In WSJ, Juan Rangel Tries to Sanitize UNO History

In this weekend’s featured interview in the Wall Street Journal, Juan Rangel, the leader of United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), attempts to sanitize the history of what was once one of the most notorious Alinskyite “community organizing” groups in Chicago.

Rangel paints his group as the moderate, patriotic alternative to the victim-mongerers at the National Council of La Raza and other Hispanic groups.

WSJ: Juan Rangel of UNO

The truth is more complex.

UNO is the Mexican-American ACORN, founded in 1980 by radicals who were tied to the left-wing academic/activist Chicago clique that would later produce Barack Obama.

The group was known for its confrontational tactics, including an infamous episode in which UNO trapped Senator Charles Percy in a bathroom. UNO, like ACORN and other “community organizing” groups, intimidated elected officials until it got what it wanted.

Rangel tells a pleasant tale about how UNO recently worked closely with a Polish community to rename a local school after Hispanic-American war heroes. That’s not how UNO has always operated.

In the early years, it allegedly threatened a Latino school board member until he promised to put a new school in a Mexican neighborhood, then demanded the school be named for Mexicans who had died in 1847 in a war against the United States.

The interview notes that UNO was “inspired” by Saul Alinsky, but Rangel passes over the details of its Alinskyite “inspiration.” The most interesting of these is that Barack Obama got his start in Chicago working closely with UNO, extending its work into the black community.

As Stanley Kurtz writes in his history of Obama’s Chicago years, Radical-In-Chief, Obama was directly involved in UNO’s confrontations: “Obama personally helped plan one of UNO’s most confrontational actions of the eighties: a break-in meant to intimidate a coalition of local business and neighborhood leaders.”

Obama’s work with UNO, Kurtz writes, “helps make sense of the ties between Obama and Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, ACORN, and the world of left-leaning foundations that stands behind modern community organizing.” That world included convicted fraudster Robert Creamer, whose now-defunct Illinois Public Action Council launched the careers of many leftists, including Rahm Emanuel, whose mayoral campaign Rangel co-chaired.

As he began his political career, Obama was careful to cover up his connections with UNO. Kurtz notes that in Obama’s first autobiography, Dreams of My Father, he dealt with UNO “by creating a single composite organizing mentor named ‘Marty Kaufman.'” The use of fictionalized characters in his account of his Chicago career, Kurtz adds, “allows Obama to claim that he did write about UNO, when in fact he disguised it.”

It is true, as Kurtz observes, that UNO has “mellowed” since then. Yet it has not left its radical past behind entirely, and in Feith’s interview, Rangel struggles to explain why he joined a protest for immigration reform in 2006 that included Mexican nationalist symbols.

The Journal is impressed by UNO’s achievements in the charter school movement, and its rejection of bilingual education, but Rangel remains coy about UNO’s broader political beliefs and goals.

Is UNO’s new “unapologetic patriotism” heartfelt, or tactical? Is its embrace of charter schools driven by a passion for education, or, like ACORN–which once sought to create its own schools–is UNO’s real aim the control of public resources?

The “Masters of Hispanic Destiny”–the unfortunate title of the interview–ought to be individuals and families, not self-appointed “community organizers” claiming to act in their collective interest.

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