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Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis

When an AP video showed a White police officer kicking a Black man in the face, the president of the Delaware NAACP criticized the release of the video, saying that doing so would lead to unrest before the NAACP had a chance to meet with the community. That type of thing is sounding all too familiar now.

In the 1970s LULAC, the NAACP organization counterpart of Hispanics that I am quite aware about as a Latino, was referred to as a sellout group, selling out the genuine interests of Latinos. Going back further, there were many examples of sellouts—the five [segregated] fingers of the hand approach of the Black Booker T. Washington, who got invited to the White House. Never invited was his rival W.E.B. Dubois who was a founder of the NAACP and who would perhaps not desire to belong to said organization today.

Who are these groups and what is significant about them today? NAACP stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the largest organization of Blacks, though Blacks would not today refer to themselves or want to be referred to as Colored People, but Whites called them that when it was founded (referring to them and others including Latinos, Asian and Native American as people of color is fine in regard to their not being white, though it could be said that white is a color also, but that is another matter). LULAC stands for League of United Latin American Citizens, the largest organization of Latinos, though Latinos/Hispanics would not today refer to themselves or want to be referred to as Latins or Latin Americans (a person from a Latin American country would prefer to be called a Peruvian, etc.), but Whites referred to them as Latins and worse at the time the organization was founded. Today “Latino” is OK because it is a term of their choosing and in Spanish.

What is significant about the organizations today is indicated by some interesting points that Jesse Hagopian recently made in answering criticism by these two organizations and similar others who attacked his anti-standardized testing and common core stance.   Namely, NAACP and LULAC had been focusing on supposedly determining through testing and the common core on how Blacks and Latinos, for example, were doing in school, when now it is becoming increasingly clear that such is not what standardized testing is doing nor what the common core is accomplishing. The hundreds of thousands of students now opting out of testing and the widespread opposition to the common core is what NAACP and LULAC need to fully exam, because these organizations seem to have lost their way in regard to leadership on these and likely other issues.

In Ferguson some Black “leaders” were repudiated as leaders. Jesse Jackson was not all that welcome nor was Al Sharpton (who even has a TV program, not to mention the silent Oprah, who in her case did not even say much about the racism she herself experienced at a boutique years ago, other than one program about it out of the thousands she has aired), for selling out the interests of the protestors there. Then there is the case of Ron Johnson, Black commander of the Missouri State Police who was apparently initially welcome in Ferguson by Blacks, but then slithered out of the public eye when he was no longer all that welcome by the Ferguson protestors.

Others who may be of some sort of prominence lately in the Black community have been called a sellout. A Black called a Black police officer a sellout on national video, when said officer attacked a Black homeless person in Los Angeles a few months ago, interestingly enough.

The very latest form of such disapprovals is a national voice against police misconduct by drivers giving a long honk as they drive by police who have stopped motorists.   Coincidentally that is what drivers are doing to trucks flying the Confederate flag, and as it so happens, the two entities of the police and the racism of the flag are joined at the hip given that in South Carolina and throughout the early U.S., slave patrols were the original police.

In Baltimore the power structure is mostly Black, including the Mayor and a good number of the police, as well as the police commissioner, and still the riots occurred. Tragically Obama as a Black president and Baltimore’s mayor both referred to the rioters as “thugs,” shorthand by many Whites in society simply for Black youth. Society refers to Whites who riot as “revelers” who engage in “mischief,” in contrast. Roof, who killed nine Blacks in Charleston is not referred to as a “thug.”

In the Rio Grande Valley on the Texas border, the mayors, city councils and school boards are almost all Hispanic, without any consequential positive socio-economic consequences for the largely Hispanic populations. It should be added that Blacks have been mayors of many major U.S. cities, without necessarily much consequence for Blacks. Particular Black and Hispanic Congresspersons have been in DC for 30 years without consequence for such respective constituents. I can name four Texas Hispanics in the Congressional House of Representatives in DC from a few years ago that were there for 30 years each, not to mention many others in the state legislature, and similarly women, and Blacks in other states though each individual’s situation is of course not identical.

Currently, Texas Senator Cruz from is Hispanic, as is Rubio of Florida and Menendez of New Jersey (though all three are Cuban-Americans, who comprise only 3% of all Hispanics and are not much interested in the issues of the other 97%). Cruz got a 6% higher vote from Hispanics than other GOP candidates, with Hispanics incorrectly assuming he had their best interest at heart because of his name. Texas Governor Abbott likewise was elected recently due in part to his Hispanic mother-in-law simply saying in political ads that he was a good man (she did not discuss any issues) and many Hispanics voted for him. Jeb Bush quickly learned the gist of these lessons in showcasing his Hispanic wife right after that, but is not doing now so as he vies for the White Republican national nomination, but is likely do so if he wins the nomination when he visits south Texas in particular. Predictably a number of Hispanics may vote for Bush because of that in addition to or in spite of the issues.

Likewise Kay Bailey Hutchison, the one that columnist Molly Ivins referred to as the Breck Girl, was a Texas senator for many years. No woman seems to know what she did for women. Anise Parker is the mayor of Houston, and it could be asked what her position is with regard to the Houston Police vis-à-vis Hispanics and Blacks in the city (who comprise over two-thirds of the population there), all in spite of her being a lesbian as well, without perhaps much of any constructive consequence for women there either. (It should be added that women have been mayors of every major city in Texas, without necessarily much consequence for women). Would the war hawk Hillary be different and of consequence for women or Blacks or Hispanics or even poor Whites?

Black, Hispanic and women “leaders” are not saying much about the school-to-prison pipeline, police brutality recordings, and so forth. Identity politics seems to have run its course. The assumption for over 100 years had been that elected skin color would make quite a difference in politics. Notice that Obama has not in his almost eight years in office done anything in regard to race. Reports are clear that he avoids race issues until he is forced to address something after or in reaction to what happens, such as the Trayvon Martin killing, Ferguson, and Baltimore, and ditto for his wife Michelle. If anything many Blacks referred to Bill Clinton as the Black president, and he even initiated a national discussion panel on race once.

There is some possibility sometimes that a minority official may do more for minorities than a White person may, but not by a long shot is it a certainty. This is why officials who are Latino are too often referred to as vendidos (Spanish for sellouts) or coconuts; such Blacks as oreos; Native Americans as apples; and Asians as bananas, all in reference to their supposed skin color but white on the inside. The point is sometimes raised, however, that an official represents all and not only a racial or gender group, which is nonsense in that White male officials have done primarily for Whites and males historically. It is also possible, perhaps probable, that a Bernie Sanders, a White, may very well do more for minorities than the above, though.

Very importantly therefore, the above students and protestors and others are often going their own way. Theirs is a more direct route to dealing with and addressing the issues, and apparently more likely to create change, and sooner than later.

The future is predicated on us in society looking at how a person, a candidate or an official of some sort, will do in regard to issues. It would be a good sign if all of us were to do what we can about circumstances and not rely only on sellouts or “leaders,” including those White “leaders” who sell out what is in the best interest even of most Whites. It would be optimistic that we do all that we can, yet in essence realistic. That is the real “hope and change,” not what Obama said and promised years ago and what some candidates may say and promise today.

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Jose Martinez is a university professor.

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