Saturday, November 1, 2008

FAIR Creates Dysfunctional "Choose Black America"

As part of its reaction to the mobilization of immigrants in the spring of 2006, the Federation for American Immigration Reform created a couple of new front groups aimed to divert media attention from the pro-immigration rallies. After a major spurt of publicity and organizing, the two groups – You Don’t Speak for Me and Choose Black America – have become inactive. Frank Morris, identified by FAIR spokesperson Bob Dane as the director of Choose Black America, says that the group is “not functional” and he is not the executive director. Morris is one of the eleven original members of Choose Black America, and he is a member of FAIR’s advisory board. At the kickoff press conference, Morris was identified as CBA’s chairperson. Morris is an educator and former deal of graduate studies at Morgan State University. In its 2006 annual report, FAIR, the nation’s most influential anti-immigration organization, described the origins of Choose Black America:

“While American Hispanics grew increasingly concerned about the widespread portrayal of amnesty for illegal aliens as a ‘Hispanic issue,’ American blacks were also growing alarmed at the impact that mass immigration and unchecked illegal immigration were having on their own communities and the failure of the recognized black leadership in American to advocate on behalf of their interests. Increasingly, black citizens were seeking representation in the national immigration debate and they, too, turned to FAIR for assistance."

Two weeks after it launched You Don’t Speak for Me, a self-described American Hispanic coalition, FAIR launched Choose Black America, which FAIR described as a “coalition of leading black academics, clerics, community activists and others, who came together to represent the unique concerns that their communities have in the immigration debate.” No African American organizations are represented in this “coalition.” According to FAIR, “CBA spokespeople quickly established themselves as a countervailing voice the black political leadership’s support for an illegal alien amnesty and increases in immigration.” Under FAIR’s guidance, Choose Black America did initially attract media attention, but it soon fell into disarray. FAIR organized a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington in mid-May 2006, paying for the travel and expenses of CBA’s members. But as it quickly became evident, CBA was not so much a coalition but a front-group assembled by FAIR from African Americans who had expressed concern about the impact of immigration on the black community. Although CBA’s and FAIR’s Morris said that CBA is not a project of FAIR and raises its own funds, the CBA website, when it was functioning, noted in small print that CBA was a “Project of FAIR.” What’s more, CBA lists Bob Dane as its media contact. Calling the number for Dane, you reach the offices of FAIR. FAIR spokesman Ira Mehlman told a reporter that FAIR helped organize Choose Black America after it got calls from African-Americans who were concerned about how illegal immigration was affecting them. "I don't think FAIR did it to gain legitimacy,” Mehlman said, responding to charges that FAIR was attempting to appear more racially diverse, “I think FAIR is a legitimate organization whose viewpoints represent the viewpoints of a substantial number of Americans. But several groups have a bigger stake in this issue." According to an investigative article by the Southern Poverty Law Center, several of the founding members of CBA said they didn’t know the other member of the coalition before they came to the DC press conference that launched the “coalition.” One of the founders, James Clingman, a Cincinnati columnist and businessman, told SPLC: "Choose Black America was just the banner under which we had a press conference…There are people involved [in CBA] who I am just diametrically opposed to, like [far-right Christian evangelical] Jesse Lee Peterson and those other neo-conservative, black so-called leaders." Noted African American writer Earl Ofari Hutchinson told SPLC: "The African Americans they brought there were just to put a black face on their position. These blacks had no other further use. [FAIR] got what they wanted, so why would they have meetings [of the CBA]? Why would they create an organization? These individuals are so loosely affiliated, what kind of organization are you going to form out of that?" Hutchinson declined an offer by FAIR to fly him to Washington to join the May 2006 press conference. Choose a Name CBA’s website says that "mass illegal immigration has been the single greatest impediment to black advancement in this country over the past 25 years." and their mission is simply "defending our country, our rights, our families, our jobs. Blacks, in particular, have lost economic opportunities, seen their kids schools flooded with non-English speaking students, and felt the socio-economic damage of illegal immigration more acutely than any other group."
According to founder and leading CBA spokesperson Ted Hayes, "We choose the title of ‘Choose Black America’ not as a Black racial-racist, separatist group, or even having a Black Nationalist agenda, but rather as a counter point to the racist strategies of the proponents of illegal immigration and amnesty, such as La Razs, Mecha, LULAC, MALDEF and the other so-called Latino, Hispanic, Chicano, Mechistas , et al. It is these groups that have labeled any American, especially Whites who resist their efforts of illegal invasion of our nation as racist pigs, nazis, fascist, hate mongering Europeans, et al.”
According to SourceWatch, Lou Dobbs featured Choose Black America on his Oct. 24, 2006 Broken Borders show on CNN. During the show, CNN showed film of a CBA protest in Chicago that targeted a Mexican women who sought refuge from immigration authorities for herself and her child in a neighborhood church.
After their launch in May 2006, both Choose Black America and You Don’t Speak for Me organized events that made the case the Latinos and African Americans were concerned about their civil rights. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the two groups sponsored a “Civil Rights March and Rally in Los Angeles, and a CBA subsidiary called Crispus Attucks Brigade distributed a flier demading “protection of Black US Citizens From Ethnic Cleansing By Latinos, Europeans, Asians, Africans, & Others Invading and Illegally Colonizing Our Country.” During the event, CBA leader Ted Hayes shared the stage with YDSFM leader Al Rodriguez. Such language is not found on FAIR’s website or in its own publications, but neither has it publicly distanced itself from such anti-immigrant organizing.

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