There was an error in this gadget

Total Pageviews

Latino Politics in the U.S.

Latino Politics in the U.S.
Kendall-Hunt, 2012 (2005)
Loading...

Search This Blog

Monday, July 22, 2013

Al Garete Reseña





Al Garete  Waldemar hermina Gerena. Portilla Publishing, 2013, 296 pages and index.

Reseña:  Dr. Victor M. Rodriguez Dominguez, CSULB.
Reseña (Verano 2013)

Fui sorprendido al recibir en mi buzón en el departamento de Estudios Chicanos y Latinos de la Universidad Estatal de California en Long Beach, un libro escrito en español por un Boricua de Glendale, California. Glendale es una ciudad del sur de California que históricamente ha sido el asentamiento de inmigrantes Armenios. Me intrigó eso de que un Boricua en Glendale escribiera un libro, una novela en Español y que decidiera enviármela. Como sociólogo casi no tengo tiempo de leer libros o ensayos fuera de mi disciplina. Por eso es que la coincidencia de que acababa de terminar un semestre muy ajetreado---una pesada carga académica, viajes con estudiantes a Puerto Rico, seminarios, talleres---y de comenzar un verano donde no planifiqué nada profesional para poder disfrutar del tiempo con mi esposa y mis nietos fue fortuita.  Mi pasión original, además de la historia era la literatura cuando cursaba estudios en la Facultad de Humanidades en la Universidad en Puerto Rico. Pero mis destrezas como escritor no están en la ficción, ni en la poesía,  lo que usualmente escribo y leo son las ciencias sociales e historia.

Admito que muchos autores Latinos me envían a la oficina sus libros para que los revise con la esperanza de que opte por utilizarlos en mis cursos. Esto ocurre muy raramente pues usualmente recibo obras de ficción que raramente puedo incorporar a mis prontuarios. Mis cursos bregan con la sociología política de los Latinos en los EUA, la racialización de la identidad Latina (como los grupos Latino Americanos se comienzan a identificar interna y externamente como grupo raciales en los EUA), sus condiciones socioeconómicas y además comparo las comunidades Latinas en los EUA en términos de su incorporación a los EUA (conquista, migración). Empecé a ojear el libro con la suspicacia altanera que desarrollamos cuando estamos en la academia. Pero no pude ponerlo a un lado, lo terminé en unos días atraído y sorprendido porque está muy bien escrito y porque su atractiva trama brega con una de mis pasiones. La tragedia social, política y económica de mi país, una de las últimas colonias del planeta es algo que he tratado de comprender por decadas. Un país asediado por la descomposición de su tejido social, por las consecuencias del crimen, la pobreza y el descalabro social y económico. En Latino América dicen que cuando los Estados Unidos tienen catarro (o gripe como se dice por acá) en la América Latina sufrimos pulmonía. En el caso de Puerto Rico con una dependencia económica y política casi total de los Estados Unidos, la pulmonía se convierte en una pulmonía doble.

De forma entretenida e ingeniosa Hermina nos teje la historia de un personaje, Mario Quintanilla Rodríguez, que en cierta forma representa los vaivenes y experiencias de Puerto Rico y los Borinqueños. No es un personaje construido para que nos identifiquemos con él porque usualmente toma los senderos incorrectos y no aprende de sus errores. No es un personaje que nos cause pena ni simpatía es un personaje trágico y en ocasiones despreciable. Pero, su narrativa nos atrae pues pensamos que en algún momento dejará sus desvaríos (si somos optimistas) y se tornará en un personaje que hará cosas importantes para sí y para su familia. Lamentablemente, el final no es un final feliz pero es un final al que poco a poco nos acostumbramos a aceptar.

Durante la narrativa el autor nos enlaza con eventos de la historia relativamente reciente de Puerto Rico y del contorno de los pueblitos de la costa norte de la isla. La política corrupta, los vaivenes del estatus político, los huracanes, el trasiego de droga y la “tiraera”son todas partes de la vida trágica de Puerto Rico. La descomposición de la familia Puertorriqueña, las madres solteras, los padres irresponsables y una economía depredadora son partes del escenario trágico de Puerto Rico.

Sin decirlo de forma explícita esta novela es una denuncia del sistema tema colonial de Puerto Rico y nos describe, sin decirlo abiertamente, como el sistema sofoca y destruye a los individuos y el país. De nuevo aprendo que la literatura, como decía una profesora en la UPR nos ofrece una ventana para comprender aun mejor la realidad social. Esta novela es una muy bien escrita metáfora de la realidad social, cultural de nuestra isla. Su titulo, “Al Garete” es muy apropiado ya que describe no solo la realidad de la vida de Mario sino la realidad social, económica y política de Puerto Rico.     



Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Inconvenient Truth Erasure of Memory By Rodolfo F. Acuña






The Inconvenient Truth
Erasure of Memory
By
Rodolfo F. Acuña

Every profession has canons that their members must adhere to in order to be considered ethical. For example, among the original canons for journalists were sincerity, truthfulness and accuracy: “Good faith with the reader is the foundation of all journalism worthy of the name.” The Code of Ethics elaborated that professional journalists should be impartial, tell the truth, differentiate between fact and the author’s conclusions and interpretations, and finally that they use common decency.

These canons are similar to those of other professions, and like other professionals good journalists attempt to meet these standards. Indeed, I have heard reporters criticize their own papers and the failure of their newspapers to differentiate between news reports and opinion pieces.

I remember conversations with the late Frank Del Olmo, an associate editor, columnist and reporter for The Los Angeles Times who spent a lifetime trying to change the culture of the newspaper from within. Frank and other Chicana/o journalist took these canons to heart, and they would vet my versions and the accounts of others as to what happened in order to arrive at the Truth. However, in recent years this has increasingly changed especially in small media markets where reporters of both genders have become “hit men.”

An obvious reason for this deterioration is the growth in information sources, with newspapers and media outlets hiring their reporters on the cheap. It has become the age of the blogger where everyone considers his or herself a journalist – no matter what their credentials or background. Unfortunately, they have no special training or a sense of the history of the profession – in other words there is no historical memory.

Another contributing factor is what Eric Hoffer coined in his book The True Believer. In it Hoffer discusses the psychological causes of fanaticism. He analyzes the motives of the various types of personalities in mass movements.

Some overzealous admirers of the term, however, try to limit his criticisms to Communism and the left, ignoring that he also discusses Fascism, National Socialism, Christianity, Protestantism, and Islam.

Hoffer was a conservative longshoreman, but his descriptions would incorporate the flag lapel wearers, the xenophobes, and the English Only crowd. Also to be fair, in previous conservations, I have criticized Chicana/o excesses in this area – the true believer comes in disparate packages.

With this said, the right wing always tries to generalize this label as exclusive to the left. For example since George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984 was published, they have claimed that big brother refers to the evils of communism and socialism, forgetting that Orwell was a lifetime socialist, and that his criticism was of Stalin, which makes little difference to people who don’t know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.    

Orwell’s sympathies are clear in his book Homage to Catalonia that described the ideological conflicts in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. We can only imagine what Orwell would say about the USA in 2013, and the growth of the government surveillance state.

The truth be told, it is difficult not to become a true believer in a world of believers. However, we have an obligation to corny words such as the Truth and Objectivity. When you write history, for example, you have to strive toward the Truth, which is a canon of the history profession that members do not always adhered to. In our postmodern world, the Truth is found through the writer’s reality.

No matter how hard you try, you will never get the perfect narrative, but you try.  When I wrote the second edition of Occupied America I knew there was a void in my coverage of the 1950s when students asked me questions that I could not answer. So I photocopied the Eastside Sun, synthesizing articles on Chicanas/os, and did the same with the Belvedere Citizen. The outcome was a more nuanced chapter on the 50s as well as the book, A Community Under Siege.  

This is why I am impatient with the sophistry of some self-described Chicana/o scholars. I recently read a website that threw an indirecta at me saying that oral interviews told history whereas photographs did not. I could not believe it, knowing that the uses of oral interviews as well as photos both are problematic without extensive checking.   

Photos and oral history are not mutually exclusive; it is not a popularity contest. It took me almost forty years to wind-down the research on Corridors of Migration.  I consulted every major archive in Mexico City, Chihuahua, Sonora, Arizona, California, Mexico and consulted U.S. and Mexican consular papers. At the same time, I studied the digitized archives at the Bancroft, newspapers, the Library of Congress, and others. Along with this I interviewed communist organizers of the 1933 Cotton Strike as well as rank and file members. This was not enough, I travelled to the San Joaquin Valley and Clifton- Morenci where I interviewed Mexicans and whites.

Some of these interviews were contentious. Driving into the large plantations in the San Joaquin Valley, places with a half dozen snarling guard dogs and men with shotguns was an experience. Most of these interviews are in my papers at CSUN.

Chicana/history is not a fantasy or a group of opinions. There is Truth, and it often takes work to learn it, and it should never be based on the testimony of a single disaffected person. The latter is a flaw of a lot of scholarly research.

I know people who have written about the 1970s at CSUN who have never stepped foot on the campus. Lazy or do they already have their minds made up?

Why is the Truth so important?  Partially it is because only through the exercise in finding it will we find what reality is. During the Civil Rights movement, "The truth shall make you free" was repeated over and over.  It comes from the Gospel of John which says "And Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free." (There is no lack of irony to find this quote carved in stone in the Original Headquarters Building of the Central Intelligence Agency.)

But the Truth has very little relevance to the true believers -- the ones that suffer from a lack of vigorous standards. How can you correct the past with knowing it? My fiend Devon Peña likes to quote French Philosopher Jacques Derrida “Memory is a moral obligation, all the time."

But how then can you correct injustices or know the Truth without distinguishing between fact and fiction? I would hate to base this reality on the word of Cheney or Obama’s advisers.

In no way do I want to disparage the blogger who brings to the table issues and information that the media ignores. There is also a difference between the hot rhetoric (hyperbole) that is used to mobilize people and the distortion of the Truth. Most people can handle the truth, what they cannot handle is personal vendettas.  


Illustrations Google images


Peanuts and Oranges: Support Scholarship Fund

For those who have an extra $5 a month for scholarship, the For Chicana/o Studies Foundation was started with money awarded to Rudy Acuña as a result of his successful lawsuit against the University of California at Santa Barbara. The Foundation has given over $60,000 to plaintiffs filing discrimination suits against other universities. However, in the last half dozen years it has shifted its focus, and it has awarded 7-10 scholarships for $750 per award on an annual basis to Chicana/o and Latina/o students at California State University-Northridge (CSUN). The For Chicana/o Studies Foundation is a 501(c) (3) Foundation and all donations are deductible. Although many of its board members are associated with Chicana/o Studies, it is not part of the department. All monies generated go to fund these scholarships.

We know that times are hard. Lump sum donations can be sent to For Chicana Chicano Studies Foundation, 11222 Canby Ave., Northridge, Ca. 91326 or through PayPal below. You can reach us at forchs@earthlink.net. Click on to http://forchicanachicanostudies.wikispaces.com/ and make a donation. You may also elect to send $5.00, $10.00 or $25.00 monthly. For your convenience and privacy you may donate via PayPal. The important thing is not the donation, but your continued involvement.  



Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Trayvon Martin Case: Racist Color-Blind Justice in Post-Racial America?




The Trayvon Martin Case: Racist Color-Blind Justice in Post-Racial America?

Dr. Victor M. Rodriguez
Department of Chicano and Latino Studies
California State University, Long Beach

(July 14, 2013) Most U.S. citizens today don’t believe that racism persists in this country. During the civil rights movement the anti-racist perspective had gained the moral high ground to the extent that most people would not dare use racial epithets in public. It is obvious to many that the culture in this nation has shifted dramatically. In fact, surveys indicate that racial animosity has significantly declined. Today, those victimized by racial discrimination are at a disadvantage when trying to prove that an event, an action is racially discriminatory. However, the reason for this disadvantage is not that racism is a thing of the past but that the dynamics of race in the 21st century have transformed themselves dramatically.

First of all, since the civil rights movement raised some important and dramatically important moral and ethical issues, individuals do not want to be perceived as racist.  With the exception of the fringe avowedly and militantly racist most people cringe at the idea that they could be behaving or thinking in racist terms. It is for this reason that recent surveys in the last decade have shown some important declines in the verbal public expression of prejudicial remarks. We don’t want to be perceived as racists and we have learned to lie in surveys. However, unobtrusive, covert methods of measuring racial discrimination still indicate the extent of racial discrimination in US society. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of evidence that unless they are shown in television (not often) or revealed in public places like schools, or the internet most U.S. residents are oblivious to them. For one, we are still a segregated society. In fact, segregation in some areas of the country has, in fact increased. So what people know of others (for instance African Americans or Latinos) is shaped by the stereotypical images they see on television or on films. So Mr. Zimmerman may not have had a lot of interaction with African Americans (just a selected few) he sure knew something about “Black youth.”

Racism today expresses itself not in the images of Ku Klux Klan men publicly lynching people of color but through the subtle workings of institutions. It is difficult for a society whose culture is so individualistic to be able to cognitively understand how systemic forces are at work in this society. The Trayvon Martin case is a classic example.

People believe that “racial profiling” is a figment of the imagination of people of color particularly African Americans. This occurs despite the fact that we have decades of scientific data that provides evidence of how people of color are disadvantaged in every stage of their life.  But this is not the sort of information that is part of the popular culture and remains suspects to individualistically thinking persons. The color-blind ideology that has become dominant in this society provides a cover for the way in which racism operates today. As Marx said, society seems “opaque’ to us since we don’t see its inner workings. But also, the legal system has contributed to this perception or lack of a clear perception.

The Supreme Court decisions to emasculate the Civil Rights Voting Act which eliminated the requirement (Section V Shelby County vs Holder) that states where historically people of color had experienced institutionalized efforts to disenfranchise them (today we euphemistically call this “voter suppression”) had to submit any plans to change voting processes or redistricting to the Jsutice Department.. In states like Florida, for example 520,521 (23.3%) of African Americans have lost their right to vote of participate in juries. This is one of the reasons a majority white jury in Florida did not include more black juries. How can there be a rich evaluation of the evidence if the dominant perspective comes from people that do not even consider racial profiling a fact, just the product of a minority group’s paranoia? Unfortunately close to 35 states disenfranchise citizens if they have been convicted or are on probation. These tends to happen more often in states that have a history of racial oppression. Close to 4 million persos across the U.S. became second class citizens even when thye have paid their debt to society.

But from the beginning the final outcome of this trial had been rigged. These things do not happen overtly or conscious but as a result of how racist assumptions are embedded within the structures of this society. Angela Corey, the Florida State Attorney (who tried her southern hospitality on the audience during the final press conference) decided that Mr. Zimmerman would be tried on a Second Degree Murder charge. The requirements for getting a conviction for this charge are higher than for manslaughter. Also, the penal consequences are much higher which could have given the jurors reason to acquit. If the prosecutors had focused on manslaughter they would probably have won. Here they did not have to prove a “depraved mind.” This is a very high standard. This harks back to another Supreme Court decision on an Alabama case (Sandoval 2001) which overturned a case on racial discrimination because it proved racial discrimination on the basis of the doctrine of “disparate effect.” Basically, the case had to do with forbidding the use of Spanish in providing driving manuals for applicants. The court said that the litigants had to prove “intent” to discriminate not disparate effect (that it would have discriminatory effects on those who did not know English). How do you get into the mind of an individual to prove “intent?” How do you prove a “depraved mind?” Very difficult.  

Recently, the Department of education released a study that included the largest sample of public school instances of suspensions and disciplinary actions on the basis of race.
Among the key findings are:
  • African-American students, particularly males, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers.  Black students make up 18% of the students in the CRDC sample, but 35% of the students suspended once, and 39% of the students expelled.
  • Students learning English (ELL) were 6% of the CRDC high school enrollment, but made up 12% of students retained.
  • Only 29% of high-minority high schools offered Calculus, compared to 55% of schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollment.
  • Teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues in teaching in low-minority schools in the same district.

This is not an isolated occurrence this is something that permeates U.S. society, U.S.S culture is steeped in these assumptions about young people of color. This leads to the disparity in incarceration of African Americans. For every white person incarcerated 5.6 Blacks are in prison.  

It took centuries to construct the racist system, it will take a while to dismantle it. 

Fourteen Examples of Racism in Criminal Justice System (Edited)
Posted: 07/26/10 07:45 AM ET

Bill Quigley
Legal Director, Center for Constitutional Rights; Professor, Loyola New Orleans

Look what these facts show. 
 
One. The US has seen a surge in arrests and putting people in jail over the last four decades. Most of the reason is the war on drugs. Yet whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales, at roughly comparable rates - according to a report on race and drug enforcement published by Human Rights Watch in May 2008. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses - according to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.

Two. The police stop blacks and Latinos at rates that are much higher than whites. In New York City, where people of color make up about half of the population, 80% of the NYPD stops were of blacks and Latinos. When whites were stopped, only 8% were frisked. When blacks and Latinos are stopped 85% were frisked according to information provided by the NYPD. The same is true most other places as well. In a California study, the ACLU found blacks are three times more likely to be stopped than whites. 

Three. Since 1970, drug arrests have skyrocketed rising from 320,000 to close to 1.6 million according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.
African Americans are arrested for drug offenses at rates 2 to 11 times higher than the rate for whites - according to a May 2009 report on disparity in drug arrests by Human Rights Watch.

Four. Once arrested, blacks are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial than whites. For example, the New York state division of criminal justice did a 1995 review of disparities in processing felony arrests and found that in some parts of New York blacks are 33% more likely to be detained awaiting felony trials than whites facing felony trials.

Five. Once arrested, 80% of the people in the criminal justice system get a public defender for their lawyer. Race plays a big role here as well. Stop in any urban courtroom and look a the color of the people who are waiting for public defenders. Despite often heroic efforts by public defenders the system gives them much more work and much less money than the prosecution. The American Bar Association, not a radical bunch, reviewed the US public defender system in 2004 and concluded "All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring...The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US."

Six. African Americans are frequently illegally excluded from criminal jury service according to a June 2010 study released by the Equal Justice Initiative. For example in Houston County, Alabama, 8 out of 10 African Americans qualified for jury service have been struck by prosecutors from serving on death penalty cases. 

Seven. Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial - the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, "Who wouldn't rather do three years for a crime they didn't commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didn't do?"

Eight. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project reports African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more like to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.

Nine. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.

Ten. As a result, African Americans, who are 13% of the population and 14% of drug users, are not only 37% of the people arrested for drugs but 56% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses. Marc Mauer May 2009 Congressional Testimony for The Sentencing Project.

Eleven. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concludes that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three. Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Thus black boys are five times and Latino boys nearly three times as likely as white boys to go to jail.

Twelve. So, while African American juvenile youth is but 16% of the population, they are 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the youth in juvenile jails and 58% of the youth sent to adult prisons. 2009 Criminal Justice Primer, The Sentencing Project. 

Thirteen. Remember that the US leads the world in putting our own people into jail and prison. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the US has five percent of the world's population but a quarter of the world's prisoners, over 2.3 million people behind bars, dwarfing other nations. The US rate of incarceration is five to eight times higher than other highly developed countries and black males are the largest percentage of inmates according to ABC News.

Fourteen. Even when released from prison, race continues to dominate. A study by Professor Devah Pager of the University of Wisconsin found that 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received call backs from employers while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received call backs. Race is so prominent in that study that whites with criminal records actually received better treatment than blacks without criminal records!

So, what conclusions do these facts lead to? The criminal justice system, from start to finish, is seriously racist. 

Professor Michelle Alexander concludes that it is no coincidence that the criminal justice system ramped up its processing of African Americans just as the Jim Crow laws enforced since the age of slavery ended. Her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sees these facts as evidence of the new way the US has decided to control African Americans - a racialized system of social control. The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way as Jim Crow - creating legal boundaries between them and us, allowing legal discrimination against them, removing the right to vote from millions, and essentially warehousing a disposable population of unwanted people. She calls it a new caste system.

Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.


What to do?
Martin Luther King Jr., said we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
A radical approach to the US criminal justice system means we must go to the root of the problem. Not reform. Not better beds in better prisons. We are not called to only trim the leaves or prune the branches, but rip up this unjust system by its roots.

We are all entitled to safety. That is a human right everyone has a right to expect. But do we really think that continuing with a deeply racist system leading the world in incarcerating our children is making us safer? 

It is time for every person interested in justice and safety to join in and dismantle this racist system. Should the US decriminalize drugs like marijuana? Should prisons be abolished? Should we expand the use of restorative justice? Can we create fair educational, medical and employment systems? All these questions and many more have to be seriously explored. Join a group like INCITE, Critical Resistance, the Center for Community Alternatives, Thousand Kites, or the California Prison Moratorium and work on it. As Professor Alexander says "Nothing short of a major social movement can dismantle this new caste system."