May 29, 2009

Tom Tancredo isn't the first to compare the National Council of La Raza to the Ku Klux Klan. But his use of the comparison not only tells us a lot about Tancredo himself, but also movement conservatism generally and the Republican Party particularly.

It especially tells us a lot about how readily they overinflate their own claims of anti-white racism on the part of minorities, while simultaneously minimizing the horrific terror of groups like the Klan.

Back in January of 2008, Jim Gilchrist -- cofounder of the nativist border-watch group The Minutemen -- used the same analogy on Glenn Beck's CNN Headline News program:

During the segment, Gilchrist compared the National Council of La Raza, which identifies itself as the "largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States," to the Ku Klux Klan. He claimed that a sign in downtown Los Angeles identifying "La Raza Plaza" "is perhaps a racist sign," and asserted that "La Raza and MEChA [the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán] are, in my opinion, the largest organized racial supremacy group in the United States today. And if we're going to have a La Raza Plaza sign, what's next? A KKK Plaza sign, a Black Panther Plaza sign? This goes right to the heart of free speech."

As always, this kind of rhetoric quickly circulates among rank-and-file members of groups like the Minutemen. Last July, Kyledeb of Citizen Orange talked to members of the Minutemen who were protesting NCLR's annual convention and recorded it on video. As you can see above, it's a pretty revealing encounter with the people waving signs equating La Raza with neo-Nazis and the Klan.

Note, however, that this "Ku Klux Klan" meme originated with earlier, similar claims about MEChA -- claims that have since been thoroughly debunked, though they still enjoy considerable circulation on the right.

And who originated the "MEChA = the KKK" claim? None other than Michelle Malkin and Glenn Reynolds, who even went so far as to call MEChA -- in a case of mistaken identity for which he never apologized -- "fascist hatemongers". Moreover, the whole "MEChA is a racist group" meme played a founding role in the whole Reconquista! conspiracy theory promoted by Malkin et. al.

Let's get some perspective, people. Consider the actual record of genuinely racist organizations -- particularly the Ku Klux Klan, which has endured even today through multiple incarnations in America. The first of these incarnations was, according to Robert O. Paxton, the first functional manifestation of fascism in history, the Reconstruction Klan. Here is its record, according to Philip Dray in At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America:

Richard Maxwell Brown's comprehensive study of vigilante violence in America estimates that in the four years 1868-71 there were more than four hundred Klan lynchings in the South, Union general Phil Sheridan calculated that 3,500 whites and blacks were killed between 1865 and 1875, Ida Wells-Barnett, writing in the 1890s, put the number of Negroes killed by whites since 1865 at 10,000m with only three white men executed for crimes against blacks in that period. … Author Dorothy Sterling, who combed through man thousands of documents and oral histories in her preparation of a noted compendium on the Reconstruction era, cited 20,000 as the number killed by the Klan just in the four years 1868-71.

The Klan revived in 1916 after years of dormancy and was responsible for a broad range of lynchings, "race riots" and anti-black purges in the South over the ensuing 15 years or so, in which hundreds of African Americans were brutally murdered en masse (as in Tulsa) and individually. And it has continued to be associated even today with an array of hate crimes and heinous acts of terrorism against various minorities.

You can tell a real hate group by what it's preoccupied with. If its main agenda is about tearing down target races and demonizing their members, as well as paranoid stewing about the loss of power and privilege of their own group, then you're looking at a real hate group.

If, on the other hand, it's focused solely on uplifting members of its own group (something, incidentally, which many white-supremacist groups claim to be, though their hatemongering always surfaces in short order), then that's not a hate group. That's an ethnic-heritage group, like the Sons of Norway and the Irish-American League.

Or the National Council La Raza -- especially the La Raza that Kyledeb demonstrates in the video above, safely corporate, hardly the wild-eyed radicals the wingnuts have concocted in their fantasies. (Its name, for you right-wing feebs out there, does not mean "The Race". It translates more accurately as "The People." It refers specifically to people of Mexican heritage, but generically of Latino heritage. And Mexico is in fact a multiracial society.)

But the right's increasingly mouth-foaming wingnut bloc hasn't any use for facts that get in the way of the stories they want to tell -- and the rest of the right is happy to sit silently by and let them tell 'em. Which tells us, I think, that these folks are a long, long, long, loooooooong way off from figuring out where they went wrong.

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