What's Behind a 'Black' Anti-Immigration Group
LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Terry Anderson is on stage in Vegas, telling a fable about a donkey on a bridge.
"Everybody's doing everything they can to coax [the donkey] with sugar and carrots, but they can't get him to move. Some guy walks up and says, 'You've got to use kindness.' The other guy says, 'Show me.' So the [first] guy picks up a two-by-four and busts the donkey in the head. The donkey gets up and walks off. The other guy says, 'But you said use kindness.' The guy says, 'Yeah, but you got to get his attention.'"
In Anderson's mind, the bridge is America, and the donkey represents the millions of Mexicans who need to be whacked in the head, not offered the sugar and carrots of guest worker programs and earned paths to citizenship. Fuming about congressmen who support such programs, he says, "Not one of those people has ever had his wife walk by a construction site and get heckled by some Mexican grabbing his crotch, and usually a small crotch."
It's the second day of the second annual "Unite to Fight" conference, a Memorial Day weekend gathering of anti-immigration hard-liners. Earlier, as speaker after speaker railed off venomous rants about Mexican invaders, Reconquista and Aztlan (conspiracy theories about alleged Mexican plans to reconquer the southwestern United States), Anderson sat with his wife in the shadows of the back row of the Cashman Center auditorium. But now that it's his turn on the mic, the roly-poly, bow-tied orator is lighting up his audience of 200 or so mostly middle-aged and elderly white guys, who clap harder, stand longer, and whistle louder for Anderson than for anyone else on the agenda. This might have something to do with the fact that Anderson is one of only a tiny handful of African-Americans at this predominately white conference -- and the only black speaker. The implied message of his presence and enthusiastic reception is crystal clear: "How can we be racist? Our beloved keynote speaker is black."
In recent months, Anderson and a smattering of other African-American anti-immigration activists, most notably longtime Los Angeles homeless activist Ted Hayes (see interviews with both men), have become the front men for a campaign orchestrated and funded by white anti-immigration leaders. The campaign aims to convert black Americans to their cause, and simultaneously to provide groups like the Minuteman Project and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) with cover against accusations of racism.
Beyond putting a black face in the spotlight as often as possible at rallies and conventions like Unite to Fight, this effort also consists of the new FAIR front group, Choose Black America -- a supposedly nationwide coalition of black business and community leaders spreading the message that "mass illegal immigration has been the single greatest impediment to black advancement in this country over the past 25 years."
"The danger here is [black activists] being co-opted by a group who may not have the African-American community's best interests in mind," says Shayla Nunnally, a black professor at the University of Connecticut and co-author of a Duke University study on Latino immigrants' attitudes towards blacks. "It goes back to minorities fighting minorities, while fighting the overall oppression isn't being addressed."
Terry Anderson comes off like a true believer in the old Arab proverb, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" -- even if that friend looks a lot like a white supremacist.
In Vegas, Anderson shares the lectern with Rick Oltman, who in addition to being the western states regional coordinator for FAIR has spoken at several major events put on by the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and who was described by the CCC as a member in 1998. During his speech, Oltman drops the name of Brenda Walker, a regular contributor to the racist website VDARE.com who, among other things, has described Hmong refugees living in the United States as "drug-addicted polygamists."
Oltman's comments are tame in comparison to Anderson's diatribe, a rant in which he rages about public schools being "infected with illegal alien children, who are dumb and stupid in two languages." Anderson also presides over a posthumous tribute to Madeleine Cosman, an attorney who was a popular figure on the immigrant-bashing lecture circuit until her death last March. At the Las Vegas summit, Anderson praises Cosman's legacy, then introduces a screening of the pseudo-documentary "Illegal Aliens & America's Medicine," which features Cosman's alarmist claim that Mexican immigrants are spreading dengue fever, Kawasaki disease, and various sexually transmitted diseases, especially to their many alleged rape victims. Speaking from beyond the grave, Cosman says, "Most of these bastards molest girls under 12, though some specialize in boys, and some in nuns."
Four months before she died, Cosman was a guest on the "The Terry Anderson Show," the weekly Sunday night radio pulpit from which Anderson preaches the need for black Americans to get angry about illegal immigration, to listen to white "experts" like Cosman, and to join forces with groups like the Minuteman Project and FAIR. Essentially, Anderson wants to shut down the border while tearing down the walls between urban, working-class blacks and far-right whites, at least until the country is cleansed of illegal immigrants, who both he and Ted Hayes argue present a far greater threat to blacks in America than racist whites.
The way Anderson tells it, black Americans simply do not have a choice: "If we don't fix this and put other problems to the side, then, man, we gone," he says in an interview with the Intelligence Report.
While Anderson's stated aim is to amass a black following, he wasn't known to most blacks outside California, where he lives in South Central Los Angeles, until he affiliated with the white leaders of the Minuteman Project. By his own description, most of his radio show's nationwide listening audience is white. He reaches more blacks with his frequent appearances on "Urban Policy Roundtable," a weekly TV program in California hosted by African-American columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson, than he does with his own show.
"I'm the only one that's really given Terry a platform to come in and talk about these issues with a black audience," says Hutchinson. "So, he can't go anywhere else, except with white folks."
It's white folks who have paraded Anderson all over the country in the past year, financing his appearances at the Unite to Fight convention in Las Vegas, a Minuteman Project summit in Arlington Heights, Ill., and a Capitol Hill rally where Anderson warmed up the crowd for anti-immigration hard-liner and U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), among other events. When officials at white-dominated FAIR needed black figureheads for their front group, they knew Anderson was their man. He signed on as a founding member of Choose Black America (CBA), along with 10 other activists, academics, clergymen, and entrepreneurs.
The formation of CBA was announced at a FAIR-sponsored press conference last May at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. To date, that press conference is the only verifiable action CBA has taken. It otherwise seems to exist only as a website and a public relations gambit.
"The African Americans they brought there were just to put a black face on their position," says Hutchinson, who, unlike Anderson and Hayes, declined an offer to join CBA. "These blacks had no other further use. [FAIR] got what they wanted, so why would they have meetings [of the CBA]? Why would they create an organization? These individuals are so loosely affiliated, what kind of organization are you going to form out of that?"