|The Lookout Letter to the editor|
|Speak Out!||Send Letters to firstname.lastname@example.org|
By Elias Serna
City officials refuse to include Chicanos in discussions on racism, even though the institutionalized racism against Latinxs in the Pico Neighborhood is the most pervasive race issue, and Mexican Indians are the oldest racial group in the city. To begin, let’s recognize that Santa Monica is a Mexican concept.
The lands along the end of the I-10 freeway were a Tongva-Gabrielino village called Kechengna. The other nearby centers were Sa’Angna (near LMU bluffs) and the ceremonial springs at Kuruvung’na (University high school). When Spaniards finally made their “entrada” into West L.A. they did so armed with weapons and disease which would decimate the local Native population.
Over the centuries Tongva natives and Mexicans (themselves “de-Indianized” Indians) mixed and merged in West Los Angeles. And so it was really the Tongva Indians of Kechengna, and then subsequent generations of Mexicans, Blacks and people of color, that were to inherit the pain and agony that comes with living in the lost paradise of Santa Monica, the Pico Neighborhood.
When the Covid-19 crisis brought the world to a halt in late March, I felt especially worried about families in the Pico Neighborhood. Now more than ever, as institutions crumbled and Black and Brown families became that much more vulnerable, economically and biologically, I thought, the Pico Neighborhood is more divided than ever.
And it is primarily the doing of the Santa Monica City Council.
If you talk to some of the Pico Neighborhood old-timers you will get many a story of White, Black and Brown cooperation and some unity. But currently, the Mexicans/Latinxs are being left out.
To provide a “Black Agenda” while simultaneously ignoring Mexicans is a slap in the face, but it is also a false gesture that city actually cares about racism and is doing something about it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Meanwhile, they ignore or suppress the five most burning race issues in the city: voting rights, police abuse, youth centers, public monuments, and diversity in school curriculum and hiring.
The current Santa Monica City Council has spent over $12 million opposing the Pico Neighborhood voting rights case. After the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) won the case for district elections in Superior Court last year, the City Council voted to appeal, and the case now heads to the California Supreme Court.
The tragic long-term child abuse at the Police Activities League (PAL) is most closely tied to the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly its call to “Defund the Police.” Some have called not only for the defunding of SMPD, but the shutting down of PAL. The facts are disturbing.
Since the 1990’s PAL staff enabled one of their own to prey on Mexican American boys enrolled in programs. Another staff member was caught and prosecuted for taking inappropriate photos of underage Latina girls. City Staff members are accused of overlooking complaints by youth and fellow staff.
Last March, the city paid $42 million in settlements to 23 victims, as more victims come forward. The attempted cover-up of PAL crimes and the City Council's evasion resembles the disturbing tendency to maintain a “liberal” image by concealing wrongdoing at any cost.
But victories are too often followed by institutional pushback. Last year the district fired a Chicano specialist hired to build an Ethnic Studies program.
It is the old racist civilizational narrative myth that Ethnic Studies commonly challenges. Some don’t see what is offensive, and even defend it as art. But it is our own, homegrown Confederate statue, a clear sign of the historical and ongoing racial colonization of Native American bodies and minds.
Like racial voting rights, the City Council refuses to see it. They refuse to recognize the brown bodies they are subjugating.
The current historical crisis in the U.S., however, has also created a profound opportunity for residents to rise to the occasion, and make more equitable the governance, services, and education systems of our city.
Mexicans are left out of Santa Monica’s race debate because to address Mexican grievances would be to open the floodgates on Santa Monica’s real race scandals. It would bring up past wrongs and make things very complicated, as race is. It would mean addressing the real and ongoing pain endured by Pico residents, the inheritors of Santa Monica’s agony.
This month, we can write a new chapter of Santa Monica history, one with less corruption, less tears and agony. Together, we can write a more truthful chapter about “changing our ways,” about justice and integrity.
|Copyright 1999-2020 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.|