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San Diego Congressman Duncan Hunter Says Naming Navy Ship After Cesar Chavez Is 'Unfair to Military War Heroes'

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Wed, May 18, 2011 at 11:15 AM

click to enlarge Would this ship be more fittingly titled USNS John Finn?
  • Would this ship be more fittingly titled USNS John Finn?
Google isn't the only whitey to resist a tribute to California labor-rights leader Cesar Chavez this year. U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-San Diego, unsurprisingly) is blasting the Navy's suggestion to name a new SoCal cargo ship after the grape-picker's hero, calling it a contradiction to "the Navy's history and tradition."

Of course, this tribute would be much grander than a Doodle: USNS Cesar Chavez would dock among 700-foot cargo greats such as the USNS Amelia Earhart and USNS William & Clark.

But why not get a Mexican in the mix?

Hunter claims it's not about race -- just like, prestige and stuff. Which doesn't really sound much better. Here's what he told Fox News:

"Naming a ship after César Chávez goes right along with other recent decisions by the Navy that appear to be more about making a political statement than upholding the Navy's history and tradition," said Hunter, only a week after another spat he had with the Navy over its decision that would have allowed chaplains to perform same sex-unions in states where gay marriage is legal.

Hunter said a better choice for the last of the 14 Lewis and Clark-class cargo ships would be Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who was nominated for the Medal of Honor for action in Iraq -- or World War II Medal of Honor recipient John Finn, a lifelong San Diego resident.

"If this decision were about recognizing the Hispanic community's contribution to our nation, many other names come to mind," said Hunter, a former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

click to enlarge Duncan Hunter, Jr.
  • Duncan Hunter, Jr.
What Fox doesn't mention is that Chavez was in the Navy, too. According to NBC LA, "Chavez served two years in the U.S. Navy in 1940s after World War II." He also helped make it possible for Latinos to be seen as equals in any workforce, not just the Navy. (Instead, Fox chooses to include this snippet: "To this day, the hatred still runs deep among farmers who believe Chávez hurt California's agricultural industry." Classy.)

click to enlarge Cesar Chavez
  • Cesar Chavez
The yard where the ship was built -- General Dynamic NASSCO -- is located in a Latino-heavy hood called Barrio Logan. NASSCO's spokesman also tells press that the yard "suggested the name to the Navy because it wanted to honor its mostly Hispanic workforce."

What do you think? More Southern California racism at work? Or does Chavez belong in the fields, not the fleet?

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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