Ray Reyes' recent actions as chairman of the Glendale Human Relations Council were denounced by the Glendale city manager as "shameful" and lambasted by a rival within the civil rights organization as radical "Glendale-bashing."
But Reyes says he is used to such criticism and does not seem particularly worried about a campaign to remove him next week as head of the non-governmental council. More important, he explains, is that people continue to pay attention to his assertion that racial discrimination is tightly woven into Glendale society.
"People seem to lose sight of the fact that, in terms of social relations, there has been a history of negative racial practices in Glendale. And we pretend that this isn't part of the history of this city," said Reyes, who is director of a counseling office for low-income and minority students at Glendale Community College.
Violence Halted Forum
He maintains that direct confrontation is the most effective way to fight bias. That, he said, was why he insisted that the council sponsor a debate with a white supremacist group last month, despite calls for the debate's cancellation. Before it could begin, that forum disintegrated into violence among radical and racist groups.
That event led to even sharper criticism of Reyes and calls for his removal. However, he scoffs at suggestions that he and the council apologize for what happened.
"What are we going to apologize for?" he asked during an interview this week. "We can't be responsible because somebody wants to beat up on somebody else. We cannot control people. When someone is determined to shout and scream, they're going to do it. We immediately adjourned the meeting, and that was the responsible thing to do."
Reyes, 46, said he has been active in civil rights since handing out his first political leaflet supporting the Cesar Chavez grape boycott in the early 1960s. But his style of activism has turned off some council members, prompting a nominating committee to pull together a slate of candidates for next week's scheduled elections that does not include Reyes or his supporters.
Reyes may be nominated by his supporters, but he says he expects to lose the chairmanship of the council. "I don't get flustered by these things," said Reyes, a stocky man with dark hair and a neatly-trimmed goatee. "We're the ones who do the work anyway. So it doesn't matter if they go through this little symbolic routine, which they will."
Ken Carlson, a steering committee member of the council and a fellow organizer of the debate, described Reyes as an excellent leader. "He listens, he's sophisticated in his understanding of politics, he articulates very well, he delegates responsibility and is organized," Carlson said.
Scott McCreary, a past president of the council and a leader in movement to replace Reyes agreed only in part with that description. "He's extremely bright and articulate--the guy's brilliant," McCreary said of Reyes. "But that kind of leadership--the confrontative type of style, Glendale-bashing, harping over affirmative action--reflects on a different modus operandi. The bylaws read that this is a group that is supposed to bring people together, not polarize them to a greater degree." Reyes' rhetoric turned people off, causing attendance at council meetings to dwindle, McCreary claimed. "I stopped going because I go to church on Sunday to get preached to," he said.
McCreary and others say the council must apologize to the community in order to restore credibility they say was lost after the failed forum. However, Reyes responds that city officials should apologize for what he claims is the fostering of a social climate that attracted the League of Pace Amendment Advocates to move to Glendale earlier this year. The Pace group wants all people not of Western European background to be deported from the United States. Its spokesman was to debate Carlson at the aborted June 25 forum at the Glendale Central Library.
Uses Police as Example
As an example of what he said is institutional racism, Reyes cited the case of Glendale police officer Ricardo L. Jauregui, a Latino who allegedly was passed up for promotions in favor of less-qualified Anglo officers. Last October, a federal judge ordered Jauregui promoted to the rank of sergeant with back pay. But the promotion has been blocked as Glendale officials appeal the decision.
"He won his case and they refuse to give him the position. And then they think they're not contributing to racism? That's incredible," Reyes said. "...Is it any wonder that a group like Pace sets up here?"
Reyes also questions why so few blacks live in Glendale. According to the 1980 census, less than 1% of the city's 150,000 residents is black.