Earlier this month the American journey to inclusion, equality and justice suffered yet another instance of obstruction and resistance with Gov. Susana Martinez’s veto of legalization aimed to eradicate institutionalized racism (SB 269) beginning with state agencies.
The perspective, in regards to the existence and effects of race in both the state and the nation, held by Martinez and New Mexican conservatives along with many influenced by their leadership, is utterly amazing. It only works to heighten animosity. The task of undoing racism is not a task New Mexicans are incapable of accomplishing but rather undoing racism is a task New Mexicans are unwilling to do. This insistent denial and attitude of superiority is crippling any genuine progression of equality within humanity, specifically in these United States of America.
Martinez’s reasoning for the veto echoes the mindset of ministers opposed to civil rights protests in the 1960s that prompted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to pen these words:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
This writer shares the belief that Gov. Susana Martinez’s veto of this legislation makes her appear committed to governing like a diagnosed controlling parent who is lost within an artificial reality coupled with the fanatic preservation of misconceived principles, policy, and ideology.
Elected officials should always proceed in a manner that reflects a knowledge of both the glorious and brutal history of this nation, specifically the injustice, discrimination and alienation committed against various ethnicities.
Martinez said the bill would put too much of a burden on state agencies “without any assurances that the bill would actually identify or reduce institutionalized racism in the workplace.” In Martinez’s statement there is no denial of the fact that racism is currently practiced within the state agencies operating throughout the state. Also, the governor’s statement delivers a vote of no confidence for the capacity of the administration and management of individual agencies to identify or reduce racism within their environments. These are not the words of a forward-thinking leader but words of leader seeking to conceal truth.
Gov. Martinez’s statement can be attributed to a narrative that conveys an absence of the racial bias present within the rest of the nation being replaced by a continuous culture fusion—New Mexico, the tri-culture state in America’s southwest where yes we can all get along. But for this narrative to be true would require an evolution from the caste system that this state was founded upon. Professor Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, in her book Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico, chronicles how eight decades of Spanish colonialism upended Pueblo life. The colonialists brought enslaved Africans and Indians from Mexico, along with cattle and horses. The Spanish caste system had 32 degrees, with Indians on the bottom below Africans, according to Dunbar-Ortiz. This system of racial oppression as a tool of social control helped to lay the groundwork for future conflicts between colonized people in New Mexico.
Dunbar-Ortiz goes on to explain how the need to rescind the idea of racism and the Spanish caste system birthed New Mexico’s cultural myths in 1912. “The pervading racism bred by colonialism has tended to cloud the land issue in northern New Mexico, producing the view that it is a product of cultural differences rather than a product of basic economic processes within a capitalist society,” she wrote.
The narrative that Dunbar-Ortiz describes continues to drive the social behavior and politics of 2017 New Mexico. Undoing racism is not a task that New Mexicans are incapable of but rather a task that, by the governor’s own words, they unwilling to undertake in as it would be burdensome for the people of New Mexico to eradicate racism. I believe the burden the governor is referring to is an admission that the oppressors and instigators of race in New Mexico are Spanish colonialists.
And yet, she has the opportunity to prove me wrong.
Elder Michael Jefferson is a minister at Procession Ministries in Albuquerque.