RANDOM OBSERVATIONS ON RECENT NEWS
I once offered the notion that pretty soon nobody will be reading blogs, because everybody will be busy writing blogs. Maybe. But let’s plow ahead, guided by the assumption that there are still readers out there. Those of you who have landed here before know that I usually scribble some observations about a particular subject, whether historical, cultural or political. This scribbling is a bit of a departure from that. There’s just too much going on and it’s difficult to limit this effort to just one subject. And these subjects are all connected in certain ways and all have an impact on the broad Latino community. So, bear with me and come along for these (seemingly) random observations.
THE ASTONISHING RESCUE OF SEX SLAVES IN CLEVELAND
Who knew that there were so many Latinos in Cleveland? It’s just another indication that we are everywhere in this country. As the details unfolded about that horrific case in Cleveland where three young women were rescued after being held prisoners for a decade, you couldn’t help but notice that so many people in the story were Latinos. One of the victims. The neighbors. Even some of the cops were Latinos. And, of course, the alleged perpetrator of all this horror is a Latino. That particular fact certainly doesn’t help our national image.
But it all points out that Latinos are in virtually every nook and cranny of the United States. Thirty years ago the perception was that Mexican Americans were in the Southwest, Puerto Ricans were in the boroughs of New York and Cuban Americans were ensconced in Miami. Today, those concentrations still hold true, but we are everywhere – in the South, in the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, in big cities and in hamlets. When I was in graduate school at Columbia University in the late 1970s, there weren’t very many Chicanos in New York. Puerto Ricans, of course. And a growing number of Dominicans. But there was no Mexican flavor to speak of in New York. I actually bought tortillas in a can at a bodega. Buying fresh chiles was an impossibility. There were just a couple of Mexican restaurants in Manhattan. My how that has changed!
POLICE ABUSE OF LATINOS
One thing that hasn’t changed is the abuse Latinos get at the hands of the chota. In the last several weeks there have been lots of examples of that. In Kern County, north of Los Angeles, witnesses said they saw half-a-dozen cops literally beat a mexicano to death in public view. Several neighbors filmed the assault using their cell phones. The police response to that? They questioned the neighbors and confiscated their phones (and the footage of the incident). The fox said it would “investigate” the action in the henhouse.
On the heels of that incident, a federal court sided with the Anaheim, California police in a case where a Latino was shot to death by the chota. The court concluded “there was no excessive use of force” in the incident that ended with a cop putting a bullet in the brain of a Latino who sat in the driver’s seat of his car. He was shot at pointblank range by the cop. That fact is not in dispute. His name was Adolf Anthony Sanchez Gonzalez. He was 21 years old. The ruling was from a three-judge federal appeals panel. Procedurally, the issue before the judges was whether the case should go to trial with the cop being criminally charged. The ruling put the brakes on that. One judge dissented. Judge Richard R. Clifton questioned the tall tale told by the cops who were involved. Clifton wrote in his dissent that the cop who pulled the trigger “whipped out his gun without warning, shot Gonzalez dead (and) a reasonable jury might conclude that his actions were unreasonable.” But the case will never go to trial. Some things never change. And that includes the all-too-frequent abuse of raza by the cops.
THE IMMIGRATION “REFORM” PENDEJADA
Still making headlines in recent weeks is the circus in Congress over “immigration reform.” A (sort of) path to citizenship that would take 13 years and include so many twists and turns and potholes as to make the path ludicrous. Oh, and first of all, let’s build the Great Wall of China along the border between the United States of America and the United Mexican States. “Oh, they’re taking our jobs,” say the right-wing wingnuts. Yeah, gringos are just dying to wash dishes for minimum wage and slave beneath the broiling San Joaquin Valley picking grapes. Certain opponents of anything resembling a reasonable change in this country’s immigration laws and policies want “tougher conditions.”
It’s not enough that immigrants who might apply for “legal status” (and remember, this proposed law is a long way from passage) have to pay huge fines and plod through a labyrinth of conditions. No, some immigrant haters would like to see tougher conditions. How about public floggings while reciting the Act of Contrition? How about shame-inducing dunkings in a pond, like we had during the Salem Witch Trials?
One interesting note regarding the media coverage of this whole immigration issue is that some major news organizations – including the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times – have decided to drop the routine use of the terms “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant.” I suppose some things do change for the better, eventually. However, it is a rather small step.
THE IRS AND THE TEA PARTY
The mass media have generally blown it when covering this story which has been making noise and will likely continue to make noise in the coming weeks. (The right wing will try to blame that darkie Muslim foreigner Obama for every thing, and like a dog with a bone, they just won’t let go.)
The mass media have generally blown it by not making the distinction between 501 (c) (4)s and other categories of “nonprofit, tax-exempt” organizations. And that’s key to this whole story. The basic story, of course, is that for a couple of years groups of Tea Party schmoes and similar right-wing wackos have been applying to the Internal Revenue Service to get a designation as a certain type of nonprofit organization. It means they won’t pay taxes. It turns out staffers of the IRS were in the habit of giving these applications a close look. They asked the applicants for more specific information, including a list of funders. Now, it may be that some IRS staffers might have been a bit overzealous in asking pesky questions of these applicants. Maybe.
And let’s not forget the fact that, for years, African American and Chicano organizations seeking nonprofit status have been raked over the coals during the application process by the IRS. I’ve been around long enough that I remember those battles.
The media have, generally, blown it by referring to Tea Party applicants as “being targeted” for seeking “nonprofit status.” Well, there are lots of nonprofit designations. Most of us are more familiar with nonprofit groups such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund which have a “501 (c) (3)” designation. They are tax exempt and can raise funds for scholarships and civil rights activities. There are limits on their ability to be political advocates. But these tea baggers were applying for 501 (c) (4) designations. That means they are supposed to be “social welfare” organizations and their primary activity cannot be political advocacy. But that’s what the tea baggers intended to do – raise money, not pay taxes and use that money to advance their right-wing political agenda. Of course the IRS should give that whole thing some serious scrutiny.
The other level on which the media have blown it in covering this story is that these Tea Party and “Patriot” groups are small potatoes compared to the big guys who are using these nonprofit designations for political advocacy. Big right-wing organizations are using 501 (c) (4)s to raise millions of dollars for political advocacy – and this is the really pernicious part – being able to hide the source of the money. They don’t have to name the donors. The amounts are unlimited. Democracy for Sale. All this is tied to the floodgates that were opened by that nefarious Citizens United ruling issued by the tapados in the majority of the United States Supreme Court. (No “wise Latina” would ever vote for something as ridiculous – and dangerous—as that.) That ruling said that corporations are essentially individuals and have a First Amendment right to raise and spend money for political advocacy. Giving money is the same as “speaking” said the court. And speech is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. That’s part of why we’re in the fix we’re in.
Well, I got that off my chest. See you next time.
Tales of Torres Copyright 2013 by Luis R. Torres