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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Is Carl Winslow the Only Decent Cop?

I've been thinking about Carl Winslow. Yes, that Carl Winslow. TV dad/cop, on the sitcom Family Matters. I guess I was thinking about him with one question in mind: "Is Carl Winslow the only decent cop?"

If anything I guess it comes to mind because it was a prompt for a blog post. But it also came about after I thought about what happened to Bill de Blasio after he spoke out against the death of Eric Garner. Later de Blasio went to give a eulogy for a couple of cops in New York that were killed while sitting in their patrol car, and as he did this, the law enforcement officers turned their backs on him.

The disrespect for de Blasio does not bother me. What does bother me, is the fact that cops felt so disrespected that de Blasio had an opinion regarding the death of Eric Garner. As if to say, they had a right to kill him, and no one had a right to question why or how they did it, or to have an opinion regarding the incident, whatsoever. As I've mentioned before, this is typical cop mentality, you're not allowed to have an opinion about incidents involving them.

If you're a civilian trying to flex your rights when an officer stops you to question you, you don't really have rights, especially if you are a person of color. There will be cops who say that they do respect when civilians know their rights and use them respectfully, but there's others who don't care about your rights, and even if you are respectful, they will try to antagonize you. Keeping your cool is difficult in these situations. You just can't have a rational discussion with someone who is in law enforcement, because they shut down and don't want to listen to your opinions. I know this as someone who had friends in law enforcement, but they are no longer friends with me, because I expressed that there were unjustified deaths at the hands of cops. After that I was labeled a cop hater. I was labeled a cop hater because I had an opinion about incidents that had occurred, such as the death of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, etc.

I had a friend who got into a discussion with a person at a wedding, who happened to be a cop. My friend gave his opinion regarding the way cops treated people in Salinas. The guy wasn't having it, he tried to argue his side, by essentially saying that my friend didn't understand. This sounds like a general argument: "I put my life on the line, therefore you don't understand nor have the right to question the way I, or other officers do things." The cop left with his girlfriend, because of this argument he ended up having with my friend. Later my friend told me that it turned out this cop worked in the same town my friend lived in. This officer then made it pretty well known to mutual friends that he did like him. He even tried to fuck with my friend at one point. Apparently an officer (not the same one that argued with my friend) showed up at the place my friend worked at, and tried to have his car towed and impounded, because it had been parked there for a while. My friend had been having car trouble so he left his car in the parking lot for a few days. The manager at the business, told the officer that it wasn't a problem, because it belonged to an employee. The officer eventually left. But my friend was sure that that other cop he argued with had tracked his car down, and had this other officer try to get it towed. Do you see how crazy that is? Because this person had a different opinion than yours, you tried to have his car towed or find some way to hurt him, because you didn't like that he spoke to you about the way cops behaved in his hometown. You took the time to track down his car and then try to get it towed. Wow. My friend was then labeled a cop hater too.

That mentality about them putting their lives on the line makes it difficult for me to sympathize with them. Because here's the thing, when a cop loses his/her life in the line of duty, we the public are expected to be respectful and post our condolences. And you see it on social media all the time, people doing just that. But I have yet to ever see cops, pay their respects to someone they killed. They usually shrug their shoulders and say they were just doing thier jobs. I don't ever see any sympathy for someone they killed, even if it was a "justifiable kill." The only cop I ever saw feel bad for doing this was Carl Winslow. There was an episode where Carl is in a lousy mood because it's the anniversary of the day he ended up killing a young man, who had robbed a store with a toy gun. Carl is in a foul mood because he regrets doing it, especially not knowing that the kid wasn't using a real gun. Toward the end of the episode he goes to pay his condolences at the place of the shooting, and he even interacts with the mother of the kid, letting her know he felt bad about the whole thing. In good old TV fashion, things get wrapped up, with the mother forgiving Carl, and cut to 90's commercials about McDonald's kids meals.

But holy shit! Carl, the Chicago cop, felt remorseful about what he had done, went to pay his respects, and even apologized to the mother! Holy fucken shit! But of course, this was a fictional cop, and I've yet to hear of cops involved in similar incidents doing the same. Possibly, because going to the family and apologizing, means they admit they did something wrong, and the family might sue the police department or city. I don't know. But other times, it's as if the cops just don't give a fuck whether the kid was holding a plastic toy gun or not. Or if the black guy in the passenger seat admitted he had a gun in his car, but is shot nonetheless in front of his kid. No apologies. The response is, "I feared for my life." Or no response, which tends to mean, "fuck what you think, I was just doing my job. I'm in the right. I'm always right."

Fuck you Carl Winslow, you fictional fuck, for making me think there were some decent cops out there who were willing to admit they did something wrong, and actually listen, instead of turning their back on civilians for having an opinion.

xx

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What's in a Name?

In my hometown some years ago there was controversy over whether a school should be named after labor rights activist, Cesar Chavez. You would think that a town where the majority of the population is Mexican, and many families are either farmworkers, there wouldn't be much controversy. But of course, there was. Eventually years later a school would be named after him, and then I heard they even tried to name the town plaza after him as well.

Cesar Chavez Town Plaza :Proposal

Navarette Op-ed: Why Are We Still Naming Things After Cesar Chavez?

In Salinas, similarly, there were folks who wanted to name a school after Tiburcio Vasquez. Yes, the bandit hero. Or just plain bandit criminal depending on who you talk to. I can understand the controversy there. Although I personally don't have a problem with the name, the way these things go, it just depends on who argues the loudest and who has the most votes. One of the reasons given to not name the school after him was due to the prevalent gang violence in the city. As if to say, that gang violence would increase if a school was named after Vasquez. Then does that mean, that if a school was named after Cesar Chavez, would more adolescents want to become labor activists? Or if we name Superman will there be an increase in students using makeshift capes and jumping off the school's rooftop? Chales. Anyhow, again, a topic hotly debated, but one of the schools would be named after him, and a few years later it would be voted to have its name changed to "Monte Bella." Sigh.

Salinas School Changes Name After Years of Controversy

I'm writing this post because I think it's important to reflect and understand that words and the way we name things matter. Or for that matter, who we use words and names. For example, there has been a surge to get rid of confederate monuments and flags. I understand the necessity for this. These attacks on such representations of slavery and oppression became all the more important with the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement. And later it became a lot more important when the Orange One ran for office spewing ignorance about everything, but especially when it came to race. Most recently after the incident in Charlottesville.

What is important to consider is how people used Drumpf's name and some of his talking points as slogans for mean-spirited graffiti. For example, a year ago, "Make America Great Again," "Build A Wall," and the Orange One's name were spray painted at a local high school. These things weren't used to simply show support for the Orange One, they were done, due to the controversy, and to what he represented for the students that did this. This wasn't the only incident during that time, there others throughout the U.S. Students chanted "build a wall" at Latino basketball players or held up posters. Kids being kids I guess, just trying to antagonize rivals, because free speech.

At a UC Santa Barbara classroom, where Chicano Studies was taught, the Orange One's name was written on the white board. People were upset. Now there's a couple of ways to think about this. One is that the person that did this, did it because s/he genuinely supported the Orange One, and wanted people to see his name, and consider voting for him. In other words, it was propoganda. I've seen this done plenty of times before, but it's usually done for the candidates running for the associated student body on campus. They'll write, "vote 4 [college student name here]." But it is also possible, the person that did this, did it knowing that a Chicano Studies class was going to be taught there, and wanted to antagonize the professor and students. If that was what was intended, well then, mission accomplished. Maybe the person hated Chicano Studies, and what it stood for, and decided this was a great way to get back the ideas expunged in these courses, instead of just fist-shaking from behind a computer screen and ranting, "rarr lousy uppity Mexicans!"

Either way, this continues to return to the issue, that a name can bring about controversy and at times names are used intentionally to further agendas of hate, or to antagonize other groups. Free speech, of course, comes into play. Although I would like to advocate for free speech in all its forms, I just can't because upon seeing what has happened in Charlottesville, and what Drumpf and his words represent for racists, it really is just not the same. Someone died over words and ideas. And these ideas and words took shape in a protest to not tear down a statue of Robert E. Lee, and escalated into someone running over an Anglo woman who had been protesting against racism and hate. The ideas Dylan Roof learned took shape in the form of a massacre at an African-American church.

On the other side, you might have some portions of say, Antifa who believe it is okay to punch white nationalists in the face, free speech be damned. But Antifa is similarly an embodiment of ideas taken shape. Therefore if this is an issue of free speech, then anti-racist protesters are also exercising their freedom of speech in different extremes.

So when you see the Orange One's name spray-painted on a school or written on a white board, it's easy to shrug it off and say that liberals are taking things too far by being too sensitive about the incident. Yes, too much time should not be spent on the issue, but it's important to think about what is within the context of the person's name, the history, and/or the ideas. Whether we like it or not, the Orange One's name and his very being represent a set of ideas for many racist people, not just white folks who feel ignored or left behind. His name and slogans are used in place of direct racist epithets.

Imagine: what if one day, a school or library is named after the Orange One? If he is ever given a monument, will it stay up very long? I think people tolerated places named after Reagan and Bush. But we are in different times with a prez who is generally disliked by many.

Yet there is strong oppositions to name things after Cesar Chavez. What did the opposition see in his name?

There is so much more to wrestle with, in regards to free speech and hate speech, but maybe in another post.  

Anyhow, just a scattered rant.

xx

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Proportion of Violence

I'm going to be winding down my blog pretty soon. I always knew I was only going to keep up this blog until I was out of grad school. I figured I needed an outlet to just write whatever was on my mind. I only have a few posts left that I actually wanted to take the time to write.

A year ago or so, I watched one of the Real Time with Bill Maher convention episodes. That week, there was the incident that took place in Dallas, where police officers were killed by Micha Xavier Johnson. The officers then killed Johnson with a robot that was carrying explosives. Maher basically asked what the panel thought. One of the people on the panel, I believe it might have been Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, but I am not absolutely sure. It was definitely a white male politician. The politician basically argued that the officers were right to kill Johnson with the explosives. His words, "I believe in the proportion of violence."

That phrase stuck with me. Really? That's an interesting rationale. You believe that because he killed five officers, he deserved to be blown up with a robot carrying explosives. It really shows that to the politician, the officers lives mattered more, and therefore, Johnson did not deserve to be brought in alive, it was better to kill him to get revenge for the slaying of those officers he killed.

I wondered if the politician stopped to think about his reasoning? Because you see, reports on Johnson said that he killed police officers as a response to the brutality perpetrated by policemen against black people. So in a sense, wasn't Johnson's violent act a form of the "proportion of violence"? For that matter, if a police officer beats a person unjustifiably, shouldn't that person or the community respond by beating that officer or an officer the same way? Because you know, "the proportion of violence." Or is the proportion of violence a double standard? Only cops can beat, maim and kill civilians, but civilians don't have a right to get angry and respond in kind, or for that matter, even protest, chanting that, "Black Lives Matter"?

Maher has always said something that is an unpopular opinion among talking heads, whenever African-Americans respond with violence to incidents of police brutality: "I don't agree, but I understand."

Sometimes it seems like he's the only person (on tv) who is willing to say this, and not necessarily argue that the violence perpetrated by the African-American community is justified, but to say he gets why the violence occurs. Commit a violent act against the community and don't expect them to keep their anger and outcry in check because this has been happening for years. But even when a community does not respond to police brutality with violence, but instead engages in peaceful protests, they are confronted by police officers who try to suppress or "contain" their demonstrations.

Yet the politician on Maher's show wanted to argue for "the proportion of violence." This politico was obviously only thinking about and for cops, it was apparent when he said that he believed in "the proportion of violence," he wasn't thinking about the many black lives lost at the hands of police officers who used violence against the black body, because they knew they could get away with it. In other words, black lives didn't matter to this politician.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Day at the County Court House

Want to hear how horrible people can be to each other? Go to your local county court house and get in line to speak to the volunteer lawyer. While in standing in line you first wait to have your number be called to speak to the lawyer's receptionist. The receptionist was a petite pretty woman, with a common first name and semi-common last name. Once she is attending to you, she asks what she can help you with, and then you tell her why you're there. As you stand in line in the room with about 20 to 25 other people or so, so you are able to hear everyone's stories.

The receptionist had a very warm personable attitude and would listen with sincerity and explain the necessary paperwork for each person, and either schedule an appointment for them with the lawyer or just suggest they come back the following week once they decided what legal action they wanted to take. Most of the people there were there for divorce paperwork. Mostly women, but few men also. The women would sigh and usually say, "I need divorce paperwork. I'm done with him."

But there were at least three instances where the people there had more serious issues to discuss with the lawyer. One elderly woman (I believe in her late 70s) who apparently lived across the street from the courthouse, had managed to make her way to courthouse using a walker. She sat there for the requisite hour or so before having number called. When called up, she explained to the receptionist that she had a tenant that refused to leave her house. She had apparently kicked this person out of her house weeks ago, but the woman continued to return, sneak into the house sleep and eat there, as if she had never been asked to leave. She ignored the elderly woman's pleads to leave her house. The receptionist listened but couldn't do much for her since the lawyer had been booked for the day. The elderly woman shuffled herself out of the room.

In between each of these there were of course the divorces.

There was a woman there who brought her daughter to translate and explain to the volunteer lawyer that she had been renting a place somewhere. Possibly an add-on to a house or a converted garage. She explained that the landlord for some reason started trying to kick them out. The woman didn't understand why this was, so the man told her they could stay if they paid an extra fifty dollars. Having done this. The man then threatened to kick them out again unless they paid an extra 70 dollars on top of that. Of course there wasn't contract, much to the benefit of the landlord, so the woman and her family were rightly stressed about this situation, given that the man was possibly trying to scam them for as much money as possible for tossing them out. So the woman came to ask the lawyer about possible protections she had or legal action she could take. Earlier, while in line, that woman had been talking to a friend of her family who apparently also rented a property to people, and he was having the opposite issue. He was dealing with tenants who didn't pay the rent on time or at all. So he was trying to figure out his rights as a landlord to toss them out. He actually had a contract. Oh the irony.

DIVORCE!

The other was the case of another elderly woman who came in too apparently get a restraining order against her 50+ year old son and accuse him of elderly abuse. She made no bones about telling the receptionist and practically the rest of the people in the waiting room that her son was a real piece of work. Her son, for some reason, beat her. She called him crazy and psychotic. She said she no longer considers him her son, and that she destroyed all the pictures she had of him. I in my life had never heard a mother talk about any of her children this way. But it was apparent that this man had seriously worn her down over the years, until she finally gave up seeing him as a son, and just viewed him as a piece of shit. And get this: her son was at one point the mayor of a neighboring town and was going to run for mayor again.

DIVORCE!

And then there was another sad case involving a mentally challenged girl who showed up with her father. The girl explained that her own mother had scammed her daughter out of money. The girl was receiving assistance, and she entrusted her mother, who then turned around started to steal her money. The enraged father stood at his daughter's side and added his own two cents on his former wife, emphasizing the fact the she had converted herself to Christianity and considered herself a woman of faith, yet did this erroneous thing to her own daughter.

DIVORCE!

Standing for hours on end listening to people tell their stories. With those four leaving me shaking my head at how we can all treat each other. Its one thing when strangers try to take advantage of other people, but it's a whole other level of depravity when sons treat their mothers that way or when mothers treat their mentally handicapped daughters that way.

All the while the pretty clerk lady listened partially distraught, partially in a caring and sympathetic manner.

What was I doing at the court house you ask? Well wouldn't you like to know. Maybe I was there because one day while getting a haircut, my barber made a comment about the orange man in the white house, and one of his Anglo customers said, "he's making America great again," to which I responded by jumping out of my chair and shaving his eyebrows! To which he cried "assault by a Mexican criminal!"

Or maybe I was there just people watching.

I went to the courthouse the next day. My eyes lit up when I saw the pretty clerk lady with the common first name and not so common last name. Chatted with her a bit. Gave her a devil-may-care grin. And then left because I didn't want to become depressed hearing how we treat one another anymore.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Silo and the Impending Student Body

I read Warren Ellis and Adi Granov's Iron Man: Extremis (2005), and there was a scene that really stuck with me. First a brief summary: Tony Stark gets a call from a friend after a man, infected with a techno organic virus goes on a killing spree. Stark gets his ass handed to him, and then decides he needs to infect himself with the techno organic virus in order to be more connected to his armor and really technology in general.

There's a few other things of importance that can be mentioned, like that in an interview Ellis spoke about how he received a call from Marvel to pitch a story for Iron Man. He wrote back talking about Tony as a futurist. That tends to be an important theme in Ellis' work. He has been referred to as a futurist as well.

But anyhow this isn't a post about exploring all these great interesting themes that are touched upon in Extremis. But there was one scene that really stuck with me. It's in the first issue. Tony has an interview with a man who makes documentaries, John Pillinger. Pillinger goes through and questions Stark about his past as a developer of military weapons. Stark is forthright about all his dealings. Before you know it the interview is over, and Stark asks Pillinger, "Why am I a ghost of the twentieth century?" Pillinger responds: "Because your arms work of the nineties still haunts the poverty and war-stricken countries they were deployed in."

If you've read any of Ellis' work you'll find that a major theme for him is ghosts and haunted places. Not necessarily in the supernatural sense, but more so in relation to the hidden history of places, but as you can see from the above exchange between the characters he is also referring to past misdeeds or possibly even to the (after) effects of technology that we don't pay attention to. I came across something by Homi Bhabha as well, where he talked about ghosts, I believe more in reference to culture. Anyhow, I just found that interesting, and thought it was worth a mention.

But the other part of that scene that stuck with me long enough to necessitate that I write about it, was when, with all due respect, Stark tells Pillinger:
"Have you changed anything? You've been uncovering disturbing things all over the world for twenty years now. Have you changed anything? You've worked very hard. Most people have no idea of the kind of work you've done. Intellectuals, critics and activists follow your films, closely, but culturally you're almost invisible, Mr. Pillinger."
Pillinger responds that he doesn't know if he has actually made a change. But this is more about the truth found in Stark's words and I related it to Chicano/a Studies texts and scholarship. The fact that only intellectuals, critics, and activists watch this man's films, shows that yes he is culturally invisible, and this is very unfortunate, because he is stuck within a category only for people with "special interests." I heard or possibly read somewhere, Ellis write about "not getting stuck in the silo." That is to say, that he tried to read far and wide, not only things that were of interest to him, but he also tried to challenge himself to write different things.

Now in terms of Chicano/a Studies I began to think about the silo. In academia we have to be stuck in our silos, because we of course want to be able to specialize in the specific area and be able to lecture students about the subject we specialize in. But there are so many texts, films and documents that I believe only get shared from professors to students or which are researched by other scholars. Chicano/a Studies has a wealth of materials that should be read far and wide, not just when a person enrolls in a course. Nor is Chicano/a Studies only for Chican@s. I know, some people are thinking, "no shit Sherlock." Unfortunately, Chicano/a Studies texts, art and literature sometimes tend to seem like a special interest category. Of course this doesn't only apply to Chicano/a Studies. Also I understand that Chicano/a Studies was never really meant to be mainstream, it was more to establish the historical experiences and culture of Mexicans in the United States. But when I read something that has an impact on me like say, Occupied America, Sometimes There is No Other Side, Racial Fault Lines, Critical Race Theory, This Bridge Called my Back and Massacre of the Dreamers, I also wonder if anyone outside of Chicano/a Studies has read these works. Or if anyone else likes to read far and wide.


For example, at a coffee shop once, I met an older man, who began a conversation with me, and then went on to briefly tell me about the history of the English language and then he started talking about Junipero Serra. This man didn't have an advanced degree, he had just read far and wide. He had not only read fiction, he read history books also.

With the information super highway at our fingertips I wonder how many people read far and wide? How many take the time to use the internet to learn. As much as I hate to say it, I wonder how many really use Wikipedia when not needing it for a research paper, but just to become more well-informed on a subject.

Sometimes I think that so many people would benefit or become enlightened by reading from the works found within Chicano/a Studies, but then I wonder how many actually would read any of it, without having to read from it? I think it's great that there's also people who enroll in courses just to learn about the culture, then there's those of the culture, who might think it's an "easy A," but nonetheless want to become more informed about their culture; but those are the people who for the moment have a special interest. I think we'll also begin to see an upward trend in which people are not interested in the subject, but will enroll in courses nonetheless to disavow what is being taught and learned, while expounding their own ideologies about white nationalism. This is of course not limited to white nationalists either, there are Mexican-American students who will admittedly enroll in classes because they disagree with what they think the intent of Chicano/a Studies is, and want to also disavow the history and subject matter, and flippantly call it bias.

About a year ago, at a job interview I was asked a question that caught me off guard. A person on the hiring committee asked me, "How would you handle a situation in which a student says something racist in your class?" I truly didn't know how to respond to that, mainly because I guess I never had that experience. I fumbled through a response where I would be diplomatic and ask to speak to the student after class. After the interview I wondered why this question was asked. Then I remembered that the Orange One was campaigning and there was a rise in white nationalist rhetoric and hate speech. I also thought it possible that the people on this hiring committee might have already experienced this, because they all taught under, "Ethnic Studies." Then I realized how naive I was, because although I was in California, it didn't mean that every single institution of higher learning was filled with students with a special interest in the subject. As it turns out I neglected the students who felt ignored due to the color of their white skin, and decided they wanted to share/impose their now intellectualized white nationalist narrative. Then recently I found out that, at the university I interviewed for, they had an incident involving a white nationalist, who was given an opportunity to speak in a classroom. I'm quite sure that man had already made some waves on the campus, and then I was even more sure, that that was why I was asked the question about how I would handle a situation with a student that might say something racist.

A quick side note, the villain in Ellis and Granov's story is a white nationalist who wants to take on the government and "make things right."

I apologize for how scattered my thoughts were in this post, but it has been a while since I've posted on here. That's why I jump from a comic book, to culture (briefly), the silo, and what Chicano/a Studies and Ethnic Studies courses will be facing in the future. I spent the last couple of years writing horrible academic things. I also spent time messaging with an Amazonian Mexicana from Arizona. Aside from that I spent too much time in my headspace and not enough time for myself and the outside world.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Cause

Last year while having a conversation over a couple of beers with my roommate he mentioned to me, that an old friend of his had just been released from prison and had gotten in touch with him. That friend contacted my roommate to harangue him about "the cause" he had left behind. You see, my roommate and his friend used to be a in gang together. What "cause," you might wonder.

Well, the farmworker and raza cause of course. You see the red gang has based some of their ideology and symbolism around the farmwoker and United Farm Workers struggle. Years ago, I remember walking past my brother's bedroom, and I saw the UFW flag on his wall. Although I wasn't super familiar with the interconnectedness between the red gang and the labor union, I knew a big reason it was on his wall wasn't because he necessarily sympathized with the farmworker struggle, was a union member/volunteer, let alone a farmworker, I knew he had the flag on his wall because it was red.

[Mexican American Red flag with Eagle]
United Farm Workers are not a gang.

My mother was a UFW volunteer and activist. Therefore she had amassed quite a collection of UFW memorabilia in the form of buttons and flags. When my brothers began to get caught up in the red gang ideology, they began wearing UFW buttons. They would talk about being down for "the cause," just not around me, because they knew I didn't play that bullshit. But my mother had heard them talking to friends and telling them how their mother had been down for "the cause." My mom was upset about this and explained to them, that she was never a chola, and the UFW had nothing to do with gangs. But my brothers in turn tried to explain the red gang's history and affiliation to the union, to which my mother just shook her head, as in, "Estan pendejos."

This is UFW memorabilia, NOT gang paraphernalia 
I personally did not know how the red gang had twisted the UFW mythology to accommodate their own agenda. Seeing the red union flag in the bedroom, I knew it had nothing to do with allegiance to the union. It was all about the colors. And I also understood that the red gang saw themselves as the Mexicanos in the northern California who were embattled with southern California Mexicanos. According to them they felt looked down upon because the Mexicanos from the south like LA, would look down upon them for working in agriculture. That was where my knowledge of the decades long "war" between raza began and ended.


I recently read, Blood in the Fields: Ten Years Inside California's Nuestra Familia Gang (2014) by Julia Reynolds. Through her book I learned how much the red gang tied their own ideology or more specifically agenda to the United Farm Workers and the labor movement since the gang's beginnings. It was more than just about the colors and the symbolism. It's not to say that the gang was a natural extension of the UFW and consisted of people who tried to steer toward the UFW's cause. Not at all. It was just something they sympathized with being that many of the young Mexican Americans in Salinas, actually were farm laborers. Later, the Mexican American laborers evolved from being a group of Mexican American laborer friends and into a gang, it became convenient to associate their cause with the UFW's symbolism and "raza" rhetoric when brainwashing other Xican@ youth. But really that's where the affiliation with "the cause" ended. Some of the men Reynolds interviewed in the book seemed conflicted, believing in "the cause" but not knowing where "the cause" for the raza began, and "the cause" for gang profiteering began, because that's how blurred the lines were. They were both one and the same. And who was the enemy? Well Mexican@s from southern California of course!

Some of the older men and men who had left the gang, interviewed by Reynolds, were able to disentangle the web of deception, and admitted that the true "cause" for the gang was basically making money through criminal activities. It had nothing to do with Cesar Chavez's ideology of non-violence. Again, the red gang's association with the UFW and raza speak, is just a convenient way to persuade Xican@ youth toward their "cause."

What is truly insane for me, is that growing up, the first thing I knew about Mexican agricultural laborers (besides my parents being farm laborers themselves), was the UFW and their struggle. I had friends in the red gang, but I had never heard or seen much about the UFW or anything else pertaining to labor struggles. It was mainly just about making sure that you wore your red t-shirt or belt to let it be known who you were affiliated with. But I noticed that with my brothers and their friends, they have grown up learning about the UFW through the gang. That is they learn about the gang first, and then through the gang they begin to learn about their historical roots and how they tie to the UFW and farmworker struggles. This is mind blowing, because there are generations of Xican@s learning about the UFW "cause" and using their symbols based on what they hear from the red gang. Blurred like a motherfucker.

Did you know Cesar Chavez was member of the red gang? Well not in that he got jumped in or that he is the founder of the red gang, but because he's a Xicano from northern California! We need to go and tell Rodolfo Acun~na to update the next edition of Occupied America to make sure he highlights Chavez's time as a norte~no!

(-______________________________________________________-)

SMPC

Either Chavez is spinning in his grave or if he were alive and did not adhere to his own ideology of non-violence, he would probably be bitch slapping quite a few Xican@s down with "the cause."

I really have no words for the whole rationale. All that comes to mind when I have family who are trying to explain the red gang's ties (or "the cause") to the UFW is for me to say, "Estas mas pendejo, que baboso."

But going back to my roommate who had moved on from gang life, and was now living far from Salinas; after he told me about the friend who had castigated him about forgetting "the cause," I asked him, "What was the cause? Terrorizing and killing your own people?" He looked dismayed and just said, "Yeah,"

Reynolds' book tells the history of the prison gang, Operation Black Widow, but also about those out on the street specifically focusing on Salinas, and Mando, a young man who killed a drug dealer, under the orders of a shot caller, who was working as an informant for the FBI. The informant gave the green light while under the FBI supervision, which takes Reynolds through some bureaucratic crap, where the FBI refuses to acknowledge that they allowed this to happen under their watch. You might be familiar with the case if you have watched the Gangland episode that focuses on the same subject. If you want to get the gist of the book, the Youtube video below is a documentary about the same topic. Reynolds wrote the documentary and released it through PBS in 2006.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Barbershop Chiste and Cuento

Over the years barbershops have provided a space for conversation. Where you can chat it up with your barber about local chisme or a place where at least the barbers know your name. I'm not the most conversant person, but whether here or in the Midwest I enjoyed sitting waiting my turn to get my haircut, while the barbers eithber joked with eachother or told stories to the customer they were giving a trasquilada to. Barbershops can be like the bar you frequent where the bartender remembers you whenever you come in, except they won't yell out "Norm!". I can't really complain about any of the barbers I've interacted with. Although I'm sure some might complain about their clients if they feel they didn't get a fair tip. 

I haven't had a steady barbershop in some time. Recently I started going to a local shop, and I was reminded that barbers have some great stories and jokes. When I first walked in to the shop, the barber, was working on an older man, just shooting the breeze. I sat down as the barber began to tell him a joke. The joke went along the the lines of, "There was this apartment building. And one day the devil is walking by and he decides he's going to set on fire. So he does. The building is burning up and there's people running out, and people dying in the fire. But there's one woman who is just sitting there. The devil looks and at her, like, 'What the hell.' So he walks up to this woman and he tells her, 'hey, can't you see the buidling is on fire? Aren't you afraid of being burned to death? Why don't you try to run out?' The woman looks at him, and says,'No I'm not afraid of burning to death. Do you want to know why?' The devil looks at her, and asks,'Why?' She replies, 'because I'm married to your brother.'"

Personally I had never heard that joke, so I thought it was great.

Not  long after, the barber had finished cutting the man's hair. It was my turn to sit in the chair. As I sat down another man walked in to get his haircut as well. He and the barber clearly knew eachother, and started chatting. Apparently the man, was currently on worker's comp due to an injury he had suffered at work. The injury was bad enough that the man is unable to do any of the physical work the man had done before, He is now talking with a lawyer, becuase he's afraid about being fired, since it sounded like he had mainly done hard labor most of his life. Anyhow the barber began to give his own account of an incident in which he suffered a workplace injury (before becoming a barber) and sought out compensation since he would no longer able to do the work he  had done for ~20 years. 

The barber talked about having to haggle with the company lawyer about a settlement. The company lawyer apparently offered him $5000.00 and said, "Five thousand dollars is a lot of money. With all that money you can go back to Mexico, buy yourself a taco stand and you can be set for life, because you'll have your own business." 

The barber, musta had the same perplexed look the devil had when the woman sat there as the building burned. 

The barber's response to the lawyer: "Sounds good. But I tell you what, I'll take the  deal only if you come with me to Mexico." 

The lawyer asked him why.

The barber told him, that if he thinks he can live off five thousand dollars, then he should be able to do the same if he thought it was such a great deal. The barber then told him he was a fucken asshole. Although as it turns out the barber is Salvadoran (alos possibly a U.S. citizen) and seemed a bit offended about being grouped as a certain type of Latino, just because he is brown. He said the lawyer was clearly upset about being called an asshole and kicked him out of the office. Things ended up working for the barber, he got a settlement and was able to get trained as a barber.

By this point the barber was finishing up my haircut. So I didn't get to hear any other stories or jokes. But a couple of things came to mind, like the oral tradition of passing down jokes, but even these things relating to racial or social issues. Encounters with the ignorant masses.

In my hometown my old barbers had seen military action in Vietnam and Korea. They recounted bits of this to me. Other times it was baudy jokes. Either way barbershops have been great places for cuentos and chistes.

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