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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. name-dropped a famous Latino civil rights leader. Big mistake.

After the conspiracy theorist and independent presidential candidate name-dropped the Latino labor rights legend, Cesar Chavez's family denounced him and backed President Joe Biden.

By

The family of Latino civil rights legend Cesar Chavez is doing all it can to stop conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from co-opting the activist’s legacy for his presidential campaign.?

Kennedy, whose campaign has largely been propped up and promoted by a right-wing megadonor and conservative media outlets, appears intent on winning over liberal voters — particularly Black and Latino voters — seen as key to President Joe Biden’s electoral chances this fall. On the campaign trail, he’s attempted this by shamelessly glomming on to the political legacies some of his family members have established, including his uncle, President John F. Kennedy; and his father, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Most of the Kennedy family have backed President Biden's reelection. And RFK, Jr. has repeatedly been denounced by his relatives for using the family name to fuel his campaign. That was the case when he promoted a Super Bowl ad supporting his candidacy that was modeled on a JFK ad from 1960. Now, Kennedy’s name-dropping is being bashed by the Chavez family, too. The activist's son Fernando and other members of the family denounced a “Viva Kennedy24” event planned around Cesar Chavez Day that touted Chavez as “a good friend of RFK and RFK, Jr.” and suggested the three were aligned politically.?

As the Los Angeles Times reported:

Several [family members] spoke out this week, as Kennedy plans to hold an event Saturday in Los Angeles commemorating Cesar Chavez Day. In promoting the event, Kennedy’s campaign has featured his own image almost blending into a photo of his father sitting beside Chavez in 1968.

“When we saw Bobby Kennedy begin to use images of my father, and then when we heard about this event in L.A., it really prompted us to stand up and to make sure that people understood that the Chavez family does not support his campaign,” Paul Chavez, Fernando’s brother, told The Times.

“We’ve never seen anybody go as far as using that image for political gain,” Andres Chavez, Paul’s son, said of Kennedy’s campaign event invitation.

The sons are endorsing Biden and claim their dad would've done the same. And this is just the latest example of dubious clout-chasing and name-dropping from a Kennedy campaign that’s been disturbingly reliant on both.

Whether invoking his dad’s name, co-opting Cesar Chavez’s activism or palling around with Black rappers, Kennedy has tried to amass political clout on the strength of his associations, rather than his actual policy platform. To me, this is a cheap gimmick meant to mask the fact that he’s on the record espousing political stances that would harm many Black and brown people, if they haven't already.?

That's a point U.S. Virgin Islands Del. Stacey Plaskett made last year in an MSNBC op-ed criticizing Kennedy’s anti-vaccine conspiracism.

She wrote:?

The dangers of Kennedy’s anti-vaccine rhetoric are even more pronounced for the Black community, a demographic already disproportionately affected by Covid. While historical injustices contributed to Black Americans’ mistrust of Covid vaccine initiatives, anti-vaccine rhetoric not only fed on those fears, but also deliberately exploited them. Among Black Americans, the contagion of misinformation reinforced hesitancy, and the historical distrust of government institutions eroded confidence in lifesaving vaccines. The consequences have been alarming: lower vaccination rates, higher infection rates and a devastating disparity in health outcomes.

The underlying story of Kennedy's candidacy is pretty grim if you ask me. Four years after a deadly pandemic ravaged Black and brown communities — mainly due to poor vaccination rates — one of the biggest profiteers and peddlers of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories has launched a dubious presidential campaign targeting the very communities his lies helped injure. I can't help but think about Kizzmekia Corbett, the brilliant, Black infectious disease expert who led the development of the first Covid-19 vaccine — only for a wealthy, white Kennedy heir to peddle lies framing her crowning achievement as part of some nefarious plot.

Even that doesn’t fully encapsulate the danger Kennedy’s policies pose to Black and brown people, despite what his various name-drops may suggest. 贬别’蝉 also advocated for the U.S. government to take a “break” from studying infectious diseases, an idea that would likely devastate nonwhite communities disproportionately affected by these diseases. 贬别’蝉 supported a 15-week national abortion ban (such bans have been shown to affect Black and brown people disproportionately) — and only tried to back away from it after receiving backlash.

贬别’蝉 embraced right-wing rhetoric around parents’ choosing school curricula, which has been used to ban library books and classroom discussions about racism and the history of nonwhite Americans. 贬别’蝉 shared a platform with and been touted by Dennis Prager, whose organization, PragerU, has been tapped to create school lesson plans whitewashing the United States’ racist history. Kennedy even opposes online content moderation — the kind used to police online hate speech and disinformation — because this moderation leads social media platforms to limit the spread of his anti-vaccine propaganda.

If Kennedy were to actually say these things on the campaign trail, it likely wouldn't go over well with Black and brown voters. We have every reason to believe these policies would endanger Black and brown people if acted upon.?But Kennedy seems intent on masking that fact by associating himself with figures whose politics he thinks Black and brown folks do support. And he apparently hopes none of us can tell the difference.

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