Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Things We Do To Ourselves

Mrs. X had asked me if I had any tattoos or if I had thought about getting any. I told her that I had wanted to get my hometown-Watsonville, tattooed in Olde English font across the back of the width of my shoulders. She asked if I wasn't concerned about my safety if I did this due to possible harassment from gang members or cops. It was a good question to ask, but I explained to her that me and friends already got harassed mainly by gangmembers, even without us having tattoos. We basically got harassed for being brown or Xicano, by other Xicanos in gangs.

Being a Xicano at a university in California you'd think that my main problem was figuring out what type of beer I wanted to consume for the weekend-Pale Ale please! Or the mid terms and finals. Or douchebagging professors who make the occasional joke at the expense of the underprivileged. Or the ignorant white students who celebrate Cesar Chavez Day or Cinco de mayo by wearing their Mexican regalia and getting shitfaced for the day. Yeah we had to deal with that. But being Xicanos in a university we had to deal with our own raza as well. I'm not talking about vendidos, or Highspanics or Tio Tacos.

I'm talking about the local raza that would be in gangs and would single us out, because you know, we were raza as well. See the thing is, that even in my college town back in Cali, there were gangs as I mentioned in a past post. The thing of it is, you'd think those of us that were Xicano/a students and went out to the bars would not have to worry about other Xicanos hitting us up and wanting to start shit with us. In my college town it seemed that the gangs didn't really have rivals nearby they could throwdown with like they did back in my hometown and local area. So in the college town they seemed to spot a group of other Xicanos at a bar who were not in a gang, and they would go out of their way to maddog and hit us up about what barrios we were from. This wasn't an every weekend occurrence but some of the incidents just stay with me, because I can't believe we do this shit to ourselves.

I'm out a few friends, one of them coming out with us for the first time. A couple of fellow Xicanos, of the cholo persuasion spot our new friend and inch up next to us. They're looking down at him, it's clear they're going to hit him up. The escalation this will lead to is unknown until the exchange occurs. The guy standing closest to him, asks "Where you from?" Our new friend proudly pronounces "I. V.!" (Imperial Valley). The two cholos seem impressed with his haughtiness and respect this, and instead of increasing the tension they simply have a casual conversation.

Different incident. A friend relays to me the following encounter. He and another friend from Southern California, specifically Calexico, are at a local popular burger joint/watering hole. As they're eating their food, they're approached by a couple of homies, that ask if they can join them. My friends have no problem with it, being that that they are raza. My friend tells me that it was just strange; they're talking and everything seems okay, but the guys ask them whereabouts they're from. My friends reply that they are from So Cal, Calexico. The homies nod their head, and say that's cool. But one of my friends is getting a strange vibe. It just doesn't feel right, he tells me. He says that eventually he looks at his friend and says "We should get going." The friend is caught a bit off guard, but follows suit, and they say their goodbyes to the homies. My friend says that he tells his friend that it just wasn't right that they were asking them where they were from and it felt to him they were trying to dig a little deeper into their geography, but their possible affiliation to the rival gang. His friend has an "oh shit" moment. Not that they had anything to worry about since they weren't affiliated, but it really wouldn't have mattered. If the homies wanted to start shit, they were going to start shit without the necessity of a spoken official confirmation of an affiliation to any gang. All they needed to hear was that these guys were from So Cal and therefore technically enemies. Then again, my friend could just have been paranoid, and those homies were just really looking to chat with fellow raza in a college burger joint mainly patronized by white folk. But why ignore the vibe?

I was out with some friends at that same burger joint/watering hole. We're just sitting, chatting and joking. A couple of guys walk by us a few times and make sure to throw their gang signs up at us. We ignore them. I'm wearing a white long sleeved Southpole shirt, and I'm sure that adds to their justification for tossing their hand gang signs at us. The "South" in Southpole, became ample reason for them to hate us. Nothing happens. Same place different night, different cholos, similar incident. Except one homie, pelon, hones in on me. I guess my goatee painted me as some type of gang member as opposed to a college student, that just wanted to get drunker than all fuck, then go home and keep drinking after closing time. I can feel the maddogging. He's drunk, I doubt he appreciates that I ignore his attempts at trying to lock me into a staring contest. I go up to the bar to order drinks, he ends up next to me, bumps me a couple of times, I grin, and wait for my drinks. A large friend of his comes up and puts an around him, and engages him in a conversation, helping him forget about whatever bullshit he was trying to start with me.

Same burger joint/watering hole. An incident from a few years back. A few friends are there, and its the same song. My friends are just enjoying drinking and they are being maddogged across the way by a group of Xicano fellows with a bone to pick. Those fellows approach and its the most expected question that Xicanos expect to hear from fellow Xicanos, "Where you from?" From what my friends tell me, they reply where they're from and somehow defuse the situation. Amongst my friends is a former gang member who has left that life behind but is bothered by this, however even he contains himself and the fellows end up fucking off.

I have a friend who looks very much like a cholo. He liked wearing the Nike Cortez sneakers, and he was pelon, with a decent sized broche (mustache). Since he had that appearance he was a prime target for local cholos. I just remember getting a phone call one night and one of my friends tells me that they need help, because my cholo looking friend got jumped by some actual cholos. I don't know why I was the go-to person when ever some problem arose with my friends, its not like I could don a cape and cowl, set off a smoke bomb and then toss a bunch of batarangs (or is it X-arangs?) around, then use a zip line to rescue my friends. I get to that party with a few friends. Our friend is being kept in a seperate after being jumped. The other guys who had jumped him, as far I know are milling around somewhere. My former gang member friend ever the boyscout, is in the kitchen looking for weapons, he finds a carving knife. Its funny, yet disturbing, and you can't help but feel like he's one of the most loyal friends you have, if he's willing to go to that extreme to help protect his friends. Eventually it's agreed that we're all going to walk out together with our friend that got jumped. The party had been thrown by some girls who were probably more worried about their carpet than our personal safety. We all walk out together, we make it out of the complex without any further incidents. End of the story. End of the night.

Maybe one other incident, involves a friend who still affiliated himself with a gang and never backed down from a fight when challenged. He's challenged by a couple of rival gang members, they fight, and our friends get involved. The brother of a friend gets blindsided, and in turn he picks up a huge ass rock that he chucks at the car of the assailants who started the brawl, cracking the rear window. The guys speed off and that's the end of that encounter.

I'm sitting here recounting all of these incidents, because it just blows me away that we do this to each other. There's the group of us that are college students, some of us coming from areas where gangs were part of the scenery, but we didn't feel much of a threat from them unless we were caught up in the affiliations. In our college town this changed though, they fucked with us. I would say it was because they were bored and therefore didn't have their rivals nearby to start shit with them. So the easiest target was the other brown students that maybe had facial hair. Regardless it didn't matter whether we were dressed preppy or more street chic, we were targeted by our raza for being raza. They must have been really bored, or I don't know what the fuck. It's not even about safety for me. If anything the incidents above have me asking, over and over again . . . why? Why do we do this to each other? The only difference between us as far as I can tell is that some of us are attending the local campus, and they live in the town, and we congregate at the same bars, but for some reason they want to go out of their way to start shit with us. Some of us are taking Chicano/a Studies courses and trying to learn about unity amongst the raza, and yet as raza we want to brawl with each other.

In my last post I wrote about the trouble with ignorant white folks, and that's only the tip of the iceberg for myself and my friends. I'm sure there's many Xicanos/as out there who have their own horror stories of encounters with an ignorant student body that make mine look lively and funny. But yet, I reflect and here not only are ignorant white folks in a college town our enemy, but also our own raza. We single each other out because we look Mexican or Xicano and we don't care if those guys are affiliated or not, a goatee or brown skin is enough to want to start shit with them, even when it's made apparent that there is no gang affiliation or history amongst the group that is being approached. This is frustrating upon reflection. But I'm focusing on the problem and can't figure out a solution. So I'm stuck here at a coffee shop, scratching my head, shaking my head, twisting my mouth, trying to make sense of it all.

Eh, maybe we just need a Xicano Fight Club. First Rule of Xicano Fight Club, don't try to start a fight just cause the other person looks Xicano and you want to make this about gang affiliations, oh yeah and don't talk about Xicano Fight Club. In Xicano Fight Club we all fight cause we are bonded by the fact that we are Xicanos, and just wanna brawl with each other to relieve some everyday stress from being within the structure, yet outside of it. Then you know, we initiate some protocol based on anarchism. Xicano Fight Club, start  your own chapter today, secretly of course.


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