Posts By Carmen Samora

A Growing Inequality

Posted by The Washington Post
by Harold Meyerson

In America, not all kinds of inequality are created equal.

For the past half-century, the de jure inequality of demographic groups has proven increasingly vulnerable to public pressure. From the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to last week’s Supreme Court decision striking down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, legal barriers against racial and sexual minorities as well as women have crumbled. Changes in the law have followed the same pattern: First, a handful of generally radical activists brought attention to the existence of a legal double standard; then, a mass movement grew in support of eliminating discriminatory laws and practices; only after this did government respond with legal remedies.

In each case as well, the movements’ success in diminishing their “otherness” — that is, establishing their full humanity — in the eyes of the majority of their fellow Americans has been key to ending legal discrimination. The shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage, for instance, follows decades when growing numbers of gay men and lesbians felt just secure enough to out themselves to their families, friends and co-workers, in the process normalizing what had been a concealed, and presumably shameful, status. The immigrant rights movement’s focus on the Dream Act kids — young people, many of whom are talented students, brought here as children and still forced to lurk in the shadows — put the most appealing human face on undocumented immigrants. That is at least partly responsible for what is now majority public support for enabling the undocumented to become citizens. (Whether that majority support carries any weight with xenophobic House Republicans, secure in their gerrymandered districts, is another question.)

Some forms of legal inequality persist in other guises. Another Supreme Court decision last week, striking down provisions of the Voting Rights Act that limited discriminatory practices in particular Southern states, will make it easier for black and Latino electoral participation to be limited. Just as those states once required voters to pass absurd tests or pay taxes to vote — measures almost always designed to apply only to blacks — now they will likely require voters to produce documents that the poor and students disproportionately lack (as, in fact, Texas did within hours of the high court’s ruling). Today’s vote supressionists are driven less by discrimination for its own sake than fear that their hold on power will weaken if minorities and the young vote in large numbers.

But while social and legal inequality has diminished over the past century, economic inequality has been on the rise since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The public policies of the past 30 years — deregulating finance and encouraging the sector’s growth, failing to bolster workers’ declining bargaining power — are rightly understood to have reversed the more egalitarian economic policies of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. But the economic inegalitarianism of the past three decades also makes a mockery of Thomas Jefferson’s vision of equality, which went beyond mere equality of creation. Jefferson believed that a nation of yeoman farmers was the best defense against the inequalities of wealth and power that would threaten the republic if cities grew too populous. He also believed, of course, in the institution of slavery — the paradox that haunts his legacy and our history to this day.

The belief that diminishing economic inequality would help build a more robust economy underpinned the legislation of both the New Deal and the Great Society. Granting workers the power to bargain with their employers, the preamble to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act states, would increase their capacity to consume and give the economy a shot in the arm. So, too, the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which created the national minimum wage. Social Security and Medicare, by reducing poverty among seniors, also bolstered the national economy. Repeal any one of these and the economy would crumple. Indeed, the de facto repeal of the National Labor Relations Act — as employers have learned to exploit its loopholes and deny employees bargaining power — is a major factor in the decline of wage income.

How, then, do we decrease economic inequality — the one kind of inequality that continues to expand even as other forms contract (if slowly and unevenly)? The challenge isn’t to persuade the majority to embrace a minority but, rather, to embrace itself. Americans tend to blame themselves rather than changes in economic rules and arrangements for failing to achieve financial security. But with most of the nation falling behind, the problem and the solution aren’t individual. Like Jefferson’s generation, Americans must band together to create a more egalitarian land.

Read more from Harold Meyerson’s archive or follow him on Twitter.

Read more about this issue: Robert J. Samuelson: Is organized labor obsolete? Charles Krauthammer: What Wisconsin means The Post’s View: Unions should reorganize after Wisconsin George F. Will: Appeals court limits labor board’s lawlessness Harold Meyerson: Labor wrestles with its future

© The Washington Post Company

Sal Castro dies at 79; L.A. teacher played role in 1968 protests

Posted by Los Angeles Times

Sal Castro was a teacher at Lincoln High when he helped instigate ‘blowouts’ that became a seminal event in the Chicano movement.

Teacher Sal Castro in front of Los Angeles City Hall in 2004. He was one of the leaders of the 1968 Latino student walkouts, a protest for better schools that was a seminal event in the development of the Chicano movement. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

By Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times
April 15, 2013, 8:12 p.m.

Sal Castro, a veteran Los Angeles Unified School District teacher who played a central role in the 1968 “blowouts,” when more than 1,000 students in predominantly Latino high schools walked out of their classrooms to protest inequalities in education, died in his sleep Monday after a long bout with cancer. He was 79.

Castro died at his home in the Silver Lake district, seven months after he was found to have stage 4 thyroid cancer, said his wife, Charlotte Lerchenmuller.

In March 1968, Castro was a social studies teacher at Lincoln High School near downtown when he helped instigate the protests that became a seminal event in the development of the Chicano movement. Students at five high schools — Belmont, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt and Garfield — abandoned their campuses in a dramatic bid to remedy overcrowded and run-down schools, soaring dropout rates, poorly trained teachers, and counselors who steered Latino students into auto shop instead of college-prep classes.

The conditions were so poor, he told The Times 20 years later, it was “like American education forgot the Latino kid.”

The protests, which lasted several days and spread to 15 schools, resulted in the arrests of 13 people on conspiracy charges. Castro was among the 13 who were jailed but eventually exonerated.
Fired after the walkouts, he fought successfully to be reinstated to his teaching position but was transferred several times to schools that had largely non-Latino enrollments.
Broad public recognition of his contributions to the struggle for education equality came decades after the protests, when his story was told in films, including “Walkout,” the 2006 HBO movie directed by Edward James Olmos.

“For Latinos in Los Angeles,” Supervisor Gloria Molina said in a statement Monday, “Sal Castro was as influential and inspirational as United Farm Workers co-founder Cesar Chavez was nationally — an example of the power of organizing who personified the possibility of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.”

The son of Mexican immigrants, Castro was born in Boyle Heights on Oct. 25, 1933, and spent some of his early childhood in Mexico, where he learned to read in Spanish.

When he returned to Los Angeles for second grade, his teacher made him sit in a corner because he was the only student who could not speak English. Instead of accepting the stigma, “I started thinking, these teachers … should be able to understand me,” he said in a 1988 interview with The Times. “I didn’t think I was dumb — I thought they were dumb.”

He graduated from Cathedral High School in 1952, was drafted into the Army and served in the Korean War. After completing his service, he attended Los Angeles City College and majored in business at Cal State L.A., graduating in 1961.

That year, he also earned a credential to teach secondary school and taught junior high in Pasadena before landing a position at Belmont High. He soon began pressing for change. He urged Mexican American students to run for student government offices, causing a ruckus when he encouraged them to give campaign speeches in Spanish.

In 1963, he founded the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference, a nonprofit organization that trained future leaders at annual workshops held until 2009, when it lost its funding.
Transferred to Lincoln High after the incident at Belmont, he worked with students and recent graduates to present a list of demands to the school board aimed at improving academic opportunities and fixing dilapidated classrooms.

Tensions came to a head on March 5, 1968, after administrators at Wilson High abruptly canceled a student production of “Barefoot in the Park” that they said was too risque. Word of the action spread quickly, and soon Latino students were leaving classrooms across the district, joined by Castro and others outside the schools, including college students and members of the militant Brown Beret.

Among the participants were some future politicians and activists, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who walked out from Cathedral High, and filmmaker Moctesuma Esparza, who was indicted for his leadership role in the walkouts and decades later was executive producer of the HBO film on the protests.

Castro was jailed for five days after the walkouts and lost his job, but he was rehired after weeks of protests by Eastside parents. Months after the protests, 40 teachers at Lincoln High asked to be transferred if the district allowed Castro to return.

After a long period of “freeway therapy,” when he was bounced around to different schools and made a substitute teacher, he landed back at Belmont, where he taught and counseled hundreds of students from 1973 until his retirement in 2004.

Many of his students became educators, including several who are principals, Lerchenmuller said.

In 2010, district officials honored the outspoken educator by dedicating a school to him, Salvador B. Castro Middle School, which shares Belmont’s campus.

Although Castro continued to lament high dropout rates and other problems, he discouraged students who wanted to launch new walkouts, arguing that staying in school was more important.

“Here’s the protest: any kid with a book,” he said, gesturing at the youthful crowd attending a 2008 symposium on Chicano activism at Cal State San Bernardino. “That’s the only way we can move forward, through education.”

In addition to his wife, Castro is survived by two sons, Gilbert and Jimi; and two grandsons. Services will be announced.

The AP Stylebook Concedes in the use of “illegal immigrant”

By: Patricio Gomez (Mexican American Political Association)

The AP Stylebook finally declared that it will cease using the term “illegal immigrant.” It’s about time. According to their corporate spokespersons, “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”

The specific instruction in the stylebook now reads, “illegal immigration: Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.”

Associated Press has opted to better label behavior and not people, similar to labeling a person “diagnosed with schizophrenia” instead of schizophrenic,” for example. As this relates to an undocumented entry into a country, it would be preferable to describe it as “someone in a country without permission.” Ironically, AP had previously excluded the use of the term “undocumented” as being an imprecise description. Someone could have entered a country without permission, yet still have different types of documents in their possession, they observed.

This is significant considering that newspapers throughout the country, and even internationally, use the AP Stylebook as a reference for correct language usage in their reporting. In fact, it is also used as a refuge by editors and publishers when confronted about the continued use of the derisive term “Illegal,” both print and electronic. They have argued that their point of reference in language usage is the AP Stylebook as the rock solid code of language not to be tampered with.

For years the Los Angeles Times and other major metropolitan newspapers have been challenged for their language usage. Lou Dobbs was drubbed out of CNN for his persistent anti-immigrant tirades and constant baiting use of “illegal.” Fox News’ right-wing television pundits, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, KFI-Clear Channel Communications’ shock jocks, John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of the John and Ken Show, and syndicated radio windbag, Rush Limbaugh, darling of the Tea Party and oxycontin addict, have all been roundly slammed for their denigrating use of the terms “illegal aliens” and “Illegal immigrants”

However, even supposed left-of-center newspapers published by the Village Voice, which has local editions in California, Arizona, and New York, all major immigrant population centers, continue to use racist terminology in reference to immigrants. The most infamous example is the “Ask a Mexican” column penned by Gustave “Gus” Arellano, editor of OCWEEKLY, which includes a racist stereotypic graphic of a toothy mustachioed Mexican wearing a big sombrero. The son of Mexican immigrants who legalized their status through the 1986 IRCA immigration reform, Arellano doesn’t even speak Spanish fluently and is flippant about his continued use of “illegal” as irreverent shtick and hyperbole – all at the expense of immigrants. A better explanation for his language and behavior is self-loathing.

What these corporate media outlets have in common, whether from the political left or right, is that they are corporately owned by whites with a predominantly white audience. Probably never before in the history of the country has the corporate media been so monopolized in cross multiple mediums, and almost entirety in the hands of whites.

What’s behind this use of language to label people in a denigrating manner as has historically occurred in the U.S.? The corporate media, part of the 1% as popularly known now-a-days, can control the narrative about a people when they can define them by such labels. Labels, then, are used to define the identity, role, and quality of groups of people. The objective is to stigmatize them as a social group in society’s eyes and thusly control them in the economy. Ultimately, it’s about how they are used in the economy in the interest of those who control the economy. If society’s majority can bring itself to view another social group as inferior, less than human, less than the norm, thus, dehumanized, than that social group can be exploited, abused, and mistreated without a near whimper by the larger society.

It’s no accident that people of color have predominantly been the object of derisive name-calling, racist labels and stereotypes – blacks, Native Americans, immigrants of working stock, Mexicans and Latinos generally, Asians, but even women and gays. It’s all about keeping working people divided by promoting fear of differentness, prejudice, and homophobia. The beneficiaries are the owners of the principal means of expressing ideas.

In the 1970s the legendary labor and immigrant rights leader, Bert Corona, coined the saying, “No Human Being is Illegal.” In 1986, Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel, a holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, affirmed, “You who are so-called illegal aliens must know that no human being is ‘illegal’. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, and they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?”

So the fight between ideas and over labels continues unabated. The AP Stylebook thinking heads finally conceded to the light. Chalk one up for the immigrants. – authorized to republish. Join me on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr (SinFronteras2013). 4/04/13
Join us in this prolonged campaign for driver’s licenses and visas for our families. The first step in making change is to join an organization that pursues the change we desire. We welcome you to our ranks.

Other organizations leading this movement include: Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), MAPA Youth Leadership, Southern California Immigration Coalition, Liberty and Justice for Immigrants Movement, National Alliance for Immigrant’s Rights, and immigrant’s rights coalitions throughout the U.S..