Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Making of a Logophile

 

As a nescient logophile and non-accustomed reader (but open to the idea) as a young Chicano, I was intrigued by the 1980s tv sitcom ALF (Alien Life Form) and listening to the respective commentary and play-by-play of sports announcers Howard Cosell, in his oft glum mien, and Dick Vitale with his hyper bombast. These three expressed themselves with an erudition that fascinated me. For example, I remember in one episode the snarky Alf debated Willy, the always haggard head of the household, with the riposte, "Willy, let's not embark on syllogisms….” “Syllogisms? What does that mean?” I thought. So, after the show I arose from laying on the living room chase, that was the floor, to search the tattered, coverless, dictionary in my parents’ Levittown-era house, probably bought at a secunda for $1 or left behind as we moved in the late 1960s (that I still have, btw. See pic), to learn its definition as I have repeatedly since then because my brain just doesn’t encode the meaning of certain words—another is the awkward “a priori.”


While I intensely studied Carey McWilliams’ North From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States (1948) as part of my course prep as an assistant professor at Cypress College in the early 1990s, words like “filigree,” “garroted,” “tatterdemalion,” “ultramontane,” and others, in a numinous way, made me self-conscious of my scholastic illiteracy. This, along with my interaction with academics and managers, I regularly listened to lectures and speeches embedded with words I did not know the meaning of. My lexiconic shortcomings made this working-class, ethnic Mexican person uneasy. To the point of having a complex.


But I worked on this imposter syndrome. Before the age of mobile phones, I memorized arcane words at commencement and convocation-like ceremonies to define when I returned to my study. In one instance, my boss, CI President Richard Rush, now retired, tied in the word “euphonious” into one of his campus addresses. As a Jesuit-trained scholar, he regularly integrated such words into his syncopated Catholic-Mass-inflected disquisitions. In this instance, his wife Jane shunted him aside to brashly take over the mic to say in her ethnic, northeast borough insouciance, “‘Euphonious’ means it sounds nice!” Thanks, Jane, and R.I.P.


Now to further improve my command of language, I am a subscriber to The New Yorker. But television continues to inspire me. The latest being Schitt’s Creek. For each episode, I sat ready to press the pause button of the remote to define Moira Rose’s melodramatic introduction of words like “callipygian,” “epistle inamorata,” and “nocturnal enuresis.”


Well, that’s the end of my laconic reverie on how I became a word buff. My next dispatch will account how I came up with the titles of my two books: Curious Unions: Mexican American Workers and Resistance in Oxnard, California, 1898-1961 and Mexican Americans with Moxie: A Transgenerational History of El Movimiento Chicano in Ventura County, California, 1945-1975.


C/S


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Saturday, August 28, 2021

Mexican Americans with Moxie

This week journalist Gustavo Arellano, with his emblematic Promethean-flair, featured


in the Los Angeles Times' Essential California newsletter. He trenchantly nailed my bio and the book's essence. To read his investigative reporting and prose, subscribe to the LA Times and sign up for GUSTAVO ARELLANO'S WEEKLY. And don't forget to buy him tacos.

#respect

C/S

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Nuts, Not Bananas: US Rebellions Past n Present

Horrorstruck by last week’s terrorist attack on our nation’s capital by Trump’s willing executioners, former president George W. Bush; Republican, Wisconsin congressman Mike Gallagher; and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demurred the idea that the United States resembled a Latin American “banana republic.”


Image: Los Angeles Times.2021.01.12


Their reactions exhibited a white supremacist hubris in and of itself. For them, only the brown people of Latin America revolted in such a way.


Alzheimer’s may explain the three forgetting the extremism of this past May and October in Michigan where Trump loyalists stormed the state’s capital with assault rifles in the first instance and plotted to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the second. Nor did they recall other racists rebelling with tiki torches through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia in the summer of 2017 chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”


Then there is our nation’s granddaddy of rebellions: the American Civil War that started in 1861 as secessionist forces attacked the US base that was Fort Sumter. Why did southern Confederates secede? Because president Abraham Lincoln would not allow the further expansion of slavery. 


I will give non-students of history a pass on not considering Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion. The former involved insurrectionists, many armed revolutionary war veterans, attacking Massachusetts’s courts, to stop the foreclosures of farms, and a federal arsenal in 1786. The latter entailed a federal excise tax on whiskey that prompted western Pennsylvania distillers to assault tax collectors in 1791.


In 1794, President George Washington led 13,000 federalized soldiers into Pennsylvania’s backcountry to quash the rebellion. Later that year in an address to Congress, he characterized the whiskey insurrection as "fomented by combinations of men who...have disseminated, from an ignorance or perversion of facts, suspicions, jealousies, and accusations of the whole Government."


My point is that the "banana republic" appellation signifies the notion that the US is beyond socio-political upheaval. This is grounded in the portrayal of brown “other” nations as culturally, if not racially, prone to political violence. Indeed, that is how media conditioned me in my youth.


As I came of age in the 1980s, I did not read much but viewed a lot of television. As a latchkey kid, I watched reruns after school: Hogan’s Heroes, MASH, and Baa Baa Black Sheep. Living in Greater Los Angeles, I also pass the time with Channel 7’s KABC Eyewitness News that featured debates between Bruce Herschensohn and John Tunney.


Herschensohn was a conservative commentator who served in the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Tunney was a one-term California U.S. Senator connected to the Kennedys who championed the liberal perspective.


In covering US foreign policy, the two regularly argued about the incessant wars and golpes in the Caribbean and Central America, particularly the revolutions of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.


Back then these governments were popularly labeled “banana republics.” The origin of the epithet stemmed from the region’s economic dependency on the export of this fruit and other commodities such as coffee and sugar as dictated by US financiers and corporations such as Chiquita (formerly United Fruit) and Dole dating back to the early twentieth century.


The cognomen is also drenched with racist assumptions of American exceptionalism. As the City Upon the Hill, the US felt obligated to mentor such nations. Ostensibly, Latin Americans, as a race, were too unstable and corrupt to govern themselves without its tutelage.


This is in addition to their protection from European interference as declared in the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Tacitly, only the US could.


As I watched Herschensohn and Tunney reprise a nightmare of death squads, strongmen, assassins, “freedom fighters,” and insurgencies, I ignorantly bought into this epistemology and thought to myself, “Why can’t these countries just get their act together like the USA?”


Then in college, I was assigned Walter Lefeber’s Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America (1983). It detailed a long history of US interventionism, both overt and covert, to instate vicious rulers throughout the region by way of cunning regime change that entailed coups, military advisors, naval and marine invasion, and contrived elections.


If a nationalist government with ambitions of self-determination emerged, the US systematically attempted to destabilize it. Think Cuba historically and Valenzuela in the present.


Further reading revealed the Central Intelligence Agency’s sponsorship of the murderous coups of the democratically elected presidencies of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 and Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973. Their crime, the pursuit of their citizens having greater control of their lands’ resources at some expense of US conglomerates.


Hence, the respective installation of the merciless military dictatorships of Carlos Castillo Armas and Augusto Pinochet. To paraphrase President Franklin Roosevelt’s alleged description of the US-supported Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, the two were sons of bitches, but they were our sons of bitches.


Although the ideological pretext for US interventionism was to combat the spread of communism in the Western Hemisphere, the material motive was to maintain commercial hegemony while smothering alternative autochthonous economic models that privileged the social needs of Latin Americans over US business interests.


In sum, the history of the US is anything but one of continuity. So, while we may not be bananas, history and the pro-Trump sedition of last week reminds us that we have a fair share of nuts.

C/S

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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Twenty-one Days Later: A Ventura County Perspective on the Chicano Moratorium of 1970

 Last month hundreds of people marked with moxie the 50th anniversary of the August 29th, 1970 Chicano Moratorium in East Los Angeles. To protest our nation’s war in Vietnam, racism, and police brutality, starting at 9 am that day nearly 30,000 ethnic Mexicans and their allies from all over the Southwest took to the streets in a 3-mile peace march through the boulevards of Atlantic and Wilshire.

                                                      (Sal Castro / Los Angeles Public Library)

Among many slogans, they chanted and held signs expressing, “¡Raza Si! ¡Guerra No!,” “Our Fight Is Not in Vietnam,  “Chicano Power,” and “Stop Chicano Genocide!”


In the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement since George Floyd’s killing by, now, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin this May, the protests of Chicanos today concentrate on law enforcement’s abuse of power as marchers have crooned, “¡La migra, la policia, la misma porqueria!” As well as “¡Chinga tu frontera!,” and the classic “¡El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!

                                   50th Chicano Moratorium Education Website Facebook

All chants, then and now, denounced state violence against Black and Brown people in one form or another.


Ethnic Mexican veterans are among the valiant dating back to the Civil War. But in 1970 Chicanos protested how US casualties in Vietnam disproportionately consisted of young men from their communities in the Southwest as Dr. Ralph Guzmán documented that from 1961 to 1967 their brothers and friends made up 19.4 percent of those who died when this group consisted of 10 to 12 percent of the population.


Today, Chicanos protest the killings of Latina and Latino soldiers. Army Private First Class Vanessa Guillen stationed at Fort Hood being one and Specialist Enrique Roman-Martinez of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg another. Roman-Martinez’s sister and mother delivered impassioned speeches at Atlantic Park in East L.A. before the commencement of the 50th-anniversary march this past August 29th. They criticized the Army for its less than transparent investigation and decried only having received Enrique Roman-Martinez’s partial remains.


In 1970, the Brown Berets of Los Angeles, along with UCLA student Rosalio Muñoz and others formed the National Chicano Moratorium Committee that organized demonstrations in Southern California previously and afterward. But the August 29th march and rally at the then-named Laguna park was the granddaddy of them all.


                            Rosalio Urias Munoz Facebook photos

Once at Laguna park, families and friends celebrated the occasion’s success as they listened to heartfelt speeches, poetry, and admired children in rainbow-colored outfits dance to the music of mariachis. Home movie footage captured the pride and delight of the audience on that toasty August day.


Then tragedy struck. With the pretext of a robbery at a nearby liquor store, Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies and police stormed the peaceful assembly with batons and teargas. The law enforcement instigated riot resulted in three deaths and hundreds arrested and abused. Ruben Salazar, a former Los Angeles Times reporter turned KMEX-TV news director, considered the voice of the Chicano community, was one of the slain as he stopped at the Silver Dollar Bar far away from the melee, on Whittier Blvd, to decompress from law enforcement’s merciless assault.


After several contradictory official explanations, it was found that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Thomas Wilson killed Salazar with a 10-inch teargas projectile designed to pierce walls. Many in the community contended then, and believe now, that the powers that be in Los Angeles conspired to assassinate Salazar due to his refusal to temper his reportage of law enforcement misconduct.


In adjacent Ventura County, the Chicano community also viewed Salazar’s homicide as the system’s culling of its leadership. In a September 3, 1970 letter to the Ventura County Star-Free Press titled, “Siesta Is Over!” Arthur Gómez of Santa Paula addressed Governor Ronald Reagan and local elected officials when he stated, “Yes, the siesta is over! The siesta was broken by the murder of two innocent Mexican nationals in a Los Angeles hotel and the 10-inch projectile that shattered Ruben Salazar’s head… One day we shall not have our leaders murdered. One day we shall not have our children made ashamed of being part Mexican. One day we shall have justice and dignity.”


Intrepidly, Chicano men and women conducted a peace march twenty-one days after law enforcement’s rampage in East Los Angeles. This time in the City of Oxnard on September 19th. Approximately, 1,000 marchers from all walks of life, different communities, and a span of generations again took to the streets.


As a former Brown Beret, Peggy Larios recalled how the participatory support of elderly ethnic Mexican men and women made her feel safe as a young teenager.


In their planning that started weeks, if not months, in advance of the August 29th tragedy, the organizers declared the community’s goal of liberation as well as the end of Chicano genocide in Vietnam and police brutality.


Leading up to the “La Raza” (the People’s) peace march, men and women of the Brown Berets leafleted neighborhoods to promote the demonstration and, to further ensure amity at the event, disseminated a code of conduct to the public, the Oxnard Police Department, and media.

            Oxnard Press-Courier. September 20, 1970 photo by Ted Nauman

From La Virgin de Guadalupe Church, demonstrators paraded boldly through the streets of La Colonia barrio (Oxnard’s version of East LA) and the downtown district with a coffin that symbolized 8,000 ethnic Mexican servicemen killed in Vietnam. The procession ended at the city’s Community Center. There, as national chairman for the Chicano Moratorium Committee, Muñoz characterized the Vietnam War as the “systematic murder” of Chicanos.


Muñoz also linked US militarism abroad with domestic state violence when he stated that the, “Police instill more fear and harass the Chicanos more than the Viet Cong through their prejudices.”


To avoid an August 29th-like catastrophe, the Brown Berets of Oxnard, the Ventura County chapter of the Mexican American Political Association, and MEChA representatives from local colleges and high schools met in advance with law enforcement.


La Raza Moratorium Committee’s communication with law enforcement and the press garnered the community’s goodwill for the event’s achievement. Indeed, the Oxnard Press-Courier commended the organizers in an editorial as it acknowledged the disproportionate ethnic Mexican casualty rate in the Vietnam War. It also complimented in a backhanded manner law enforcement in general, for its “diplomacy and restraint.”


Fifty years later, Chicanos are proud of being ethnic Mexicans. But with the controversial homicides of Latino soldiers and civilians such as PFCs Guillen and Roman-Martinez on the one hand and Andres Guadardo, shot in the back by a LA County sheriff’s deputy, on the other, we, Chicanas and Chicanos, still await justice.

C/S

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Monday, July 27, 2020

CSU Channel Islands Chicana/o Studies Dept. Statement

The Chicana/o Studies Department of CSUCI affirms our support for AB 1460
July 24, 2020

Statement Rejecting Chancellor Timothy White’s White Washed Requirement adopted by the California State University Board of Trustees

Systemic racism is alive and well in the Chancellor’s Office of the California State University and Board of Trustees by the passage of a so-called “Ethnic Studies-Social Justice” requirement, essentially ignoring Ethnic Studies Faculty across the CSU system. His move to preemptively undermine the passage of AB 1460, continues the legacy of white supremacy in education. A close analysis of the final vote reveals that the majority in favor of Chancellor White’s watered-down, white-washed proposal were majority white trustees. Those who voted against the measure were Latinx and Black trustees.

Since 1492 to the present, European settler colonists and their progeny have not only occupied and stolen the lands, freedom, and liberty of people of the Americas, Africa, and Asia but also nearly destroyed their histories to indoctrinate the young and old with a sanitized past to suit their racist interests. In this tradition of white supremacy, Chancellor Timothy White’s paternalistic and Orwellian double-speak substitution of his diluted Ethnic Studies-Social Justice requirement, adopted on July 22, 2020 by the CSU board of trustees, is attempting to thwart AB 1460 Ethnic Studies soon to be on the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom to be made law, is another example of how people of African, Asian, Chicanx/Latinx, and Native American ancestry are being told by European settler colonist, “We know what’s best for you little brown brothers.”

Chancellor White’s alternative proposal diverts students away from genuine Ethnic Studies courses by allowing them to take pseudo, undefined social justice classes in their place to graduate. This is like telling students that “All Lives Matter” instead of Black Lives Matter.” Ethnic Studies is rooted in the critical examination of racism, white supremacy, anti-racism, racial equity, unlike Social Justice that has its origins in theology, philosophy and criminal justice (a contradictory place to examine the Black Live Matter movement) and calls for the abstract ideal of “equality.” Whereas Social Justice advocates for equality by treating everyone the same and giving everyone the same opportunities, Ethnic Studies strives for equity, which refers to just and proportional representation (by race, class, gender, and other intersectionalities, etc.) in those same opportunities. Another problem with Chancellor White’s notion of “Social Justice” is that it advances colorblindness in a society replete with institutional racism. In fact, the editors of Seeing Race Again: Counterblindness across the Disciplines argue that social justice discourse has been ineffective in pushing back against colorblindness.

We are concerned about what kinds of courses will count towards fulfilling a "social justice" requirement at CSUCI. We already have a watered down Multicultural Perspectives (MP) requirement that can be fulfilled by such courses as “The Beach” and “What is Art?” and “Musical Theatre.” Like the MP requirement, the Social Justice requirement continues the cosmetic and ineffectual approach to a deep understanding of the histories of the four historically racialized groups (African Americans, Native Americans, Chicanas/os- Latinas/os and Asian American). Additionally, by what metric will that social justice pedagogy be measured if we extract a critical examination of race from out of that equation? How will we know what is being passed as "social justice"? That requirement is incredibly vague and will lead to a non-critical, non-racial general education. For example, will classes that examine Plato and Aristotle count as "social justice" courses?

They would technically be examining these issues but would be devoid of any contemporary applications. We demand a curriculum that addresses the current rise of white supremacy along with anti-Black, anti- Latina/o, anti-Asian, and anti-Indigenous sentiment in our country; we demand a curriculum that provides our students with the tools to critique and dismantle these dynamics and ensure that we keep something close to a democracy in the future of this country.
Furthermore, Chancellor White is hiding behind the veneer of local autonomy, allowing campuses and their GE committees to determine the Ethnic Studies requirement, without having to defer to Ethnic Studies faculty experts, who are predominantly people from underrepresented communities, in this academic field. Where is the disciplinary deference? Would we ever pass the GWAR requirement without input  from English Faculty? No. Would we also allow the quantitative reasoning requirement without input from Mathematics? I don't think so.

Chancellor White’s requirement is an example of a racist policy. A “racist policy” according to Ibram Kendi is as “any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups.” A racist policy uses euphemisms and vague and dishonest language (eg. social justice) around naming specific groups that leads to generic strategies, usually coming from a Whiteness perspective. AB-1460 is an anti-racist policy because it avoids vagueness and names four historically racialized groups (African Americans, Native Americans, Chicanas/os-Latinas/os and Asian Americans) and identifies the CSU policy (Generation Education) as institutional racism as the reason for inequality in the outcomes experienced by historically racialized groups.

Therefore, once again, the white supremacist power structure of the California State University, that Chancellor White leads, refuses historically underrepresented faculty the freedom to self-determine, design, and teach their own Ethnic Studies requirement to a majority people of color student body.

Chancellor Timothy White’s Whitewashed Requirement is Racist; AB-1460 is Anti-Racist.
Stop the white supremacy of Chancellor White and support self-determination and Anti-Racism by demanding that Gov. Gavin Newsom sign AB 1460!

Chicana/o Studies Department at CSU Channel Islands

(916) 445-2841

https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Hey PAL!: Community Discussion on Racism and Policing

One reason why I write has to do with the influence such reflections have had on me as a student curious about the lives of people long finished. For example, in my study of archival material, I have been moved by the letters of persons composed decades before my existence, who, in one moment of time, by some vocation, expressed the frustrations and aspirations of not only themselves but also the communities from which they came. In such texts, there also lives a courage. There is little danger to express audacious, ephemeral views in the spoken amongst friendly company. But to cast durable perspectives in the written with the intention to sway the thinking of both ideological friends and adversaries requires moxie.

Furthermore, I germinate into the electronic ether perspectives and observations with the, perhaps vain, hope that after I have long stopped breathing that a similar person, another historian, maybe, into the future will read a meditation or two of mine to get a sense what my community struggled against.

Hence, the below.

On Saturday June 13, 2020, I attended an Oxnard community forum titled, “The Talk…Expression Dialogue and Change.” Subsequently, I watched the Tuesday July 1, 2020 television broadcast of the Oxnard City Council Special Meeting named, “Virtual Panel Discussion on Racism and Policing.” Both events responded largely, but not exclusively, to the merciless Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd on May 25th.

On both occasions, I hung on the words of African American residents of Ventura County—attorneys, a retired Oxnard Police commander, managers, and educators—as they reprised their experiences with racist law enforcement officers in and out of Oxnard. Several detailed questionable, if not outright bogus, police stops while driving— such pretenses included the driver “fit the description” sham. Their true trespass for being pulled over by police, however, was most likely driving while Black.

In being questioned by the police if they were either on probation or parole (not if they were), they all detailed being treated, first and foremost, as criminals not citizens who warranted equal justice under the law. Why not? Because they are Black people.

After listening to their testimony of being interrogated by the police, I sensed that they were all one step of way from arrest to be body-cavity searched in jail. That’s how cruel and humiliating they described their detainment.

I also heeded a particularly new insight as participants in both events referenced their experiences with the Police Activities League (PAL) of Oxnard. At “The Talk,” Kingsley Garrick, who worked with PAL for some fifteen years believing he was doing the right thing helping kids, described a culture less than positive for youth mandated to complete community service at his site. In fact, he stated, “We [the police and staff at the PAL program] would perceive them as bad kids.” Then Mayte Alonzo spoke as President of the Youth Directors Council of PAL. Despite her service with PAL, she stated that she always feared the police and continues to do so. This dread was recently reinforced as she was terrorized by the police at a Washington, D.C. demonstration.

This testimony struck me as I wrongly presumed that the two, as having worked closely with law enforcement, were going to present deferential perspectives on the police. After all, a goal of PAL is to improve police relations with the community. Instead, to my wonder, they, and other participants on both occasions, described an entrenched culture of racism in law enforcement. As a result, both discussions left me pessimistic that the present system of unwarranted deadly police force and the mass incarceration of people of color will be dismantled significantly any time soon. Especially by pusillanimous elected officials terrified of being politically targeted by police unions for imagining a updated financial model for public safety.

One other point that struck me was Oxnard Police Chief Scott Whitney’s July 1st public defense of the use of the carotid restraint (i.e., chokehold) in situations to defend the lives of officers and the community. As a former Division 1 NCAA wrestler, I can say without reservation, there are means to effectively control a person without the use of a chokehold to render a person unconscious, period. I especially oppose the use of the carotid chokehold when there is more than one officer at a scene.

In closing, Oxnard Police Department officers cut short the lives of Meagan Hockaday (d. 3/28/15), Alfonso Limon (d. 10/13/12), Michael Mahoney (d. 8/14/12), Robert Ramirez (d. 6/23/12), and Juan Zavala (d. 6/28/2014). Consequently, any City of Oxnard official, elected and appointed, who condemns the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police must also memorialize their deaths. Especially Robert Ramirez who, like Floyd and Eric Garner in New York, could not breathe as the medical examiner of Ventura County determined his death a police homicide from prone restraint asphyxia—choking.

Only then can we, as a community, have an authentic conversation on police violence elsewhere.

CODA
People against police violence established a local Black Lives Matter Ventura County Chapter. For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/blmventuracounty/permalink/991049838001191/

References:
“The Talk…Expression Dialogue and Change”
https://www.facebook.com/vijay.nunn/videos/10217081551019494/

City Council Special Meeting: Virtual Panel Discussion on Racism and Policing
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvXc3Ww2Z80&fbclid=IwAR2AwzzRR9tyVlDhWASZUhkdMkJITRoxU-VM3EuGfpRqCCjsyzJ1Mzq_vu0

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Vexation of History In An Age Of Police Violence

Oxnard Police Department officers cut short the lives of Meagan Hockaday (d. 3/28/15), Alfonso Limon (d. 10/13/12), Michael Mahoney (d. 8/14/12), Robert Ramirez (d. 6/23/12), and Juan Zavala (d. 6/28/2014).

Consequently, any City of Oxnard official who empathetically condemns the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police must also memorialize their deaths. Especially Robert Ramirez who, like Floyd and Eric Garner in New York, could not breathe as the medical examiner of Ventura County determined his death a police homicide from prone restraint asphyxia—choking.

Only then can we, as a community, have an authentic conversation on police violence elsewhere.

Meanwhile, we ought to recognize the ways in which the legacies of historical systems of white supremacy continue today in the disproportionate mass incarceration of people of color due to racist and sexist institutions of education, the administration of justice, health care, housing, and employment. This fact is easily proven by noticing who dominates such leadership posts as well as enjoys such privileged life chances.

Academics such as Rodolfo F. Acuña, Michele Alexander, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Ronald Takaki, and others have long written on the historical echoes and rhymes of slavery, the genocide of Native American peoples, and the wars of conquest over the territories of Mexico. In fact, as Henry David Thoreau argued in Civil Disobedience published in 1849, these are the original sins of our nation which recent trespasses have demonstrated that we, as a nation, have yet to atone.

Instead a societal amnesia, if not a denial, persist.

As we denounce the ruthless killing of not only George Floyd but also Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, the people of Ventura County must also reckon with its past before any reconciliation can be pursued.

For instance, in July of 1971 residents of Oxnard’s La Colonia neighborhood revolted against the Oxnard Police Department. For two consecutive Sunday nights, Chicano youth confronted the police with epithets, rocks, bottles, and sniper fire. In the process, buildings were set ablaze. It got so bad that law enforcement back up was called in from neighboring cities.

The next year, Chicano youth of Santa Paula similarly resisted police abuse in and out of the downtown district for at least three consecutive Sunday nights. Young men and women also cursed the police, exchanged gunfire, and shattered the windows of schools and businesses. To quell the insurrection and maintain the peace, Santa Paula Police Chief Ray Tull, for at least a month’s time, depended on reinforcements from the California Highway Patrol, Sheriff’s Department as well as the police departments of Oxnard, Ojai, Port Hueneme, and Ventura.

In both instances, Oxnard and Santa Paula city officials proclaimed ignorance to the root causes of the rebellions. Instead, they deflected responsibility and blamed the actions on outsiders. The righteous indignation of Chicano youth and their elders, however, would not be silenced.

The newspapers of the Oxnard Press-Courier and the Santa Paula Daily Chronicle reported on the courageous demonstrations of Chicano youth in front of police department buildings, their statements, and face-to-face conversations with the city councils and police chiefs. Their indictments encompassed incessant police harassment in the form of gruff contacts, provocations, and brutality. They also pointed to racism in schools as well as restricted recreation and job opportunities.

Although positive change resulted from the protest movements and dialogues of the 1960s and ’70s, a continuity of oppression continues in stark racial disparities in COVID-19 infections and deaths, access to health care, academic achievement, and the prison industrial complex.

In Oxnard, this past Saturday’s protest of George Floyd’s killing drew hundreds of people from all walks of life. Speakers linked racist policing tactics afar to this city. Resident Stephanie Turner, for example, decried the Oxnard police for the regular racial profiling of her Black sons. And an African American father spoke to how his wife feared for his life whenever he drove the community's streets.

As an educator and lifelong resident of Ventura County, I have heeded the testimonies of young people stopped and detained by police on bogus traffic infractions. One account detailed how a police officer yelled “stop resisting” as he beat a compliant detainee.

I, myself, as a fifty-year-old man, experienced a police contact that opened with the cavalier lie of an officer. Before this episode ended, I found myself surrounded by four cops.

In driving through Ventura County, I’ve witnessed detained motorist, usually adult men of color, sitting on the curb of streets, with their heads downcast in humiliation, as a coven of police with terminator-style sunglasses jocularly pastime.

Quotidian experiences such as these is the tinder that fuels a visceral antipathy toward law enforcement.

A significant solution to ending police misconduct is for elected officials to stop fearing law enforcement unions who will brand them as soft on crime for publicly raising legitimate concerns. For example, when I criticized the City of Oxnard’s adoption of its constitutionally flawed civil gang injunction, council members confided with me their reservations with this tool.

But these elected officials dared not doing so in council chambers to avoid being targeted in their reelection campaigns by the Oxnard Peace Officers Association as anti-police or, worse, pro-gang.

But if more elected officials took stances that condemned misconduct on the part of law enforcement no matter the political fallout, such as in the case of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, city by city people of color will live their lives with a diminished fear for just being. Then a reconciliation can begin.

C/S
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History News Network

Frank P. Barajas is a professor and chair of history at California State University Channel Islands. His forthcoming book is titled, Mexican Americans with Moxie: A Tran-Generational History of El Movimiento Chicano in Ventura County California, 1945-1975. University of Nebraska Press.