Copyright by The Bay Area Reporter
Queer Latinos rally against racism
By by Rob Akers
City leaders supported LGBT Latinos voicing renewed opposition to
racist attitudes during a rally held Friday, April 21, at Harvey Milk
As reported in last week's Bay Area Reporter , some instances of racial
verbal attacks within the gay community have occurred since recent
immigration issues have spawned rallies and protests, according to
Bustos. Bustos and other members of Queer Latino/as Against Ignorance
and Discrimination organized the event, called an "Evening of Protest
"We are bringing up something that is taboo to talk about in many
communities," Bustos told the sign-toting crowd of about 100.
"There are many in the LGBT community that look down on Latinos and it
is time we stand up and say enough is enough," he said.
Supervisor Tom Ammiano told the crowd that solidarity against issues
such as racism was "very important" in defense of the current
administration that often divides communities.
"With George Bush in the White House we cannot take anything for
granted ... they like to divide communities such as ours. We are
to say that the queer community is against racism in all forms," he
Last week, John Mendoza told the B.A.R. of an incident that occurred
the night of March 25 when he was in front of a Castro restaurant
to order some food.
"A young white gay male around 25 years old stepped in front of me and
insisted he was going in first. When I disagreed, he stood in front of
me anyway. I told him he was not going to get in before me," Mendoza
He said the man turned to him and told him "go back to Mexico, you
fucking wetback, where you belong."
At Friday's rally, Ammiano, a former schoolteacher, recalled the time
when those in the educational system would not permit notes to teachers
written in Spanish, even though over 90 percent of the school children
in the Mission District were of Latino descent.
"They called our children developmentally disabled. They said it was
their way or the highway. We have come a long way in San Francisco
then, but we cannot take anything for granted," Ammiano said.
Robert Ortega, the mayor's representative to District 9, said he was
there to let people know Gavin Newsom had their support in the fight
against racism and efforts to take away immigrant rights.
"I want you to know that the mayor has re-signed the asylum policy for
immigrants, is against HR4437, and that no one will be denied health
care, social services or welfare" in San Francisco, Ortega said,
referring to the bill passed by the House of Representatives last year
criminalizes undocumented people.
Members of the House and Senate reconvened this week and are expected
to again take up immigration legislation. Additionally, immigrant
have called for a one-day boycott and rallies on Monday, May 1.
City Treasurer Jose Cisneros was also on hand to echo city support.
"Being an immigrant does not mean being illegal," he said.
Cecilia Chung, a member of the city Human Rights Commission, told the
crowd, "A lot of people in governmental seats are immigrants. I am one
myself. We are all here for the same fight. It is about humanity,
dignity, and freedom."
Valerie Tullier, field representative for state Senator Carole Migden
(D-San Francisco), said, "Let's just clear the term 'illegal alien' out
of our vocabulary. We need to build bridges in the LGBT community for
marriage rights and for civil rights or no one is going to have any
rights at all."
David Compos, city police commissioner, said, "We know firsthand what
discrimination is all about. We vow to do whatever is possible ... we
will not enforce any law that targets people's immigration status."
Tommi Avicolli Mecca, director of counseling at the Housing Rights
Committee, got the biggest response from the crowd. "I am from Italian
descent. I have been called whop, guinea ... let's get real about this
thing, they stole this country from the Native Americans. They don't
right to call anyone an illegal immigrant."
Antonio Perales del Hierro, a longtime activist who has been involved
with farm worker's issues, handed out a five-page report detailing
a few" instances of racism that had affected him throughout his life.
"Racism is a disease. I am not sure this country's health system wants
to look at it that way," he told the gathering. He said he had been
segregated during his early school years and battled racism throughout
high school and during his stint in the U.S. Army.
"The United States was founded on racism, violence, theft of land, and
on lies and broken treaties. We can see how farm workers and Latino
immigrants are treated. Stereotypes and warping of our history help to
keep us as cheap labor," he said.
Ray Ferrer, son of Cuban immigrants, said he attended the rally to show
his support. "Equal treatment of people is very important to me," he