Voces de la Frontera – a Wisconsin immigrant rights group – and its student arm, Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES), now have to deal with a right-wing talk show host trying to stand in the way of the work they do for immigrants and workers in Wisconsin. In October of this year, Mark Belling, the Milwaukee-based conservative shock jock, criticized the United Way for donating to Voces, claiming the nonprofit functions as a political organization because of its voter registration drives and support of nonpartisan issues like tuition equity and collective bargaining. Since then, the Racine Unified School District (RUSD) has pulled away its support for the organization’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, citing similar “concerns” about the organization’s activism.
It is glaringly problematic that the United Way and Racine United School District would give consideration to any of Belling’s claims considering his bigoted, highly-politicized, and often racist language. In October 2004 a radio station owned by Clear Channel Communications pulled Belling’s show off the air after he referred to (presumably undocumented) Latinos as “wetbacks.”
“You watch the voter turnout on the near south side (of Milwaukee), heavily Hispanic, and compare it to the voter turnout in any other election, and you’re going to see every wetback and every other non-citizen out there voting,” Belling said, clearly taking great issue with Latino voter rights. And yet for the school district, Voces is the “controversial” group?
The bigoted pundit has not limited his hate speech to the Latino community. In a November 27, 2007 broadcast, he said: “I think you are hard-pressed to find an ethnic group in the United States more bigoted than Muslims. I mean, even moderate Muslims seem to hate all Jews. It’s just remarkable. Bring up the subject of Israel to even a Muslim who considers himself very open-minded and moderate and hatred just pours of them.”
Of course, Belling has had his reservations about Jews, as well. In 2011, Belling pointed out to his audience that much of the “powerful opposition” to a downtown Milwaukee Marriott hotel were “Jewish.” He noted, however, that their religion “may be here nor there.”
It should be no surprise that Belling also serves as a frequent guest and fill-in host on The Rush Limbaugh Show.
The massive defeat Republicans and far-right conservatives faced in the 2012 election despite engaging in highly divisive and inflammatory language and voter suppression efforts should alert them that most Americans and American immigrant communities are not buying their scare tactics. It is unfortunate that the United Way – an organization that has dedicated itself to advancing “the common good” – and the Racine United School District, would allow someone like Mark Belling – a man that has made a career out of being a contentiously political bully – influence them enough to take away support from a student group honoring Dr. King’s life’s work.