Here at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), we are fortunate to be able to work with talented and passionate interns from across the country. This summer, Hector Argueta, a student at the César Chávez Public Charter School for Public Policy in Washington, D.C., spent three weeks interning at the Coalition. Hector enjoyed his experience with us and contributed the following blog about the great American his school is named after:
“César Estrada Chávez, born in Arizona, was an American farm worker and labor leader. He co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers of America. Chávez’s work over three decades led to numerous improvements for union laborers. He is also hailed as one of the greatest American civil rights leaders. His birthday has become a holiday in many U.S states.
César’s mother, Juana, was one of the greatest influences in his use of non-violent methods to organize farm workers. His other influences were Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi and American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Non-violence is a simple but powerful tactic. Non-violence takes away the power of the oppressor by encouraging people to withdraw their cooperation. If the non-violent resistors are then handled with force, the justness of their cause if revealed to the broader society.
César Chávez did this to secure rights for farm workers. He organized strikes, boycotts, marches, and other nonviolent events. Chávez even went on a 25-day fast, which attracted enormous national attention. The fast demonstrated his strong belief in non-violence.
If Chávez were still alive, he would be very supportive of efforts to reduce gun violence in America, especially because of his concern for the Latino community. Latinos are far less likely than blacks or whites to own guns, but they are murdered by firearms at a rate second only to blacks. All guns do is lead to violence, which in turn leads to more violence. Chávez would have tried to stop this in a peaceful way, by educating people about how easy it is to get a gun, and that guns kill thousands of people every year. He would have wanted things to be different—Chávez would have made sure that people could walk freely through their neighborhoods without constantly living with the fear of getting shot. He was always thinking of ways to improve people’s lives. Chávez tried to empower people who had no power, or thought they didn’t. If he were alive today, he would organize peaceful marches on the nation’s capital protesting to make gun laws stricter. He might have also fasted to attract more media attention to this issue and to convey to people that it is a real problem.
As Chávez once said, ‘Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or the weak. Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win.’ This demonstrates Chávez’s total commitment. Slowly but surely, he would have strived to make America a safer place. He would have not stopped until something had changed. Chávez would have even sacrificed his own body to make it so that other people would have been safe.
Change does not happen overnight—it takes time and nobody knew that better than César Chávez. In my opinion, Chávez would have never given up until something was done about the epidemic of gun violence in our country.”