Friday, January 30, 2009

Chip Saltsman joins list of prominent Tennesseans circulating negativity about Hispanics

"Star-Spanglish Banner" was on "Magic Negro" CD

Tennessee's Chip Saltsman has withdrawn his candidacy for the chairmanship of the Republican National Convention after circulating a CD which contained controversial songs, with "Barack the Magic Negro" gaining the most media attention. Another song on the CD was the "Star Spanglish Banner," as pointed out yesterday by Ben Smith of Politico (hat tip: Post Politics).

Circulating the "Star-Spanglish Banner" song puts Saltsman on the Hispanic Nashville Notebook's list of Tennessee officials who have deliberately circulated negativity about Hispanics. Although Saltsman is not to my knowledge in a current position of political power in Tennessee, he is a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, ran the presidential campaign of Governor Mike Huckabee, and was mentored by former Tennessee senator and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, according to Post Politics.

To those who are genuinely uncertain as to why the "Star Spanglish Banner" constitutes negativity about Hispanics (see the disbelief here), it helps to start with the lyrics themselves:
Jose can you see
By the dawn's early light
Cross the border we sailed
As the Gringos were sleeping

What broad stripes and bright stars
We like red, green, and white
On the day that we marched
We were gallantly screaming

And the rally was where
We waved flags in the air
As proof in daylight
That our flag was not theirs

Jose does that star spangled banner yet wave
For the land of weak knees
In DC, no one's free
Here are my thoughts as to why this is negative, and therefore wrong (feel free to add your own in the comments below):
  • As I have said before, in a political environment in which Hispanics and/or immigrants have been the subject of politically generated suspicion and scorn, it certainly isn't right to gin up more suspicion and scorn. That kind of attitude has been rejected by Saltsman's fellow conservatives Leslie Sanchez, Sam Brownback, and the Family Research Council, among others.
  • "Star Spanglish Banner" taps into the 2006 outcry ginned up against Nuestro Himno, a Spanish-language version of the national anthem. President Bush and our own sitting Senator Lamar Alexander denounced the translated anthem, with Alexander even introducing a resolution along those lines and wrongly stating that the anthem had never been translated. The truth, however, is that the national anthem appeared in German in 1861, Spanish in 1919, Navajo in 1988, French in 1999, and Samoan in 2006; and at Bush's own inaugural, the anthem was sung in English and Spanish, with Bush even singing along in Spanish on another occasion (source here). The anthem also appeared in four different Spanish versions on Bush's own Department of State web site at the same time he was denouncing them. I often refer to the phenomenon that the popular kid at school can tell the same joke as the unpopular kid, but the laughs will go only to the popular kid. By including "Star-Spanglish Banner" on the CD he circulated, Saltsman endorsed the 2006 reaction against Nuestro Himno which sent the message at the time that Hispanics were the unpopular kid - someone whose behavior is greeted with derision while the same behavior by more popular people passes without notice. Since Saltsman was a former state GOP chair and candidate for national GOP party chair when he circulated "Star-Spanglish Banner" at the end of 2008, he gave a top-level blessing to the two-year-old signal that Hispanics are unpopular. That counts as negativity to me.
  • "Star Spanglish Banner" also taps into the demonization of those who flew Latin American national flags at the various immigrant rallies in 2006. It's not news when it's an Irish flag at a St. Patrick's Day rally, an Israeli flag at a pro-Israel rally in New York, a Polish flag-brandishing Vince Vaughn character in Chicago, or President George W. Bush himself holding up a Mexican flag in solidarity with Mexican-Americans in one of his own political ads, but when those Latin American flags went up in 2006, the outcry turned into a furor, a war, and a frenzy. As mentioned in the bullet point above, the message that Saltsman sent as contender for the GOP top spot was not that the flying of the flags is wrong, but that his vision of national party leadership has no problem with Hispanics being treated like the unpopular kid. That counts as negativity to me, and rekindling that negativity via CD was Saltsman's sin.
  • For those who might think that all the negativity can be justified as exclusively targeted toward illegal immigration, consider this previous post from the Hispanic Nashville Notebook archives.
All that having been said, the morality of a politician's behavior isn't really what catches the public's imagination these days, but rather whether the behavior can be characterized as a practical fumble. Consider former New York Governor Spitzer - the louder comments were that he was stupid to get caught, not that he was wrong to do what he did. This level of analysis is what David Weigel of the Washington Independent latched onto with his post suggesting that Saltsman's RNC bid was doomed not by the CD itself but by his handling of the backlash: "The thought of Saltsman applying these messaging skills to the high-profile job of RNC chair was what really throttled his chances among Republican activists."

So much for the moral majority.

Regardless of whether boneheadedness more easily captures the public's attention or whether the moral implications of political behavior carries any weight any more, it's for the bullet-point reasons above that I'm adding Saltsman to the (unfortunately) growing list of Tennessee officials who have deliberately circulated negativity about Hispanics.

Update February 1, 2009: CQ Politics reports that Saltsman was unable to garner the 6 supporters he needed for the formal nomination to the chairmanship, which explains his withdrawal. (Hat tip: Immigration Impact)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Idalba Tabares honored in Women of Influence awards

Goodwill manager lands jobs for immigrant clients

Native of Colombia

From Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee:
Idalba Tabares, Career Solutions manager at the Berry Road location, has been named one of Nashville Business Journal’s Women of Influence in the Community Supporter category. Idalba was chosen because of her tireless efforts to help her clients, many of whom are immigrants.

When she first started working with Goodwill three years ago, most of Idalba’s clients came from Nashville’s Hispanic community. Today, she is also working with the area’s growing Somali and Sudanese population. As a native of Colombia, Idalba understands and empathizes with the immigrants she works with and the numbers speak for themselves. In the last two years she has placed 493 clients in jobs, most of them outside of Goodwill. Of the clients she has placed, 93 percent remained on the job 90 days or more.

Idalba’s success is due in large part to her networking with employers. She is challenged to find businesses willing to hire legal immigrants. In addition, she looks for jobs where the employees will not only feel comfortable, but will also thrive. Her success is apparent because many of the employees she has placed return to her as long as a year later hoping to find even more challenging work.

A luncheon to honor Idalba, and all the Women of Influence, will be hosted by the Nashville Business Journal on Friday, February 6, 2009 at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville. The honor from the Nashville Business Journal is the second this year for Idalba. In October, she was awarded Goodwill’s Career Solutions Employee of the Year.
More information about the Women of Influence awards is available at the Nashville Business Journal.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Latin Market Communications hosts networking at Sambuca tonight (DUE TO WEATHER THIS EVENT IS CANCELLED)

From Latin Market Communications:
Join us for a Networking Night

Please join Latin Market Communications and State Farm for a special night of networking at the Sambuca Restaurant in Nashville on Wednesday JAN 28th from 5:00-7PM. Hors d'oeuvres provided and cash bar for drinks. Thanks to State Farm there is no charge for this event. Please bring your business cards and come socialize with us.

Many people have called asking what this is all about. Networking is the art of building alliances for a variety of reasons. In business networking is the best way to find new clients. It is not cold calling people you do not know. Networking is also the best way to find a job. Many employers come to networking nights to find candidates. Whatever your reason, it's a warm and friendly environment.


Please RSVP by replying to this e-mail or at You are welcome to bring anyone you like. Just let us know who you are bringing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce elects Tera Vazquez as Board President

Vazquez takes reins from Ramon Cisneros

First woman president of any local Hispanic chamber

The Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce* has announced its 2009 leadership, including the first woman president of any local Hispanic chamber, including the two existing chambers:
The Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announces the election of its new officers for the 2009 calendar year.

Elected are:

Tera Vazquez (photo at right), Board President
Ms. Vazquez is president of Guy Brown Products

Nelson Remus, Board Vice President
Mr. Remus is president of Media Mail, Inc.

Kimberly Taylor, Board Treasurer
Mrs. Taylor is president of Tailored Business

Ralph Levy, Board Secretary
Mr. Levy is an attorney with Frost Brown Todd

Non-officer board members elected and their terms are:

One Year Term
Ramon Cisneros, Past President
Eduardo Gumucio
J.C. Mendez
Shane Merrill-Facio
Peter Woolfolk
Adrian Cota

Two Year Term
Tatia Cummings
Sylvia Marcela Gómez
Photo: Tera Vazquez

how many Hispanic chambers are there in Nashville?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lipscomb plans Hispanic Forum April 30

Mayor Karl Dean, Gregg Ramos to speak

"Proposing collaborative solutions to individual and community needs"

Lipscomb University President L. Randolph Lowry calls for "dialogue not debate"

From Lipscomb University:
Lipscomb University, looking beyond last Thursday’s special election, announced an Hispanic Forum slated for April 30. The forum is designed to bring together leaders from business, government, education, healthcare, advocacy and non-profit organizations to find common ground on the challenges facing Nashville’s growing Hispanic community.

Mayor Karl Dean and Conexion Americas Board Chairman Gregg Ramos will speak at the event.

“After a polarizing election centered on one issue, we at Lipscomb want to provide the opportunity for a positive approach -- dialogue not debate -- on a broader range of issues facing the growing Hispanic population in Middle Tennessee,” said Lipscomb University President L. Randolph Lowry. “Collaboration can help us view these not as Hispanic issues but as community challenges that demand creative solutions from all of us.”

The first annual forum is part of a series of programs focused on the challenges to a growing immigrant and refugee population in Middle Tennessee.

Renata Soto, executive director of Conexion Americas, welcomed the opportunity for a broader positive conversation: “Regardless of the outcome of the Thursday vote, we need to look forward to ways to foster understanding. The dialogue at Lipscomb on the opportunities and challenges facing the immigrant and refugee community can increase that understanding. From understanding, comes solutions.”

Candice McQueen, dean of the College of Education at Lipscomb, said the planning for the event began with education issues. “In talking with area educators, we quickly decided that the issues we needed to address were broader that just those in the education arena.”

Local leaders will serve as resource people for a dozen facilitated conversations with a goal of proposing collaborative solutions to individual and community needs.

Friday, January 23, 2009

English Only defeated at the ballot box

Nashville celebrates its remarkable character as a welcoming, friendly, and international city

Details here.

Photo by Josh Hunter. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vote today: it is important

If you live in Davidson County, please consider voting today (Thursday) in the English Only special election. I would ask that you vote against ratification of both proposed amendments to the Nashville charter. Every vote will count in this election, so please take a second now to imagine yourself voting sometime between now and 7pm, and then make it a reality before then. Check your voting location here.

My personal story of opposition to these amendments is of course heavily influenced by my sweet wife Damariz. We were married right before I started my second year in law school. That following summer, when Damariz had been in the U.S. for less than a year, she was taking English classes at the International English Institute on Music Row. Damariz is a determined student, and she often stayed up late at night in our studio apartment near Vanderbilt doing homework. At the time, she was not yet fluent in English or able to do any complicated reading comprehension. Also at this same time, I was teaching her how to drive, since public transportation is so good in Chile, and she had never needed to learn. She learned how to drive in much less time than it was taking her to learn English (fancy that), so you can imagine how much it meant to me to find out that the State of Tennessee offered study materials and the written drivers license exam in Spanish. Tennessee didn't have to provide any language assistance to her at all, and all of the rest of the test was still administered in English, but how wonderful that the written materials were made as accessible as they were! To this day, I remember the genuine pride I felt as a Tennessean knowing that the Volunteer State had volunteered to be this hospitable to her, and that she would no longer be relegated to sitting at home by herself while I was at school or the law firm.

The city of Nashville has a litany of communications and services like the written drivers license exam that are offered in other languages. Sometimes the additional languages are added for the city's own benefit and not necessarily the sole benefit of the person on the receiving end of the communication. Language-related expenses, if not already tied to federal funds, are justified every year in the Metro budget by every program and department that uses additional languages beyond English. In my opinion, it is in our nature as Nashvillians to reach out when reaching out makes practical and hospitable sense. The unnecessary change of English Only, however, would be to remove the common sense from these decisions and burn into our city constitution a default rule against this kind of reaching out, with variances only at the gavel of the Metro Council or as required by federal or state law (also known as the Metro Legal Full Employment Act).

I encourage you to read the two proposed amendments at and take a look here at the flurry of city-wide support of the status quo (all I want is the status quo - let city government use additional languages when appropriate.) If you look at the wording of the English Only amendment, you may agree with me that its change to the status quo is not only contrary to the hometown spirit I was proud of when Damariz and I were still getting her adjusted to life in Nashville, but it is so poorly worded that even the Nashville City Paper opposes it based on sloppiness alone (see here). As for the second amendment, it makes it easier to get sloppy charter amendments on the ballot.

If you don't live in Davidson County, please consider forwarding this to your friends who do. If you are unsure about this vote, or if you disagree with me, please send me an e-mail, as I believe there are a lot of people in town who at first glance supported the concept of English Only but have come to oppose it after further reflection (see here and here).

But if you live in Davidson County and haven't voted yet, please participate in this important event today in the life of our city. After we celebrated a dream on Monday and inaugurated a president on Tuesday, today is Nashville's moment on the main stage, and I have hope that we will be true to ourselves and get it right - one vote at a time.
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