Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hispanic Chairman Apologizes for Racial Remarks

Fernando C. de Baca
A day after the Bernalillo County Republican Party Chairman was quoted in a BBC News story saying, “Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won't vote for a black president” Fernando C. de Baca is apologizing, and said he’s prepared to step aside, but only after discussing the matter with county leaders at a closed meeting on Tuesday.

On Saturday night, C. de Baca, who spent time as a staffer at the White House, called The Word, to talk about the story which was first posted on NMFBI late Friday afternoon.
He told us he regrets everything that’s taken place.

“I’m prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep this campaign rolling, and to keep it center and focused on issues. I love everybody. Contrary to everything that’s been said about me I’ve never had any conflict with any group or individuals for that matter.”

C. de Baca said, "It’s truly unfortunate. I was asked by one of the bloggers to help him understand the history of New Mexico, visa via Hispanics, and how they interacted with the Native Americans, and Blacks, you know African Americans.”

The 70-year-old thought he was relating stories from 60 years ago when he was just a kid, and believes he was quoted out of context in the article after the reporter told him he was writing for a world audience and needed to explain New Mexico’s cultural history to readers in Africa, China, and around the world.

Indeed, the BBC's post title, “Latin Class” indicated the story was at least partially written to include a historical perspective.
Reporter Jon Kelly includes his opinions throughout his BBC blog post without putting C. de Baca's comments into any context, but the reporter certainly questions himself writing:
I wasn't sure about this, though. Virtually all of the Hispanic voters I spoke to told me they were supporting Obama.
One local media analyst suggested to The Word, "I could just as easily believe that this is an out of context quote by a foreigner who doesn't understand the historical culture. If he [C. de Baca] was putting it in the context of his grandfather's statement of 60 to 70 years ago, then Kelly has put C de Baca in a box. And the bloggers have triggered reactions that may be inappropriately premature and some have acted hastily.

C. de Baca's remarks come the same week that Democratic Governor Bill Richardson launched, "Hispanics for Obama," and only days after the start of National Hispanic Heritgage Month.

Listen to the full interview, word for word, and hear C. de Baca’s explanation for the quotes he says were taken out of historical perspective.

Note: The recording was made off a cell phone speaker phone so the quality of the sound is not optimal.

C. de Baca told The Word:
In the course of talking to him [BBC Reporter Jon Kelly], I explained that some of the older generation people, like my grandfather, would always tells us as youngsters that Hispanics came here, I guess it was their way of having us, lifting our spirits, and they would say remember your ancestors came here as conquerors. And those were his [grandfather’s] words. And then they would draw the comparison of the other groups, the Native Americans and so on.

C. de Baca also insisted:
The point I was trying to make was that there is a generational difference between those folks who were born before the civil right and those born in more recent periods. Young people today, whether they be Hispanics, or some other race or ethnicity, they can’t relate to any of that, and so that’s what I was trying to convey. The point I did to make to him, was that in my humble opinion, the older set of Hispanics would probably not vote for a black for president, but that the younger ones would flock to vote for him [Obama] conceivably.
Earlier in the interview C. de Baca said, “A lot of young people, who have no memory of this [civil rights movement], and can’t quite appreciate what was taking place during that time expect as a historical matter.
I sincerely apologize to all the members of the African American community, and of course to the community at large for any misunderstanding my comments may have brought about.
Bloggers and the public wasted no time criticizing C. de Baca’s reported comments. The original NMFBI story was posted on the Daily Kos and later on Digg and Reddit.

Member of both parties were also quick to distance themselves from C. de Baca.

Republican Darren White was the first to issue a statement:
Chairman Fernando C. de Baca’s reported comments are reprehensible, ignorant, and completely unacceptable. “Someone who holds these beliefs has no business holding a leadership position in any political party
Saturday afternoon, Martin Heinrich issued this demand:
I find GOP Chairman de Baca's comments offensive, short-sighted, and horribly racist. Spewing such bigotry proves once again that the GOP leadership of Bernalillo County is far too out of touch with New Mexican voters, who – regardless of political party – are a proud people who celebrate our cultural and ethnic diversity. GOP Chairman de Baca should step down and apologize to all New Mexicans for his disgusting display of intolerance. And if he fails to do so voluntarily, then I would hope that Darren White and the rest of the Bernalillo County GOP party leadership oust him immediately.
The campaign of Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain, was quick to denounce C. de Baca’s comments.
Spokeswoman Ivette Barajas said.
Mr. C. de Baca’s comments are extremely offensive and insulting. We believe that Mr. C. de Baca’s comments in no way reflect the beliefs of New Mexico Hispanics. He has no affiliation with our campaign.
Bloggers also jumped on the bandwagon denouncing C. de Baca. Heath Haussaman wrote:
It seems C. de Baca is out of touch with reality. The opinion he expressed and which he apparently holds is outdated, racist and sad. I agree with White: Someone who holds such beliefs has no business holding a leadership position in any political party.
C. de Baca said many of individuals and groups condemned him prematurely by issuing their statements and blogging their opinions. He claimed they never called him to check on the veracity of the comments, or ask for his side of the story. But, C. de Baca told The Word that he’d spoken to several party leaders, including NM GOP State Party Chairman, Allen Weh, who declined to publicly comment on the matter.

C. de Baca cited his leadership roles, as a staffer in the White House, and says he has always gone out of his way to recruit “people from all races and ethnic lines, to make the Republican Party as open to the entire population.”

He said his conversation with Weh was very candid, and that he’ll attend a meeting with his executive board, at the county level, to discuss the matter and determine his future. C. de Baca said that his meetings have always been open to the public, but this is sort of a “personnel meeting”, where I want to hear from the county party leaders to determine what is best for the party

If C. de Baca is ousted or resigns he won’t be the first county chairman to resign this year. In July, the chairman of the Sandoval County Republican Party quit after a heart attack, leaving the organization facing an election for new leadership less than three months before the November general election.

Photo Credits: MG Bralley


nicholaus said...

As an African American & native New Mexican (my cousin is also an elected black female Republican official Jane Powdrell-Culbert who was elected from a community that has a high % of Hispanic voters) I hear these types of historical inaccuracies all the time. Most Hispanic New Mexicans know of the conquistadors but forget or don’t know that prior to Spain conquering the new world they were the subjects of the north African Moors. Also that they were in fact Muslims prior to becoming Catholics which was an allegiance formed with the Roman Catholic church at the time to over throw the Moorish rule (not because they legitimately believed that Christ was the or even a savior).

The purpose of pointing this out is to address C. de Baca’s comment “African-Americans came here as slaves. Hispanics consider themselves above blacks”. Because if the superiority complex that he is acknowledging is do to blacks being the slaves of the conquerors and other Europeans then by that same logic Hispanics would be “beneath” those of African decent merely because their white Spanish ancestors were slaves first and had to adopt by force the religion of Islam (which I think is a totally stupid theory). In my opinion this shows the lack of historical knowledge many native New Mexicans have both black and Hispanic which can be viewed as a direct reflection of New Mexico’s academic success or lack there of when compared to the other 49 states in our great union.

I could be wrong but I seem to feel that most Hispanics in New Mexico do not truly know their heritage beyond the conquistadors. And if they did they would know how inter woven their heritage is with those of African decent and would not “diss” the very same people that have shared with and help make possible the beautiful expansion of Latino culture. From the north African influenced architectural style & “Spanish tiles” to the music of said culture: salsa, reggaeton, bomba, plena, etc. Even most major league baseball players of “Latin decent” also share African decent.

We’re are all in this together even more so when it comes to my brown and black brothers & sisters. But if C. de Baca, his family, or any other New Mexican Hispanic truly believes what was said in the BBC interview that blacks are in fact beneath them then I would advise that they throw out all of their Motown(oldies) & War CDs along with all the other stereo-typical “Hispanic” things that "sub-par blacks" use to cling to as a part of their popular culture examples: zoot suits, Michael Cooper’s wearing of socks to the knees while wearing shorts, sagging of denim jeans, rap music etc.

Anonymous said...

An unfortunate way to begin this conversation but I am jazzed that the topic of Hispanic racism towards non Hispanics has been opened in NM

It is a subject that really needs to be explored. As a non Hispanic I often feel quite disenfranchised by state leaders talking about the Hispanic agendas and ignoring the rest of the population.

I've heard - we conquered this land, it belongs to us more times than I care to remember.

Those who can trace their ancestry back to original Spanish conquistadors sit at the top of the pecking order in NM, then everyone else. The non-Spanish heritage Latinos are considered good for labor but always seen as lower class than the Spanish heritage.

Native sensitivities are overrun by Hispanic needs. Monuments to butchers of Native peoples are placed within close proximity of tribal lands...

White people are hired in from out-of-state as experts, exploited, burned out and left holding the bag when it all hits the fan while high school educated well connected nepotists run the agencies and call the shots based on the el patron system.

New Mexico is a state that needs to hold a discussion between the different cultures. While C. de Baca's statements were unfortunate, they may benefit the people of this state in the long run.