As usual, my former peers in the major news media have missed the real story behind the marches in the Pacific and Southwestern U.S. regions. Thousands of Latino and illegals marched under the 'La Raza' banner, and their voices will soon be co-opted by a familiar political message.
High school students are being rallied around the country on Spanish-speaking stations to march for 'La Raza' -- a Spanish term meaning race, and generally referring to those indigenous to Mexico. It is common to refer to 'La Raza' as a mestizo ancestry -- the mix of European, African and Mexican indigenous people's blood. It is an inclusive term, as inclusive as the Mexican ancestry. First used by a Mexican scholar, it was meant to describe a "a cosmic people" -- blood from around the globe. These Latino-Americans were inspired to stand up for their illegal family members, their race, and their Mexican pride.
However, the National Council of La Raza, presumably the political party organizing these rallies behind the scenes, and the political voice against such previous California and Arizona measures requiring English-only legal conduct, has a clear political agenda.
It's history in America dates to the rise of the Chicano movement in the early 70s, and it is grounded very much in the La Raza Unida politics of that era. It has helped place many of its members in high-ranking positions, such as White House counsel Alberto Gonzales.
It's agenda is not at all muddled: Zero immigration law enforcement; 100 percent American rights for illegals; equal eligibility for gov't financial assistance, particularly for health care and assisted living; advanced rights for illegals, sometimes superceding those born in this country, such as in-state tuition for illegals.
Before Sept. 11, President George Bush was their most influential ally. Before Sept. 11, we probably would have had broad-sweeping amnesty programs that all but ended the border line between Mexico and America. That was, at least, the assumption from some in NCLR, based on Bush's pre-election enticement of the Latino vote.
Post-Sept. 11, immigration has become centerpiece to national security issues and the GOP has painted a bullseye on organizations such as NCLR. Their vision is at odds with the reality of a very different America.
So now the NCLR is drumming up the masses, turning this into a racial issue, not a political one. There are tens of thousands of Mexicans living in this country convinced they are being deprived of "basic human rights" because America has a predisposition of bias against people of "La Raza." And that's what the marches were about -- racial pride.
It's doubtful more than a handful of the walkout marchers could give a 35-word explanation of the political message they are endorsing. The NCLR doesn't require them to understand, only that their very existence could be wiped out by the evil European invaders.
The truth is the brains behind NCLR do not care about American government, and they actually grew out of a challenge to the American two-party system. The original goal was to elect Chicanos to high position and to move the American political system to the left.
The issue is best dealt with not on the grounds that NCLR sets, but directly to the people at these marches. If politicans want to successfully navigate these dark waters, they will recognize the distinction between proud members of 'La Raza' and the race-baiters of 'La Raza Unida.'