Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Chicanos Organize the `New Raza Left'

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Chicanos Organize the `New Raza Left'

Article excerpt

Continuous attacks against Latinos over the past several years -- particularly in California -- have triggered an organizational response across college campuses nationwide. Similar to the Black Radical Congress, the "New Raza Left" -- as it has been named -- has organized to put forth a political vision, say organizers, many of whom are professors or students and political veterans of the 1960s-1970s political movement.

("Raza" literally means race, though in a political sense, it means people.)

Martha Segura, a health educator at the University of California-Los Angeles and a member of the new broad-based organization, says that it is also intended to be a bridge between the activists of the 1990s and the activists of the previous generation.

The organization, she says, is not limited to the academic arena, but also comprises labor and community members. That is because, members say, most Chicanos and Latinos are not on college campuses.

A national conference is planned for the fall of 1999, although-Segura says that the organization is not viewing the conference as the climax to its organizing efforts. Rather, the purpose of the conference is to organize against issues such as the anti-immigration Proposition 187, the anti-affirmative action Proposition 209, and the anti-bilingual education Proposition 227. Those voter initiatives were passed in California in 1994, 1996, and 1998, respectively, and New Raza Left organizers do not see a respite. Already, its members are organizing to defend ethnic studies, which has been specifically targeted for extinction by Ward Connerly, the University of California regent who led the efforts against affirmative action policies in the UC system and the crusade to pass Proposition 209.

Members of the organization also have given priority to the right of Latinos/Latinas to attend higher education institutions amid the battle over affirmative action. All these attacks have spawned movements by Chicanos and Latinos, says Segura.

"Many of the groups are splintered," she notes. "Part of the purpose of the New Raza Left is to bring all the groups together."

Professor Rudy Acuna, one of the founders of the discipline of Chicano studies and a professor at California State University-Northridge (CSUN), says that the purpose of the organization has to be centered on community and labor issues.

"The organization has to organize around issues important today -- issues such as sexism and homophobia," he says.

Acuna fully supports the efforts of the new organization, preferring to allow the younger generation to shape its character. He hopes the group avoids the organizational warfare of the 1970s -- when factions sought to find legitimacy, for their causes by "being more left than you are."

People have to understand the past, he say's, but they also must move forward. A positive relationship and dialogue with the community is the key, he says.

"My hope is that the vision is national, similar to the Black Radical Congress," says Acuna

According to Dr. Bill Flores, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at CSUN, the attacks on Hispanics and the voter initiatives are "a response to the growing numbers and influence of Latinos in California and in the country as a whole. …

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