La Raza has decided to rebrand. The liberal political group announced last week that it would change its name from one suggestive of adversarial Chicano politics to something with broader appeal: UnidosUS. The shift appears to stem from a recognition of long-ignored social and financial transformations in the U.S.
Since its inception in 1968, made possible in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation, La Raza has been far more dependent on boardrooms and government than grass-roots support. But with government largess drying up, the liberal political-advocacy group may find itself needing greater support from the rank and file. This won’t be easy.
The nation’s “Hispanics” are undergoing a radical shift that most politicians are missing: A white majority is likely to persist in America. “Many children growing up today in mixed families are integrating into a still largely white mainstream society,” sociologist Richard Alba noted in American Prospect last year. These children are “likely to think of themselves as part of that mainstream, rather than as minorities excluded from it.”
The name La Raza—“the race” in Spanish—flies in the face of this reality. It is off-putting to many “Hispanics,” an artificial Census category comprising many razas. The organization’s CEO, Janet Murguia, admitted as much in a video announcing the name change: “We must make sure that our name and our organization evolves along with and remains relevant to our ever changing Hispanic community.”
Appealing to a broader swath of this diverse group is necessary now that the “fat years” under President Obama are gone. The Obama Justice Department made a practice of settling lawsuits against corporate defendants by requiring they make large donations to groups like La Raza. It was, in the words of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, “a scheme to funnel money to politically favored special interest groups.” In a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the closing days of the Obama administration, Mr. Goodlatte noted that “in just the last two years, DOJ has directed nearly $1 billion to activist groups, entirely outside of Congress’s spending and oversight authority.”
Taxpayer money was flowing into La Raza coffers too. When Cecilia Munoz, a top La Raza lobbyist, joined Mr. Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, federal subsidies for La Raza went from $4.1 million to $11 million a year. And La Raza loyally promoted Mr. Obama’s policies as pro-Latino. You can expect the group to continue agitating on behalf of the Democratic Party.
Whether UnidosUS becomes more grass-roots-driven than La Raza remains to be seen. The group’s corporate board of advisers still includes Comcast , AT&T , Bank of America , Chevron , Coca-Cola ,Ford, Con-Agra Foods and other Fortune 500 firms. Its more than 260 local affiliates train and mobilize an activist core of community organizers but have only a third of the vote on the board.
This week’s name change may be a recognition of an imperfect model. Or it may be nothing more than a marketing ploy. The latter is more likely.
This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal