Criticism of Cesar Chavez Google doodle: Intolerance at its worst

The late United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez, shown in 1979.
(Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

There’s no intolerance like good conservative intolerance.

On Easter Sunday, Google incurred the wrath of the conservative Twittersphere when it chose to feature on its home page a portrait of California civil rights pioneer Cesar Chavez instead of Jesus Christ. Chavez, of course, was the co-founder, with Dolores Huerta, of the United Farm Workers union.


March 31, as it happens, is Cesar Chavez Day, declared in 2011 by President Obama to honor the man who did more than almost anyone else to improve the condition of migrant farmworkers in this country by leading boycotts, non-violent protests and collective bargaining.

In California, Texas and Colorado, where countless lives are better thanks to Chavez’s persistence and commitment to non-violence, March 31 is a state holiday. In his honor, cities have renamed parks, streets, libraries, schools. Chavez, who popularized “Si, se puede!” (“Yes, we can!”) as a rallying cry, is a major American historical figure.

To pick on Google for its “doodle” celebrating a man who devoted his life to helping the most downtrodden among us -- living, in other words, the values expressed by Christ -- smacks of the kind of bullying that conservatives are so quick to see in others.

On Sunday, former Bush press secretary Dana Perino, a regular on Fox News, composed a much-quoted tweet that sums up the worst about this false Jesus Christ/Cesar Chavez dichotomy. “I thought the Chavez-google thing was a hoax or an early April Fool’s Day prank,” she tweeted. “Are they just going to leave that up there all day?”

It’s hard to imagine a world view where celebrating the life of Cesar Chavez is considered a hoax. Unless of course you live in Fox Nation, birthplace of the ginned-up “War on Christmas.” (It was only a matter of time before this evolved into a “War on Christ.”)

Monday morning, conservative commentator Lou Dobbs chimed in, tweeting, “Google’s insensitivity and hubris rising to new heights.”

This is what illusionists call “misdirection.” The real issue is not Google’s disdain for Christians. The real issue is the Republican Party’s disdain for Latinos. (Did I mention that Chavez was Mexican American?)

Last week, a Republican congressman casually used the racist term “wetbacks” to describe the Mexican workers who toiled on his father’s Central Valley farm.

This week, a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that Latinos are among the most ardent backers of President Obama’s healthcare law.

How have Republicans responded? By voting more than 30 times in the last two years to overturn Obamacare. (Good thing Congress has a good medical plan. Those Obamacare haters are going to need something strong when the pain of banging their heads against the wall on this issue gets unbearable.)

The Republican hostility to programs that Latinos not only embrace but depend on has played right into the hands of Democrats, who have been sitting back and enjoying the train wreck.

That attitude is best embodied in a response to Perino by Democratic political strategist Christine Pelosi, who achieved a Palinesque level of snark Sunday when she tweeted: “How’s that Latino outreach working out for ya?”

Twitter: @robinabcarian