COLAB’s Andy Caldwell isn’t happy with The Tribune’s recent reporting of the dispute between his organization and San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill.
In particular, he accuses us of taking a COLAB advertisement headline, “Ignorant Mexican Activists?” out of context in Wednesday’s story by Bob Cuddy.
In an email to The Tribune, Caldwell explained that the headline was on an “op-ed” advertisement in a Santa Barbara County weekly newspaper. The 2002 ad criticized a political endorsement made by LAVA, the Latino Action Voter Alliance, and it included this quote from Joe Armendariz: “LAVA is comprised of ignorant Mexican ‘activists’ who are eager to sell out for more access to power.”
Caldwell tells us via email that Armendariz, now a Carpinteria City Council member, later publicly defended his statement “by saying that it is not racist for a Mexican to call another Mexican a Mexican. And it is not racist to call someone ignorant.”
Sorry, Andy, but that doesn’t make such an insensitive remark any more palatable.
Incidentally, according to news accounts from the time, the Santa Barbara County Human Relations Commission voted 7-3 to condemn the ad as “racist rhetoric.”
Does this one incident, now almost 10 years old, make the entire COLAB organization racist? Of course not.
However, penning a piece titled “Ignorant Mexican Activists?” is clearly offensive. No amount of “context” will change that, and when the leadership of an organization engages in that kind of “racist rhetoric,” it sends up a red flag.
We’re equally appalled over a more recent incident brought to light by Cuddy’s reporting: the use of the derogatory term “Jap authorities” when describing events surrounding the nuclear accident in Japan. That remark came, not from Caldwell, but from COLAB member and San Luis Obispo County Parks Commissioner Deanne Gonzales. The reference was in an email she sent to the county Board of Supervisors, in which she criticized local “anti-nuclear hysteria” that followed the Fukushima disaster.
She has every right to voice her opinion, just as Caldwell has every right to disagree with a political endorsement by LAVA or any other group.
And Hill, for that matter, has every right to take issue with COLAB’s positions.
But if COLAB wants its messages to be heard, it should present them logically, civilly and — do we really have to say it? — without resorting to racial slurs.
If it isn’t prepared to do so, then we would urge the good citizens of our county to re-examine their ties to the group.
Hill, for his part, should abandon his one-man crusade against COLAB.
He has made his point. Now it’s time for him to make good on his vow to move on.