September 5, 2003


Fair and Unbalanced Racism

By Rodolfo F. Acuna

Fox News and the O’Reilly factor have touched off a tempest in the proverbial teapot by denouncing California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante for not renouncing his affiliation with a Chicano student organization of which he was a member in the 1970s. These so-called journalists equate MEChA with the Klu Klux Klan and violence, which at a time of general hysteria over terrorism is irresponsible.

Moreover, the accusations happen to be unfounded and lack any probative value; one would expect more of professional journalists who are supposedly dedicated to search for the truth using an object methodology. Indeed, the instances that Fox News and its gaggle of talk show hosts cite where not MECHA events but events sponsored by other organizations. The one event that Fox News cites as violent was a July 4 demonstration in 1996 where they said Mechistas attacked black and white Americans protesting “illegal” immigration. The truth is that many groups were present at this demonstration, and it was racist nativist groups that attacked them.

Moreover, they accuse MEChA of association with anti-Semitic groups like Nation of Aztlan. Here again Fox News is guilty of distorting the facts and guilty of sloppy reporting. There no such group as the Nation of Aztlan and most MEChAS have severed ties with any group with sexist, anti-Semitic or homophobic agendas.

Fox News and O’Reilly also mistakenly say that MEChA’s motto is “for the race, everything. For those outside the race, nothing.” Again, they have gotten wrong; actually the motto of MEChA is “La union hace la fuerza” (Unity creates power). Further the gaggle charges that MEChA has 300 chapters in universities across the U.S. making the

false assumption that they have a national organization with a national office. MEChA is a student organization with no formal central body, it has no national office, it has no budget, and it has no constitution.

Each MEChA chapter has a set of bylaws that the student affairs office must approve. These bylaws state that the organization is open to all students no matter their race, sexual orientation, gender or religion. These alleged journalist also charge that the organization is dedicated to the creation of the Nation of Aztlan; this is a ridiculous charge. Most MEChAs are dedicated to creating a space on the university campuses.

The organization is anything but anti-Semitism and antiblack; some of its members are black and others are Jews. At California State University Northridge MEChA has formed coalitions with various groups.

Despite the facts, the racist nativists are calling on Bustamante to renounce his membership in MEChA, an organization that he belonged to more than 30 years ago. They say that his membership in MEChA “is certainly more relevant than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s father being a Nazi.” I really find this to be offensive. First because it trivializes an ideology that murdered six million people, and second because no one in the Latino community is stooping to this sort of demagoguery.

In my youth, I naively believed that the only hope for democracy was higher education and the so-called Fifth Estate. In part I became a historian because of this naivety. Through the years, I had tremendous respect for journalist such as Edward R. Murrow.

This respect has dwindled as journalist today have abandoned objectivity and the search for the truth, instead searching for ratings by playing on the fears of Americans. I would hope that other journalist would show more professionalism and base their reports on fact. The truth be told, if I were to grade the Fox coverage it would be a fail. In the first three paragraphs it makes five errors of fact. So much for fair and balanced coverage; so much for professionalism.

Acuna can be reached at:  

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