By Albert Lin
A flier denouncing a Latino mayoral candidate is being criticized for using “racist stereotypes.”
The San Diego chapter of the Lincoln Club, a conservative, national pro-business political action committee that promotes “fiscally responsible public policy,” mailed out fliers in January showing City Councilman David Alvarez, who is running to become San Diego’s first Latino mayor, flashing what some say is a gang sign and holding a wad of cash. The images, which feature a scowling Alvarez, are clearly Photoshopped.
On Tuesday, about a dozen protesters from Courage Campaign and Presente.org protested outside the wrong office, shouting, “What do we want Justice! When do we want it Now!” After some confusion, they moved to the Lincoln Club office, but were quickly dispersed by police.
“This ad perpetuates the insulting, inaccurate notion that all Latinos are gang members, as opposed to educated, accomplished and hardworking members of our society,” said Dr. Paul Song, Executive Chairman of Courage Campaign, a Los Angelesbased progressive organization. “Alvarez has never been involved or associated with gangs in his life.”
“This kind of dog-whistle tactic is even more perverse than overt racism,” said Refugio Mata of Presente.org, a national Latino political organization, “because when you look at it, you might at first not think that it’s racist.” “Dog whistle” refers to a strategy in which a hidden message is sent under the guise of an innocuous one.
Could these groups be overreacting U-T San Diego had a police spokesman show the flier to several gang experts, and he reported back: “Based on their training and experience, there are no known gang gestures similar to those depicted in the picture.”
The newspaper also asked a former Gang Unit supervisor in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for his opinion. “I don’t see anything that looks like a gang sign, not even close,” said Al Valdez. “I find it funny. There’s nothing there. I talked to two colleagues very familiar with gang behaviors and they agree.”
Other observers, however, told U-T San Diego that one pose is reminiscent of how a gang sign is flashed and the other depicts an unusual way to hold money. And a San Diego political consultant told KGTV, “It’s a hand gesture specifically associated with gang members.”
A Lincoln Club spokesperson defended the flier, saying, “There were no gang symbols that the Lincoln Club was trying to convey and that was corroborated by gang experts. Look, we’re a pro-business political action committee. We sling mud, but we don’t sling that type of mud.
This is not the first time that Alvarez has been linked to gangs. In a 2010 debate during the race for his current council seat, Alvarez’s opponent, Felipe Heuso, said, “It’s a very known fact the Alvarez family is part of the gang problem, part of the drug problem.”
Alvarez has said that his brothers were involved with gangs but that he was able to steer clear.
The Lincoln Club supports Kevin Faulconer in the Feb. 11 special election to replace Bob Filner, who resigned last year after multiple sexual-harassment allegations.