Archive for July, 2012

Anaheim Protesters Are Not to Blame, Police Are

July 26, 2012

Anaheim Protesters Are Not to Blame, Police Are

Roberto Lovato

Violence is eating away the moral core of Anaheim. For their part, local authorities are spending most of their time denouncing “outsiders” they say are a threat to the community.

“They chose violence and vandalism over respectful communications” Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said at news conference following recent violence in his city, claiming most protesters are not from Anaheim. He denounced those trying to “create chaos in our downtown neighborhoods.” Anaheim Police Chief John Welter reinforced the anti-violence message: “We will not allow riotous, dangerous violations of the law by anyone…” Such statements appear to indicate that Latino protesters pose an urgent threat to stability in Anaheim.

But then there’s the community perspective.

“There were pieces of brain on the … darn grass, in front of all these children, in front of all these people,” Anaheim resident Theresa Smith told a news outlet after walking by her neighbor’s home, where Anaheim police shot Manuel Diaz, an unarmed man, in the back of the head. Smith knows well the pain of her neighbors. Her own son was killed by Anaheim police officers in 2009 in another highly controversial incident. “This traumatizes people, and these people (protesters) are angry.”

For her part, Genevieve Huizar, the mother of the Manuel Diaz, also feels deeply the violence that is destabilizing her community.

“I watched as my son took his last breath. I watched as his heart stopped beating for the last time.” When the community demanded answers about the violence that killed Diaz, police responded with more shooting rubber bullets and unleashing a police dog into a crowd that included children.

“They just started shooting everyone. They shot at little kids too!” a screaming Susan Lopez told a local news outlet following Saturday’s shooting.

What is most striking about these statements by local official and community members are the polar opposite messages they are sending. Anaheim officials have denounced violence from “outsiders,” not the police violence against residents. The officials are most passionate about “violence” – kicking police cars, throwing bottles, burning garbage cans – in the streets. Smith, Huizar and most community members locate the most destabilizing violence at 425 S. Harbor Blvd., the headquarters of the Anaheim police department. When it comes to violence, officials appear to be spending more time on the Disneyland side of Harbor boulevard than on the reality side of the street.

This extreme difference in perspectives points not just to the moral and political bankruptcy of the Mayor Tait and Chief Welter, it also points to the urgent need for “outsiders” to protect Anaheim residents from the police. In the face of the inability of Tait and Welter to rein in the escalating police violence that endangers Anaheim residents, these same residents are ironically calling on outside law enforcement, namely California State Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to step in and protect them from the spiral of violence that is even impacting Anaheim children.

In a matter of days, more than 17,000 people California and the entire country have signed a petition from Presente.org calling on Attorney General Harris to protect the people of Anaheim by conducting a deep investigation into the killing of Diaz, the police violence against crowds that Tait, Welter and other ‘insiders’ have shown themselves incapable of investigating and acting on. While Tait’s recent moves to ask for an external investigation are encouraging and welcome, there are no confirmed reports of a thorough investigation. None. Also, these calls for assistance are very new and need to be amplified and followed through if there is ever to be true peace and safety in Anaheim.

The officer-involved killing of Diaz and another man killed by police, also under circumstances the community finds questionable, follow a growing number of Latino bodies impacted by the excessive and deadly force used by Anaheim Police. Attorneys General Harris and Holder must step in to investigate and deliver justice before this epidemic of killings, beating  and other abuses that Tait and, especially, Welter lack the political will to stop.

The cancer of excessive and deadly force by Anaheim Police against Latinos is profoundly disturbing. In the last year alone, there’ve been six officer-involved shootings (five of whom are Latino). Smith and other victims’ families have held weekly protests outside police headquarters for many, many weeks.

Rather than try to avert attention away from police violence, rather making passionate denunciations of “outsiders”, Tate, Welter and other Anaheim officials need to show passion -and compassion-for the families and communities suffering under the rotten boot of police violence. These officials must assert their roles and do everything in their power to encourage and enable Harris and Holder to clean up the bloody mess left not by violent “outsiders” but by those that eat away the moral core of Anaheim: the violent insiders of the Anaheim Police department.

 

Roberto Lovato, Writer, Co-Founder of Presente.org.

Open Letter to Ruben Navarrette: Why the “I-Word” Must Go

July 6, 2012

(This is a response to this article by Ruben Navarrette, who defends use of the term “illegal immigrant.)

Ruben Navarrette, we agree on more than a few things, but not on this one. There are multiple reasons to stop using this “illegal immigrant” term, not least of which are grammar and usage, and basic respect for people who don’t like being called “illegal immigrants.”

If, as your article states, you really “also prefer not to degrade the English language”, then you need to stop using the term “illegal immigrant.” The term is grammatically incorrect and illogical. I too make a living by using words. We don’t say “illegal jay walker,” we don’t refer to people as “illegal pot smokers,” we don’t call someone who doesn’t pay their taxes an “illegal taxpayer.” There are no other instances where the term “illegal” is used to designate a person in this way, except “illegal immigrant.” None. And then there’s the issue of degrading not just the language, but actual flesh and blood and feeling people.

I’ve spoken with and interviewed linguists like Otto Santana, Ana Maria Zentella and other lovers of language, including those who were involved in helping remove sexist, homophobic and other racist language from usage. ALL of them agree: the term “Illegal immigrant” is dehumanizing, racist language.

President Jimmy Carter removed the term “illegal immigrant” from official use by the US government precisely because his administration deemed the term problematic, as have governments around the world, many of whom use some variant of the French term “sans papier,” meaning “without papers.” Journalistic organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, UNITY Journalists of color (largest journalist organization in the U.S.) and even Fox News Latino have joined journalist organizations and individual across the country in rejecting the I-word and adopting other, more appropriate language. Many have also joined the Drop the I-Word campaign.

As a writer, you must be aware that language use is a choice, often a political choice laden with power relations and other influences. The “I-word” falls squarely into this category as growing numbers of immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, demanding journalists and policymakers and other public figures stop using language they feel dehumanizes and diminishes them.
As a journalist, you are, no doubt, also aware that extremist, anti-immigrant foundations have invested millions of dollars to mainstream the term “illegal immigrant” and its variants. Given these and other facts, use of this racist, dehumanizing term is simply indefensible; Defending its use as some unpalatable “truth” does not, imho, reflect well on you, and I say this as someone who often agrees with and defends you.

You’ve also noted, I’m sure, how terms like “illegals,” “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrants” show up on the placards and in the beatings of racists I know you oppose. There have not been any “illegal immigrant”placards at any immigrant rights march I know of in all my experience. Most of us who defend immigrants defend them on the linguistic front as well.

Lastly, I don’t know a single undocumented person who likes the term. As with the “N” word, or the “F” word in the queer community or the “C” word in the disabled community, when a group of people impacted negatively by a term deems it time to end the use of such language, then people of conscience should rally behind them. So, I implore you to Drop the I-word.

Respectfully,

Roberto Lovato