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Chris Matthews Defends Racists on Hardball

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Message Michael Leon
Last night Chris Matthews called for the right of Americans to exclude Chicanos from living in a given community based on the right of to be free of "cultural change ."

Unbelievable. Did this guy really say that?

Matthews' popular nightly MSNBC Hardball [hardball@msnbc.com] program featured a discussion of the immigration issue with guest journalists Amy Goodman and Hugh Hewitt.

In the segment Goodman asserted that fear that Chicanos would soon comprise a majority of a population in a given community drives much of the Republican-led debate on the immigration issue.

Matthews jumped all over her, asking what is wrong with fearing Mexicans, and not wanting to live in a community where they comprise the majority population.

Said Matthews: --Cultural change is not something any society accepts easily or even with any kind of positive feelings about it. Why would anybody accept a cultural change in their own state? I want Amy to answer this question. Why is it wrong of anybody to say 'I don't want the town that I grew up in to be overwhelmingly Mexican'? Why is that wrong? You may not share that view, but why is that wrong?"

Matthew did go out of his way to say that this xenophobia, though he did not identify the sentiment as such, did not necessarily represent his point of view, but repeated that he finds no fault in it.

Since the format limitations prevented Goodman, who stared seemingly unbelieving, from answering Matthews' question, I feel compelled to reply with a personal story here. Mr. Matthews, if you happen to be reading, I hope you will consider this.

Aurora, Illinois, Community and Bobby Jordan

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Chicano relatives in Aurora, Illinois for a community event honoring Hispanics, including my late uncle, one Hector "Bobby" Jordan, a pioneering and celebrated Hispanic cop gruesomely killed in the early 1970s

Jordan's daughter, Marsha, a Chicago journalist and TV producer, was the keynote speaker and she told the story of her father's life in which Bobby Jordan fought his battles with racism through dedication as a police officer and sometimes with his fists. Marsha Jordan filleted with disgust those Americans whom Matthews defends, those who belittle "spics" and fought to exclude Chicanos from Aurora and Chicago society for fear of change.

Another speaker, gritty, retired Captain Michael Vila of the Aurora police department, recalled the days when he and Jordan were the only two Hispanic cops on the force; both refused to succumb to the bigotry and fear that Matthews so energetically defends.

Jordan and Vila could have filled the day with stories of bigotry, so pervasive was this disease in Aurora, now a majority Hispanic city. Marsha Jordan's grandparents, John and Mary Secorro Leon, settled in Aurora in the early twentieth century and were promptly met with a neighborhood petition asking them to move because they were Mexican. The Leon's moving into their new home was a "cultural change" that was upsetting to the neighborhood composed largely of residents who did not want the town that they grew up in to be overwhelmingly Mexican.

The petition failed and the Leons stayed. And so did a lot of other Chicanos who met head-on the bigotry and the fear that Matthews asks us to understand. Those Chicanos are all over the place now in Aurora, and Hispanics and civil rights advocates dominate the political representation.

Matthews, if you do not understand why the fear that you defend is wrong, and why a disinclination to live with Mexicans is to be challenged and not defended, then I suggest to you that you have a lot of growing to do, my friend. You disappoint.

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Michael Leon is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. His writing has appeared nationally in The Progressive, In These Times, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at maleon64@yahoo.com.
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