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National Council of La Raza Rebrands, Is It Civil Rights Suicide?

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The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) at the conclusion of its annual conference last week made a stunning announcement: it was changing its name.

Stunning in that the 49- year-old civil rights and Latino advocacy organization has always been about and for “la raza” the community. The literal translation of “La Raza” is race so critics utilized the translated moniker to mean “National Council of (Latino) Race” but for the thousands of NCLR supporters it has always been associated with community.

The name change to “UnidosUS” seemed to many appeasement for the grief it has received especially from the alt-right and the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world that claimed NCLR was promoting Latino supremacy at the expense of white folks.

NCLR is promoting “UnidosUS” or United U.S. as a more inclusive and modern take on its mission that better reflects the diverse U.S. Latino population. The term “La Raza” has its roots in Mexican-American culture since it was coined in 1925 by Mexican writer Jose Vasconcelos. Nonetheless it has always been used to represent the “pride” of the community of Latinos and Latin Americans not just Mexicans. NCLR’s justification for the name changes seems to negate that the majority of Latinos in the U.S. are of Mexican descent and the organization’s birth in 1968 in Arizona was to defend Mexican-Americans against rampant discrimination.

It does not appear the organization took the name change lightly, announcing the change after three years of research and analysis.

With nearly 50 years of civil rights history and advocacy will such a rebrand be civil rights suicide? Often organizations and business enterprises change their name if the brand is “tarnished” – due to bad reputation or the organization has evolved beyond its name. Neither is the case with NCLR so what gives? Did the constant attacks on their “La Raza” name as domestic terrorists or Latinos supremacists get to them? Me thinks so!

The proof is in the pudding. The NCLR name is packed with history and though they may want to be more inclusive and reach a younger generation the name change is not associated with a repositioning strategy. The iconic organization remains committed to its original mission being carried by over 300 affiliates across the country. And it will continue its valuable work in immigration advocacy, education, health care, and civil rights.

The newly minted UnidosUS name was introduced by the organization President and CEO Janet Murguia who noted:

“In unity there is strength, and in strength there is power. Unidos is a call to action for all Latinos, but also signals a message for others to join us and come together united in the best interest of the country and all Americans.”

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HSN Staff Writers

HSN staff writers are a group of enthusiastic and talented creative-types that generate great story lines and write about current events with a distinctively Latino voice always respecting the audience it writes for.

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