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The NAACP Fights for Latino Immigrants

The NAACP goes to bat for Latino immigrants in its continued fight against discrimination.

Mary Sanchez

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For all those who have questioned the relevancy of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to the modern era, or tried to deep-six the storied civil rights organization as a relic of the past, one question: How do you like them now?

The NAACP has resurrected its sleepy reputation in ways even its leadership couldn’t have predicted.

The recent media spotlight on 101-year-old NAACPstemmed from a planned and sustained focus to counter the rising level of hate speech in U.S. society. The group notes that “at rallies, on television and across the Web, racism and race-baiting has crept back into our pubic discourse.”

You can bet the NAACP realizes Latinos are an often-targeted group. In fact, NAACP leadership staged an impromptu protest on behalf of Latino immigrants while in Kansas City recently for their national convention. National NAACP organizers hadn’t realized that Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio would also be in the city that July week, alongside Kris Kobach, a Kansas City-area law professor who helped author Arizona’s controversial immigration law. The NAACP is a partner in one of the multiple lawsuits filed to challenge the constitutionality of the Arizona law.

Meetings were quickly held to strategize, and on the night of Arpaio’s appearance, the NAACP filled a bus with convention-goers and traveled across town to protest outside the hotel where he spoke.

To some people, that was a shock. But the NAACP has long been cognizant that their rather archaic-sounding name can represent “colored people” in a variety of hues and ethnicities. The fact has not escaped the NAACP’s notice that the people who are labeled “brown-skinned” are increasingly targeted.

A new poll by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Americans see Hispanics as the racial/ethnic group most often subjected to discrimination. It’s a marked shift from 2001 when Americans perceived African-Americans as the most impacted by prejudice.

It’s not as if NAACP leaders plotted their media-enhanced rebirth to prominence. But they ignited unrelenting media attention during their convention by calling out the previously under-explored problem of racist fringe elements attempting to latch onto the Tea Party movement.

As those of us in the news business are fond of saying, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

First, they were rebuffed by the Tea Party leadership, many of whom didn’t grasp that the NAACP wasn’t saying that the entire movement was racist.

I only have to click open my email daily to know that racists identify with the Tea Party. And I need to only apply common sense to know such emails aren’t indicative of everyone associated with the Tea Party.

One such over-achiever in the offensive email department appeared the same week the NAACP issued its statement. Included in the email’s diatribe were comments about “lucky negros,” “liberal Jewish Supreme Court judge,” “illegal mestizos,” applause for France’s “ban on Muslim veils,” and Mexico described as a “corrupt banana republic.”

It was sent from “Tea Party,” traced to somewhere in California. And that’s nothing compared to the fact that David Duke and other avowed white nationalists have openly said they see the Tea Party as fertile recruiting ground.

But the NAACP couldn’t imagine that within days of passing their resolution, the now denounced Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams would pen and post to the Internet a rant he posed as satire. Williams wrote a mock letter to Abraham Lincoln and signed it from Benjamin Jealous, NAACP President.

“We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!”

Then, unscrupulous blogger Andrew Breitbart posted his selectively-edited out-of-context video of Shirley Sherrod sounding as if she denied help to a white farmer as an employee of the USDA.

The backlash was fast, furious and played out in national media. News cycles being shorter than an Andy Warhol 15 minutes these days, I suspect these matters will quickly simmer to completion. But don’t expect the NAACP to stay behind the scenes. The impetus for their concern—the need for vigilance against bias and prejudice—isn’t likely to subside anytime soon.

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Fred R DeLeon Sr
2011-01-02 21:44:39

IS MARY SANCHEZ MARRIED TO AN AFRICAN AMERICAN?