In 2009, I am starting a new feature on my Blog, "The Guest Voz." The "Guest Voz" will feature an article from another PRO Blogger. I will be introducing another PRO voice to my viewers, adding their Blog to my Blog favorites and supporting the PRO Vision of "ONE PRO VOICE heard across the country and around the world."
My first "Guest Voz" is "The Indigenous Xicano." In this post, he shares some experiences from his childhood. It is an amazing story and I am very proud to share his story with you.
Guest Voz: The Indigenous Xicano
Ignorance Unchecked Turns Into Hate Turns Into Violence
The viaduct that separated the Blacks and the Browns 30 years ago. ->
It was a late summer night. Miholtz and I were sitting on "The Stairs," the popular hang out spot in front of the building where I lived during my teen-aged years in Pilsen. Miholtz and I were whittling the time away, awaiting until the night was reduced to nothing.
There was some kind of honor to be the last one standing every night. One never knew what kind of action might explode during the playing out of the theater that is the subterranean night life of inner-city Chicago. There was a rush to be part of this surreal existence where the craziest things often happen long after dark. For a 16 year-old kid this was the first taste of adulthood; the first step into the real world of pirates, hustlers, and junkies.
From the seams of the side streets appeared a Black man in his 20's. Not many Black people walked through this neighborhood, especially at night. The fortress like viaduct a few blocks north was an impenetrable wall of segregation keeping the Blacks on one side and the Browns on the other. Other than when the brothers came to Harrison Park to play ball or when the old people came to do their laundry or buy groceries, there was not a permissible time for Blacks to enter into our neighborhood, nor could we walk into their hood.
The crazy thing was that folks on both sides had friends from both sides. I played sports with the people from the "other side." I went to school with them. But some unwritten code at the time said that they could not walk alone in our neighborhood.
Miholtz spotted the man like how a dog would recognize a cat on the street. Miholtz yelled "get him" while already a few strides into his wild man pursuit towards the Black man. The Black man immediately recognized what was going down and broke into a mad dash to quickly put distance between himself and the mad Croatian kid chasing him. I was not sure why Miholtz was chasing him. Who was this man and why were we chasing him? I yelled at Miholtz "Why are we running after this guy?" and he replied "I dont want niggers in my neighborhood."
What? I never subscribed to the racist bull. I can remember actually walking under the viaduct of segregation and bravely venturing into the Black neighborhood when I was 14. It was mid-day in the winter. I walked down 14th Street in the forbidden city and nothing happened to me. It was different experience from what I expected. It looked like a scene from a war movie with boarded up buildings and a large empty lot where several men huddled near a garbage can that emitted flames. They did not pay me any attention. I saw no one else. I walked down negro streets at noon and did not get jumped. Friends treated me like a returning hero. I did not see what the big thing was about walking into the other side. Nothing happened. There were just old bums (we did not have the term 'homeless' yet) there trying to keep warm by a fire in a garbage can. I was moved by that short glimpse into that unique scene of poverty that made the poverty on our side look like luxury.
I was never taught to hate African-Americans. My mother belonged to an organization called WSO (West Side Organization.) It was a civil rights group. My mother may have been its only Mexican-American member. I can remember the night my mother came home and told us that she had played pool with the famous Martin Luther King. She made mention of what a flirt he was. I remember one day when I was about 7 or 8 years old and we had nothing to eat, which was about everyday, and a group of African-American men carried a large cardboard box bursting with left-over sandwiches from one of their meetings into our little two bedroom basement apartment where my mother was raising 7 kids. The sandwiches I ate that day are still some of the best tasting memories I have. We were rich with food. We did not have to ration arroz con leche for dinner that evening. Those men were heroes to me. They fed us for one lucky day. They also left a set of a children's encyclopedias. I read them back and forth and escaped to every corner of the world while I immersed myself with the books. When much of America was growing up with fear of the Black man I was growing up with an awe for the Black man. The only ones I knew were nice people who fed me and opened up the world to me. They were also brave men who marched for justice despite the risk of getting bricks bounced off their heads.
Now I was running alongside a crazed Croatian who wanted to beat a man up simply because of his skin color. I could not let that happen. Yet, words of logic do not work well in this situation. Logic has no room in crazy. I was the self-proclaimed fastest runner in my neighborhood. I took off after the man. I caught up to the exhausted man after about two blocks of pursuit down Wood Street and told him that it was dangerous to walk through there at night. He was relieved that I meant no harm. Luckily the Blue Island bus was rolling slowly down the street during its night owl schedule and I flagged it down and put the man on the bus. Miholtz slowly jogged up out of breath while the bus was pulling away. Miholtz expressed his disappointment that I let him get away. Hell, I would not have chased him if I didn't know why Miholtz was trying to catch him.
I had hate; I did not have his strain of hate. Miholtz was raised by a single dad who was habitually drunk. He was a racist red-neck who took out his frustrations by beating his sons with extension cords and wooden canes. Many kids in my neighborhood had similar stories. I was nurtured in a permeable bubble of violence. Although my violence was not fed by an ignorant prejudice of those of different skin color. It had different sources and, sadly and regrettably, victims. But "hate crimes" have been around as long as there has been a United States of America. We folk of color historically have been the target of many ignorant, hateful thugs for a few centuries. Others are just noticing it now as "hey, that's a f*cked up thing to do." There are still millions of Miholtz's in our midst, products of the divisions that have kept working people apart.
We are all working people trying to build a better life. If we take the time to just talk to one another we could see just how much alike we are.
There is a current fire of hate that is being fueled by the Talking Empty Heads on Hate radio, Hate Cable TV and Cyber Hate. Just as African-Americans were demonized during my youth as being criminals, rapists, drug dealers, lazy welfare scum, uneducated and unable to learn the "White" culture and live like civilized people, we are hearing the same exact thing now about the undocumented immigrant. Ratings are more important than truth.
The young White males who killed Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania on July 12, 2008 did not just wake the morning of the murder with a murderous hate. They had to learn it somewhere. The thugs who bashed in the brains of Jose Sucuzhanay did not personally invent the racist anti-Latino slurs that they hurled at Sucuzhanay as he lay dying from the blows of the metal baseball bat. The seven high school cowards who beat Marcello Lucero to death had to grow up in a cultural environment where "hunting beaners" was an acceptable thing to do.
No one is born a "hate criminal." Hatred is a learned thing. Hate is a learned thing best taught to the misinformed and ignorant. It does not matter if some of the attackers in Shenandoah or Long Island are honor students. Their collective ignorance was a fertile petri dish for the culture of hate to grow up ugly and unfettered from our common senses of decency.
The hatred behind the recent hate crimes have many different complex issues behind every individual involved. But they all have a common denominator-the hatred of the immigrant. The anti-immigrant hate speech produced by the Talking Heads on Hate Radio, TV and the internet helps to fuel the acts of violence against people who look like an immigrant.
We must fight the source that fuels the ignorance.We must do our best to redefine the message from one of hate to one of civil resolution. I believe that the majority of the American people are decent people willing to recognize and chose the better option between civility and hate. Hate will lose. We cannot afford to believe otherwise. Behavior is motivated by thought. We must think and believe that we can overcome the hate that is turning our youth into cold blooded killers. The morgue and the prison is not where our huddled masses belong.