La Raza = The Race?

The San Diego Union-Tribune story today on the outcry over the name of the largest Hispanic organization in the United States.

DOWNTOWN 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 wraps up its convention downtown, it has 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.

Activists are saying that, are they? Well, my Spanish-English dictionary also happens to say the same thing. Not so, according the folks at La Raza:

Many people incorrectly translate our name, “La Raza,” as “the race.” While it is true that one meaning of “raza” in Spanish is indeed “race,” in Spanish, as in English and any other language, words can and do have multiple meanings. As noted in several online dictionaries, “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. As anyone who has ever met a Dominican American, Mexican American, or Spanish American can attest, Hispanics can be and are members of any and all races.

It’s an interesting debate, but only now that the convention’s over does the newspaper feel comfortable enough to write about it. The Union-Tribune is acting more and more like the house organ of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. We wouldn’t want to upset all those conventioneers spending their dollars in America’s Finest City, would we?

This debate has been going on for quite a while now. There was an outcry when the City Council declared July 8 La Raza Day in San Diego. Right-wing talk show host Roger Hedgecock was beating this like a drum all last week.

Hedgecock appeals to the basest, most virulent nativist instincts. He described La Raza as the “Ku Klux Klan with a tan.” The group’s true goal was “the dismemberment of the United States of America.” He makes Lou Dobbs seem like an intellectual by contrast.

Hedgecock was once a “progressive Republican” former mayor who left office when he was CONVICTED of conspiracy and perjury. He then shifted gears and decided to make a living bashing Mexicans. Last week, he was chatting up his idea for his own group — “La Raza Blanca” — until a listener gently reminded him that … ahem … you might want to knock that off.