October 07, 2003
"If you're going to act like Mexicans, you will be treated like Mexicans"

If this story is really true, it's pretty shocking, even after all that's occurred so far.

San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte says that on Sept. 18, shortly after the Democrats returned from their 45-day exile in New Mexico, she was in the members lounge and approached a Republican senator with a question: "Why are you being so punitive?"

She asked the question moments after Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, had been warned that if she parked her car at the Capitol, it would be towed and after Republicans had placed the Democrats who fled on "probation." Any Senate Democrat absent more than 72 hours will face $57,000 in fines, levied by the Republicans.

Van de Putte, who refers to herself as a "probationer" these days, refuses to name the senator to whom she posed the question. She says one of the rules of the Senate is that anything said in the lounge is privileged. However, she told the Express-News Editorial Board on Monday what the unnamed senator said.

According to Van de Putte, the senator looked at her and said, "If you are going to act like Mexicans, you will be treated like Mexicans."

It's difficult to imagine exactly what the senator could have meant, but it's hard not to read the term "Mexican" as a racial slur. In this day and age, its use is unconscionable. The meaning, at least to Van de Putte, was: If you're going to act like a second-class citizen, then that's the way you'll be treated.

The unnamed senator made the remark, according to Van de Putte, in the presence of Zaffirini and state Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, as well as four other Republican senators.

What's worse, she says that the four other Republican senators agreed. They nodded their heads and indicated that in 10 years the number of Mexican Americans will increase, but for now, Anglo Republicans have all the power and they plan to use it.

If Van de Putte is correct, this means that five of the 17 Republican senators are Neanderthals who view the world through dangerous, racist eyes. (Ed. note: There are 19 Republican Senators, not 17.)

Why won't Van de Putte name names? She said she doesn't want to be accused of betraying the confidentiality of the members lounge, but she wants the public to know that it's not just Democrats who are playing the race card the card is part of the entire redistricting deck.

Moments after that heated encounter, Madla lividly told a news conference: "The last time that I was treated the way we were today on the Senate floor, I think I was about 6 years old when I entered the first grade. I was a little Mexican boy who had his first taste of what white supremacy was about."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst widely criticized Madla for raising the subject of race. Dewhurst called Madla's remarks "simply cheap, distasteful, juvenile partisan spin."

Why didn't Van de Putte report the senator's slur at the news conference the day it happened? Why wait until now?

"I was startled," she said. Now she wants people to understand the context of Madla's remarks, as well as the context of the Senate's debate.

That's just mind-boggling. I don't know why Sen. Van de Putte took so long to speak out about this - maybe she went to Dewhurst first and got impatient waiting for him to respond, maybe she really was reluctant to violate the tradition of confidentiality, maybe she wanted to time it for maximal effect, I couldn't say. Maybe there'll be a fuller article tomorrow with some reactions - I'll certainly be on the lookout. But as this stands, it's pretty awful and someone needs to apologize for it. Via the Quorum Report.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 07, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

Un-f***ing-believable. Sometimes I hate this state.

Posted by: Ted Barlow on October 7, 2003 7:30 PM

It could also be that Van de Putte is not telling the whole truth. If she's right, those 'Pubs are disgraceful. If she's not being truthful, she's the embarrasment.

Till there's more told on the matter, it's just a "she said he said this" kind of statement.

Posted by: El Gato on October 7, 2003 7:33 PM

It's certainly possible there's more to this story. I think it's unlikely to be a full-out untruth, on the grounds that there are at least two named witnesses, but there could be a misunderstanding. I definitely want to know more about what happened.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on October 7, 2003 8:47 PM

I think, whether it's true or not, the fact that it's so awfully believable is what distresses me.

Posted by: kodi on October 7, 2003 10:16 PM

Do you think it's possible that the term used was NEW Mexicans, in reference to the quorum-busting sojourn to that state?

I have no idea, I'm just trying to be charitable to all parties.

Posted by: kevin whited on October 8, 2003 8:37 PM

That's actually a pretty good explanation. I wouldn't rule out the possibility.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on October 8, 2003 10:18 PM