Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

CHAVEZ, LINDA (b. 1947)

Linda Chavez is a prominent conservative intellectual and activist. Her ideas on race and ethnicity in public policy have made an important contribution to the national debate. Chavez is a leading critic of "identity politics" –that is, the idea that racial and ethnic classifications should play an important role in politics, government, and law. Instead, she has advocated assimilation and "color-blind" law.

Linda Chavez was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on June 17, 1947. She grew up in Denver, Colorado, and received her bachelor of arts degree from the University of Colorado in 1970. She married Christopher Gersten, who became another important conservative activist, in 1967. Chavez began her political career as a Democrat but became unhappy with the party because she believed it had moved too far to the left. She served in the Reagan administration, first as director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1983– 85) and then as director of public liaison in the White House (1985). She then ran in 1986 for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, winning the Republican nomination in a crowded field but losing in the general election to Barbara Mikulski.

Since then Chavez has mainly devoted her career to writing and speaking on public policy issues. She criticized liberal Hispanic organizations, as well as programs like bilingual education and affirmative action, in her 1991 book Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation. Chavez founded the Center for Equal Opportunity in 1995 and built the organization into a leading conservative think tank. She writes a syndicated weekly column, contributes articles to journals and magazines, and frequently lectures and appears on television and radio.

Roger Clegg Center for Equal Opportunity

Chavez, Linda. "Our Hispanic Predicament." Commentary 106 (1998): 1–4.

Chavez, Linda. Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation. New York: Basic Books, 1991.

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