Boycott: To Be or Not to Be?

It's as simple as "a friend of my enemy is my enemy." Boycotts are effective when they are centered.

By Rodolfo F. Acu??a
Published on LatinoLA: July 22, 2011

Boycott: To Be or Not to Be?

The Rocky Mountain Foco of the National Association for Chicana/o Studies (NACCS) had scheduled a conference for the weekend of November 4, with organizers projecting about five hundred scholars, community activists and students attending; however, preparations fell through because of housing problems.

The biggest hurdle was the Arizona boycott called by supporters who condemn the racism made clear by passage of SB 1070 and HB 2181, the anti-immigrant and anti-ethnic studies laws targeting Latinas/os and that have created an environment that condones the assassination of a nine-year-old Mexican girl who vigilantes shot down in cold blood.

The purpose of boycotts is to bring a resolution and clarify the issues. Instead, the Arizona boycott has taken on a life of its own; frankly, it is confusing. While it has punished some big businesses, it has also hurt small establishments ÔÇô friend and foe alike.

Certainly, there are admirable instances of fantastic support such as Sound Strike whose members have played only to raise money for the anti-racist cause. The collective has exposed the perfidy of performers such as Elton John and Vicente Fern?índez. However, the fact remains that the Arizona boycott has also caused confusion as to whether to stay away from Arizona or not.

While the decision is ultimately that of Arizonans, especially those from the Tucson area to decide what form the boycott will take, there should be a wider discussion as to its effectiveness.

Boycotts have been historically used by labor to level the playing field. Unions exercise economic power to force management to the negotiating table. Boycotts were used by the Civil Rights Movement for similar purposes and popularized by C?®sar Ch?ívez and the Farmworkers. Indeed, the prototype for Latina/o mobilization of communities was and is the Grape Boycott, which remains the farmworkers most enduring legacy.

Yet, the Chicana/o Movement has learned little from the Grape Boycott. The National Association for Chicana/o Studies has cancelled conventions because it was censuring Colorado and Arizona. In these instances, not much was accomplished and the boycotts left wounds because Coloradans and Arizonans resented the boycotts of their states while California that was a worse offender was left alone. Presumably California was too large to mess with.

The forgotten lesson was that C?®sar did not call a boycott of California or Arizona but asked people not to buy grapes. The farmworkers did not boycott all food markets but those that were carrying grapes. It singled out the worst offender Gallo. They picked off and divided and conquered, playing RALPHS against VONS Moreover, it gave a wide circle of people a stake. What more can I say, the approach was masterful and it politicized millions of supporters.

The weakness of the Arizona boycott was driven home as we were frantically trying to put together a NACCS Conference in Tucson to protest efforts there to eliminate La Raza Studies. Roberto Rodriguez has been worked tirelessly to try to get facilities at the University of Arizona. However, it does not look good because of the costs but more because of the looseness of the boycott.

An issue is, where would professors and students stay and still honor the boycott? We had counted on staying at the Tohono O'odham casino until we learned that some of the Nation's leadership had cooperated with the border patrol.

The alternative is to stay at the Yaqui Casino that Tucsonenses say has been supportive. The problem arose that the hotel will not be open until the first weeks of November. After this point the option will be open to us. Los tucsonenses are compiling a list of friendly establishments for eating etc. Hopefully, this list will include bed and breakfast facilities and small friendly motels.

The lack of clarity about what the Arizona boycott entails has stifled participation of outside groups, which in turn has prevented large numbers of people from traveling to the Tucson area to show their support for La Raza Studies. More, it has discouraged the infusion of cultural expressions such as that that enriched the farmworker and Chicana/o movements.

Columnist David Morales points out that there has not been a corrido or better still corridos dedicated to la Raza Studies struggle in Tucson. It is crucial that this struggle be memorialized by the Mexican ballad, which is so much part of our history. One of the functions of the conference is to hold contests for the best corridos, poems, essays and art on the Tucson struggle.

Not many people know what HR 2281 is. They do not know that Tucson is where the bulk of the Mexican population in Arizona live. Supporters righteously poured into Phoenix which is the source of the poison. However, most do not know that most Latinas/os live in Tucson and the southern part of the state which is under siege.

Aside from sponsoring freedom marches to Tucson, like the farmworkers, we should identify the enemy. The poison in that city is the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC), a cabal of developers and so-called civic leaders who speculate in land and government contracts. The cabal has acquired considerable power anointing Tucson Unified School District superintendent John Pedicone and board members Mark Stegeman and Michael Hicks who are spearheading the destruction of the Raza Studies program and advocating censorship.

We should learn what their business connections are in California and elsewhere and boycott them. It is as simple as "a friend of my enemy is my enemy." Boycotts are effective when they are centered.

There has to be a rethinking. It is true that the Republican Party is the main source of support for this racist movement. But just as bad are the blue dog Democrats. They are complicit and empower people like SALC, the Tea Partyers, and the Minutemen. They are running lackey dogs such as Mark Stegeman who claim to be Democrats.

Hopefully, the Rocky Mt. NACCS Conference will take place on December 2-4. It is important to show that Latinas/os and their friends stand in solidarity with La Raza Studies against censorship and racism.


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REMEMBER THE California statewide MECHA Conference will be held at California State University Northridge on November 4-6, 2011.

Read these other articles by Rodolfo Acu??a:
The Lack of Transparency: It's Impact on History
Control of Political Space: Take Power

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