Thursday, July 2, 2009

Talk of the Town: 'La Raza' has land title backwards

Judy Dutko writes, "One of the precepts of La Raza, which means "The Race," is that the U.S. stole the American Southwest from Mexico." First I went to the la Raza website to check that statement, and found these:

The term “La Raza” has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as “the people” or, according to some scholars, as “the Hispanic people of the New World.” The term was coined by Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos to reflect the fact that the people of Latin America are a mixture of many of the world’s races, cultures, and religions.
(I work in the translation game, and deal daily with the misconceptions of amateur translators and resulting problems, so this doesn't surprise me a bit.)
Another misconception about NCLR is the allegation that we support a “Reconquista,” or the right of Mexico to reclaim land in the southwestern United States. NCLR has not made and does not make any such claim; indeed, such a claim is so far outside of the mainstream of the Latino community that we find it incredible that our critics raise it as an issue.

Ms Dutko, who claims to have been a high-school teacher, goes on to detail a version of the history of American acquisition of Mexican territory by settlement and war, asserting that it proves that the U.S. took this land legally. But on several readings of this account, I can't see how the reader could conclude anything other than that the U.S. took the Southwest from Mexico by force, not just by stealing, but by armed robbery. George Seaman gets it right in the comments. Then she tops it off triumphantly with "Contrary to La Raza's claim that we stole the Southwest, note that Mexico held title to it for only 27 years." Um, I suspect that if Ms Dutko owned a car for 27 years and someone came with a gun, threatened her with it and drove off in the car, she would likely conclude that she'd been robbed.

OK, so we have a writer who freely spouts untruths about a favorite right-wing whipping boy, then applies her historical knowledge to prove the idea she intends to disprove. Why should I care?

It's like this. Had the editors left the piece as an LTE, there'd be no foul. The reader could take it as the hamhanded rant it is. But by elevating this ignorant, radical-right harangue to Talk of the Town status, they give it the paper's endorsement as a worthwhile, professional view. Bad choice, guys. If you really want to promote these dumb ideas, at least pick someone who doesn't trip over her own shoelaces doing it. Columns are also subject to fact-checking, or at least they are in professional operations.

Oh, and could someone please go back through the records and find the kids Ms Dutko taught in school? They probably need some remedial help.

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