David Martin Davies is a reporter for Texas Public Radio who uses his Facebook wall in a manner akin to passive-aggressive behavior – i.e., he uses the tone of a reasonable moderate, but his underlying message is usually extreme and radical.
Earlier this week, Davies provided a prime example by posting a 45-year-old, ten-minute news clip from NBC News titled, “Mexican Americans in Texas in 1970.” Davies described the clip as follows:
- A documentary from NBC News in 1970 called “Mexican Americans” shot in San Antonio and opens with a sound bite from then SA Mayor McAllister saying some racist stuff. The doc focuses on the economic inequality in SA along racial lines.
As is his wont, Davies characterized McAllister as a racist without providing any specifics re: his “racist stuff.” Because Davies is an NPR newsperson, his progressive listeners/commenters naturally accepted his conclusory statement without referring to any specifics.
But I decided to listen to the video. It started with former SA Mayor McAllister saying:
- Mexicans in America have a different temperament than Anglos. Mexicans are fine people who are home loving; they love beauty and flowers and music and dancing, but perhaps aren’t as ambitiously motivated as Anglos are to get ahead financially, but they manage to get a lot out of life.
Then NBC newsman Jack Perkins described San Antonio as having a patronizing local government and brutal police conduct. He complained about the absence of industry in SA and its inadequate school system. He interviewed a leading proponent of reform, who admitted that he hate “gringos.” When Perkins asked if gringos hate him, he responded, “I don’t care. They’ve been screwing us for 200 years. Sure we want to control this town.”
Perkins ended his report by stating that, “This is the despair that makes the barrios potentially explosive.” (Incidentally, Perkins noted that Mexican-Americans were still a minority in SA in 1970.)
After watching the clip, I commented to Davies as follows:
- Mike Kueber – You are really grasping to characterize McAllister’s soundbite as racist while ignoring the leading spokesman for the other side defiantly declaring his hatred of all “gringos.” McAllister merely suggested that Mexican-Americans in SA at that time weren’t as driven as Anglos to achieve financial success. That is racist? Some people denigrate Jews precisely for that – i.e., for being driven to achieve financial success. Aren’t some cultures more entrepreneurial than others? Perkins said that Mexican-Americans in SA wanted to retain their Mexican culture and Spanish language. Was that racist, too? After watching this video, it is easier to understand Julian Castro’s anti-Alamo sentiments.
This comment set of a wide-ranging, substantive discussion as follows:
Michael Canales – “Merely” suggesting that, as a whole, one race of people is inferior to another isn’t racist? That is the definition of “racist”. And to infer that Jews as a race are inherently more driven for financial success is just as racist. A positive racial stereotype is still a stereotype.
Chuck Coats – ”Mexican Americans are not driven to success” sounds pretty doggone racist to me. Although declaring hatred for all gringos is pretty doggone racist too.
David Martin Davies – McAllister was an elected official and a leader in the business community. He should be held to the highest standard. I think that other speaker is Jose Angel Gutierrez and he is an activist and admitted he didn’t like gringos because he was fighting for his people. He was reacting to the oppression of McAllister and the system in Texas at the time. Gutierrez is the reaction to McAllister. Without a McAllister there would be no Gutierrez but the opposite is not true.
Maria A. Berriozabal – I did not see Jose Angel Gutierrez in this clip. Only Richard Avena who was the Director of the US Civil Rights Commission Office that we had here at one time, and Mariano Aguilar, an activist. There are two other speakers whom I did not recognize.
David Martin Davies – Sorry if I got that name wrong – I don’t know these players that well. Never the less the point stands.
Mike Kueber – Michael Canales, McAllister didn’t say one race as a whole was inferior to the other. That is the definition of a racist. Rather he said that SA Hispanics in general had different values than SA anglos. That is inherent in Perkins’ suggestion that …See More
Mike Kueber – David Martin Davies, the activist didn’t say he didn’t like gringos, he said he hated them and wanted to subjugate them, but I accept your point that McAllister should be held to a higher standard.
Mike Kueber – Chuck Coats, I’m glad that you’ll concede that hating everyone of another race is almost as bad as suggesting that the other race isn’t as financially ambitious as yours wink emoticon
Chuck Coats – Concede? All I’m saying is they are both racist statements. That’s it.
Mike Kueber – Chuck Coats, my point was that, imo, David was stretching to characterize McAllister while he seems to be an apologist for the person who is undeniably racist. Perhaps David has accepted the idea that oppressed people, by definition, can’t be racist. Only the oppressors can be racists.
Michael Canales – Would that culture stop at the city limits, or would it have been some foreign vestige? I think you’re missing the implication of his statement. The idea of “culturally less-driven” sounds a lot more like “lazy Mexicans” to me. I’m failing to understand how a successful business man with; purportedly, no racist leanings, could say something like that in the face of obvious socioeconomic disparities.
Mike Kueber – Michael Canales, my law professor in the 70s, Lino Graglia, caught hell for opining that Mexican-American families, in general, did not as much cherish their children’s academic success or scorn their children’s dropping out of school as much as anglo families. Does that make Graglia a racist?
Michael Canales – Judging by what little information I have here, I’d have to say, “it depends”. Was this an observation followed by an interest as to why Graglia was seeing these trends? Were these students dropping out to go to work to support a struggling family? Or are Mexican- Americans culturally predisposed to academic disinterest or failure? We know the latter isn’t true. So maybe LG was just shortsighted.
Mike Kueber – Michael Canales, agree that the distinction between culture and socio-economic condition is valid.
Michael Canales – Yes, agreed. Personally, I feel like McAllister might not have. Have a good evening, Mike.
After this peaceful conclusion, Sarah Fisch decided to join the fun:
Sarah Fisch – If by “grasping,” you mean “maintains a grasp of racist ideology,” you’re right on. To declare that Mexican-Americans at whatever time in history “weren’t as driven as Anglos to achieve financial success,” and to ask the reader to infer, based on stereotypes of Jewish financial prowess, that Mexican-Americans are less-than, is close to the Platonic ideal of racism.
Mike Kueber – I don’t understand why McAllister’s comments justify a leap to Platonic racism. Rather, I see them along the lines of Paul Morand’s famous comment about Manhattan – “The Jews own New York, the Irish run it, and the Negroes enjoy it.” Talk like that is no longer politically correct.
Sarah Fisch – For sure, McAllister’s remarks are very much along the lines of the famous comment by French author Paul Morand (1888-1976). The book that this comment is taken from, “New York,” was published in 1930. Morand was an aristocratic racist and anti-Semite who went on to hold two ambassadorial posts within the Nazi-collaborating Vichy government. Given this context, Morand’s perspective on the 1930s New York City seems maybe not so accurate, or harmless. And given that the endpoint of the politics Morand chose to espouse was Nazism, racism would appear to be a big part of his consciousness, as well as his allure. I’m not saying that McAllister (or you!) are Nazis by any means, but the belief that certain cultures do and should hold less power, whether economic or social, is a cornerstone of racist argument and policy.
Mike Kueber – I wasn’t aware of Morand or his notoriety until I looked up the bromide to determine its author. I think I first read it in some Thomas Wolfe novel. It sounded cute at the time, so I shared it with one of my best friends, a Jew from Brooklyn. He chuckled, too. Ditto, for my other best friend, an Irishman from upstate NY.
Sarah Fisch – Yeah, the New York early-20th century “ethnic white” narrative, which involved primarily Jewish, Italian, and Irish populations, has been written about a lot, and it’s really interesting – “Bonfire of the Vanities” is very much about this story, but this model isn’t applicable to South Texas. This is way oversimplifying, but the Ellis Island-era immigrant experience in New York City was unique, in that ethnic groups arrived in the same place at the same time, and lived alongside each other – competing, complaining, mis-understanding, inter-marrying. This population was united though various labor and public health movements, and collectively encountered resistance by the pre-existing Protestant white power structure. The history and struggle of Mexican-Americans in South Texas isn’t animated by similarly inter-ethnic shared experience, in which differing responses to the power structure seem to indicate differences between immigrant cultures. In South Texas, an existing population of people was brutally colonized and oppressed by an encroaching, heavily militarized white power structure who divested people of property and used them as cheap labor. In this way, the Mexican-American struggle in South Texas is much more related to the Native American genocides by Europeans, and to Middle Passage slavery of peoples of the African diaspora, than it is to the experience of the Jews and Irish of New York.
So, in the end, we had a useful exchange of opinions and no one resorted to name-calling other than Davies throwing the race card at old Mayor McAllister.