I always try to maintain an open mind about my point of view. Like most people, I’m not always successful in doing so, but I like to think when I have misread a person I am willing to admit it. (But it took me a month to process and write this post.) So it was when I became excited about Maria Estrada’s candidacy for the California Assembly, a self styled progressive who says she supports single payer health care, immigrant rights, and labor protections, among other things. We met her at an event we helped organize to support Tim Canova, a progressive candidate for the House running against Debbie Wasserman Schultz. We exchanged phone numbers, and stayed in touch, planning to organize a similar event for Maria when the time was right, and ultimately picked a date to have the event. Some details were still TBD, but it felt like it was going to happen. Very exciting.
I subsequently learned about her comments about Zionism, “God’s Chosen People”, and her “enjoyment” of Louis Farrakhan’s speeches, and her standing by those comments. My heart sank into my stomach. The first thing I thought was “someone put a rhetorical “hit” on Maria - this was crazy”. But it turned out to be true. Now, I can understand how people that do not follow Israel closely might confuse Zionism for radicalism - this is not the case, Zionism means support for the state of Israel, not support for right-wing policy and biblical rhetoric that tries to solely claim the Zionist mantle. She also accused Israel of “genocide” without (to my knowledge) a concurrent condemnation of violence initiated by Hamas, which is a perpetrator of terrorism and also responsible for many deaths. Even that might be able to be walked back as excessive rhetoric. (For the record, I oppose Netanyahu’s settlement policy, his approach (or lack thereof) to relationships with the Palestinians, his over-response to the recent Gaza protests. I’ll have more to write on that in a future post.) However, there’s zero excuse for citing support for Farrakhan’s speeches, and refusing to back off of that stance. And that, coupled with her other comments, including getting mad at CA Dem Chair Eric Bauman for not keeping “your party, your religion, and your people in check” really makes me believe that she may not like Jews.
This was a surprisingly difficult moment for me I’ll admit - I was super excited about Maria’s candidacy, and was ready to go all in on it. I wanted to reach out to Maria and see what was going on, and frankly was ready to step up and defend her if there was some kind of misunderstanding. We reached out to Maria to respectfully inquire about it - after all, people can be misunderstood, or not quite aware of the impact of their words - but we received no response. Remember, we were in contact with her over text and messenger to coordinate an event for September. She did not appear to want to discuss it with us.
This is a non-starter. Let’s be clear - Louis Farrakhan hates Jews. His hatred of Judaism is central to his world view, and in his view many of the problems the world is experiencing today is because of Jews. It is not possible to take “parts” of Farrakhan’s speeches as they are replete with anti-Semitic rationales for the U.S. and the world’s problems. Anti-Semitism is a feature, not a bug, of Louis Farrakhan. Karen mentioned to me if we were invite people to a round table about building peace and civil institutions, Farrakhan would not be at that table.
We had hoped to host an event with her to promote progressive values but that will not be happening. I’m still mad, we need progressive candidates who uphold and advocate civil rights for everyone. And respect for all peoples is core to that goal. Full stop.