LatinaLista — Before and since Obama was elected president, there have been rumblings that blacks and Latinos don’t get along. Usually, the ones who talked about such a rift were the old-timers who had lived in those turbulent times when high political tensions existed between the two groups.
Whenever these old-timers dared to relive the past, the rebuttals came swift and hard.
At least that was the case in Dallas, Texas when 86-year-old, Adelfa Callejo, Dallas trailblazer for Latino civil rights, and a Hillary Clinton supporter, dared to say at the height of the presidential election that “Obama simply has a problem that he happens to be black.”
Immediately, Callejo was criticized not just by blacks and whites but from her own local community, especially the younger people who accused her of living in the past.
Though Callejo is credited with advancing the civil rights of Dallas Latinos, and is often recognized when it comes to the history of civil rights in Dallas as being a major player, none of that is being remembered now as Callejo is fighting a new fight — to keep her legacy alive.
Because of her comments, there are some Dallas Independent School Trustees who have voiced that they will not name a school after her until she apologizes for her comments about Obama. Some say they will refuse to vote for her regardless.
The whole issue has become so politically radioactive that the local public radio station even refused to allow a commentary (written by this author) based on the grounds the topic was too “hot” and might somehow implicate the station in trying to sway the vote scheduled for tonight.
If historically there has been tension between blacks and Latinos, this is a cause that is resurrecting old feelings in some camps and forcing a new generation to choose sides.
Even within the Dallas Latino community, there are mixed feelings about Callejo but feelings don’t erase the fact that Callejo is credited with some major accomplishments:
- Challenged the system of at-large elections in electing Dallas City Council members — a system that diluted minority voting power and won.
- Lobbied six Dallas district superintendents until there was finally a dropout prevention program implemented in the school district.
- Got more women and minority-owned businesses a fair chance to win a concessions contract at DFW International Airport.
Since it was announced that trustees may vote against Callejo, her supporters and family have waged an all-out campaign sending press releases to “clarify” her statement on Obama.
It’s reported that Callejo herself called one of the trustees to try and persuade her to change her vote.
While Callejo’s supporters may feel they are pursuing the right course of action by appealing directly to public opinion, it is having the opposite reaction. Too many, who sympathized with Callejo initially, are now interpreting these actions as desperate attempts for a shallow reason — just to get a name on a school.
In the process, Callejo is tarnishing her own proud record of achievement. Yet, given Callejo’s character, it’s not surprising that she is not going to go down without a fight.
It’s why she was so effective in the early years and why she is a woman accustomed to speaking her mind without considering the consequences — because the consequences were always worse than doing nothing.
Or in this case, being forgotten before you’re even gone.