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MEChA: It's not just for anime geeks anymore

The Curmudgeonly Clerk has one of the best summaries of the ongoing Cruz Bustamante/MECha controversy. I'm going to have to take issue, though, with the fact that he's taking it seriously.

In a nutshell, the story centers on the Man Who Would Take on The Terminator having at one point belonged to an organization that, in crusty founding documents from the late, unlamented revolutionary '60's, talked about the 'liberation of the people of Aztlan' (basically, Aztec separatism), and had the amazingly racist 'slogan' Por La Raza rodo. Fuera de La Raza nada.' (Though there's some disagreement here, roughly translated "For the Race: everything. Outside the Race: nothing.")

Queue cries by the right that Bustamante belonged to a racist organization, that he should disavow MEChA's non-inclusive beliefs, and in general that this is all a big error of judgement. And queue various interpretations from the left on how the language doesn't mean what it means, it's not important, and it's not racist at all anyway.

Please.

In the interests of consistency, I'm going to have to back Bustamante on this one. Back when the entire Trent Lott debacle was going on, I made a point that his statements, taken in context, were no big deal: what a man says at a birthday party for an old friend who once ran for president is hardly dispositive of his political views. Arguing that it was racist 'in code' implied this kind of racist Machievillianism among Republicans that gives us far too much credit. Most of us can't string a sentence together coherently, much less 'encode' it with hidden racial hate speech so we can grinningly backslap each other in clear view of reporters.

Basically, if you thought Lott was a racist before the birthday, then damn, it was a racist statement. But if you didn't bring the baggage into the comment, it didn't have anything to do with race, but had a lot to do with party.

Similarly, the entire MEChA 'scandal' excites the hypersensitive right who expects the left to live up to the (thoroughly unrealistic) standards that the left demands of its victims. Finally, we've got a 'gotcha.' I mean, it's all in a document, it's all on websites, it's all thoroughly provable.

Except... c'mon. These are the founding documents of an organization that, if it's doing anything racist, is doing so in such a low-grade manner that it hadn't hit the radar screen prior to becoming a good excuse for Limbaughesque bile. Even casual inspection of the sites seems to indicate it mostly does 'good deeds' (at least as considered in left-wing campuses), 'consciousness raising,' and the other silly ephemera of campus politics. [1] If this is the KKK in latino wrapping, it's certainly a laid back and relaxed hate group. Can you commit a 'casual dislike crime' these days?

I'm certainly not an expert, but this tempest in a teacup looks to me like what was once a possibly radical '60's group has become... well, a nifty social club. I doubt if a tenth of its members could tell you what its founding documents are, much less quote them. Sure, maybe that whole 'Raza' thing should have been repealed (or maybe not), but is it really worth the effort?

Last night I went to the De Vinimus wine tasting here at Columbia, and I'd love to join the society. Now, with any luck, no one is going to point out at my eventual Supreme Court nomination that De Vinimus has historically discriminated against Antarctic vinters or advocated for growing Norwegian wines via slave labor. [2] I doubt they do these things, but I couldn't categorically swear that I've read their founding charters to make sure. (After eight glasses of wine at a good tasting, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell you if they did.) Given that, without further evidence that Bustamante is fronting for the succession of California, New Mexico, and Arizona, or trying to mandate Austrian-American indentured servitude, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt as an honorable politician.

What was done to Trent Lott was demeaning to sensible politics (although his responses were pretty talentless, as well), but it's no better when otherwise sensible conservatives decide we're going to indulge in foolish muckraking. We might not like Bustamante, but if this is the best evidence that he's biased racially, I'd shake his hand.


[1] Casual inspection of the Yale MEChA site also reveals it's bloated with gigantic images, slow to load, and in need of a redesign... but that's my old web hand talking.

[2] And if that's the worst my political opponents can site after three years of blogging, I've not had enough fun at law school.

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