Saturday, January 12, 2019

Oxnard’s Civil Gang Injunctions: A Personal Inquisition

Prompted by a spike in homicides, in March of 2004 the Oxnard Police Department and the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office embarked upon a public relations campaign that terrified the bejeezers out of residents to support its debut of a civil gang injunction. In their showcase of the criteria and putative effectiveness of this law enforcement tool, the two agencies interspersed within their PowerPoint presentation graphic portrayals of menacing, tattooed, Mexican-origin street gang members complemented by sanguineous crime scenes.

As Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez introduced the injunction to Oxnard residents with bombast, I recoiled as I knew that his campaign to juice the powers of his department embodied the potential to unleash the wanton prosecution, if not persecution, of young brown people.

As a result, I joined a cadre of concerned Ventura County residents that evolved into the formation of Chiques Organizing for Rights and Education (CORE)—an acronym that channeled the civil rights era spirit of the Congress of Racial Equality.

Within the Mexican-origin community, Chiques serves as a cultural epithet for Oxnard. After a brief discussion, we agreed to embrace the Chiques moniker to take back control how the city, in general, and its Mexican-origin community, in particular, was defined by its police department and the DA.

Since the start, CORE, wary of expanded police powers, doubted the constitutionality of the initially proposed injunction against the Colonia Chiques street gang. And over time, a select and fluctuating number of educators, students, Colonia residents, and social workers worked under the CORE name not only to challenge the necessity of this blunt instrument but also petitioned city and county officials for alternative initiatives of prevention and rehabilitation.

Throughout the 14-year history of the City of Oxnard’s two civil gang injunctions (the second against Southside Chiques), I have asked myself why I oppose this law enforcement device. I, like most, if not all, people am for public safety so that my community thrives, especially its youth.

As I recognize the multifaceted, and often perilous, service police officers perform to ensure community peace and safety, I also hold an informed skepticism toward the general impartiality of law enforcement agencies toward the poor and people of color.

The Sleepy Lagoon case of 1942, that entailed the Los Angeles Police Department’s mass arrest of 500 young Mexican Americans, predominantly, who fashioned the era’s zoot suit for the mysterious death of one person, provides one such lesson.

In April of 2006, Lopez’s successor, Police Chief John Crombach, validated my instincts when he publicly bemoaned his department’s gratuitous use of force with the injunction’s implementation like an “invading army in the community.” When I listened to Chief Crombach’s extraordinary admission first hand at a Cal Lutheran University forum in which I was a participant, along with a DA representative, I imagined stormtrooper-like tactics of harassment, the front doors of homes kicked in, and a general abuse of power such as I have studied as a historian in the archives of California.

In fact, CORE listened to such testimonies from Colonia residents as the OPD and DA premiered its injunction. So, I serve as a conduit of their perspective.

These are just a sample of the reasons for my continued opposition to the civil gang injunctions. Others involve the City of Oxnard’s disproportionate allocation of resources to police suppression over independent community-based programs such as the KEYS Leadership Academy that provides proven transformative support for troubled young men and women.

Therefore, I do not favor street gang activity in no shape or form; I support sound, constitutional policing as well as an engaged citizenry that debates the policies of city officials.

Indeed, the OPD, to its credit, admitted to the city council on December 18th, 2018 that CORE’s critique of the gang injunctions influenced its decision to amend this tool to protect the rights of the innocent while ensuring public safety. This resulted in the opportunity for enjoined persons, and those to be served in the future, to challenge with greater ease their identification as active gang members of Colonia or Southside Chiques in and out of court.

Hence, recent judicial rulings deeming injunctions unconstitutional due to their violation of the due process rights of enjoined persons, impelled the OPD to stop the enforcement of its injunctions, amend them, and reduce the number served from an original 1,000 plus people, to 362 earlier this year, to presently some 24 individuals.

While dialogue between the OPD and CORE continues, a recent police department survey that purports the community’s support for the injunctions at over 90% similarly begs interrogation. Only in totalitarian states such as North Korea, or with such unscientific assessments, can such a high approval rate be alleged.

As in the presentation of suspect data for the implementation of the initial injunction in 2004, such statistical sleight-of-hand undermines extant trust among residents.

Furthermore, wariness manifest in contradictions between stated promises of the OPD and its actions. One that stands out in my mind was the department’s promise to the community early in this tale that juveniles would not be served with the injunction. Another consist in the assertion that the injunction, under civil law, would not impinge on the right of those served to enjoy legal representation by a public defender as is the case under criminal law. In both cases, the OPD vacillated in words and deeds.

So as the city council continues to support the OPD’s continued civil gang injunction strategy, it must adopt the novel tool of the Youth Justice Coalition: LA For Youth-1% Campaign that calls for one percent of Los Angeles County’s law enforcement budget to be dedicated to prevention and rehabilitation programs. In the City of Oxnard, a 1% Campaign would translate to $580,000 out of a $58 million OPD general fund budget. Imagine the safer Oxnard this fiscal tool could bring.

C/S
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Amigos 805 LatinoLA

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A New Wave

I attended this morning’s LULAC Ventura County District concourse at the Clinicas del Camino Real, Inc. health center in Saticoy and learned the information below, in summary, about the honored guest speakers.

(Left in image) Gabriela Basua, Oxnard City Councilperson Elect. Works for the City of Port Hueneme, grew up in Oxnard, and attended Channel Islands High School. She served as a leader in the student high school walkouts in protest of the xenophobia of the 1990s—yes, little has changed nationally. A specific concern of hers is public safety and social justice.

(Center in image) Sofia Rubalcava, Ventura City Councilperson Elect. Works for the Santa Barbara School District. She grew up and lives in the Avenue barrio. She vanquished a carpetbagger candidate who moved into her council district specifically to win that seat. The electorate of the Avenue community responded with a decisive, “hell no!” A concern of hers is bilingualism as part of education and public policy.

(Right in image) Gabriela Torres, Ventura County Community College District Trustee Elect. She, too, grew up in Oxnard, attended Ventura College, and graduated from UC Berkeley. Like many proud Cal alumni, she echoed the Berkeley brand several times. Go Bears! She worked in the TRIO program of Cal State Channel Islands before her counselor appointment at the Oxnard School District. A main concern of hers is the reduction of the achievement gap among students.

All three persons expressed their appreciation of Chicana/o Studies in their higher education and support for Ethnic Studies. Two gave shout outs to the late/great Ventura College educator Professor Mayo De LA Rocha in this regard. They believe that the power of Ethnic Studies must be a core aspect of the K-16 curriculum.

These three awesome persons also championed the principles of equity and inclusion for all.

As I advocated on behalf of Chicana/o Studies within the VCCCD, due to its systematic evisceration, I connected this area of study to Cesar Chavez’s Community Service Organization leadership in resistance to police violence (particularly in relation to the notion of public safety and the City of Oxnard’s Civil Gang Injunction), the promotion of bilingual education, a tenure-track college faculty that reflects the community it serves, and the recruitment, retention, and graduation of students, especially the historically underserved.

From the countenances of the honored guest speakers, I gathered that they supported these ideas.

In closing, a big congratulations to the electoral victories of Gabriela Basua, Sofia Rubalcava, and Gabriela Torres. Ahua! Y gracias to the leadership of LULAC-Ventura County District for the sponsorship of this event. I left the meeting hopeful.
C/S
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Academic Jargon


I registered below theoretical jargon that impedes my comprehension of historical narratives. And to their right, I placed words that express ideas more clearly, particularly for non-academics in the community—people that most historians wish to influence.

Discursive≈ symbolic, emblematic, illustrative, interpretative, subjective, representative

Imaginary≈ dream, fantasy, invention, fiction, idea, narrative, critique, histories, ideas, perspectives, narratives, critiques.

Neo-liberal≈ merciless, cruel, brutal. A term often used so repeatedly by mediocre scholars in an essay that it loses all significance. Takeaway: when employed do so sparingly.

Subjectivity≈ agency, personhood, belonging, individual, particular reality.

For the record, in the past I queried academic acquaintances and friends who employ such mumbo jumbo only to discover that many themselves can’t define their own use of such terms.

C/S
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

El Mercado


(Oxnard grocery market of the past, 1972. Notice Spanish mispelling for "prices")

An excerpt from manuscript 2.

Grocery stores of Ventura County reinforced the Mexican culture of the home. Particularly on weekends, markets, large and small, named Santa Cruz, Bob’s, Grandpa's, and Raines bustled with parents, grandparents, and a chingo (a whole bunch) of children. Mexican shoppers of diverse residency, races, and citizenship that crowded such spaces often referred to themselves, sometimes disparagingly and at other times affectionately, as la chicanada—the hoi polloi of Mexico.

Pleated and sunbaked skin marked the countenances of adults, especially the old; men often walked with gruesome bloodshot eyes overexposed to the sunrays reflected from the soil. The sinew and veins of the arms and hands of women and men exhibited not only a worn strength but also the sacrifice made to purchase the anticipated manna to delight themselves and their brood.

Patrons jostled each other as they scooped rice and pinto bean from giant bins into brown paper sacks, fingered through fruits and vegetables, and stood in front of the butcher section to select fresh cuts of pork, beef, and poultry.

Meanwhile, niños cried and screamed; children, well, acted as such as they teased each other, pleaded for toys and treats, as well as lane-split grocery carts. All throughout, a Spanish-language cacophony of parental admonishments (apaciguasen,vas a ver,ven aqui!) radio music, conversations, and debates filled the air.
(Los Angeles Public Library)

And to complete el mandado (grocery shopping) family parties serried the checkout with furtive glances of wonder, frustration, and desire.

C/S
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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

¡Campeón!, ¡Campeón!: Everyone Needs a Champion Now and Then

Two-car garages gauntlet the alleys of the Levittown-like Oxnard neighborhood of Bartolo Square. As I washed my Datsun 280 Z2+2 behind my childhood home one weekend in 1984, Chicanita and Chicanito kids played. As the brood of Mexican immigrant parents, they spoke Spanish while they chased and ribbed each other, noisily. Then a lone Doberman Pincher approached us from down the backstreet. Once they noticed the hund, the children shrieked and screamed, “¡Campeón!, ¡Campeón! ¡Ayudanos, Campeón!” Then from their backyard came a handsome black and tan German Shepherd. As their pastor alemán spied the menace that was his Germanic cousin, Campeón growled and rushed away the Doberman. The Chicanitos cheered, “Yeahh, Campeón! Yeahhh! Campeón!” In triumph, their champion pranced back to his yard. A few minutes later, the Doberman returned and the feat reran.

The kids adored Campeón, their defender.

I think of this story as I obsess over the recruitment and selection of potential tenure-track faculty peers from historically underrepresented groups (HUGs), particularly those of Mexican origin. For HUGs applicants to survive the salmon run of a tenure-track opening, at least one member of a search committee must serve as their champion. Without such an advocate, faculty less attuned to the dire need for more HUGs peers dismiss, or even cull, their applications. Some of these faculty simply don’t comprehend the rarity of HUGs scholars; others, I suspect, hold a conscious or unconscious concern to the notion of people of Mexican origin or other HUGs serving in equal number to their European-origin selves. Then there are a small minority of colleagues who view people of color as never their equal, much less superior.

Due to this reality in many, if not most, institutions of academe, the effective recruitment of HUGs tenure-track professors hinges on champions within a recruitment committee to counter the traditional sponsorship of prospective colleagues that mirror the historically dominant within the ranks of not only teaching but also administrative. To protect group control, a foe or foes of HUGs applicants play the role of assassin who stalk and chip away at the competitiveness of threats to their demographic doppelganger, often a person within their social network. Faculty not committed to diversity beyond rhetoric seek out chinks in the armor of HUGs applicants from the start to advantage their furtive, but often suspected, choice. If the elimination of a stellar HUGs applicant is not accomplished by the end, the agent of the status quo embarks upon a crude coup de grace. Then when he or she is questioned by an outside person why a HUGs candidate was not recommended to the administration, the assassin will reply, “Well. You know we look for them but they did not appear in the applicant pool. Umm, maybe next time.”

How do I know this? In my 25 years in higher education, I witnessed peers nitpick the bona fides of HUGs applicants, strategically advance the person under their sponsorship, trash a gem of a HUGs candidate, then, at the end, champion with ferocity, or plead for, the “most qualified” person they desire to join the exclusive club of tenure-track faculty.

Indeed, it is not unusual for applicants in general to have little chance from the get go. When key faculty members want to bring on board a ringer, they craft a job announcement centered on that person’s cv. Hence, the makers of an advertisement eliminate language that casts a wide net inviting just as, if not more, qualified HUGs applicants. And even when HUGs do apply, guardians of the status quo will declare in a committee deliberation, “This person is qualified but is not really what we’re looking for.” “This person does not have publications.” “This person does not have teaching experience.” Or, when invited onto campus, “This person had an (uppity) attitude.”

Individuals who cull the applications of HUGs hopefuls employ such grammar. So it is imperative that HUGs champions be more cunning. A campeón or campeones of HUGs applicants highlight the assets, not the deficits, in such applications as well argue the professional promise a person from the historically underrepresented holds, maybe a future university president. After all, how much teaching experience did most of us have for our first faculty job? How many publications did most of us carry within our scholarly belt upon the completion of our doctoral programs? Most of us, none. So why create arbitrary litmus tests that we did not face at the commencement of our careers, especially at a comprehensive system such as the California State University (CSU).

Within most faculty departments white professors, men and women, dominate. Hence, they reign over recruitment committees that serve as the judges that screen applications for a tenure-track position. Sure, a token HUGs member or two will be included to assert the inclusivity of a search. Such tokens, especially those without tenure or not fully promoted, will rarely, out of self-preservation, challenge the direction of a search in the control of white senior colleagues. To counter this situation, recruitment committees must include an equal or dominant number of HUGs members, ideally with one or more who are fully tenured and promoted to transform the dynamic of the process. Otherwise, it is highly unlikely that a HUGs assistant professor will chance career martyrdom, real or imagined, in the face of those who will serve also as the jury of their own tenure and promotion.

So what’s the takeaway?

Unless, administrative functionaries partner with the campeones of HUGs recruitment, a sinister tokenism will continue to prevail, at best, in the form of only one person of color in a department. The tacit message conveyed, “We have “our black,” “our Mexican,” “our Asian.” We’re in control. No more diversity needed here.”

Although faculty drive the recruitment process of tenure-track faculty, administrators must actualize the principals of equity and inclusion, i.e., Affirmative Action. This must be done by the inspection of job announcements to ensure that they invite the greatest number of applicants from all backgrounds. This administrative oversight, moreover, must police minimum and preferred qualifications that exclude fields and specializations often important to HUGs scholars. Deans, provosts, and campus presidents must also demand that recruitment committees recommend two or more finalists, with a least one being a HUGs; if not, the search will be declared a failure.

In fact, the Chancellor of the CSU must implement the Rooney Rule of the National Football League that commands team owners to interview HUGs candidates when head coaching and senior management positions open. This way CSU presidents who issue letters of appointments can base their decisions on the comprehensive needs of their institutions.

But to advance the number of HUGs within college and university departments everyone must be actively committed to the transformation of a campus culture to one that embraces the representative inclusion of people of color beyond the token one or two. To achieve this, department chairs, deans, faculty, presidents, provosts, and staff must articulate a consistent message that prizes the best practices of equity and inclusion to recruit, retain, and promote HUGs faculty. In this regard, extant faculty of color—especially CSU professors of Mexican origin as Hispanic students are the largest within a HUGs plurality, at 38%, in the system—must communicate to executive administrators that they will back them 100% in the hiring of HUGs candidates when they receive push back from the defenders of the status quo.

This support is crucial as the number one consideration of at-will functionaries is the preservation and the advancement of their individual careers. Managers calculate the political costs and benefits of every decision they make. Due to this fact, the feet of functionaries must be held to this transformative fire as they often issue bromides on the importance of diversity and exploit photo ops with brown faces without the sacrifice of political skin in order to safeguard their progression from chair to dean, dean to provost, provost to president, president to chancellor.

In closing, with every advancement achieved, being a campeón for the underrepresented becomes easier as HUGs begets HUGs.

C/S
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Friday, December 22, 2017

California History Winter 2017: Defiant Braceros



California History WINTER 2017

Mireya Loza, Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political
Freedom. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016. 237 pages. $67.80.
Defiant Braceros advances a conversation, if not a charge, of self-definition by many scholars in Chicana/o Studies. Born of a movement of the 1960s and ’70s, academics in this area of study—many with bracero lineage, as has Mireya Loza—committed themselves to the dismantlement of myths that characterized people of Mexican origin as tractable, apolitical, and, in sum, defeated. Some researchers today contend that this epistemological struggle has been waged and completed. This is not the case; typecasts of all sorts run a cycle; so, a new generation of historians, such as Loza, and students, respectively, need to educate as well as be educated of the agency of Mexican-origin communities in the United States prior to and since el movimiento Chicana/o. Today more than ever.

In this regard, Defiant Braceros belongs to an emergent body of literature that scrutinizes the impact of the guest worker Bracero Program upon families and communities in and outside of Mexico in relation to their struggle against forces of oppression. Earlier books, initiated to a great extent by activist-scholar Ernesto Galarza at the start of the second-half of the twentieth century, concentrated on guest worker bilateral agreements between the United States and Mexico since WWII as well as how the agricultural industrial complex manipulated the Bracero Program to economically pit imaginary pond-like braceros against domestic agricultural laborers.

Mireya Loza’s important contribution, however, defines a tradition of bracero subjectivity by way of defiance and deviance. In other words, protean bracero narratives, the author convincingly argues, deviate from as well as defy notions of them as “ideal” (5) tractable, disposable workers. These well contextualized stories also analyze inconsistencies among braceros in relation to their mutable resident status, indigenous-mestizo racial identity, and sexuality as opposed to the normative dutiful father abroad, loyal to Mexico lindo as they labored honorably in the United States. In the exploration of agents secondarily linked to the bracero odyssey, Loza aptly integrates the transnational influence of women as: wives who sought estranged husbands, migrants to border sites such as Mexicali, paramours, granddaughters, and sex workers in both countries. In this regard, the author does not limit this study to the historical as Loza reviews the recent past as multigenerational family members in both nations pursued monetary redemption via the Bracero Justice Movement for ten percent of wages not paid by the Mexican government to superannuated braceros.

In the explication of defiance and deviance, Loza successfully proved the book’s thesis of multiple narratives that defined the lives of Braceros and their communities. Loza’s first example consisted of indigenous immigrants from central Mexico who deviated from the state’s mestizo project of the early twentieth century that advanced a whitening, if not an erasure, of the Indian by ways of cultural and economic assimilation. Hence, Mexican elites viewed the Bracero Program as an opportunity in which to modernize the Mexican Indian—and state—to an ideal mestizo community. In addition to the acquisition of modern technologies, attire reified this catechism. One example consisted of the bracero’s conversion from the use of huaraches (sandals) to boots, or the more complete sartorial style of the urban dandy who relinquished white cotton pantalones de manta (37).

Who was a bracero also depended on the context as the label itself defied official distinction. Before and after World War I, any Mexican national who migrated to work in the United States, largely but not limited to agriculture, were viewed as braceros by employers, detractors, as well as themselves. During World War II, policymakers of the two nations extended the bracero appellation to government sponsored guest workers. Then there were defiant braceros who skipped out of their contracts to chase higher wages, adventure, and freedom; this attained them, along with compatriots who entered the United States without such sanction from the start, the “wetback” slur.

To protect the interests of braceros and domestic agricultural workers in the United States, the Alianza de Braceros Nacionales de México en los Estados Unidos (the Alliance of Bracero Nationals of Mexico in the United States), led by José Lara Jimenez and José Hernández Serrano in Mexico, and Galarza’s National Farm Labor Union partnered for a short-lived period. This endeavor ultimately failed due to its neutralization by the Mexican government. In the process, however, the three and their constituents resented how undocumented immigrants, many apostate braceros, undermined their cause. As a result, defiant ex-braceros who skipped from their contracts, and those who never enjoyed any, found themselves labeled epaldas mojadas (wetbacks) by the Alianza leadership, Galarza, whites, as well as Mexican Americans and long-term Mexican immigrant nationals in el norte. Although Loza touched upon the deviance between Indian braceros vis-a-vis “ideal” mestizo workers, at least in the eyes of the Mexican state, the racist undertone of the “wetback” epithet could have been interrogated further. For example, did Galarza and Mexican American leaders use the wetback smear with the same animus as whites? And how similar or different was the enmity behind the use of this invective by the leadership of the Alianza toward undocumented workers?

The epilogue of Defiant Braceros details the contradictions that undergirded the National Museum of American History’s creation of “a consortium of institutions to preserve the history of bracero communities in Mexico and the United States.” (171) This Bracero History Consortium then embarked upon a Bracero History Project composed of a Bracero History Archive and an exhibition by the museum in Washington, D.C. and others that traveled the nation. The content of the archive and the exhibits did not align, however. For example, the archive evinced the defiant and deviant complexities inherent of the program. Exhibit curators, however, were politically careful to commemorate the ideal tractable bracero as a happy, dutiful father, who honored his guest worker contract then repatriated. The bracero who straddled the immigrant status of the authorized and unauthorized, and partook in actions of deviance and pleasure could not be a part of this official narrative. This would undermine any revival of a similar guest worker program in the future, especially under the administration of President George W. Bush.

Defiant Braceros is thoroughly researched with an even combination of primary source material and secondary literature. From this foundation of oral history interviews, letters, government documents, and seminal books, Loza methodically scrutinizes how braceros and their families coped with forces larger than themselves in a clear and incisive manner. To seamlessly move this trenchant narrative along from one chapter to the other, the author inserts cogent biographies titled Interludes. Loza also pacts each chapter with shrewd analysis. So much so, that many of the topics covered (such as the Bracero Justice Movement, the Alianza-Galarza connection, and others) will surely inspire graduate students and scholars alike to develop monographs based on them.

In closing, upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers will find Defiant Braceros a fount of knowledge on the lives of people previously viewed as agentless players of the past.

Frank Barajas
California History WINTER 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Unicorn

At a teaching demonstration for a tenure-track faculty recruitment, students sat in a jammed classroom, a good number enrolled in sections of Chicana/o Studies. The visage of the candidate reflected a Mayan Mexican ancestry. Awestruck, one collegian who matched
the indigeneity of the presenter (as did many others in the audience) hung on every word pronounced by the presenter. The student spied a unicorn—or the reappearance of the foremost American of this continent with a Ph.D. This person’s riveted countenance, nearly tearful, revealed the deliverance of the possible self. I know this. How? Because since my early years in academe—first at Moorpark College, through my matriculation at CSU Fresno, the Claremont Graduate School and my first gig at Cypress College and now here—I’ve experienced this wonder that we progeny of the Maya, Purepecha, and Tarahumara (not the all too prolific Cherokee from “great-grandma”) can also, and must, impart our epistemology and stories in meaningful numbers, not just as unicorns.

C/S
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