Friday, January 26, 2007

Tancredo calls for end of minority caucuses

A little more than a week after announcing his intentions to run for President, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) provided yet another glimpse today into what a "Team Tancredo" America would look like. In a letter to Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif., he called for the abolition of all congressional caucuses based on race or ethnicity.

Having made a career out of appealing to people's worst instincts, Tancredo, who usually reserves his vitriol for undocumented immigrants, appears to have widened his scope saying, "It is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a color-blind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race — and restrict their membership based on race. … the best way to remedy the ills of discrimination is to abolish, not sanction, organizations that maintain racially exclusive membership policies. If we are serious about achieving the goal of a colorblind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses.”

Along with the Congressional Black Caucus, Tancredo also called for an end to the Hispanic Caucus and Asian Pacific American Caucus.

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Tancredo went on to say, "Race is something that people have no control over, and should not be a prerequisite for any organization’s membership. It is disgraceful that more than a half-century after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, an organization sanctioned by the U.S. Congress maintains a policy of racial exclusivity.”

Tancredo previously tried to abolish the caucuses back in 2003 to no avail, but revived his effort when he claimed that freshman Rep. Stephen Cohen, D-Tenn., was refused admission to the Congressional Black Caucus because he is white.

Cohen's spokeswoman, Marilyn Dillihan, denied the claim stating that, "He never formally sought membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, nor has the Congressional Black Caucus denied membership to him," and that Cohen "really regrets that this is being used the way it's being used."

Caucus member, Rep. William Lacy Clay(D-MO), dismissed Tancredo's efforts saying, “This story is really about a member of the minority party using intolerance to advance his presidential campaign.”

Whether or not this was just a ploy by a third-tier Presidential candidate to garner some press is not really important.

At the heart of the matter, Tancredo's request demonstrates his utter disconnect on matters of race and ethnicity.

Perhaps he has spent too much time with his friends from the League of the South, or been taking the advice of his mentor and de-facto campaign consultant, Pat Buchanan, too much to heart, but no matter what the cause, Tancredo once again has tipped his hand.

The view that groups that represent minorities, whether to advocate for equal rights, politically empower, or provide services, are in fact racist, has long been a favorite meme of extremists. Anyone who is familiar with the rhetoric of the National Alliance, KKK or CCC can recognize the frame. "Why is there no United White College Fund when there's a UNCF, or a Nation Association for the Advancement of White people?" Their answer is always because groups that represent minorities are discriminatory and racist.

In essence Tancredo is saying the same thing about Congress….There should be no Black or Hispanic Caucus because Tancredo has no "White Caucus" to belong to (although his Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus would certainly qualify as one.)

The language he chose to use in his letter is typical of the twisted logic used by those who occupy the fringes of society. Saying that groups that were formed to a give voice in Washington to those who didn't have one and insure that rights long denied would be respected "restrict their membership based on race" or "maintain a policy of racial exclusivity” flies in the face of all that is decent. The very thing these groups were founded to fight , Tancredo now in his twisted logic, accuses them of being.

David Duke would be proud, Tancredo actually managed to invoke Brown v. Board of Education to try and make his case.

Further demonstrating his hypocrisy and utter lack of understanding on issues of race he actually quotes John Marshall Harlan's dissent in Plessy v Ferguson as his rational for eliminating minority caucuses.

Justice John Marshall Harlan, in his dissent to the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson ‘separate but equal’ decision wrote, "Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens." His words are as true today as they were when he penned them more than a century ago – and if we are serious about achieving the goal of a color-blind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive race-based caucuses.”


Somehow I doubt Justice Harlan would agree with Mr. Tancredo's interpretation of his words.

Although Mr. Tancredo and his White Power friends would see nothing wrong with his logic, thankfully, most Americans will surely be angered if not appalled by his assertions.

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