On Tuesday, February 3, 2004, the Bruin Republicans (BRs) of UCLA launched a massive campaign against the racist campus organization MEChA. We took the issue to the students, demanded change from UCLA’s student governance body, spoke on the radio, appeared in the campus newspaper several times, and caught the attention of the national media. In the end, our hard work paid off, we took our campus by storm and made a difference.
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) is one of the most prominent and powerful organizations in the United States and the BR’s choice to challenge it was obvious. Though many of its activities support Hispanic youth and educational programs, MEChA’s founding document El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan and several of MEChA’s goals associated with it are ingrained in the doctrines of racism and revolution. The message of our campaign has been simple: MEChA must renounce its racially bigoted founding document.
In essence, El Plan de Aztlan asserts that the present-day United States illegally occupies the ancient birthplace of the Aztecs, known as Aztlán. To this end, the plan calls for Hispanics to “reclaim” this territory and establish in its place a new government with a new nationalistic philosophy. (MEChA’s statement of philosophy is: “For the Race everything; for those outside the Race nothing.”)
The Bruin Republicans of UCLA saw obvious problems with this. We believed that the ideas that El Plan sponsors are detrimental not only to the university at large, but also to MEChA’s own legitimacy as a legitimate ethnic group. Yet our goal was not merely to convince MEChA to renounce El Plan de Aztlan—and not because it would never happen. We wanted to spark controversy, initiate dialogue, change minds, and spread knowledge about racial and political issues in general.
And we got more “dialogue” than we bargained for at our information table set up on Bruin Walk—a promenade that links UCLA’s North and South campuses. The exchanges throughout the day ranged from civil to offensive; the topics from MEChA itself to border control. But none of this would have been possible without the weeks of research and planning we invested in preparation.
Toward the middle of December, the Bruin Republicans drafted a letter and delivered it to the organization in question. The letter called on MEChA to publicly denounce its foundational document. As predicted, there was no response to the letter.
So last Tuesday, after two months of careful planning, the battle against racism began. The Daily Bruin printed a front page news article entitled, “Bruin Republicans campaign against MEChA’s views” and an opinion piece by Christopher Moritz entitled, “University must take action against MEChA’s racist agenda.” By the time the paper appeared on the newsstands, the Bruin Republicans had already set up an informational booth on Bruin Walk. There, a large banner read: “MEChA: Student-funded Racism.”
On the table, official copies of MEChA’s own foundational document El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan were made available to those interested and a map depicted the region of the United States that the plan sought to reclaim.
Students soon approached the table in the dozens, taking sudden interest in our campaign to defy political correctness. The table was quickly surrounded by forty to fifty belligerent and profane students, the vast majority of whom opposed our campaign.
One student remarked, “You can’t be racist if you are a minority.” She later added, “Racism is only between black and white people.”
Fourth year political science student Tom Hartmann talked calmly to the angry students that stood around him. He explained that the Bruin Republicans were against a document, not an organization. But few, if any listened. A furious defender of MEChA cried, “Hell yeah, we wanna take back our land! You are an exploiter of my people. You have illegal immigrants clean your white house and mow your white lawn.”(Hartmann wryly noted, “I’ve been mowing my lawn for the past twelve years.”)
Meanwhile, David Lazar, a first year biology student, came under fire as well. His defense of equality and nondiscrimination secured for him an array of pretty labels. He was called a “Nazi,” a “racist,” a “baby killer,” and – when he said he was Jewish – “a proponent of apartheid.” (Apparently, his Jewish background did not bother the student who called him a “Nazi.”)
Christopher Moritz was told to “go back to England” where his ancestors came from.
But Hispanic “race-traitor” Jon English, a second year political science student of Mexican descent, received slightly less flattering treatment. “Without MEChA three years ago,” shouted an irritated student, “you wouldn’t be here, Homie.” Jon English replied, “I don’t recall MEChA telling me to study for my AP [Advanced Placement] exams.”
The interest in and rage against the BR campaign lasted throughout the day. By late afternoon, our organization had made hundreds of enemies and dozens of friends. Then the BRs really crossed the line.
At 7:30 pm, a dozen Bruin Republicans marched into a packed room where UCLA’s Undergraduate Student Associated Council (USAC) meets every Tuesday. It was then that the BRs presented a resolution that, if passed, would demand that MEChA renounce its racist views or lose university funding. We maintained that UCLA’s mission purpose and goals are incompatible with MEChA’s principles: either MEChA should reject its racist foundations or cease to be recognized as a student group.
Throughout the course of the presentation as well as after it, the Republicans were called “baby killers,” “white racists,” and “---holes.” The Question and Answer session that followed the presentation turned into a Comments period in which roughly twelve MEChA-istas and only three Republicans were given a voice. Questions were neither asked nor answered. MEChA chairwoman Elizabeth Alamillo decided to cling to the plan, declaring, “We will stand by the El Plan de Aztlan because it has guided us.”
Every minute of the meeting gave more ammunition to the case against MEChA. The supporters of the organization behaved rudely and aggressively. “The look of hostility and hate in their eyes,” remarked Christopher Moritz, “was simply chilling.”
The presentation of the resolution was met with widespread criticism and hatred—almost every member of USAC condemned it. Hence, the chances that USAC will even vote on the resolution in its next meeting are slim.
We continued our public protest on Wednesday, February 4, with similar results.
A 30-year-old man approached our table and shouted. “You racist mother fuckers!” then threw our flyers and leaflets on the ground. He proceeded to move behind the table and spit on the shirt of Jonathan Cayton, the chairman of the Bruin Republicans. After shouting some more, he spat again, this time on Cayton’s face. The man began to walk away from the table, but Jon Cayton and fellow Republican Mike Bogdan followed him. As Cayton spoke to the police on a cell phone, the man shoved Bogdan violently and grabbed the phone from Cayton’s hand. Fortunately, the police soon arrived and the intruder was arrested.
Later in the day, the vice-chair of MEChA approached the booth and joined our discussion. She contested the sovereignty of the United States and perpetuated the illusions of “white privilege” and “white power.” At one point, she called a BR member a “foreign gringo invader.”
But to dwell on the massive public outcry against our campaign is to neglect the significant support that we gathered and the knowledge that we spread. A Mexican-American UCLA student told us that she was offended by El Plan and that she would offer her resources in the fight against MEChA’s racism. The opinions of countless others were changed, as well. Some who spoke out against us the first day were debating for us the second day. Those who didn’t know about MEChA now do. Some who defended it have now changed their views. And, as a result of this, the members of MEChA will have a hard time justifying their support of El Plan de Aztlan.
In the end, MEChA will remain on campus and continue to receive funding; undoubtedly, our resolution will be rejected and condemned (at least this year). The Bruin Republicans may be further demonized on campus.
But the campaign that we launched this week has sparked a renewed skepticism on campus, not just of MEChA but of every organization that tolerates P.C. racism. It has aroused controversy and fostered dialogue. It has forced students on campus to think. Most importantly, it has shown how a few people, with hard work, careful planning, courage, and the truth on their side can shake the foundations of a leftist university.
This war can—and must—be won inch by inch. It only requires students willing to take action.