Two principals in a black group set up by a white-dominated anti-immigration organization discuss the movement and its aims.
In May, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), one of the country's oldest, largest, and richest anti-immigration organizations -- and one with a number of links, including past funding, to white supremacist groups -- organized a press conference to announce the formation of Choose Black America, a new FAIR front group designed to rally black Americans against Hispanic immigration. For the event, FAIR paid to fly 10 black academics, economists, members of the clergy and activists from around the country to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. They claimed to represent "the vast majority of American blacks who believe that amnesty for illegal aliens would be devastating to their communities."
The most notable and radical of Choose Black America's founding members are radio talk show host Terry Anderson and longtime homeless activist-turned-anti-immigration firebrand Ted Hayes. Both from Los Angeles, Anderson and Hayes have emerged as leaders in the black anti-immigration movement.
Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist calls Hayes the "icon for the African-American segment" of the border vigilante movement that the Minutemen form the largest part of. After years of running Dome Village, a project that provides shelter for 20 homeless families, Hayes has now formed his own Minuteman offshoot, the Crispus Attucks Brigade, named after the black Bostonian who was the 1770 Boston Massacre's first casualty. In July, Hayes' brigade marched alongside Barbara Coe, founder of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform hate group and a self-described member of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. (The CCC's website that same month proclaimed that the victory of Italy's all-white soccer team in the World Cup tournament shattered the "myth of black superiority in sports.")
While Hayes has offered to march as well with Mexicans in support of their civil rights -- so long as the march is in Mexico -- Anderson is far less sympathetic. He once told a crowd that he would snatch Mexicans "out of the hospital with the IV still dripping" and deport them, but not before scanning their fingers, eyes and rectums for purposes of positive identification. A former auto mechanic who lives in south central L.A., Anderson's Sunday night AM talk radio program "The Terry Anderson Show" is all the rage for thousands of Mexican-haters throughout the country. Fans shout out his familiar refrains -- "If you ain't mad, you ain't paying attention!" and "My job is to make you angry!" -- at rallies from Phoenix to Chicago, mimicking Anderson's urban black inflection.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a black columnist in Los Angeles who's had both Anderson and Hayes on his weekly television show "Urban Policy Roundtable" and who has himself discussed the alleged negative impacts of illegal immigration on black Americans, criticizes the two men for exploiting the issue of immigration, an issue that Hutchinson, like many blacks, views as marginal to his community's larger concerns. "We haven't seen them involved in any issues beyond immigration that impact the black community," says Hutchinson. "Why all of a sudden would you align yourself with groups who have murky ties with other groups that are racist?"
The Intelligence Report put that question to Hayes and Anderson in recent, separate interviews that also covered their involvement in Choose Black America and their views on immigration's effects on American blacks.
INTELLIGENCE REPORT: What harm does illegal immigration cause black Americans?
TED HAYES: This illegal invasion, in my opinion, is the greatest threat to American black citizens since chattel slavery itself. They keep saying America is a nation of immigrants. This country is built on the backs of West African black chattel slaves. The immigrants came on top of that. Everything they did was based upon what we already laid down. If they keep saying this country is based on immigrants, basically we will no longer be a people.
IR: Black people will no longer be a people, or Americans will no longer be a people?
HAYES: Won't be no other people. They will have robbed us of our civil rights and everything else. What good are we? What do we have left? You can't take our civil rights because it belongs to our ancestors. And the only way you going to get it, amigo, you got to kill us. It's that serious.
IR: Do statements like that provoke violence?
HAYES: Provoke? They done already did it! They done provoked the white folks. White folks want to tear their heads off. They are getting madder and madder out here. We want them [immigrants] to know the damage you are doing to us poor black people. Now, you can go ahead and do it if you want to, but this will be the consequence of what you do. Here in Los Angeles, it's talked about by our people because we live so inundated around the invaders. They got some brothers running around here like Jesse Jackson and them talking about brown and black unity and ignoring the real issue. It's taken a minute to get started but they starting to come around. We had a march on Hollywood [Boulevard] the other day [a July 8 rally that ended in violence from anti-racist protesters, including the injury of a police officer].
IR: What was your role in that march?
HAYES: We organized it. I led it. I don't know why they kept saying it was the Minutemen. That was a Crispus Attucks production. Along with SOS [Save Our State, an anti-immigration hate group], they put the word out for the people. And the California Coalition for Immigration Reform -- Barbara Coe and them.
IR: How well do you know Barbara Coe?
HAYES: She's a great lady. She was right there with us, right beside us.
IR: Are you aware of her involvement with the Council of Conservative Citizens? [Editor's note: Coe has spoken at conventions of the CCC and recently admitted membership in the group, which has described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity." She routinely describes Mexicans as "savages."]
HAYES: I don't know who they are.
I just spoke at a CCIR [California Coalition for Immigration Reform] meeting the other day. I tell you though, even with them rednecks out there, a lot of folks are rednecks because they're scared. When they meet us, some of them cry, man. I remember one day we pulled up on the border -- a bunch of brothers in a van, about seven or eight of us -- to meet Jim Gilchrist and them down there. We get out the van and they were shaking our hands, wanting to take pictures with us and so glad to see us. What we're doing is we're waylaying their fears. We're letting them know we're not the [Black] Panthers; we're not Jesse Jackson; we're not Al Sharpton; we're not Louis Farrakhan. We are a mature breed of brothers who know what the real situation is and we are not trying to hurt [white people].
IR: Do you ever get concerned that perhaps these white leaders, like Coe and Gilchrist, may turn on you after they get what they want out of you?
HAYES: (Singing.) "Thanks for the memories." (Laughs.) Of course I am. When I'm around the leadership, I got to know who leads and who doesn't lead, and when to lead and when not to lead. Sometimes, I got to let them think it was their idea.
IR: What do you know about the leadership behind Choose Black America?
HAYES: Choose Black America was created by an organization in Washington, D.C., called FAIR [Federation for American Immigration Reform]. They had a news conference a couple months ago [May 23] with who they thought were outstanding black individuals on this issue. So they flew me to D.C. I met with about 10 or 15 of them, and Dr. Frank Morris [who was named chairman of Choose Black America] was there. Dr. Claud Anderson [founder of The Harvest Institute, which aims to empower black Americans economically] was there. I'm due to call [FAIR] today because they have funding for anything that has to do with Choose Black America.
IR: FAIR is funding Choose Black America?
HAYES: Well, Choose Black America ain't did nothing yet. They don't have funding. FAIR has funding for anything that moves Choose Black America. See, and the Crispus Attucks team, we're getting on it.
IR: How many members of Choose Black America do you actually know?
HAYES: I only know one or two. I don't know most of them guys. I just met them at the [May 23 press conference]. And see, I think that we need a more aggressive leadership in there, and that's what I'm trying to put forward. We need to be in contact with each other and we need to meet once a month. We need to come up with a strategy plan.
IR: How many times have you all met since the press conference in May?
HAYES: That's the only meeting we had. And it's a powerful group. It's the new generation of leaders there.
IR: How do you, as one of these leaders, respond to immigrants who say they deserve civil and human rights?
HAYES: Say that to Mexico! Say that to Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras! Say that to the places you running from. Don't come here telling us about our civil rights. These aren't yours; these are ours. And you can maybe holler human rights here, and we'll give you some wiggle room on that. But you can't have them civil rights, brother. Nobody — no country can give up their civil rights. Ask the Russians to give up their civil rights. Ask the French to give up theirs. Ask the Japanese to give up their civil rights. They ain't going to do it. Why should we? Whassup, amigo? What you smoking?
IR: So any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already here...
HAYES: We have to be against that. If you allow illegal invaders to take something from you, then you done lost everything that you stand for. And then the civil rights struggle — all the people who were lynched and beat and shot and murdered and whupped and dogged and sat upon and water hosed, which, by the way, no Latinos were out there. Not one of the Mexicans came up here and tried to fight for black folks' freedom. They just sat there and watched that mess. They even had slaves themselves. So if we let them just have our country, we will have betrayed Martin Luther King and all of the civil rights movement. [Editor's note: After Mexican and Filipino farm workers won an important victory in their efforts to organize in 1966, King sent union leader César Chavez a telegram stating, "I extend the hand of fellowship and goodwill and wish continuing success to you and your members. The fight for equality must be fought on many fronts."]
INTELLIGENCE REPORT: You have a lot of white supporters. But how successful is your message in the black community?
TERRY ANDERSON: It's hard, brother. See, black folks don't have no focus. We hold a town hall meeting about illegal immigration, and they want to bring up a thousand subjects. They want to talk about education; they want to talk about the schools; they want to talk about parking; they want to talk about police brutality. And then you got that old minority bullshit about, "We minorities, they minorities, so we got to all stick together." Then you get, "The white man hard on them just like he hard on us," and, see, this is the kind of stuff I just don't understand. Right now, the white man that they are talking about is Mexicans! It used to be the Klan, now it's the Klan with a tan.
Then I hear these handkerchief-head, slave-catching, Negro leaders who say we have to form an alliance with these people [Hispanic immigrants], like the NAACP. What a bunch of outdated, worthless people are the NAACP. I have so much disdain and hatred for these people. Them and the [Congressional] Black Caucus. They are selling us out.
IR: You say your job is to make people angry. Are you concerned that anger will lead to violence?
ANDERSON: I'm talking about righteous indignation. I'm not talking about violence in the streets. I'm totally against that, although -- and you can print this -- I predict it. It's coming, and it's going to be here soon. If this thing ain't fixed in a legal way by politics or judges or government, some kind of way, there's going to be violence. There will be a race riot in this town [Los Angeles] the likes of which you have never seen.
IR: How do you feel about that?
ANDERSON: I'm not concerned about it. I don't have the luxury of being concerned. We [blacks] are now a third-class people. They [Latinos] have taken every political gain we have made. We had better representation from some of these white mayors and city councilmen [in L.A.] than we will ever get from these Mexicans. They are not going to give us anything. They don't care. Not only don't they care, but the Hispanics have a disdain for the black population. They don't want us here.
IR: Tell us about Choose Black America.
ANDERSON: Right, that's Dr. Claud Anderson and Dr. Frank Morris. Those are a bunch of guys who know what's going on. When I got on the radio one of the first guests I ever had was Dr. Frank Morris. They don't come up with all this bullshit about, "We got to remember that we had a hard time when we came here, too."
IR: Who else do you know in Choose Black America?
ANDERSON: (Long sigh.) Their names aren't coming to me.
IR: What has Choose Black America accomplished beyond holding a press conference?
ANDERSON: There are articles being written. They're planning some other stuff right now. Basically, it was a name of an organization to get the news conference. I only hope that most black people will look at it and say, "These are brothers. These ain't rednecks."
IR: Choose Black America is funded by FAIR [Federation for American Immigration Reform], correct?
ANDERSON: I don't believe they're funded by FAIR. I believe that press conference was funded by FAIR.
IR: Would you agree that FAIR doesn't have the best reputation among blacks?
ANDERSON: What bad reputation do they have?
IR: Are you familiar with [FAIR founder and board member John] Tanton's associations? [Editor's note: Tanton, architect of much of the organized anti-immigration movement, runs an anti-immigration hate group called the Social Contract Press, which is staffed by his long-time collaborator, Wayne Lutton, an officer of the Council of Conservative Citizens and one other white supremacist group. Tanton has written about Latinos' allegedly low "educability" and he republished and endorsed a racist French novel about a non-white invasion of France, complete with an author's afterword about threats to the white race.]
ANDERSON: We're going to disavow FAIR because Tanton may or may not have had some racist friends? Because Tanton may or may not have had a racist moment in his life, we're going to disavow the organization of FAIR?
IR: How do you feel about the stands of many Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups against illegal immigration?
ANDERSON: I read some of the stuff on [the white supremacist website] Stormfront and some of the stuff they write -- it's like I wrote it. And it's not racially prejudiced. Sometimes it is, but usually it's a nationalist thing. Am I going to stand up with Stormfront? Of course I'm not, because they're a bunch of redneck, racist motherf------. But the statements they made were true. Now, I have black people tell me, "Man, you saying the same thing the KKK is saying." Well, then we're both right. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that we happen to agree on this. And I think, now a lot of these white supremacist organizations are softening themselves toward us, because now they got a new enemy that's overwhelming them.
IR: On your radio show, you seem to focus more on the cultural impact of immigration than the economic consequences for the black community.
ANDERSON: The guy who lives up the corner from me, from El Salvador, he dug up his whole front yard. They got rows of corn growing in their front yard. It's about two feet high right now. Corn! Rows of corn. Are you listening to me?
The guy two doors from him has about 20 chickens in the backyard and once a day he opens the gate and lets them out. In the next block from me, there's a goat tied up in the backyard. They wash their clothes and hang them on the front fence -- not even on a clothesline. Each house has five, six, seven cars, so there's nowhere to park. Yeah, that has nothing to do with economics, but it makes it hard to live.
And then there's the parties. These mariachi parties, where they bring live musical bands in their backyards and play just as loud as they can play until 2, 3, 4 o'clock in the morning. Graffiti on everything. All the billboards in my neighborhood are now in Spanish. I'm talking Kellogg's, Ford, Toyota, GM, Seagram's, Coors, Budweiser, you name it, it's in Spanish. None of that is economics. It's all cultural, and it's a problem.
IR: Aren't you playing toward negative stereotypes about Mexicans? Is it really fair to say all Mexican and Central American immigrants have goats and chickens in their yards?
ANDERSON: Every Mexican doesn't have chickens in their yard, but my reality is that some of them do. Every one of them doesn't party. But I would say an overwhelming majority of them do. All of them don't have goats. They all don't grow corn in their front yard, but the majority of them do. So to answer your question, no. They all don't do it. But it's not a stereotype when the majority do. Am I wrong?