In the midst of the Confederate flag controversy over the state sanction of 19th-century racially separatist icons, can it really be true that next week Hillary Clinton plans to speak and thereby provide her imprimatur to a national convention of the National Council of La Raza (“the race” or “strain”)? La Raza is an organization whose nomenclature reflects the idea that being Latino is not defined by speaking Spanish or being born or having resided in a Spanish-speaking country, but rather membership in an exclusive club defined by one’s unique DNA, that reflects the supposedly unique racial mixing in the New World.
Given both the atrocious recent history of the Latinate word raza (the title of a racist General Francisco Franco novel and later movie that sought to showcase Iberian racial superiority, and Benito Mussolini’s razza anti-Semitic treatise on Italian racial exclusivity, both in emulation of the Hitlerian idea of Volk, [all three racist nouns are now shunned as pejorative words in Spain, Italy, and Germany]), and the growing American idea that it is time to clean up antiquated racist nomenclature and icons, Clinton should bow out. There are plenty of nouns in Spanish that can serve for “people,” and when left untranslated denote Spanish-speakers or those of Latino ancestry, without the connotation of some 1920–30s-derived crackpot fascist version of innate racial exclusivity. But of course for all the linguistic gymnastics of La Raza apologists, the entire point of keeping “The Race” is precisely to project racial chauvinism and superiority. Any other group that dared to have entitled itself “The National Council of the Race” would long have been ostracized from national discourse — and would likely have been a target of Ms. Clinton’s most recent expressions of populist wrath.