Following the release of a statement by over sixty of New Mexico’s Black community organizations calling for the censure of Republican lawmaker Greg Baca for his racist actions, many community organizations that led the charge to flip the New Mexico State Senate to a more progressive body released the following statement echoing the call for accountability:
Due to New Mexico’s virtual legislative session, more public accessibility has meant more accountability for Republican lawmakers, whose outright racism has been on full display.
In recent sickening actions, Republican Minority Leader Greg Baca questioned Cabinet Secretary-Designate Sonya Smith’s ability to lead the Department of Veterans’ Services due to her being a Black woman. When pressed about his comment, Baca tried to absolve himself of wrongdoing by walking back his statements and then announcing that he is Hispanic.
Unfortunately, this event does not stand alone. The incident was preceded by Republican Representative Stefani Lord’s calling of law enforcement on Alexandria Taylor, a Black woman and expert witness testifying on a bill virtually, over 50 miles away. Lord vehemently disrupted the committee to accuse Taylor of being “anti-police” and was seen on camera calling law enforcement. To further the disturbing pattern of abuse of office, Lord chastised another person providing testimony as they painfully recounted their experience with police brutality in a separate committee hearing. Lord then inserted herself with condescending “advice” and went on a tirade of victim-blaming rhetoric.
These actions are not only transgressions of anti-Blackness and public silencing but also reflect violence toward our communities and are gross abuses of political office. Lord and Baca must be held publicly accountable for weaponizing their elected office in an attempt to oppress, silence and erase Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ community members testifying in good faith.
There is nothing accidental about a Hispanic man questioning the credibility of a Black woman’s leadership, there is nothing innocent about a white woman calling upon law enforcement to police Black bodies, and there is nothing virtuous about victim-shaming individuals who share their story.
By announcing he is Hispanic, Senator Baca sought a “free pass” for his anti-Blackness. Baca’s actions perpetuate the myth that racism is acceptable as long as you’re not white or you’re a person in power. Mentioning Taylor’s name to law enforcement, Lord set off a racist dog whistle, the remnants of Jim Crow-era policing of Black people in public spaces. Taylor may not have had cops at her door that night, but Lord’s call signaled to the police she was someone to be aware of. Additionally, by siding with police, despite their violent actions against the person who shared their story, Lord signaled to our community that there is no safety or justice in our Legislature.
These ethical breaches from Republican leadership and members cannot be overlooked, nor can a blind eye be turned to the transgressions against leaders in our community.
We echo the calls for censure of Baca and Lord. Additionally, we call on the Governor, Senate and House Leadership to publicly denounce the racist behavior we all bore witness to.
Further, we call on the NM State Legislature to commit to long-term actions to educate the Legislative body to ensure that this kind of hateful, divisive, and racist rhetoric does not continue.
We call on our legislature to formally act upon the following:
- Add discrimination as an ethical violation in the Legislative Ethics Guide.
- Clarify whether a violation of the Anti-Harassment Policy is an ethics violation under the Legislative Ethics Guide.
- Revamp the investigatory process for ethics complaints of this nature to make them more accessible, ensure that New Mexicans feel comfortable filing a complaint and have trust in the process.
- Require legislative anti-racism training to occur on a yearly basis.
It’s critical that in this session, as our organizations continue to center legislation that brings justice to New Mexico families, leadership act on instances where justice can be brought to individuals participating in our legislative process.
America Votes New Mexico
Center for Civic Policy
Equality New Mexico
Forward Together Action
Indigenous Women Rising
La Semilla Food Center
New Mexico Asian Family Center
New Mexico Immigrant Law Center
New Mexico Working Families Party
NM Native Vote
Planned Parenthood New Mexico
Progress Now New Mexico
Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter
Together for Brothers (T4B)