Democratic state lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Javier Martíez, gathered with community leaders at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Albuquerque Thursday afternoon to condemn an attack by the Republican Party of New Mexico (RPNM).
They said the ad, which paid for the RPNM and was sent to at least nine home districts in the state, contained an image of a dark-skinned person cutting the hair of a child who appears to be either white or fair-skinned.
Text next to image implies that the black person in the ad is a sexual predator.
The image used in the ad was a stock image that appears to have been manipulated to darken the skin tone of the person portraying the sexual predator.
There was a poster at the press conference that showed the original image versus the one used in the ad.
House Majority Leader Martínez called it one of the worst examples of racism he had seen in his political career.
“I have been in politics for a long time, both as an elected official and as a lawyer, probably more than 20 years, and this is one of the most heinous examples of racist dog whistling I have ever seen.”
Martínez went on to say that the actions of party officials and leaders have consequences and that he is grateful to be surrounded by community leaders and other elected officials who hold the RPNM accountable.
Rev. Charles E. Beckwell, president of the New Mexico Christian Leadership Conference and a civil rights activist, said images like the one used in this ad will linger in the minds of the public.
“We can’t tell from these pictures. But these images leave scars. I saw signs with separate water fountains, colored and white. It’s stuck in my memory to this day and I can’t forget it. Because it hurts and leaves scars.”
In response to the Democrats’ press conference, the RPNM released a statement that said, in part, “The Democrats of the House of New Mexico are shouting ‘racist’ over a mailer depicting a child having his hair cut by a shadowy figure. ”
The press release went on to say the mailer is an “anti-crime” mailer and is intended to draw attention to a licensing law in New Mexico that would allow convicted sex offenders to obtain professional licenses such as hairdressing and beautician.
New Mexico House Republican Rod Montoya called any allegations of racism about this mailer “ridiculous.”
Martínez was asked about the Republican response. “For me, it’s not about what they wrote on the flyer, what words they wrote on the flyer, it’s that picture right there, that’s the real problem. The bills both passed with broad bipartisan support.”