Guest Column

Decoding Maria Monreal-Cameron's Response

By Robert Miranda
"Taking Sides"
Milwaukee Spanish Journal
February 7, 2005

            In an article published several weeks ago by the Shepherd Express, Maria Monreal-Cameron, CEO of the Wisconsin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (WHCC), gave her rationale as to why the issue with Mark Belling should be disbanded.  In a nutshell, it's because he makes too much money for Clear Channel, that we can't win.

            Cameron's reason for pulling out of the effort to oust Belling is pathetic. Just because he makes this kind of money does not mean that we should abandon the effort to hold him and his employer accountable for his racist attack against our community.  Besides, who is Maria Cameron, to think that she can make this unilateral decision on behalf of the Latino/Mexican community--especially after the majority of the community's leadership decided to move forward with efforts to have Belling ousted?

            Whatever the rhyme or reason for her action, one thing is certain. Cameron cashed in Mexican pride, [punto final]. Many Latino leaders and residents in the community view this unilateral action by the WHCC CEO as repulsive and dishonorable, a real slap in the face to Mexican dignity and honor.

            But aside from her shameful Malinche-like action, it must also be pointed out that Cameron, in a way, abandoned the community then attempted to portray leaders in our community as violent and irrational during the initial phase of this Belling affair--implying that she was the only rational and sound leader in the Hispanic community. Her opportunistic attempts are not acceptable and must be exposed.

            In the article published by the Shepherd Express, Cameron states that when she read her "forgive but never forget" statement she was "met with an extreme volatile response," and that her statement "was met with adamant outrage." Well, I was at the meeting she alludes to. There were a large number of respected leaders there, as well. Not once did anyone raise his or her voice against Cameron. Indeed, people may have shook their heads in disagreement, but no one ever shouted or attacked her and her statement. In fact, it was Maria Cameron herself who went on a bizarre shouting tirade against a member of the Coordinating Committee Against Hate Speech (CCAHS) who was simply shaking her head in disagreement.

            Cameron states that her group initially sent a letter blasting Mark Belling. She states that she sent a letter "urging Clear Channel Communications to remove the divisive and dangerous Mark Belling from its airwaves."  Tough words.  So what changed?

            If Mark Belling was a "dangerous and divisive" individual before, is he less dangerous now? Since returning from his suspension [vacation] Mark Belling stated on the air that nothing has changed and that his radio program hasn't changed. Indeed, this does not sound like a man who is less "dangerous and divisive" to me.  In fact, it sounds like a man who has become more defiant and even more dangerous.

            Cameron's arrogance is again illustrated in the Shepherd Express article when it is reported that after sending the letter to Clear Channel she had a "subsequent meeting with Latino community leaders and the local leadership of Clear Channel Radio." In fact, this meeting was held at her office building with two other Latino leaders and one of them has since questioned her as to why he was even invited to attend. 

The article stated that she wanted "a profound, genuine and sincere apology from Belling ... 40 hours of Hispanic community service ... and a nine month use of billboards owned by Clear Channel." That Clear Channel provide billboards that would "promote the NAACP and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's national conventions, both to be held in Milwaukee this year.

            Hello! Who gave her the authority to set terms for our community? Was there an election I missed? This was a Latino community issue, not the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce issue...not an NAACP issue. It was a matter for the Latino community leadership to discuss and decide how to handle the Belling issue.

            Let's be clear. Cameron cut her deal with Clear Channel days before the leadership met on November 5. She could have stated at that meeting that she had negotiated these terms with Clear Channel, she didn't. Instead, she raised her hands in agreement with the rest of the leadership when the question was asked whether everyone agreed that Belling must be terminated from our public airwaves. She stayed with the committee for a couple  more weeks after that, all the while having already negotiated her terms for the "healing process" with Clear Channel--this is despicable.

            It is now evident that Cameron acted unilaterally and only in the interest of the Wisconsin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and her closest allies. Meanwhile, the vast majority of this community's leadership is still in support of the CCAHS and is moving forward with holding Clear Channel accountable for the actions of the insolent and offensive Mark Belling.

            I salute these leaders and advocates for their steadfast resolve to see this action through and to restore dignity to the Mexican/Latino community.