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Cesar Chavez: How Woke Culture Deals With the Labor Hero’s Complex Legacy



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Let me tell you about an American hero who might trouble “woke” culture.

He opposed undocumented immigrants to the point of urging his followers to report them to “la migra”. He accepted an all-expenses-paid trip from a repressive government and gladly received an award from its ruthless dictator despite pleas from activists not to do so.

He paid his staff next to nothing. Undercut his organization with an authoritarian style that pushed away dozens of talented staffers and contrasted sharply with the people-power principles he publicly espoused. And left behind a conflicted legacy nowhere near pure enough for today’s woke warriors.

A long-dead white man? A titan of the business world? Perhaps a local politician?

Try Cesar Chavez. The United Farm Workers founder is the first person I always think about whenever there’s talk about canceling people from the past. He’s on my mind again, and not just because this Wednesday is his birthday, an official California holiday.

He remains by far the most famous Latino activist in this nation’s history. And his cause — bringing dignity to farmworkers — remains so radical and righteous that to criticize his personal failures is still largely verboten.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: Every saint had a past, and every sinner has a future. And Chavez is perhaps as great an example of this in California history.

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