What is the “race” of a Mexican?
Since many Mexicans are the descendants of Europeans who came to the Western hemisphere 150, 200, or more years ago, and many are the descendants of both Europeans and indigenous peoples — and quite a few are the descendants of Europeans, Asians, and non-Mexican indigenous peoples from Central and South America who came to Mexico in the last century — it’s safe to say that being Mexican is not about being a member of a particular race.
Mexico has an ancient, highly developed cultural legacy from her indigenous peoples. But there was no “Mexico” until Spain colonized the region. The history of Mexico’s borders was written by Spain — especially where it involved the United States. The national language today is Spanish. The population is mostly Christian. Is Mexico Spanish, or Aztec? If Mexico is both, and her people are, in fact, racially diverse, what does it actually mean to call it “racism” when someone criticizes an American judge of Mexican descent, suggesting that his ethnic background makes him biased?
The truth is, it means only that the person yelling “racism!” just wants to use the most effective buzzword he can to silence his political target.
Pull the string on most cries of “racism” today, and it turns out they make no sense. They’re not even supposed to make sense. They’re just supposed to end all rational debate.
So when Mark Halperin — no one’s card-carrying conservative — pointed out to co-host John Heilemann on Bloomberg’s All Due Respect that “Mexican” is a not a “race,” and therefore Donald Trump wasn’t being racist in criticizing the judge of Mexican descent who’s been hearing the Trump U. case, Heilemann lost it. And Media Matters — everyone‘s card-carrying progressive-liberal media critic — felt compelled to notify its readers of this intolerable pedantry.
Now, maybe Trump is being a boor to bring up Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ancestry — he was born in the U.S. to Mexican-immigrant parents — and suggest it makes Curiel biased in his approach to the Trump case. Maybe he was being foolish, since mere ethnic or national heritage is not held to be a conflict of interest for a judge or other public official. Bringing it up would be a dumb move on Trump’s part, if in practical terms he can do nothing about what he alleges.
But “racism”? That’s not what it is. You don’t know what Curiel’s race is, and neither do I, and neither does Trump. Most probably, he’s a person of mixed racial heritage. Where does that leave us?
Trump’s allegation against Curiel could be considered to be in the longstanding — and no doubt regrettable — American tradition of citizens suspecting they’re being mistreated by Anglo-, Irish-, Italian-, etc-heritage officials because the officials are of Anglo, Irish, Italian, etc. heritage (and therefore harbor certain prejudices).
On the other hand, Judge Curiel is a member of a San Diego law association connected with the extremist La Raza group (La Raza Lawyers of San Diego), and in 2014 oversaw a scholarship fund that made an award to a law student who described himself as “undocumented.” That would put Curiel at indisputable odds with the rule of law, and at putative odds with Trump’s political assertions (although, again, such disjunctures of political sentiment don’t generally count as true conflicts of interest for a judge).
La Raza means “the race,” as every schoolboy knows. Yet what “race” La Raza means to represent is unclear, as there is no single race that can lay claim to the things the group advocates, such as a right to enter the United States at will without permission or documentation. Even if we allowed that the people whose ancestors lived on the territory of the United States before European colonization have such a right, those people would not have included, at any time in the pre-colonial past, the residents of what is now Mexico. Nor would the supposed rights-holders include their modern-day descendants. Those indigenous peoples never had any claim to the territory of what is now the United States. As with the rest of the Americas, the people who did have such a historical claim on what is now U.S. territory started out here, and are still here.
Nothing about what La Raza claims or wants has any justification in actual history. And that makes La Raza a perfectly-named organization: all about “race,” but with no rational basis in “race” for anything it rants about.
Boors sometimes point out home truths. I stress that I don’t know the particulars of the Trump U. case, and I don’t want to. I don’t assume Curiel is judging it unfairly. But Trump is right in his implied point that extreme political sentiments on the part of public officials lead to unfair treatment for citizens. It’s quite possible, even probable, that a La Raza-connected lawyer and judge will deal unfairly with the public. It’s not racist to say that; it’s sensible, appropriate, and necessary. La Raza has constructed a great, nonsensical lie as a political basis for shaking down the American people. La Raza is an organization dedicated to pure bias: using the “race” card — on no justifiable pretext; just because it scares people and pushes their buttons — as a flying wedge.
The irony is that in accusing Trump of racism, his critics will only succeed in emboldening more Americans to stand up to that hackneyed, increasingly worthless accusation. La Raza is racist, unlike everyone else in this scenario — and Judge Curiel, unlike everyone else, is the one connected with La Raza.
He may be a fair judge with a sound record. But that would be an accident rather than an expected outcome of his appointment to the bench. (For those who care, yes, he was appointed by Obama in 2012.) Is a large segment of the American public right, to feel that such individuals, who exercise their constitutional option of having extremist, literally anti-American affiliations, should not be placed in judgment over the rest of us by the government? I think so. Leftist extremism should not get special passes, any more than other kinds of extremism should.
And thanks to Trump, it is now more possible to have that debate — as opposed to seeing it shut down by absurd cries of “racism” — than it has been in decades.