2002-03-09 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

"I don’t know what we are going to do," the official said. "We’re going to form a committee to come up with a criteria for inclusion."

That quote could have come from the White Citizen’s Council, from the Klu Klux Klan or from any other group more interested in "ethnic identity" than it is in "inclusion."

It did not come from any of those groups, however. It came instead from Brooklyn city councilman Angel Rodriquez, speaking for the council’s Black and Latino Caucus. And, what he was talking about was more about exclusion than it was about inclusion.

What brought this on was an application by Councilman David Weprin to become a member of the caucus.

Weprin is Jewish and usually represents Jewish interests. It turns out, however, that his mother, Syliva Matz Weprin, was born in Cuba, which makes her definitely Latino and her son…well, that’s the question.

Is Weprin a "Kosher Cuban" as the Post called him. Thereby making him eligible for the caucus, or is he just a Jew trying to pass?

"He’s no Latino," one member of the caucus told reporters. "He runs for office, gets elected, never mentions his background and now he decides that he’s Latino. You just can’t snap your fingers and make it true."

On the other hand, Allan Jennings is African-American and from Queens. He is reportedly thinking about joining the Jewish Caucus. Turns out, Jennings’ mother is Jewish, which makes him Jewish under religious law.

Would Weprin like to see Jennings in the Jewish Caucus?

"Sure, he’s welcome. We’d love to have him in our group," Weprin says.

My point is that it doesn’t matter much whether Weprin is allowed to join the Black and Latino Caucus or whether Jennings is allowed to join the Jewish Caucus, but rather why exclude anybody who wants to join any caucus.

Think about it for a moment.

Suppose there were to be a White Caucus and it decides to exclude all African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and other groups. That would be considered racist and the Feds would quickly step in to stop it, and rightfully so. That is exactly what the White Citizen’s Council and the KKK are all about.

Why then, can a Black and Latino group exclude a White man simply because he is White. Is that not racism as well?

I understand that there are cultural groups and racial groups that want to form associations to discuss mutual problems and concerns.

What bothers me is when those groups are elected officials who begin to exclude other elected officials simply because they don’t meet some cultural, racial or religious criteria.

When Rodriquez talks about having to "come up with a criteria for inclusion," he is talking about racial and ethnic purity.

Does a man such as Weprin, who is one-half Latino qualify under Rodriquez’s criteria? Or, does he have to be 75 percent or 100 percent Latino to qualify?

The Nazi’s took that kind of thinking to new levels and we all know what happened when they did. I am sure that Rodriquez is not a Nazi and that he has no ideas of wiping out any particular ethnic or religious group.

Figuring out criteria for inclusion in a group is a slippery slope, however and it is not something that should be going on in our city council.

Our councilpersons should be working together, not hiding behind doors, planning how to exclude others from becoming members of their particular club.

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