Column: Chicano Reminds Blacks They Are Not the Only Minority
It takes a bold Mexican to address the Urban League and tell its members that too much attention is given blacks at the expense of Chicanos.
But that’s the kind of guy Dioncio Morales is. Speaking before the League’s recent 60th anniversary convention at the New York Hilton, Morales told his hosts that most Mexican-Americans “reject the over-simplification that everything that is good for blacks is good for Mexican-Americans.”
Morales, who has said that one of the reasons Chicanos and blacks don’t get along too well is that Negroes tend to be black Anglos, reminded the Urban League that it was Booker T. Washington who warned of the danger of standardization.
In his book “Up From Slavery” the black educator, Morales pointed out, says that “No white American ever thinks any other race is wholly civilized until he wears the white man’s clothes, eats the white man’s food, speaks the white man’s language and professes the white man’s religion.”
In Washington D.C., where the power is, and even in the Southwest, where Mexican-Americans outnumber blacks, the word “minority” is equated with the term “black,” Morales said. Because of this, Morales warned, blacks and Chicanos are on a collision course.
Morales, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Mexican-American Opportunity Foundation, told his hosts that blacks and Mexican-Americans together “could make unprecedented progress of unimaginable mutual benefit.”
“But if we muff it, and miss the opportunity, the blacks may end up with another unexpected burden on their backs—on top of all the rest—and that burden may well be the frustrated, rejected, neglected and hostile Mexican-American.”
Morales, a fighter for “la raza” when many of the present Chicano leaders were in diapers, is used used to tackling tough issues. An early foe of the bracero system, Morales traveled to Mexico City once and publicly told the Mexican government that it should do something about stopping the flow of cheap Mexican labor to the United States because Mexican nationals were taking jobs away from Mexican-Americans while the Mexican nationals themselves were being exploited by American employers.
Both governments issued cool statements against Morales.
Now Morales is saying, to the Urban League yet, that “blacks get a disproportionate number of the important opportunities and appointments intended for minorities.”
“This fact,” Morales told the historic 60th anniversary Urban League conference, “is becoming more and more abrasive to my people throughout the Southwest.”
According to a study by the Metropolitan Applied Research Center, there are 1,586 elected black officials in the United States, including 10 members of Congress (one senator), 173 state legislators, 51 mayors, 701 “other city, county officials.” 423 school board members and 228 law enforcement officials.
“I would propose,” Morales told the League, “that we emphasize to black representatives in positions of influence and authority that the word ‘minority’ includes others than blacks—and that this fact is more of an opportunity than a threat.”
Morales reminded the League that though blacks are the nation’s largest minority, with some 20 million people, and Latins the second largest, with 10 million, Mexican-Americans are the largest minority in the Southwest.
“It worries me that our two groups are pretty much doing their own thing, each with little regard for the other,” Morales said. “Each without communication with the other, in a total absence of mutual understanding and organization.”
Morales said his message was that “the mobilization of the black community must not be accomplished as though the brown community does not exist. Nor should the converse be allowed to come about.”
Morales said Dr. Charles Hamilton of Columbia University summed up the whole problem when he said: “We have allowed ourselves to be caught up in time consuming public debates with each other, while our true oppressors go right on oppressing us.”
The fact remains, however, that Morales was really indicting Washington more than any one else for its easy way out of equating “minority” with black.
This was reenforced recently by the filing of petition for redress of grievances against the Administration by, among others, the California Rural Legal Assistance, the Mexican-American Political Assn., and the Chicano Law Students Assn. of California.
The petition pointed out that “the executive branch, despite eloquent promises and the presence of 10 million Spanish-surnamed Americans, has virtually no Spanish-surnamed Americans at policy level jobs—only 35 of 9,286.”
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.