September 13, 2007
The unsavory racial politics of Venus Velazquez

Seattle City Council candidate Venus Velazquez speaking at a "Hate Free Zone" candidate forum in June:

You need to look at this leadership up here and decide: are we the people who look like you? who come from you? And if we're not, don't vote for us. But if we are, vote us in.
That struck me as an offensive racial appeal. I e-mailed both Velazquez and her opponent, Bruce Harrell, for a comment. Harrell sent this:
I certainly remember those comments at the forum. Unfortunately, Venus has gotten away with these types of positioning statements in several of her public forums. I, as well as Al Runte and other members of the audience were extremely uncomfortable with this discriminatory and exclusionary platform. Imagine the backlash if a white person said something like this publicly here in Seattle? Wouldn't they be run out of town?

One of the things I love most about Seattle is our history of reminding citizens to look beyond ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, etc. when viewing each other. I believe that most Seattlites will choose to evaluate candidates not by their appearance, but by their character and leadership. Venus' statements are clearly out of line with Seattle's progressive environment.

I'm still waiting for Velazquez's reply. A video of the entire "Hate Free Zone" forum is here. Velazquez's remarks are part of her closing statement which begins at 1:39:40.

I hadn't decided whether to vote for Harrell or Velazquez before I watched the entire video of the candidate forum. Their positions on the issues seem fairly similar and far to the left of what I'm comfortable with. But it's clear from how they conducted themselves in this forum (more than just Velazquez's single odious soundbite and Harrell's appropriate response) that Velazquez is shrill and divisive and would be a toxic presence on the Council, while Harrell is a conciliator, making him the better choice.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at September 13, 2007 05:42 PM | Email This
Comments
1.
If you really believe what you say you believe, why do you even live in Seattle.

I mean, it's hopeless.

At least here in Kent there's a slim chance to fight for rational politics.

Posted by: John Bailo on September 13, 2007 06:13 PM
2. That is worse than merely offensive. That is one of the worst kinds of racism, pure and simple. Not merely causing offense, but separating the races, segregating them, and not just by skin color, but by interests, by ideologies, by views and opinions.

I would never under any circumstances vote for Velazquez after seeing this.

Posted by: pudge on September 13, 2007 06:14 PM
3. Venus's comment reminds me of a grade school mock election I participated in in 1968. I was George Wallace (because nobody else wanted to be). Nixon won, but I garnered more votes than Humphrey because I promised to lobby the principal for longer recesses. The point being, you say whatever you think you need to say in order to win.

Posted by: Organization Man on September 13, 2007 07:04 PM
4. It makes no more sense to vote for someone because of their race than it does to vote against them because of their race.

Posted by: Huey on September 13, 2007 07:20 PM
5. Dagnabit Stefan!
Say you're going to vote for Venus Valazquez!
It's not too late for you to change your mind.
Racist Republicans for Valazquez Unite!!!

Posted by: Don Ward on September 13, 2007 07:23 PM
6. How about this---vote for the candidate who exhibits GOOD CHARACTER and who has ideas that you like!!

But voting for someone because they are the same race??? I've never voted for those reasons. Never would.

Posted by: Michele on September 13, 2007 08:36 PM
7. I thought HATE FREE ZONE meant spread hate as freely as you like...or so that's what the fine liberals of Washington practice.

Posted by: Andy on September 13, 2007 09:12 PM
8. I don't think anyone should vote along racial lines. But I find it telling that you call Velazquez's entire forum demeanor "shrill and divisive". Oddly, only women get criticized for that -- e.g., Hillary Clinton, Christine Gregoire. Men get commended for being assertive and direct. And Stefan calling someone shrill and divisive is especially ironic.

Posted by: Bruce on September 13, 2007 09:29 PM
9. A candidate who believes in racial politics like this is out of synch with Seattle. Venus should not be elected.

Posted by: Renee on September 13, 2007 09:37 PM
10. Notice that Bruce is trying desperately to change the subject.

That little blurb of hers sounds so much like what I imagine they say at Klan rallies.

Posted by: TB on September 13, 2007 09:45 PM
11. Racism is fine on the left. No complaints from the Left media, bloggers, etc. Just a means to an end. Now had this been a right leaning candidate ....

Posted by: Jeff B. on September 13, 2007 10:39 PM
12. Bruce is also wrong. OK, "shrill" is usually used of women, but the same concept is used of men all the time: for example, John Edwards.

Although according to Ann Coulter, I suppose his gender is in question ... ;-)

Posted by: pudge on September 13, 2007 11:45 PM
13. Ha Pudge--speaking of Edwards, I heard some congressman complaining something along the lines of "They spent more money than John Edwards in a beauty parlor!"

LOL!

Posted by: Michele on September 14, 2007 02:15 AM
14. 1. I don't know either candidate and I am just beginning to read about what is available to vote for.

2. Just curious, how are posters here defining:

a. the term racism

b. the appropriate use of the term racism

3. I don't think I have been called pond scum, but I certainly have been called vile, liar, and lacking in intellect. It is interesting to observe who is using the term racist. I have been reading this blog over a year and posting here a little less than that. I can be corrected in this observation, but it seems that many now alluding to what they feel is in this instance is the appropriate use of the term "racist" generally have little good to say about any person of color accept when it is useful to use them attack another person of color. In this particular contest, I suppose some person has to be preferred since both candidates are candidates of color.

Personally, I think Ms. Vasquez appears to be a pander bunny like many pols and will say whatever is necessary before any group to get the highest percentage of those from that group to vote for her. I am much more concerned about lack of backbone for a particular candidate and whether they are willing to take stands on tough issues and Seattle has some really tough issues coming up. Many of the MOVEON and HATE FREE ZONE crowd have very little idea of how to run a city and make it work so that people want to live here. In my opinion, their ideology. for them, often trumps common sense and what works in real life.

So, how are you folks defining "racist" and how are you using the term?

Posted by: WVH on September 14, 2007 06:50 AM
15. pudge, we both know where we can get a Schrambo for her, don't we? :)

I get your point WVH, is it pander bear or racist?

I think this woman crossed the line of merely pandering. And Stefan said both candidates were unsatisfactory to him regarding issues. So, how else does he vote except by who he thinks would be a better representative or presence on the Council?

Posted by: swatter on September 14, 2007 07:09 AM
16. Hey Swatter,

As you know I am willing to call a spade a spade as it were. I am willing to call Jackson/Sharpton and their ilk racists. In this case, I honestly don't know. The reason is this, Sharpton/Jackson seek and use racial politics exclusively. At their core they are shakedown artists. If one looks into their financial operations, their activities have richly benefited them and their cronies. Jackson's daughter-in-law is now on the Chicago City Council. Given what I know, at this point, I would say pander bear.

Posted by: WVH on September 14, 2007 07:16 AM
17. WVH: I am using the term "racism" as I always have: to describe special treatment -- positive or negative, including attitudes -- toward a given race.

Saying you should vote for someone just because of their race, or against someone just because of their race -- regardless of which races are at issue -- is racist. What she said was racist, pure and simple.

Not that I did not call HER a racist. I called what she SAID racist. There's a big difference.

Posted by: pudge on September 14, 2007 08:29 AM
18. Bruce B: "Oddly, only women get criticized for that -- e.g., Hillary Clinton, Christine Gregoire. Men get commended for being assertive and direct. And Stefan calling someone shrill and divisive is especially ironic."

First of all, I hardly ever use the word "shrill". (search for it in the archives, and see for yourself). And for all their faults, I do not consider either Hillary Clinton or Christine Gregoire to be "shrill". Divisive yes, but label that applies to a lot of politicians of both parties and both genders.

And if you imply that you consider me to be shrill and divisive, that disproves your claim that "only women get criticized for that", doesn't it?

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on September 14, 2007 08:33 AM
19. Of course you have to understand. According to the Seattle Public Schools - only whitey can be a racist.

Which explains how she can get away with statements like this in Seattle.

Posted by: CrazyFool on September 14, 2007 11:50 AM
20. What I find most interesting is that Ms. Valazquez is whiter than I am.

Posted by: Rey Smith on September 14, 2007 02:34 PM
21. This is the most value neutral definition of racism that I could find:

Dictionary.com Unabridged -noun 1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism

I believe that under this definition Ms. Vasquez is not a racist, more likely in the infant stages of race-baiting which could eventually lead to racism. Both genders and all ethnic groups can have individuals who are racists. Sharpton/Jackson have been race baiting so long that they are, in fact, racists. Racism has paid off monetarily for them.

I know that many of you don't like Wiki, but sometimes it is a excellent source. Their definition of race-baiting is quite good:

"Race baiting is the act of using racially derisive language, actions or other forms of communication, to anger, intimidate or incite a person or groups of people, or to make those persons behave in ways that are inimical to their personal or group interests. This can also be accomplished by implying that there is an underlying race based motive in the actions of others towards the group baited, where none in fact exists. The term race in this context can be construed very broadly to include the social constructs which define race or racial difference, as well as ethnic, religious, gender and economic differences. Thus the use of any language or actions for the purpose of exploiting actual or perceived weaknesses in persons who can be identified as members of certain groups, or to reinforce a group's perceived victimhood, in order to do them some sort of harm, or to manipulate their behavior, can be contained within the concept of "race baiting." Many people who practice race baiting often believe in racism, or have an interest in making the group believe that racism is what motivates the actions of others."

So, if I had to describe what Ms. Vasquez is doing, it is race-baiting and it is not healthy for the groups being addressed or the city. People
of color need to be involved in the political process as Mr. Harrell and Ms. Vasquez are now.
In order to be mature meaning operating at the top level of the political process, candidates are going to have to appeal to all flavors by being for something, standing for something, and seeking solutions to problems. Race-baiting has made Sharpton/Jackson ineffective and a joke. From what I can determine Ms Vasquez has too many gifts to go the Sharpton/Jackson route.
My two cents.

Oh by the way, I bet she is better looking than Rey as well. :-)

Posted by: WVH on September 14, 2007 04:55 PM
22. I LOVE how folks here want to accuse Venus of playing "the race card" when y'all stumbled into that one yourselves.

I don't deny that this is one aspect of Venus's appeal when she makes those comments. But as an early Venus supporter, she and I have talked several times about the fact that we need more candidates like her running for City Council.

She's young. She's a mother. She's got young children who actually go to public school. I believe her husband is white (I haven't met him), so they have a mixed marriage and bi-racial children. They're committed to raising a family in the city limits. And more...

Yes, she's proud of her Hispanic culture, and I think it's a win whether she or Harrell are elected on the diversity issue alone, BUT Venus is speaking more to the notion that the City Council does not reflect very well the demographics of a city that is very young, new economy, young couples or just starting a family, and more!

Posted by: Mickymse on September 14, 2007 05:31 PM
23. Rey Smith @ 20:
Yes, Ms. Valazquez seems to be less brown and more white than the way she talks but it is not her color that is important in "progressive" (liberal is such an ugly word) politics . . . particularly progressive Hispanic politics. It is the sir name that is important.

Various "progressive" candidates, in various other parts of the country, have run with Hispanic sir names although they married into them. One wag actually went back to her divorced husband's Hispanic sir name to appeal to Hispanic voters who populated her district.

Sadly it works.

But this is part and parcel of how liberals operate. By hook and crook, never stating directly their views or what they will do once elected. The left's policies are so unsavory to most Americans that to state them directly, to put them open to debate, would mean electoral death. Better to sneak in the back door with activist judges and deals in the dark.

Posted by: G Jiggy on September 14, 2007 08:59 PM
24. I believe that under this definition Ms. Vasquez is not a racist

I state, without any reservation, that Venus Velazquez is a racist.

Posted by: pudge on September 15, 2007 12:38 AM
25. Oops, my brain is fuzzy after midnight. I meant to say, I state without reservation that what she SAID was racist.

I don't know her. I know what she said, and it was obvious what she meant, and it was racist.

Posted by: pudge on September 15, 2007 12:40 AM
26. Mickymse - I'm confused. Are you saying that you support Venus because she's not racist, but ageist? Or that her appeal is that she is so willing to openly alienate anyone who isn't like her - because of race, age or lack of children. If antagonizing the city council so they become completely ineffective for the city is your goal, it looks like you have the right candidate.

As a side bar, racist or pander bear...I still vote racist...from Venus' own words...

"If we all join together for Latino advocacy we will gain more power and respect. As Latinos we need to connect and come together under one umbrella. We don't have time to be educating people about where we come from and what our differences are. We need to put all our energy together to move forward."

Directly from Venus on
http://www.oyetu.com/latinoarchives5.htm

Posted by: TLO on September 15, 2007 08:14 AM
27. In some ways, it makes sense to vote for someone who looks like you, especially if you are a minority who stands a chance of being discriminated against by government policies. A person who looks like you is less likely to support policies that are in some way discriminatory against your race. Venus' comment certainly would have made a lot of sense coming from the mouth of Roy Wilkins during the civil rights era. Does it suddenly become racist for her to say this, merely because the discrimination of today is less severe and less obvious?

Posted by: CHad on September 15, 2007 11:19 AM
28. Chad: no, it does not make sense to vote for someone who looks like you. It betrays a solid lack of sense.

Fine, maybe you could be discriminated against. What about skin color means that one person is more likely to do something about it, than someone else?

Here's an example. You are a woman and believe strongly that we need the Equal Rights Amendment. You could vote for Ted Kennedy, or Phyllis Schlafly. If you vote for the woman, it would be AGAINST your political interests!

No, Roy Wilkins saying it would not have made it make sense. My brother-in-law's father-in-law is Ed King, a white man, a civil rights activist from Mississippi, who was chaplain at traditionally black Tougaloo College. He was a delegate (one of only two) for the predominantly black Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to the Democratic National Convention in 1964. Ed King still has scars on his face today from the KKK. He never ran for office, but if he had, he would have served the interests of civil rights for blacks more than many blacks would have. Maybe Wilkins would have said it, but if he had, it would have been racist coming from him, too.

So no, it does not make sense. Not at all. Perhaps you are right that someone who looks like you is "less likely" to oppose your racial interests, but to vote that way is admitting that you are THROWING OUT any consideration of "sense," because if you cared about "sense," you would actually find out what each candidate believed rather than guessing!

Posted by: pudge on September 15, 2007 09:54 PM
29. In reply to WVH and her disparargement of my looks (#21), I invite her to view the following link...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HANGnBFRLuc

Posted by: Rey Smith on September 16, 2007 11:04 AM
30. Hey Rey,

LOL, no matter how cute you are, you still can't beat Denzel Washington and Brad Pitt. I suppose most of us here are working on our personalities.
:-)

Posted by: WVH on September 16, 2007 03:51 PM
31. That must explain the pay cut I took recently. :(

Posted by: Rey Smith on September 16, 2007 03:58 PM
32. They're committed to raising a family in the city limits. Surely, Seattle is not family oriented. I can not imagine any benefits to raising a family in Seattle.

It seems that any minority group has the freedom to demonstrate their pride and egos and freely form private and public alliances. Where as the majority has no freedom to demonstrate and form private and public alliances.

Examples abound:

Gay Pride Parades featuring nudity and indecent exposures. Imagine the public outrage if their were a Happy Hetero Parade featuring nudity and indecent exposures.

Black Colleges. Imagine a White College equal.

Woman clubs of all kinds. What about Men only clubs.

How about a White Protestant campaigning for votes based on his color and religion. Would that be approved by Seattle voters? Or would it be considered hateful?

I would suggest that if their is a question of racism or bigotry, just ask yourselves if an opposing majority group conducted themselves in the same manner would the activity be socially acceptable? If the answer is No. Then there is no question about the conduct of the minority group. Unless of course you feel that minorities are free offend the majority. In which case you are creating future problems because the majority will ultimately win.

Posted by: Snuffy on September 17, 2007 08:04 AM
33. Snuffy sniffles,"I can not imagine any benefits to raising a family in Seattle."

Really? You can't imagine any benefits?

Geez, my family loves living in Seattle for many reasons. Yet I can also think of many benefits to being in the 'burbs.

What we have here is a failure of imagination.

Posted by: Bruce on September 17, 2007 03:14 PM
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