- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2002

A liberal activist yesterday warned a group of newly elected Hispanic officeholders at a Washington forum that the next Supreme Court nominee will probably be the Hispanic counterpart of Clarence Thomas and could "represent a threat to your future."
"In all probability you will have someone who is bright, articulate, an impeccable record of academic achievement, as in the case of Clarence Thomas you will have the Latino version of that," said Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "You aren't going to know, based on his or her record, how to evaluate this candidate. But the truth is you will know in your heart if this man or woman will represent a threat to your future."
Mr. Henderson, speaking at the end of a three-day conference sponsored by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, also appealed to the 60 gathered officials to join black groups in the coalition to realize "new political realities."
"We now have a set of common interests," said Mr. Henderson, who was once associate director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union. Blacks and Hispanics "can't win long term unless we form a political coalition. You may function [separately] now, but you will eventually have to move out of your community and forge these" alliances.
Mr. Henderson also warned that courts on all levels are conspiring to scale back civil rights protections.
"There is a trend going on, gang, that you need to be aware of," Mr. Henderson said. "That trend is to cut back on the ability of Congress to remedy discrimination and to establish standards that federal courts need to follow."
"Federal courts are reviving a discredited concept that was once called 'states rights,' which meant, to the African-American community, that states had the right to override Congress."
Mr. Henderson was joined on the panel by Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington office of the NAACP, and representatives from B'nai B'rith International and the National Asian Pacific Americans Legal Consortium.
The panelists played up the similarities between their respective communities, stressing the lower socio-economic rungs among Hispanics.
Dina Siegel Vann of B'nai B'rith said that Jews and Hispanics were linked "as exiles, as immigrants." She added that both Jews and Hispanics have come to the United States to "escape dire circumstances in their countries."
Mr. Shelton ticked off a list of common issues binding blacks and Hispanics: that an influx of African immigrants gives blacks a reason to back bilingual education; the digital divide, in which Hispanics have an edge over blacks as far as percentage of adults using the Internet; and even the death penalty.
"You'll note that Timothy McVeigh was used to reinstate federal use of the death penalty," Mr. Shelton said. "But the next guy in line was named Garza. Those are our folks who are going to be executed."
The gains to be made from yesterday's speech are questionable, as Hispanics are already aligning themselves with the Democratic Party and liberal causes. Of the 62 new Hispanic officials elected Nov. 5 at the congressional and state level, 51 were Democrats and 11 Republicans.
Any commonality between Hispanics and blacks, though, is tempered by past political differences, said Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Independent School District trustee who was re-elected in July.
"When the rubber meets the road, there can be trouble," Mr. Anchia said. Last year, he was part of an effort, thwarted by local blacks, to carve out a third Hispanic-majority district on the nine-member board.

The issue quickly polarized the two minority communities.
"While the common goals are congruent," Mr. Anchia said, "the suggestion that these panelists are making of sharing power, well, that may not be borne out in all places. On the specific issue of power sharing, well, there is still some work left to do."

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