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Latinos Give Mixed Reviews to Proposed Home Purchase Boycott : Antelope Valley: Assemblyman Pete Knight's distribution of a poem about illegal immigrants triggers the suggestion. Some call the idea harmful.

June 04, 1993|SHARON MOESER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A proposal that would call for a boycott by Latinos on Antelope Valley home purchases has drawn mixed reviews from the Mexican-American community.

The statewide Mexican-American Political Assn. may call for such a boycott at a meeting Saturday in San Francisco of the MAPA Board of Directors in response to the distribution of a poem last month by the area's assemblyman, William J. (Pete) Knight, that some say ridiculed illegal Mexican immigrants.

But some Latino leaders in the Antelope Valley believe that such a move may do more harm than good.

Richard Loa, spokesman for the newly founded Latinos for Social Justice, said many Latinos benefit from growth in the Antelope Valley, such as those employed in the construction trades and building material suppliers.

Furthermore, he said, the area's affordable housing gives Latinos an opportunity to own better homes than those that they could afford in the Los Angeles basin.

"We want to be responsible in our actions that affect this community," Loa said. "We want to be responsible in any actions we take. We are a part of this community."

Enrique Vela, a Los Angeles-based organizer for MAPA who described Knight's action as "nothing short of insulting," said he will present the idea for the boycott at a meeting Saturday in San Francisco of the MAPA Board of Directors.

Directors include MAPA's elected executive board and representatives from the eight state regions.

"To me life is real simple . . . if people don't want you around you leave, right?" said Vela.

Ben Benavidez, MAPA president, said the 10,000-member organization has found actions that affect people economically, such as boycotts, to be the most successful in its quests for equality for Latinos. For six months about a year ago MAPA called for a boycott against the central valley city of Dinuba.

Benavidez said that MAPA directors will probably accept Vela's proposal and that there may be other strategies adopted as well.

Latinos for Social Justice has not taken a position on a housing boycott, Loa said.

It is, however, considering a house-purchase boycott against specific developers "because of their actions," he said, refusing to provide more details.

The call for home and developer boycotts are being considered after Knight, a Republican and former Palmdale mayor, failed to convince Latinos that he is not racist.

Knight's distribution of the poem "I Love America" to a private meeting of the Republican Assembly caucus set off a furor among Latinos in the state in the Antelope Valley as well as in the state capital. Knight's 36th District also includes much of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Knight apologized for passing out the poem, which he said he received from a constituent.

He met last month with Antelope Valley Latinos but that two-hour gathering did little to satisfy the Latinos' hope that Knight would show more sensitivity to minorities.

MAPA plans to attend a march for racial harmony, organized by Latinos for Social Justice.

The organization has invited local elected officials, as well as prominent Latino leaders from outside the Antelope Valley to the June 19 march, Loa said, noting the local chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People may participate.

The march will start at the Palmdale Cultural Center and finish at Knight's Palmdale office about one mile away, where guests will have a chance to speak, Loa said.

Vela said he believes that Knight's actions clearly show that he is not qualified to be a lawmaker in a state with so much cultural diversity and international trade.

As a result, he may also propose Saturday that MAPA ask for Knight's resignation.

He said, "Mr. Knight's definitely got to prove himself. That he's not what everybody thinks he is."

ANTELOPE VALLEY/SANTA CLARITA ROUNDUP: B14

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