August 16, 2004
A woman who says she believes in the separation of the races is the new national voice of Protect Arizona Now, drawing harsh criticism from activists who call her a “white supremacist” — and splintering the political group’s own rank and file.
Virginia Abernethy, a 69-year-old professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., has been appointed chairwoman of the national advisory board for PAN, a political group trying to stop illegal immigration. Reached by telephone, Abernethy said she considers herself a "separatist," not a supremacist.
"I'm in favor of separatism — and that's different than supremacy," Abernethy said. "Groups tend to self-segregate. I know that I'm not a supremacist. I know that ethnic groups are more comfortable with their own kind." PAN has gathered enough signatures to get Proposition 200 on the Nov. 2 ballot. If passed, Proposition 200 would require proof of citizenship to register to vote, require voters to show identification and force government officials to ask individuals if they are legal residents before offering public benefits.
Organizers have tried to cast Proposition 200 as rooted in law, not racism. But their willingness to let people with more radical ties into the movement reveals true intentions of xenophobia and hate, said Eric Ward, a spokesman for the Center for New Community, an antibigotry group based in Chicago.
The group says it is critical of Abernethy for her leadership roles in other extremist organizations, such as the Occidental Quarterly, which proclaims “immigration into the United States should be restricted to selected people of European ancestry.”
“Here we have an organization that is willing to appoint a white supremacist to leadership. It's disgusting,” Ward said. “I think it certainly brings question as to what their motives are."
Abernethy said she does not agree with all of the philosophies of the groups she lends her name to, such as the Occidental Quarterly and the Council of Conservative Citizens, but she's willing to overlook the more extreme leanings because the groups oppose illegal immigration.
According to her research, illegal immigration is pushing a population growth rate in the United States that surpasses China's. Illegal immigrants flood the labor market, driving down wages, and Arizona's costs associated with illegal immigration are estimated at about $1.25 billion per year because of federally mandated funding for education, health care and incarceration, Abernethy said.
Kathy McKee, chairwoman of the Protect Arizona Now initiative committee, called Abernethy "the grande dame of the anti-illegal immigration movement" and questioned the legitimacy of the Chicago center. She said that the initiative's popularity — at 74 percent, according to a recent poll — has detractors getting nervous as the election approaches.
"It's just preposterous. I think they're just another hate group like the Southern Poverty Law Center," McKee said. "When they have no facts, our opponents resort to name-calling."
But other supporters of Proposition 200 denounce Abernethy. A release from the Federation for American Immigration Reform called Abernethy's views "repugnant, divisive and do not represent the views of the vast majority of Arizonans who support Proposition 200."
"The only separatism we advocate is separating Virginia Abernethy and Kathy McKee from this effort before they do any more damage," the release stated.
State Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, one of PAN's legislative supporters, declined to comment on Abernethy's appointment. Pearce said through an assistant that he no longer works with Protect Arizona Now. Pearce still supports the initiative, but now works for the Yes on Prop 200 campaign.
Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state senator involved in opposition to the initiative, said supporters of the proposition find Abernethy a "political liability."
"These are extreme views that I don't think represent most Arizonans," Gutierrez said.
Despite struggles that have split initiative supporters into two conflicting camps, 190,887 petition signatures were turned in to get the measure on the ballot.
Nationally, McKee said the proposition is the only one of its kind on the ballot in 2004, and organizers underestimated how much interest it would generate outside Arizona. Abernethy will be the national face for the movement, she said.
It is part of their plan to spread the movement nationwide.
The Occidental Quarterly’s statement of principles includes:
• The West is a cultural compound of our Classical, Christian, and Germanic past.
• The European identity of the United States and its people should be maintained. Immigration into the United States should be restricted to selected people of European ancestry.
• The perfectibility, let alone the equality, of man is not possible and is not a legitimate political aspiration.
• The political and personal freedoms of the American order — including our rights of free expression and association — are in jeopardy from ethnic and ideological enemies and must be preserved.
• The intervention of foreign states (Israel and Mexico, as well as others) in the internal politics and decision-making of the American people must be rejected.
Some tenets of the Council on Conservative Citizens
• "There is no superior replacement for the civilization that has evolved through the Greeks, Romans, Celts and Anglo Saxons."
• "The C of CC also stands against the tide of nonwhite, Third world immigrants swamping this country."
• Its founder once wrote that "Western civilization with all its might and glory would never have achieved its greatness without the directing hand of God and the creative genius of the white race. Any effort to destroy the race by a mixture of black blood is an effort to destroy Western civilization itself."
• Its Web site at www.cofcc.org shows gruesome photos of slaughtered white South Africans and then warns that "today South Africa is less than 10 percent white. Some day American whites will be a minority. It can happen here."