Everyone is weighing in on the horrific murders in Charleston and blaming the mindset of the mass murderer on wider social pathologies. After the airing of the racist crackpot ideas of the unhinged Dylann Roof, calls have gone out to ban the public flying of the battle flag of the Old Confederacy, which has also been incorporated in various forms in four state flags. Perhaps we should step back and eschew symbolism that separates us by race rather than unites us as fellow citizens….
But perhaps we should not stop there, given increasing ethnic tensions and widening racial fault lines. There are plenty of other overt racialist symbols that separate Americans. One is the prominent use of La Raza, “The Race” — seen most prominently in the National Council of La Raza, an ethnic lobbying organization that has been and is currently a recipient of federal funds. The National Council of La Raza should be free to use any title it wishes, but it should not expect the federal government to subsidize its separatist nomenclature.
The pedigree of the term La Raza is just as incendiary as that of the Confederate battle flag. The Spanish noun raza (cf. Latin radix: “root” or “race”) is akin to the now-discarded German use of Volk, which in the early 20th century came to denote a common German racial identity that transcended linguistic and cultural affinities: To be a real member of the Volk one had to “appear” German, in addition to speaking German and possessing German citizenship.