By Martin Chavez, Senior Advisor
Starting out as a volunteer with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta in California during my college days, spending 17 years in elected office, working countless initiatives to better our communities and now serving on the Board of Directors of MALDEF, I was at first saddened when Alex Nogales, head of the National Hispanic Media Coalition said that Latinos and Latino organizations like the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute who disagreed with him on whether the FCC should apply Title II (otherwise known as “heavy” government regulation) to the Internet or utilize a “light “regulatory touch via Section 706 were “. . . at best misinformed and at worst intentionally distorting facts.” Caramba!
From my perspective, we’ve always been at our best as a community when we stick together and that when we disagree, we do it respectfully and without questioning personal integrity. As Latinos, we know we have differences of opinion, but we also know that there is much more that unites us than divides us.
We saw the exact same phenomenon from a group aligned with Mr. Nogales calling themselves Presente.org. Like Alex Nogales, they support treating the Internet as a utility and want it regulated under Title II. Congresspersons Loretta Sanchez, Henry Cuellar and Albio Sires had the audacity to say that they prefer the “light” regulatory touch of Section 706 to the 1960’s types of regulations. What did Presente.org do? They directly attacked their personal integrity saying: “Big corporations like AT&T and Comcast are poised to rob the Internet of its incredible potential” and that “The truth is that it would only disadvantage our communities while lining the pockets of the telecommunication giants that have donated tens of thousands of dollars to these representatives’ campaign funds.” Caramba otra vez!
Presente.org can’t get their story straight. On the one hand, they credit the free Internet (never before regulated by Title II) with having helped advance causes important to Latinos but then complain that Congresswoman Sanchez and her colleagues, by opposing Title II “make it sound like their position is meant to protect Latinos”. Simply, what the Congresswoman, most Latino organizations and most experts are saying is don’t apply a decades old rotary phone regulatory regime to the Internet. If the Internet, through “light” regulation helped advance causes essential to Latinos without Title II, why is Title II so necessary now? Latinos no longer use rotary phones. In fact, we use smart phones in greater percentages than any other group of Americans, regardless of ethnicity.
And, more importantly, why must Latinos who disagree with Alex Nogales and Presente.org be subjected to attacks on their personal integrity?
So while I was initially saddened by my friend Alex Nogales’ attacks against the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute and others for committing the egregious crime of disagreeing with him, I also know that Alex was properly raised by his parents to treat others with respect. And I believe that upon reflection he’ll recognize that his angry outburst and lapse of judgment should not define who he is. We all make mistakes. And though we disagree on this particular issue, our disagreement should remain respectful. Who knows, Alex and Presente.org might even change their position and join with the overwhelming majority of Latinos who demand an Open and Unfettered Internet as one of our great opportunities forward!
Latinos and all Americans win when our debates are vigorous, merit-based and respectful. Only Latinos lose when Latinos attack Latinos.