GOP leader's racially tinged comments are wrong

Posted 9/20/2008 09:39:00 AM

The chairman of the Bernalillo County Republican Party is facing heavy criticism from within his own party and elsewhere for saying that Hispanics won’t vote for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama because they consider themselves above blacks.

Fernando C. de Baca was quoted as making the comments to a BBC News reporter in a blog posting published on Friday.

“The truth is that Hispanics came here as conquerors,” C. de Baca was quoted as saying. “African-Americans came here as slaves. Hispanics consider themselves above blacks. They won’t vote for a black president.”

The campaign of Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain, was quick to denounce C. de Baca’s comments.

“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,” McCain spokeswoman Ivette Barajas said. “He has no affiliation with our campaign.”

C. de Baca hasn’t responded to an e-mail request for comment sent Friday evening. Democrats, including the Obama campaign, the state party and the office of Gov. Bill Richardson have also not responded.

Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Darren White put out a statement denouncing C. de Baca’s comments.

“Chairman Fernando C. de Baca’s reported comments are reprehensible, ignorant and completely unacceptable,” White said. “Someone who holds these beliefs has no business holding a leadership position in any political party.”

Comments came as Obama spoke in Española

C. de Baca’s comments came the same day that Obama spoke to 10,000 people in Española, the heart of Hispanic northern New Mexico. The BBC News reporter, Jon Kelly, wrote on his blog that he wasn’t sure about C. de Baca’s assertion because “virtually all of the Hispanic voters I spoke to told me they were supporting Obama.” So he asked Gabriel Sanchez, assistant professor at the University of New Mexico’s department of political science, what he thought about the GOP chairman’s comments.

“I doubt there are more than 10 percent of Latinos who think that way -- and half of them probably won’t even go out to vote,” Sanchez told him.

Matt Reichbach at NMFBIHOP wrote Friday that he is “a Hispanic with family from the Spanish north. I was at a rally yesterday in Española with nearly 10,000 people who would disagree with C. de Baca’s statement. And it is truly a dumb statement to think and even worse to say.”

Sanchez told Kelly that Hispanics aren’t a homogenous group. Though the federal government defines Hispanics and Latinos jointly as people of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican and South or Central American descent, there is another difference many New Mexicans are familiar with.

Hispanics can be defined as people of Spanish descent. Many in northern New Mexico claim this heritage, and their ancestors largely were conquerors. Latinos can be defined as people of Latin American descent -- the people who were, in many instances, conquered by the Spanish.

Adding my voice to the chorus

Regardless of whether he had his basic facts about Hispanic history right, I’m going to add my voice to what I expect to be a growing chorus of people denouncing C. de Baca’s comments. While others have expressed in the context of the presidential race that there are some racial tensions between Hispanics and Latinos and blacks, C. de Baca’s comments were largely erroneous and out of line.

Sure, some Hispanics, apparently including (assuming he was quoted accurately) C. de Baca, hold such racist views. There are people with racist views in any culture group. But the polling and other evidence, regardless of what C. de Baca says, shows that the majority of Hispanics and Latinos support Obama. I have come across many conservative, Democratic Hispanics and Latinos who support McCain, but it’s usually because of his stances on the war, abortion or other policy issues, not because of some belief that they’re better than Obama.

While there have been some racial tensions between “blacks and browns,” as Sen. Mary Jane Garcia recently pointed out in a Rocky Mountain News article, the Obama candidacy is helping change that. Garcia, who originally expressed doubts about supporting Obama, now has an Obama bumper sticker on the back of her vehicle.

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.

Update, Sept. 21, 10:40 a.m.

White’s Democratic opponent, Martin Heinrich, said in a news release that he finds C. 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,” Heinrich said. “GOP Chairman de Baca (sic) 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.”

Meanwhile, C. de Baca said his statement was taken “totally out of context” in an interview with 770 KKOB-AM reporter Peter St. Cyr.

“In the course of talking to (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 there way of having us, lifting our spirits, and they would say, ‘Remember your ancestors came here as conquerors.’ And those were his words,” C. de Baca told St. Cyr. “And then they would draw the comparison of the other groups, the Native Americans and so on.”

As for the comment Kelly quoted, C. de Baca said, “The point I was trying to make was that there is a generational difference between those folks who were born before the civil rights 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 (Obama), conceivably.”

Reichbach wrote this about the possibility that Kelly misrepresented C. de Baca’s words:

“The thing is, I can see that I can see C. de Baca’s side of the argument. Anyone who has attempted to explain the oddness of New Mexico’s Hispanics to others (the Norteños as some call them) knows it. And with the way the BBC writer portrayed it, it… looked like those were C. de Baca’s personal views,” he wrote. “If Jon Kelly really took it out of context as C. de Baca claims, then Kelly needs to not only issue an apology -- the BBC needs to consider firing him. It pretty much ruined C. de Baca’s career.”

I’m trying to track down contact info for Kelly to seek comment.

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At 10:41 AM, September 20, 2008, Blogger bootjack said...

Yes Heath,you express righteous outrage concerning these northern NM remarks but gave Senator Garcia a pass on her recent comments as to why she and southern NM Hispanics could support Hillary but couldn't support Obama because of traditional "differences between blacks and browns".You said nothing other than to agree with her and not explore further through questioning what she meant.Why is that?

At 9:04 PM, September 20, 2008, Blogger The San Agustin Kid said...

Yes, and the sheets will be showing from under the clothes of national Republicans soon, when Grand GOP Wizard McCain.

Race baiting is something comes naturally to Republicans. The recent medical studies showing extremely fearful people tend to be Republicans. Technically they are termed "scardy cats."

The study confirms the observation that GOP folks over-reacted to 9/11 (cost: trillions of unnecessary costs), the invasion of Iraq (ditto), homophobia, non-existent voter fraud, etc.

Even their so-called hero presidential candidate was no brave fighter; his plane just got shot down and he behaved much like any of the other POW survivors, including breaking down under torture and cooperating with the enemy.

"Heroism?" Nah, sorry, at most "enlightened self interest."

At 10:24 AM, September 21, 2008, Blogger Michael Swickard said...

Let us run around the comment to a different place. How could anyone in today's society not know that comment, either Garcia's or C. de Baca's, was really out of bounds?

Either they are living under a rock or do not have any contact with outside information. They should be cast off for being too stupid along with cast off for believing in the racial divide.

I suspect people say crap like that in private, sadly, but yee Gods, who put them in charge when they say things like that for attribution?

When someone within hearing says something like that they get a very rude comment from me and crossed off my Christmas and every other list. That is how to combat racism, do not allow it within your circle of people you know.

Return those racists to private life and do not allow them any part of public service.

At 11:52 AM, September 22, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

Classic gaffe.

There are some interesting polls out there - almost all political show Obama doing quite well among Hispanic voters, but polls targeting racism itself show different results - one poll showed that 61% of Hispanics would rather do business with whites than with non-whites. The election would have to be very close for that to matter, though.

At 4:49 PM, September 24, 2008, Blogger nicholaus said...

As an African American native New Mexican 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 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.


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