Preserving a Deserved Reputation

Washington Post, Saturday, February 13, 1999, page A25
� Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

The author of "Preserving the Ways of My Ancestors" [Free For All, Feb. 6] presented an excellent synopsis of his group's views.  If his representation is accurate, the Council of Conservative Citizens is exactly as it has been described in the press:  racist and paranoid (I think we can also add xenophobic).

-- James Carlson

In his defense of the legitimacy of the Council of Conservative Citizens, Jared Taylor demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of the origins and mission of the National Council of La Raza.  After protesting others' characterization of himself and his organization as having bigoted views, Taylor writes, "Why should whites hand over the country to people unlike themselves?  If millions of whites were pouring across the border into Mexico ... and pushing the ethnic demands of an organization called the National Council of the Race (La Raza), could Mexicans be tricked into thinking this was 'cultural enrichment'?"

Taylor and others have mistranslated our name to mean "the Race," implying that excludes others.  In fact, the term has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and most closely translates into English as "the people" or, according to some scholars, "the Hispanic people of the New World."  The term coined by the Mexican philosopher Jose Vasconcelos, "la raza cosmica" (the "cosmic people"), reflects the fact that the people of Latin America are a mixture of many of the world's races, cultures and religions -- Europeans, Africans and Native Americans;  Muslims, Christians and Jews;  and those from both the Old World and the New World.  Moreover, Vasconcelos contended that Latinos provide an example of a community in which traditional concepts of race can be transcended.

The National Council of La Raza's mission reflects this ideal.  Not only are we not even remotely "separatist" in nature but we seek full inclusion of Latinos in the American mainstream.  Included in our board of directors and staff are members of virtually every Latino subgroup, as well as significant numbers of non-Hispanics.   We help our community exercise the right to petition our government, a right cherished by every American.  In doing so, we support the civil rights laws, which protect all Americans from invidious discrimination.  Together with our affiliates, we provide English-language courses and citizenship programs to thousands of Hispanics and many non-Hispanics each year.  And through our public-information efforts, we seek to promote tolerance and understanding among all Americans.  Ironically, the persistence of the kind of fundamental misinformation contained in Jared Taylor's article underscores, rather than undermines, the continuing need for organizations like the National Council of La Raza.

- Lisa Navarrete, Deputy Vice President, National Council of La Raza