The Tea party slogan "Take back our country" has often been unfairly accused of containing racist overtones suggesting that America belongs to white people, and that every other race needs to get off our collective lawn. Indeed, so contagious was this "Tea Party is racist" meme among the media that Emily Ekins, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) had to pen an academic study demonstrating that it wasn't true.
Not that it apparently would have mattered to UCLA if it was, since a new report from CampusReform demonstrates that the university has actually been sponsoring a group that believes a large chunk of America belongs exclusively to their racial/ethnic group, and everyone else needs to get out. The twist is that that organization is not a pack of skinheads screaming about white power, but instead a self-described "Chicano movement" screaming about "brown power."
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Moviemiento Estudiantil Chicano de AZTLAN (MEChA).
Now, some of the more skeptical readers may at this point be wondering if, the menacing logo of an eagle carrying a fasces notwithstanding, the description given above is unfair. To answer that, we provide you with the group's mission in their own words (emphasis added):
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) is a student organization that promotes higher education, cultura, and historia. MEChA was founded on the principles of self-determination for the liberation of our people. We believe that political involvement and education is the avenue for change in our society.
In March of 1969, at Denver, Colorado the Crusade for Justice organized the National Chicano Youth Conference that drafted the basic premises for the Chicana/Chicano Movement in El Plan de Aztlán (EPA). A synopsis of El Plan stipulates: 1) We are Chicanas and Chicanos of Aztlán reclaiming the land of our birth (Chicana/Chicano Nation); 2) Aztlán belongs to indigenous people, who are sovereign and not subject to a foreign culture; 3) We are a union of free pueblos forming a bronze (Chicana/Chicano) Nation; 4) Chicano nationalism, as the key to mobilization and organization, is the common denominator to bring consensus to the Chicana/Chicano Movement; 5) Cultural values strengthen our identity as La Familia de La Raza; and 6) EPA, as a basic plan of Chicana/Chicano liberation, sought the formation of an independent national political party that would represent the sentiments of the Chicana/Chicano community.
In April of 1969 over 100 Chicanas/Chicanos came together at UC Santa Barbara to formulate a plan for higher education: El Plan de Santa Barbara. With this document they were successful in the development of two very important contributions to the Chicano Movement: Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) and Chicano Studies.
Or, to summarize this in CampusReform's words:
The recipient of the funds is a student-organization, Moviemiento Estudiantil Chicano de AZTLAN (MEChA) which believes that the Southwestern U.S. states New Mexico, Arizona, California and parts of Nevada, Utah and Colorado are in fact part of a separate nation called “Aztlan.”
The national organization’s website states that their aim is “reclaiming the land of our birth” and calls the organization “a nationalist movement of indigenousgente [people] that lay claim to the land that is ours by birthright.”
Simply the existence of such a group would be enough to raise the hackles of many people. However, the fact that UCLA has funded them to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars simply adds insult to injury. Again, to quote CampusReform:
A student group espousing anti-American separatist views at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) received $100,000 in funding from the college administration last year, reveals an internal budget obtained by Campus Reform.[...]
The budget documents acquired by Campus Reform, reveals that UCLA allocated $101,012.48 to the MEChA chapter for the 2011-2012 school year out of roughly $600,000 “retention fund” which is derived out of student fees. [...]
The document reports the funds went towards paying the salaries of their director ($39,893.76), assistant director ($6,509.54), three coordinators ($4,889.55 each), eight peer counselors ($4,085.41 each), a G+S counselor ($4,085.41), and an administrative assistant ($3,107.80).
You can read the full budget here:
Now, to be fair to the university, the group is technically being paid to aid with student "retention." That is, they are supposedly involved in helping students who are in danger of failing out of UCLA avoid that fate. That is arguably a noble goal, even if the group involved is not noble. And MEChA's explanation of their participation will no doubt strike many as dangerously entitled at a bare minimum.
"We do not come to work for the university, but to demand that the university work for our people,” MECha's website says of their collaboration with UCLA.
Worse yet, MEChA is more than just a misguided student retention group - they have also been implicated in militant, sometimes violent acts. Their history at UCLA is especially troubling. A collection of documents from a 1993 race riot at UCLA mentions the group as being involved in organizing the riot:
In the spring of 1993, after several attempts from faculty and students at the University of California, Los Angeles to change the standing of the Chicano Studies Program from an interdisciplinary program to a department, Chancellor Charles E. Young announced that the Program would not receive departmental status. The date was April 28th, 1993, the eve of Cesar Chavez's funeral. This decision ignited the passion and activism of many students and set in motion a sit-in demonstration by the Conscious Students of Color over the welfare of the Chicano Studies Library, budget cuts, and the Chicana/o Studies Program and other Ethnic Programs at UCLA. Around 200 hundreds students walked across the Westwood campus to the Faculty Center on campus to protest the Chancellor's decision.
The protest turned violent after Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and University of California Police Department (UCPD) officers appeared in riot gear at the Faculty Center. As a result 99 students were arrested and UCLA pressed charges against the students for vandalizing the premises. These actions set off rallies and demonstrations on the part of a variety of student groups such as MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), Latin American Student Alliance (LASA), Students for Revolutionary Action, community groups, (i.e. United Community Labor Alliance,) and brought together thousands of people to demand changes at UCLA. The most dramatic demonstration and the focus of this archival collection was the 1993 Hunger Strike. Eight students and one UCLA professor decided to protest what they considered an injustice on the part of UCLA Administration, represented by Chancellor Charles R. Young, through a fast to emphasize their demands.
On a very interesting side note, one of the other participants in this riot might be familiar to some readers:
The hunger strike attracted the support and attention of many recognized members of the community including State Senators Tom Hayden, Art Torres, State Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard and Xavier Becerra, City Assembly woman Hilda L. Solis; Mothers of East L.A. and many others.
That "City Assembly woman" is now President Obama's Secretary of Labor:
Now, back to MEChA, for whom this riot is only the beginning of their issues. Campus Reform notes that the group has twice been implicated in the mass destruction of campus conservative publications at UCLA. This is certainly in keeping with their paper trail elsewhere. A story from Pasadena City College in 2006 goes as follows:
Each week on Thursday, Kris Calnon roams Pasadena City College and distributes its student newspaper, the Courier.
He had just finished doing so this week when he was struck by a drastic surge in demand for the weekly paper.
"I'm coming back from distributing the paper, and I'm noticing the stands are already empty," said Calnon, 19, who also takes pictures for the paper.
It turned out the papers were not snapped up by eager readers.
Although people are often angered at what a newspaper prints, Thursday's theft of nearly all 5,000 copies may have been motivated by what the Courier didn't run.
PCC's campus police said Friday they had no suspects yet in their investigation into the theft, despite a brazen claim made by a group of students identifying themselves as members of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztl n.
According to Courier staff, a group of four students piled up trash bags inside and outside their newsroom and left a note saying it was in retaliation for the Courier's coverage of the group - or lack thereof.
"MEChA came up to the Courier with, like, four trash bags full of newspapers with a note attached and said we weren't covering them properly, so this is what we get," said News Chief Dean Lee.
Lee said a Courier reporter covered a MEChA event for Friday's edition of the paper, but because of space constraints, the paper could only run a photograph and caption.
"They said it was racist and biased," Lee said.
"Racist and biased." Quite an accusation, coming from a group that believes this:
Each word in MEChA symbolizes a great concept in terms of la causa. Movimiento means that the organization is dedicated to the movement to gain self-determination for our people. Estudiantil, identifies the organization as a student group for we are part of our Raza's future.
"Raza" is Spanish for "race." Elsewhere on their site, the group announces that they "denounce acculturation and assimilation" and stand for the aforementioned "bronze nation." Racism and bias are not stones that should be thrown from this particular glass house.
In any case, the fact that UCLA is paying an aggressively nationalist, racially motivated group hundreds of thousands of dollars to help students stay in school, despite the fact that their behavior indicates anything but a desire to create a stable campus environment, should be cause for concern.