Saturday, November 2, 2019

Proposition 187's Twenty Fifth Anniversary

(Image Los Angeles Times)Two years into my career as an educator at Cypress College in Orange County, California, Proposition 187 hit the political scene in 1994. Designed to discourage, if not chase out undocumented migrants from the American countries of Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras (but mostly people from Mexico as they were, and continue to be, the largest number in this band), the ballot initiative sought to deny them public services. Fueled by fear, fury, and a general status anxiety, the state’s electorate overwhelmingly voted for the measure.

At this time Cypress College students of El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (aka MEChA), organized to have the PUENTE transfer program implemented on their campus. So they, with community supporters, attended the board meetings of the North Orange County Community College District to petition its institution. It was at one of these events that I witnessed Save Our State spokesperson Barbara Coe and Art Jaques—who called himself Joe American—demand that the trustees deny an education to illegal immigrants. Frightened by the same demographic shift, racists around this time leafleted Cypress College’s library bookshelves with Ku Klux Klan/Nazi propaganda.

From this experience, I observed contradictions. Brown people with a long history in the former Mexican territories of Arizona (definitely not an Anglo cognomen), Califas (the Golden State), Colorado (Red), Nevada (Snowcapped), Nuevo Mexico (well you know), and Tejas (ditto)—all stolen by way of the United States’ war against Mexico in 1846)—were now considered outsiders, if not illegal. In addition to the names of the eventual states themselves, appellations that dotted California’s landscape such as SANTA BARBARA, SAN FRANCISCO, and its own capital SACRAMENTO highlighted the perfidy behind this nativist movement spearheaded by former SAN DIEGO mayor, Governor Pete Wilson.

Another incongruity was, and still is, family and friends of ethnic heritage distancing themselves from their expatriate roots, even when they themselves were Mexican nationals. In one case, a relative adopted the language of xenophobes to stigmatize “illegals” while married to a once undocumented migrant. Go figure. Then there were growers who employed a largely undocumented workforce to cultivate avocados, citrus, strawberries, and other crops while they donated a portion of their handsome profits made off the backs of immigrant labor to the election campaigns of red-meat anti-Mexican demagogues of the likes of not only Governor Wilson but also former Congressperson Elton Gallegly in Ventura County. But this makes perfect sense as businesses can more easily exploit with low wages and no benefits undocumented people than those with the legal protections of residency or citizenship.

Then there was the absurdity discovered by crackerjack journalist Gustavo Arellano at the Los Angeles Times that Proposition 187 was imagined by Orange County Republican campaign strategists at, of all places, a Mexican restaurant while getting plastered on margaritas.

No matter the hypocrisy, from the movements behind Proposition 187 I learned not to assume who your allies and adversaries could be. As I watched then and recently, in the case of Simi Valley residents backing and vilifying Councilperson Ruth Luevanos for her posting know your rights information for migrants on her webpage, a diversity of people can be for and against the presence of the new huddled masses on our land, as well as their advocates.

The trust embedded within the memory of Proposition 187 is that a wave of purple states will ultimately elect officials who do not politically scapegoat the most vulnerable. This was the paradox in California during the 1990s as immigrants and their sons and daughters were politically energized. So as Latino members of the California legislature recently declared on the 25th anniversary of this nefarious proposition, "Thank you, Governor Pete Wilson!"

Perhaps sooner, rather than later, a similar coven of U.S. senators and representatives throughout the nation will say, "Thank you, President Donald J. Trump!"

(Image Gustavo Arellano)
In closing, in light of the 25 years since Proposition 187 divided our state, I encourage you to learn the dubious, yet paradoxically optimistic, history of this xenophobic initiative by reading and listening to the brilliant op-ed, timeline, and podcast of Chicano avenger-journalist, and my amigo, Gustavo, at the Los Angeles Times. In addition to being an audacious columnist, he's the author of ¡Ask A Mexican!, Orange County: A Personal History, and Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Here are links to these installments:
Prop. 187 forced a generation to . . .
Prop. 187 timeline


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Say It Ain't So Joe: Strategies of Segregation in Ventura County

From the last Democratic debate, we learned that in the 1970s Joe Biden opposed federally mandated busing to desegregate schools because he believed it was a dilemma to be reckoned with by local government.

To be fair to Joe, most people—black, brown, and white—at the time liked their neighborhood schools.
White-collar professionals purchased homes significantly based on the public school that came with them—historically better resourced than those in black and brown communities systematically concentrated in the nation’s inner cities.

Less affluent minority parents, too, simply desired equally funded neighborhood schools with effective teachers friendly to the needs of their children. And for many others, a culturally relevant curriculum that instilled an amour propre in students from diverse backgrounds was a plus.

Largely absent from today’s public conversation on mandated busing is the racism that created segregated neighborhoods in the first place and translated to poorly funded schools for minority children. As Eric Avila in Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles (2004) and Richard Rothstein in The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (2017) detail, in the 1930s, Federal Housing Authority policy, via the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation, created a redlining system that encouraged real estate interests (lenders, developers, and agents) to concentrate people of color away from white homeowners.

This was the history behind the desegregation case of Soria v. Oxnard School District Board of Trustees (1971) in Ventura County, California.

As David G. García details in Strategies of Segregation: Race, Residence, and the Struggle for Educational Equality (2018), since the 1930s, the Oxnard School District accommodated white homeowners who did not want their children socializing with Mexican children, primarily, as they were the largest non-white demographic.

As limited funding and facilities made complete segregation impossible, OSD administrators, upon the direction of trustees, gerrymandered attendance boundaries and schedules to separate students as much as possible.

To maintain this system, during the next two decades the OSD constructed two segregated Mexican schools in the 1940s less than one block away from each other. When these sites overcrowded, the district imported portables classrooms and constructed new campuses nearby.

Ten years after Brown v. Board of Education 1954, the Community Service Organization, an ethnic Mexican civil rights group, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Ventura County protested the segregationist practices of the OSD trustees.

The district contended that de facto school segregation was an outcome of residential patterns outside its purview.

As the City of Oxnard grew, the CSO and NAACP persistently petitioned the OSD to remedy racial imbalances in the schools. The board rejected all of the numerous desegregation plans proposed by Althea Simmons, field secretary of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP andits own advisory committee.

Fed up with the intransigence of OSD trustees, black and ethnic Mexican parents filed the Soria case in 1970 in federal court. In May 1971, Judge Harry Pregerson’s summary judgement found that both de facto and “de jure overtones” of segregation consisted of, but were not limited to, the creation of new schools, individual intra-district transfers via busing, and the use of portables to keep black and brown students concentrated in segregated schools.

These were constitutional violations of equal protection under the 14th Amendment. As a result, Judge Pregerson mandated a paired-schools busing plan as a remedy.

That September buses transported children of the barrio to their paired schools in the city’s more middle-class neighborhoods and vice versa. Like Kamala Harris in Berkeley at this time, as a first grader I, too, was bused from an ethnically integrated neighborhood of black, brown, and Asian American families in south Oxnard to Brittell Elementary in the predominantly white, northern part of the city.

In November of 1973, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Judge Pregerson’s summary judgment and remanded the case for a trial. Subsequently, board minutes of the 1930s surfaced that evidenced the de jure segregation of Mexican children to appease white parents. Former OSD superintendents, including Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Richard Clowes, also testified that up to and throughout the 1960s, trustees maintained segregation.

Based on prior and fresh findings, Judge Pregerson ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and busing continued. The need to bus students faded through the 1980s as the City of Oxnard increasingly browned. Its cause: a middle-class flight of diverse races and ethnicities to the neighboring communities of Camarillo and Ventura.

But as the demographics of these communities shifted over time, flight renewed. People moved further eastward, if able, to Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks.

Hence, a more insidious segregation exists today as people of all colors and creeds troll education and real estate websites for school rankings. The systemic outcome: the segregation of largely black and brown students, again.

If a school’s status dips and the number of brown students rises, some parents, if they can, will take one of the following steps: move to whiter more affluent neighborhoods or commute their children to higher performing and less racially diverse schools.

Without the segregationist mentors who Joe Biden proudly worked with as U.S. Senator in the 1970s, this is the new face of de facto school segregation.
History News Network

Saturday, March 2, 2019

50th Anniversary El Plan Conference Paper

Frank P. Barajas
UC Santa Barbara
February 22, 2019

El Plan de Santa Barbara: Accountability and the Development of Leaders at California State University Channel Islands

From the inception of the idea of a Chicana/o Studies BA program at CSU Channel Islands, the CHS departments at the neighboring public universities of the University of California at Santa Barbara and Cal State University Northridge served as translocal examples of the possible. In addition, Chicanx alumni of el movimiento from these two universities and others, such as UCLA and Cal State LA, took interest from the start in 2000 in CSU Channel Islands’ development as Ventura County’s first public four-year institution. They also served as the energy of advocacy and support for the establishment of CI’s Chicana/o Studies baccalaureate program.

As the discussion for Chicana/o Studies advanced, it was important to me that the degree, with a commitment to self-determination, be exactly that rather than as a component of an Ethnic Studies program. Considering the history and proportion of ethnic Mexicans in Ventura County, it was imperative that this program be discrete to self-determine its relevancy to the community. In fact, circa 2003/04, the university leadership sought to have in its place an ideologically neutered Multicultural Studies degree, with Chicana/o Studies being a module and minor, and, most likely, not controlled by Chicana/o Studies trained faculty. To convince me of the Multicultural approach, an administrative functionary stated that Chicana/o Studies would eventually germinate from a Multicultural Studies program as the number of ChS minors grew with it. From my reading of El Plan, I knew this path would ensure that Chicana/o Studies, as an independent degree program, would never develop into the vibrant cultural and political campus repository that it is now.

Takeaway. Self-determination is key.

Furthermore, as detailed in El Plan, Chicana/o Studies at CSU Channel Islands recognizes the transgenerational character of university faculty, students, and staff. Hence, CI Chicana/o Studies has been the basis from which ChiLFSA (the Chicana/o Latina/o Faculty and Staff Association) emerged and where additional faculty, administrators, and staff support each other and advocate for the inclusive and equitable employment of fulltime colleagues. As a field of study, we are in the third generation of Chicana/o Studies. So there needs to be this transgenerational referencing, mentorship, and advocacy, especially in the retention, tenure, and promotion of faculty.

In fact, in preparation for this panel, I was struck, again, by the veteran insight that El Plan extends in relation to the Machiavellian intrigue characteristic of higher education. In short, experienced educators schooled students, many who were naïvely indoctrinated into an Americanist ethos, like me, and activist in how colleges and universities functioned.

We also recognize that senior faculty, as privileged tenured employees, need to role model, both, tactical and, when necessary, disruptive resistance to the machinations of academe. Senior faculty must provide also wide berth for assistant and associate professors to take risk and pursue their professional visions, in terms of teaching, scholarship, and service. Otherwise, Chicana/o Studies gambles with the production of lackeys and sycophants concerned only in their own self-aggrandizement, usually into administration, over the interests of students.

By way of MEChA, the CI Dreamers, ChiLFSA, and other campus organizations (student, faculty, and staff) Chicana/o Studies, as poignantly detailed in El Plan, makes students conscious of the underlying politics and tribalism involved with university appointments, the tenure-track faculty in particular. This is critical as many, if not most students, do not understand the dissimilar power between tenure-track faculty versus temporary instructors—who dominate the teaching ranks—in terms of program development and overall campus representation on behalf of the Chicanx community. Chicana/o Studies at CI breaks down to students the political importance of it increasing tenure-track Chicanx faculty across disciplines. And only recently, again, in the spirit of self-determination, has Chicana/o Studies at CI focused more attention on the recruitment and development of homegrown Chicanx administrators. In this case, Chicanx administrators need to be held accountable, specifically by students, to the interests of the community not the institutional powers that be, as El Plan admonishes us.

The establishment of curricular programs and the articulation of Chicana/o Studies with community colleges will increase the pipeline of Chicanx and Latinx students into the university. To follow this charge of El Plan, CI Chicana/o Studies spearheads Chicana/o Studies Summits in the Ventura County Community College District and Ethnic Studies Now in the Oxnard Union High School District. Both initiatives with Title V/HSI funds.

In relation to Title V funds that range in the millions of dollars on campuses, over 30% of UCSB’s 20,000 students are designated Hispanic. And over 50% of the 7,000 students at CSU Channel Islands are such. These students are largely ethnic Mexicans, with an ever-increasing proportion of Central and South American ethnic students. This being the case, how are these grant monies spent, is the important question. And how do Chicanx students/Latinx students benefit. Or, are they just pimped to augment the waning budgets of universities and colleges?

At CSUCI Chicana/o Studies faculty, staff, and administrators develop and participate in programs subsidized by Title V/HSI grants. This is done to create a more inclusive and equitable campus culture. Furthermore, Chicana/o Studies in tandem with ChiLFSA request university support for initiatives such as Noche de Familia (that educates family to the university life of their student loved ones), Si Se Pudo! Chicana/o Graduation Recognition (fundamentally a Chicanx commencement), the Michele Serros Learning Community, and a Raza Bienvenida (welcoming) event that brings together students, members of the community, faculty, staff, and administrators at the start of each new academic year.

These are just a few examples of the relevance and life of El Plan de Santa Barbara at CSU Channel Islands via faculty, staff, and administrators who they themselves, in one way or another, are the progeny of Chicana/o Studies courses, degrees, and minors as envisioned by the people el movimiento.


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.

Amigos 805 LatinoLA