A friend of mine, of whom I have a great deal of respect, and I have a disagreement on a policy having to do with the Black El Paso Democrats.
And she plans on doing something about it. Despite the fact that we disagree so firmly on this issue, I have to admire the fact that she feels passionately enough about the issue to do something about it.
She feels so strong about it that she indicated that she was going to approach some Hispanic organizations in town about the issue.
Since she is, I thought I would post something about my individual feelings about the policy. This is really inside baseball stuff in the El Paso Democratic Party so this piece isn't going to appeal to everyone.
Members v. Associate Members
Okay, before we get to opinion, lets start with facts. The black community in El Paso is about 2% of the population. Raza make up around 85% of the population. The goal of the Black El Paso Democrats is to education African-American voters and encourage them to participate in the process.
Black El Paso Democrats have two membership classes. Full members and associate members. Associate members are people who are not African-American and are not either the children or spouse of an African-American. Associate members are not allowed to vote in the election of officers.
Where my friend and I differ is in our opinion of the rule. First let me be clear and state that I am not, nor have I ever been a member of the Black El Paso Democrats. My friend has been a member.
My friend believes that the policy is discriminatory and particularly so against Raza. I'm not clear as to why Raza and not others but thats neither here nor there. She argues that its not fair that the organization is happy to take people's dues to be a member but not everyone is allowed to vote for the officers. Again, only full members, which are African-Americans, their children, or their spouses.
I think the main reason this is becoming an issue is because its personal. Let me clarify, I don't mean its personal from my friend's perspective. I think she genuinely takes issue with the policy.
But the truth is there are a group of people in the Party that resent Don Williams, President of the Black El Paso Democrats. Many within the Party have come out and said publicly that he shouldn't be the State Democratic Executive Committeeman because that seat should belong to a Latino. They've tried to prevent him from being the SDEC every chance they've had. I guess they don't respect the will of the Party. They've elected him to the position twice now.
They also resent that he was elected to an officer position in the Tejano Democrats. But that was the will of the membership of the Tejano Democrats.
The policy of the Black El Paso Democrats just makes sense. Its also a policy that is adopted by several other organizations both in and out of the Democratic Party. The policy protects the integrity of the organization.
How much integrity would the organization have if associate members were allowed to vote and voted out all the black officers or only left one or two for the sake of appearances? How much credibility within the black community would the organization even have at that point? In fact, why would it even need to exist? The answer is that it wouldn't.
The bottom line is that the Black El Paso Democrats have a right to self-determination. They have a right to decide what is in their best interest and who their leaders are. This is about self-preservation and self-determination plain and simple.
When we ran El Paso Young Democrats we had two types of membership. We had regular EPYD members and we had Young at Heart Members. Guess what? We had the same policy. As it is we were the step children of the Party at the time because they Party has never really been friendly to young people. We weren't going to be stupid enough to let people who didn't like us vote us out of existence.
So some of you are reading this and might say, but Jaime its not fair. Its discrimination.
Well if you were forced to be in the organization and weren't on an even playing field, or if it where the only Democratic organization in town, I might agree with you. Maybe.
But membership in any of the various auxiliaries of the Democratic Party is completely voluntary. No one is forced tojoin. Its not a requirement of the Party to be in any auxillery. If you don't like the policy, you can simply choose tnot be a member. I choose not to be a member of a lot of the Party's auxilleries.
And to top it off, this isn't really even the Black El Paso Democrats' Rule. Its a rule from the state entity they are affiliated with. That entity happens to be the only one that is focused on the black community.
The push to make a big deal out of this represents misplaced priorities in our communities. Especially if any Latino organizations actually waste their time on this issue. The Latino community has real problems to deal with like immigration reform, healthcare, access to higher education, and reforms in the justice system. Not being able to vote out African-Americans out of their own organization isn't one of them.
Any organization that even gives this a second thought should be ashamed of itself. Latinos and African-Americans aren't one another's enemy. We are in the same boat and should be paddling in the same direction, not working against one another.