Column: Reason in Washington, Passion in Denver—What Will Work?

If Daniel Moynihan speaks of “benign neglect” for the black, what is in store for the Chicano?

This was in the minds of some of us who came here at the invitation of the Urban Coalition to discuss the image of the Spanish-speaking people in the mass media.

It was not long before the chilling truth overcame us. Image? Hell, Washington doesn’t even know the Chicano exists, so how can we talk about image?

But we did. The 15 of us—Chicano newsmen, educators, consultants—went through the motions of telling the attentive Urban Coalition people how the news media and the advertising, television and motion picture industries hurt the sensibilities of the Spanish-speaking people.

The Coalition set up a meeting for us with members of the Federal Communications Commission — including rebel commissioner Nicholas Johnson. During that meeting, it suddenly dawned on me how quaint the Chicano group must seem to Washington bureaucrats.


I got the strong impression that the FCC is not really a regulatory agency in that it does not sit in Washington as a judge ready to correct, for instance, any inequities perpetrated on the Chicano by radio or television.

“The FCC is not only gutless in this respect, but also impotent when it tries to do something on its own,” I was told by an FCC staffman.

The FCC, however, is responsive to community or political pressure, I was assured.

Power, Chicano. Power. That’s what Washington understands.

This obvious conclusion is sometimes hard to come by for those of us who are conditioned to think that reason, information and patience will eventually triumph.

At least one of us, though, seemed to understand Washington instinctively better than most of us. He was a young Chicano from Texas who wore a bush jacket and a badge with Chicano Power on it.

After two days of deliberation and exchange of ideas in the plush Mayflower Hotel and in the ultra-modern Urban Coalition building, the young Chicano concluded:

“About the only thing accomplished these two days was that the Xerox machine worked overtime.”

He then took a plane to Denver to attend Corky Gonzales’ Chicano Youth Liberation Conference.

In Denver, Gonzales, an ex-prize fighter and poet, told a crowd of 3,000 young Chicanos, like the ones who left Washington in disgust, that growing Chicano militancy “has turned a spark into fire.” With clenched fists in the air, the young Chicanos screamed “Chicano power!” Then, without the help of Xerox machines, they started the job of uniting for “la causa.

In these days of “benign neglect” one wonders how much good such a meeting as the one we had with the Urban Coalition does. And come to think of it, what came out of the dozens of meetings and conferences we’ve attended throughout the years?

After two days in Washington, the melancholy thought arises that representatives of the Denver Chicanos would have more of an impact on Washington than the 15 of us who went to Washington with our carefully prepared papers which probably moved no one except the Xerox machine.