Minority Congressional Leaders’ Reaction to Elian Saga Disturbing

Minority Congressional Leaders’
Reaction to Elian Saga Disturbing

by Marc Levin
April/May 2000

Has anyone noticed that the most vocal political leaders in favor of returning Elian Gonzales to communist Cuba are liberal minority members of Congress?

Examples include Connie Meek (D-Florida), Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and José E. Serrano (D-New York). Whatever one’s ultimate view is as to whether Elian should stay or go, this fact illustrates a disturbing disregard on the part of left-wing minority leaders for fellow racial or ethnic minorities who espouse conservative or even patriotic views.

Indeed, Serrano recently wrote to Vice President Gore, “For the sake of votes in Florida, votes that already belong to Governor Bush, you have angered Latinos and African-Americans, including many members of Congress.” Seranno and other minority leaders’ attempt to pit their racial and ethnic groups against the Cuban-American community is the latest iteration of the “Uncle Tom” indignity that has been so vitriolically directed at black conservatives such as Clarence Thomas.

This is not just a matter of circumstantial evidence, although it is exceedingly difficult to explain why black and Hispanic Congressman from states other than Florida would have any more passion for the Elian case than their white counterparts. Of course, one could naively assume that this controversy rose to the top of their collective agendas simply out of a genuine concern that Elian be reunited with his father.

However, this could not explain the shocking remarks of Congressman Serrano on the April 3 edition of Hardball on CNBC. When asked a simple question by Matthews as to whether Cuba is a free society, Serrano initially said he didn’t know because he did not live there. When pressed again, he retorted that it is “free in some ways.” As to whether their system was better than ours, Seranno would only say the two are “different.” Finally, when questioned specifically about whether free speech exists in Cuba, Serrano replied “absolutely.” While the repeated accusations by the most ardent Cuban Miami activists that all those supporting Elian’s return are Castro sympathizers often seem overwrought, Serrano did his best to fit the bill.

It was increasingly evident that Seranno, at his core, believes either the dangerously relativist proposition that there are no standards to judge the morality or even desirability of different regimes or, alternatively, that Cuba’s form of government is equal, if not superior, to the United States. Seranno, who is Dominican, was remarkably dismissive of the views of the 800,000 Cuban-Americans in Miami who might have slightly more information and personal experience to make this comparison.

The tremendous outpouring of support by liberal black and Hispanic leaders for sending Elian back to Cuba is particularly strange given the solidarity one would expect them to feel with another “oppressed” racial or ethnic minority. In fact, coalition-building among minorities, gays, labor union members, environmentalists, and other constituencies has become the hallmark of the modern liberal movement. Could it be that, because Cuban Americans are overwhelmingly Republican, upwardly mobile, and exceedingly patriotic, resentment rather than solidarity is directed at them?

The patriotism aspect of this phenomena is particularly illuminating. Liberal minority leaders like Congresswoman Waters constantly emphasize what they view as the enormous racism and classism in America. The willingness of a Cuban mother to swim through the seas with her infant to come to this country is undoubtedly threatening to an orthodoxy that imagines America as a house of horrors for people of color.

There is a striking contrast between Cuban Americans’ attitude of “tough love” toward their homeland and the free pass frequently offered to African despots by America’s black intellectual and political elite. Reacting to former Democratic Senator Carol Moseley-Braun’s visit to Nigeria where she coddled dictator and human rights violator Sani Abacha, Mario Morrow, one of the few prominent black American leaders willing to criticize human rights abuses in Africa, acknowledged, “When you talk about injustice in Africa of whites against blacks, you have an overload of black leaders ready to jump on the bandwagon, but when the issue turns to African vs. African or black vs. black, the excuse that’s commonly given and the acceptable excuse is racism. The target then always becomes the white, the Caucasian, the European.”

If there is any silver lining in the dark clouds of political wrangling over one little boy, it is that these liberal minority leaders’ disregard for a highly patriotic and conservative community of color has been exposed for all to see. It is now clearer than ever before that, in the minds of America’s minority left, Cuban Americans are not fellow travelers united in struggle but Uncle Toms who have sold out to the white majority.

Marc Levin is Executive Director of the Campaign for a Colorblind America and Editor Emeritus of the Austin Review. He can be reached at RACEBLIND@aol.com

Copyright © 2000 Marc Levin. All rights reserved.

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