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During a recent radio interview, a disc jockey asked civil rights and feminist leader Dolores Huerta to choose a song to describe the times we’re living in.
“I said, ‘Let’s play Lena Horne’s “Stormy Weather,’” Huerta recalled. The song reflects “exactly the kind of times we’re in right now,” she said. “It’s a very dark time, actually.”
And yet, the 87-year-old says springtime will return.
I spoke to Huerta earlier this month, just before the release of a new documentary about her life, “Dolores,” which focuses on her work as an organizer and co-founder of the United Farm Workers. Huerta’s activism is rooted in the movement for fair working conditions and compensation for people who grow and harvest the nation’s fruits and vegetables. But her influence has expanded to include civil rights broadly, including women’s rights and protections for immigrants. In 2002, she used a $100,000 prize for her activism to start the Dolores Huerta Foundation, a grass-roots organizing effort to encourage communities to hold government officials accountable and to groom community leaders to run for elected office.
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Dolores Huerta at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 2015. (Photo by Amanda Voisard/For The Washington Post)
A Washington Post-ABC News poll from this week found that 74 percent of Hispanics disapprove of the job that President Trump is doing, with 60 percent strongly disapproving.
Trump’s rhetoric and policies have often focused on Hispanic people. During his campaign, Trump disparaged Mexicans as rapists, vowed to build a wall on the Southern border to keep them out, and said that a federal judge could not be fair because of his Mexican heritage. This month, he said he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protected young undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom are Hispanics.
Huerta said Trump’s election has unleashed a storm of “racism and misogyny” and given voice to people who have been “poisoned with this idea that they’re somehow better than every other group because they’re white.… We’ve got to do something about these isms — racism, misogyny, the homophobia, the bigotry.”
But, she said, those who are alarmed that Trump defended neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other white-nationalist groups, and by the administration’s efforts to roll back rights for immigrants, women and LGBTQ individuals, should not feel defeated. She notes that Trump’s support is not broad and that many of his ideas are not popular with most of the public.
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For example, she noted, polls show that the majority of Americans support DACA. In the Post-ABC poll from earlier this week, 86 percent of Americans, including 75 percent of Republicans back the program.
“Sometimes we think it’s all of the United States. It’s just 30 percent; they just happen to be very visible,” she said, referring to Trump’s base of support. In the new Post-ABC poll, Trump’s job approval rating was 39 percent, a bit of a bounce-back from July when it was down to 36 percent.
Still, she said, those opposed to Trump’s agenda must do more than just protest.
“It’s wonderful that we have people marching and protesting, but if you don’t go to the ballot box, it doesn’t make any difference,” she said. “In 2018, we have to build our own wall. We have to build a wall in the Congress of the United States of America, because every member of the House of Representatives has to run for reelection, and that’s where we can build a wall to stop some of the policies that Trump is trying to pass and try to undo some of the bad ones that he’s enacting.”
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