At least, I certainly hope not.

20

Grand Moff Texan 12.17.03 at 6:58 pm

I cannot be the only person who believes that modern day Utah is too far North to have anything to do with the Aztecs.
The Aztlan myth was current among Native Americans living in the shadow of Mt. Ranier.

All of that being said, it’s worth noting that Bustamante lost a lot of credibility when he used the n-slur in front of a large group of African Americans. Instead of eloquently explaning himself, he simply said “I slipped”.

Is it still a “slur” if you say the n-word while trying to say “negro” (as in college fund)? He was not eloquent (was he ever?), he was concise. It’s not his fault if he didn’t treat it as as big a thing as his detractors needed it to be when they dug it up months and months later.

First of all, most of the rightist raving over this issue was little more than retaliation from the “white” right. anglo-identified (social) conservatives are, in some cases justifiably, mad about being written off as racists for valorizing their, often mythologized, heritage. Just using the word “heritage” in some contexts can raise lefty eyebrows. So, what followed was a sort of sauce-for-the-goose complaint in the service of a guilt-by-association smear (reaching back 30 years to one chapter of a diffuse group in order to cite some OTHER group’s slogan that sometimes shows up on websites when, if you read it with Taco Bell level Spanish skills might mean something really racist which is great because what else do we really have to use against this guy?).

Tacitus, and others, specifically rejected the interpretive significance of context; claiming that something is just a ploy is a great way of getting out of having to make an argument.

I don’t think some, like Tacitus, were being dishonest in this. They quite understandably believed that anyone who wouldn’t denounce mecha (or, by earnestly hoped-for extenstion, Bustamante) was a hypocrite since someone else said something similar some other time. Somewhere. I think.

In reality, the mechistas’ positions have everything to do with the history of the massive programs of what today would be called ethnic cleansing in the USA which followed, for instance, the Mexican-American war. That war, and much else, has gone down the Memory Hole as far as most Americans (!) are concerned. Sporadic orgies of racist violence in the service of land-theft, mass lynchings, selective taxation, California’s Greaser Act, (not to mention that great fixture of Anglo westward expansion which involves picking a fight with people whose land you want to steal so that when they try to defend it the US Army rolls in a kills them for you) were nowhere in the political calculus of the conservative response, which is more their history teachers’ fault than their own. For this reason, the rather naiive mechista longing for a homeland was easy for the ignorant to conflate with calls for a “white” homeland in the US Pacific Northwest, as well as the patent absurdity of “mestizo supremacists.”

21

Bob McGrew 12.17.03 at 6:59 pm

The real issue with MEChA is not that it is today a racist organization or even that it’s full of racists. (It’s an identity politics organization, which is different though it looks pretty similar to white people.) The issue is with their founding documents, such as the Plan de Aztlan. They are not used actively by MEChA chapters, but nonetheless many MEChA chapters link to them.

Whether they were written in the 60′s or not, they are pretty vile and racially exclusive. (Go to your neighborhood MEChA chapter, find the link, and read them. Or, easier, use Google.) Most critics of Bustamante (myself included) would have been happy had he said something like “The Plan de Aztlan had nothing to do with MEChA while I was there. I don’t believe in it.” Similarly, it would be nice to hear mechistas say that these documents have a wrong philosophy, rather than simply that they wouldn’t be written that way today.

If your point is that MEChA is not a racist organization or not full of racists, you’ve made it. But that’s responding to a straw man criticism.

22

neil 12.17.03 at 7:17 pm

I’d say that demanding that MEChA expunge or white(?)wash its own history is exactly the sort of unreasonable expectation that they were formed to fight against. Do you think that everyone who believes in equal rights for blacks must denounce Malcolm X when prompted? Must all white people apologize for what they or their parents or grandparents believed in the ’50s and earlier, whenever someone asks?

Besides that, it is absolutely not a “straw man criticism” that MEChA is a racist organization (although one might say that Bill O’Reilly is as stupid as the Scarecrow).

23

linden 12.17.03 at 7:23 pm

mikhel, questions #22 and #23 clearly indicate that there are indeed racists within MEcha. As well, I have read about separate incidents of physical attacks on white, black and Asian Americans protesting illegal immigration by members of Mecha.

Clearly there are problems within Mecha:

“In its letter, FIRE reminded UCSD of a case in 1995 involving MEChA’s own publication, Voz Fronteriza, when the University in general, and Vice Chancellor Watson in particular, issued an unequivocal defense of the right to free expression. In May of 1995, Voz Fronteriza published an editorial on the death of a Latino Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agent, entitled “Death of a Migra Pig.” The MEChA editorial termed the dead agent a “traitor…to his race,” stated, “We’re glad this pig died, he deserved to die,” and argued, “All the Migra pigs should be killed, every single one…the only good one is a dead one…The time to fight back is now. It is time to organize an anti-Migra patrol…It is to [sic] bad that more Migra pigs didn’t die with him.” “

The only way something like that could get published would be if it was widely accepted by that particular wing of Mecha.

24

Bob McGrew 12.17.03 at 7:32 pm

I’d say that demanding that MEChA expunge or white(?)wash its own history is exactly the sort of unreasonable expectation that they were formed to fight against. Do you think that everyone who believes in equal rights for blacks must denounce Malcolm X when prompted? Must all white people apologize for what they or their parents or grandparents believed in the ‘50s and earlier, whenever someone asks?

Here I thought they were formed to fight against discrimination. I’d back them in that. Now, in truth, I’m not so up-to-speed on the bad things that Malcolm X did that I can say whether or not he should be renounced, or even what the organization he formed is that would be expected to do this.

But I do know that I, for one, would be happy to renounce segregation, racism, and slavery – which some of my grandparents and great-grandparents and so on further back played a part in preserving, at least passively. I do expect fraternities to renounce their old policies of exclusion (and almost all of the ones I know about have).

As to the other point, Bill O’Reilly is a self-made straw man. Perhaps more importantly, even if it wasn’t a straw man criticism, defending MEChA and Bustamante against that criticism is defending them against the weakest and most implausible criticism out there. (Although it’s one that could have been dispelled had Bustamante or MEChA said that he didn’t believe in the Plan de Aztlan, something other Latino members of the Assembly did quite readily.) If you want to dispell everyone’s doubts, you should address the strongest criticism of MEChA.

25

Grand Moff Texan 12.17.03 at 7:33 pm

Linden: when exactly did INS agents finally succeed in their epic struggle to win recognition for their race, with its ancient and distinguished culture?

(and since when did campus organization newsletters become the concern of anyone beyond the poor sap who got stuck with the job?)

26

linden 12.17.03 at 7:35 pm

“I’d say that demanding that MEChA expunge or white(?)wash its own history is exactly the sort of unreasonable expectation that they were formed to fight against. Do you think that everyone who believes in equal rights for blacks must denounce Malcolm X when prompted? Must all white people apologize for what they or their parents or grandparents believed in the ‘50s and earlier, whenever someone asks?”

At the very least, they should cease to advocate hatred and violence based on skin color. I don’t doubt that most would expect white Americans to denounce their history of racial violence, so why shouldn’t other groups denounce their history of racial violence? It’s not about asking them to whitewash their history. It’s about asking them to denounce racism no matter the skin color of the racist. If repudiating racism means repudiating an aspect of their history, then so be it.

27

Mikhel 12.17.03 at 7:44 pm

How is what I commented on a straw-man?

Was the US government racist at its founding? Yes

Is it today? No, at least, most people would say no.

Ted wasn’t pointing out that MEChA wasn’t racist then, he was talking about its relation now to Bustamante and public opinion. There’s clearly a difference, and that’s what I was trying to point out.

From the original post:

During the California recall, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante was harshly criticized for his refusal to renounce his involvement as a student in the Chicano student group MEChA. Critics frequently called MEChA a hate group, the equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan, or “fascist hatemongers”.

We’re talking contemporary, here. MEChA may well have been racist, just as major league baseball was once racist. We’re talking about whether its current form is racist, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I need to read about Lochner now, so I don’t have time for this. Hopefully I’ve clarified what I was attempting to say.

28

Ted Barlow 12.17.03 at 7:46 pm

Linden,

I have to disagree that any article printed in an official publication of an organization accurately reflects the wide acceptance of that opinion. However, I was curious because I hadn’t heard that story. So I looked up “Voz Fronteriza UCSD” and found their web page.

They don’t seem to be affiliated with MEChA. They certainly don’t seem to be a MEChA publication. While both are Chicano student organizations, I was unable to find a mention of MEChA on the Voz Fronteriza page. Their webpage states that their staff is solely responsible for the opinions expressed within “Voz Fronteriza”. (I called their phone number to check, but it didn’t work.)

It’s certainly possible that I’m mistaken, and that the loathesome “death of a migra pig” article in question can be associated with MEChA. But isn’t it also possible that the article in question is mistaken?

29

linden 12.17.03 at 7:58 pm

The US government was also classist and sexist at its founding since you couldn’t vote unless you were male, white and owned land.

Undoubtedly, ted, I would be relieved if they didn’t write that article. It sounds positively horrific. In my experience, the content of student publications is usually approved and vetted by the group’s leadership as well as the rank and file. Your experience may differ but that was my college experience.

30

Steve 12.17.03 at 10:00 pm

A quick Google search seems to suggest that Voz Fronteriza is largely associated with MeCHA by people who want to convince the world that MeCHA is a racist organization. Note that this editorial from the UCSD paper was clearly not written by a friend of MeCHA (he refers to the group as borderline racist), but it explicitly differentiates between MeCHA and Voz Fronteriza.

This is same tactic that Orcinus called out — take a fringe group made up of Latinos and either simply attribute their actions to MeCHA or point out certain rhetorical tropes in common. (Orcinus was talking about attempts to blame MeCHA for anti-Semetic statements made by the unrelated hate group La Voz de Aztlan, but the technique is the same.) This technique seems about as informative as equating the NAACP with the Black Panthers or the Republican Party with the CCC, and it’s about as honest.

There was a MeCHA chapter in my high school; I knew a couple people in it casually, and it never seemed like anything more than a social club for Latino kids who wanted to go to college. Maybe tamale-making and bake sales mask a sinister agenda, but I doubt it.

31

Peter 12.17.03 at 10:16 pm

Quick Quiz for the Mecha bashers:

Which political document is this passage from, and should politicans associated with this document (or more, accurately, politicans who celebrate polticans associated with this document) be forced to renounce it?

“HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.”

32

David Weman 12.18.03 at 12:12 am

“5. If you had to characterize the official attitude of MEChA on racial issues, what would you say? How would you characterize the attitude of the other members of your chapter towards white people?

A. To many MEChistas, race is not an issue. Chicanismo is now more a state of mind rather than a state of being. Skin color, religion, sexuality, none of that is important.”

Not ‘all’, not ‘most’. Why use such odd and slippery language?

33

Charlie 12.18.03 at 7:55 am

The Map in question is the “Disturnell Map of 1847.” As stated this is the “Official map of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo”

34

Paula 12.18.03 at 8:20 am

As a mechista who answered one of the questions, let me say that not everyone was from New Mexico State. They sent it out to quite a few chapters and my understanding was that while most answers came from their chapter, some were from other members/chapters. I didn’t realize that the word “many” would be considerd to be “odd and slippery language.” However, in response, I didn’t use all or most because I didn’t want to speak on someone else’s behalf.
I chose to say many because, of the mechistas I have met throughout the country, a great majority feel this was. Obviously having over 300 chapters makes it difficult for me to say all, as I have not met every mechista. Quite frankly I don’t think I’ve even met half the mechistas in the country.

35

Paula 12.18.03 at 8:20 am

As a mechista who answered one of the questions, let me say that not everyone was from New Mexico State. They sent it out to quite a few chapters and my understanding was that while most answers came from their chapter, some were from other members/chapters. I didn’t realize that the word “many” would be considerd to be “odd and slippery language.” However, in response, I didn’t use all or most because I didn’t want to speak on someone else’s behalf.
I chose to say many because, of the mechistas I have met throughout the country, a great majority feel this was. Obviously having over 300 chapters makes it difficult for me to say all, as I have not met every mechista. Quite frankly I don’t think I’ve even met half the mechistas in the country.

36

Ted Barlow 12.18.03 at 3:06 pm

Paula- my mistake re: New Mexico State. I’ll correct it.

37

Sebastian Holsclaw 12.18.03 at 6:25 pm

“I’d say that demanding that MEChA expunge or white(?)wash its own history is exactly the sort of unreasonable expectation that they were formed to fight against. Do you think that everyone who believes in equal rights for blacks must denounce Malcolm X when prompted? Must all white people apologize for what they or their parents or grandparents believed in the ‘50s and earlier, whenever someone asks?”

Do you notice that you shift the standards here? We start with Mecha chapters linking approvingly to a document which is promoting a racist ideology. Then you shift to talking about how unfair it would be to have to apologize for what their parents and grandparents believed. Ignoring the fact that in some contexts people are expected to just that, can’t we make an effective distinction between going out of your way to affirm a racist ideology and not apologizing for the past views of your ancestors?

Peter, I’m not sure what you are trying to say about the Declaration of Independence. The quote you offer says that the contra to the rules of warfare among the British, the Indians which King George employed against the not yet united states didn’t distinguish between women, children and the infirm when fighting. I suspect you are objecting to the not so multiculturally-sensitive word ‘savages’. But that is just a guess, so I won’t bother arguing about it unless you confirm my suspicion.

I also note that the response does not deny the translation of “Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada”

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