La Raza – Is it Racism?

22 07 2008
I have read many people criticising the National Council of La Raza, claiming it is racist, today I found this article where they are defending themselves against those accusations.
NCLR Defends its Name, Literally
Hiram Soto,
Article in Spanish here

Editor’s Note: The Latino rights organization National Council of La Raza says the controversy over its name is the result of a word lost in translation.

SAN DIEGO – The National Council of La Raza spends most of its time protecting and advancing the rights of Latinos through advocacy and community work. But as it wrapped up its convention in San Diego last week, it found itself defending its name.

That’s because activists who oppose illegal immigration are saying in e-mails, during street protests and through the media that “La Raza” means “The Race,” and have been calling the organization a hate group.

The accusations have prompted soul-searching among NCLR supporters as to what the name actually means and stands for. Most say the situation is the result of a word lost in translation.

In the past few days, organizers have addressed the issue at news conferences and on their Web site, where they explain their interpretation of the name. 

If you got to their website they have an article explaining point by point the issues brought by different groups of people.

“While it is true that one meaning of ‘raza’ in Spanish is indeed ‘race,’ . . . words can and do have multiple meanings,” reads the statement. “ ‘La raza’ means ‘the people’ or ‘the community.’

“Translating our name as ‘the race’ is not only inaccurate, it is factually incorrect. ‘Hispanic’ is an ethnicity, not a race. . . . Hispanics can be and are members of any and all races.”

Still, raza can mean different things to different people, even Spanish speakers. For some it means family and community, while for others it represents the language and customs of Latinos.

During a speech Sunday, Sen. Barack Obama described “la raza” as “big enough to embrace the notion that we are all part of a greater community.”

“It’s a very subjective term,” said Bernardo Ferdman, a professor at the Marshall Goldsmith School of Management at Alliant University, who teaches about diversity in the workplace.

“The concept of race that people use in the United States is not the same as the one used in Latin America. People talk about the human race, the human races, and the race meaning the people, or el pueblo, so it has several meanings.”

Several Latin American countries celebrate Oct. 12 as Dia de la Raza – Columbus Day in the United States – commemorating the beginning of a mixture between Spaniards and the native populations.

I would add to this, we celebrate the combination between Spaniards, Africans and Natives, but we also celebrate any other races; it is actually the coming together, not the separating.

The interpretation of the term among protesters outside the convention center was that “raza” stood for exclusion and divisiveness.

“It’s flat-out racism,” said Dominique Harkay, who opposes illegal immigration. “If they want to change that perception, they should change their name.”

The NCLR’s president, Janet Murguía, has acknowledged that there have been conversations about changing the name. It has been difficult because of the name’s historical weight, Murguía said.

The organization was born in 1968 under the name Southwest Council of La Raza during a time when Latinos had little social representation and their issues were mostly ignored.

Many members feel they should be true to their roots and stick with the name

One last thing Latinos or Hispanics, is not a race, they come in all races. The concept of race in Latin America is very different than the concept of the US.




One response

23 07 2008

A lot of vitriol is directed at La Raza for their supposed support of the reconquistador movement to reclaim parts of the Southwestern U.S. I have no clue as to the veracity of these claims, especially due to the fact that I see them in mostly zenophobic blogs (Michelle Malkin) and articles (Frontpage magazine). In a democratic society, identity groups will always vie for power political and social systems.

I think the term “racist” is often misunderstood and overused. Racism is the fundamental belief that one race is superior to another. I have not read anywhere where La Raza maintains that belief regarding its represented members.

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