Friday, April 27, 2012

Moral Authority and the U.S. Supreme Court- Acuña

and La Mordida, by Rodolfo F. Acuña.

Direct forms of political control are easy to figure out. For a time, laws and police agencies can keep things together. However, most institutions and societies depend on social control to deceive people into thinking that they live in a democracy. They use processes that socialize them into believing that those in control have moral authority.

Belief systems exert a greater control on behavior than laws. For example, religion maintains control through laws. Nevertheless, institutions such as the Catholic Church maintain control more through their moral authority than their laws. A society does not stay together for a long period of time through the use of coercive powers alone.

Historical events such as the Black Plague in the first part of the 14th Century shook the Church’s moral authority and two centuries later the Protestant Revolt ended the hegemony of Catholicism in Europe. No one can predict what effect the Church’s pedophile scandal will have. One thing for sure is that the scandal has reduced the moral authority of the Church Fathers and their interpretation of what god wants.

In the similar vein, government has suffered a loss of moral authority. This is good and bad; one thing is for sure it is leading to a divided society. Although the number of southern states passing anti-immigrant laws has grown to over a half dozen and they are flushed with emotion, it must be remembered that California and New York alone dwarf the population numbers and wealth of the red states.

Much has been written about the growth of the Latino population and its voting power. But truth be told, Latinos are growing increasingly disaffected with government and most are cynical about its fairness.

The institution that has taken the hardest hit in the past dozen years is the Supreme Court.

Monday, April 23, 2012

05 Tierra y Soberanía Alimentaria

Support a progressive Democrat

I’ve sent you a short Bio of Wenona in previous e-mails. If you want me to re-send it, let me know, and I will.
Wenona is trying to get the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to support her campaign. That support translates into MILLIONS of dollars in contributions (cash as well as in-kind resources, such as staff, mailings, television ads, etc.).
The choice for the DCCC is, in my estimation, very simple. The DCC has to choose between Wenona and Wenona’s Democratic Primary opponent, Anne Kirkpatrick, who served one term in Congress before being ousted due to her having turned her back on her base: Latinos, Native Americans, Labor, environmentalists, and progressives.
A couple of relevant examples that illustrate the stark difference between Wenona and Kirkpatrick:
*   Kirkpatrick supports SB 1070. She opposed the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against SB 1070. Kirkpatrick called the DOJ lawsuit a “sideshow” and insisted that SB 1070 be allowed to stand.
*   Kirkpatrick did not vote for the Dream Act the two times it came before the House during her tenure.
*   Kirkpatrick voted for the Bush tax cuts that benefited the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and working families.
In contrast, since the signing of SB 1070, Wenona has been at the forefront of the opposition to SB 1070. For example, she traveled to Mesa, AZ, to gather petition signatures to recall Russell Pearce and on election day canvassed key precincts in Mesa and worked the phones in the historic recall of Russell Pearce.
And Wenona has stood, and continues to stand, with the DREAMers in their principled struggle to get the Dream Act passed.
And Wenona has been very active in the struggle to save the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The role if the middle class Hispanic

By Rodolfo F. Acuña
For the last couple of weeks, I have been revisiting pieces that I’d written in the past. They express concerns that formed my own consciousness and they are the bulk of the over 200 articles that will compose my new book: “My Journey Out of Purgatory.”

I had intended to rewrite the following selection, “The Making of the Political Pocho,” but never got around to it.

The term pocho is well known among Chicanos or Mexican Americans. It has been used for generations by Mexicans to describe Mexicans living in the United States.

Pocho can be a pejorative term that varies according to who is using it. It differs from a Mexican who has forgotten his culture, to one that speaks Spanish less fluently than a native Mexican.

Pocho literally means a fruit that has become rotten or discolored or has never ripened. I use the term in the latter sense.

Nationality has very little meaning for me. It is a construct and loyalty greatly depends on the ability of the state to bring about justice, which is iffy both here and in Mexico. Many of those using the term represent classes that brought about an uneven political and social landscape that forced the uprooting of millions of Mexicans.

Our grasp of a language depends on our vocabulary, which is learned; it is acquired through exposure to written culture. Vocabulary is enriched through reading and intellectual discourse.

The gist of the piece is that Chicanas/os and Latinos remain political pochos because once they are out of college most do not remain politically active. Their principle concern is how to make a living and support a family.

They are influenced by the vocabulary around them. They use words such as Hispanic that are gauche among current activists. Graduates of 70s are more moderate on social issues.    

The piece itself was not only directed at the new Chicana/o middle-class but at the politicos who they spawned. It is a vicious circle: the masses of poor, the middle-class and the Latino politicos.

The piece criticizes Chicano politicians for not taking stands on the horrific police brutality taking place at the Ramparts Division. The atrocities involved were mostly against Salvadorans. I essentially accused the politicos of paying more attention to Mexican American voters, forgetting that it was the large numbers of Latinos, which included immigrants and non-voters that constructed their districts.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Manning Marable wins Pulitzer Prize

 Manning Marable.  Co founder of the Anti Racism Commission and of anti racism work within DSA was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for 2012  for his final book, Malcom X, A Life of Reinvention.
See his obituary here:
  Manning Marable, a founding Vice-Chair of DSA, passed away Friday, April 1, 2011 from complications of pneumonia. The death of our comrade Manning is a great loss for the broad left in our country. His major biography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,  tragically came out just after his death.  He had many other major works, including "How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America", a biography of W.E.B. DuBois, a total of  11 books and hundreds of articles on the important issues of our days. 

Monday, April 09, 2012

Educational "Reform" Proposal Misses the Mark

By Carl Bloice - Editorial Board
BC   March 29, 2012 By Carl Bloice 

On the same day a national task force warned that the country’s security and economic prosperity are at risk if America’s schools don’t improve, California State University system said it would shut out thousands of mid-year applicants for spring terms starting in January.
According to the Oakland Tribune, only eight of the system’s 23 campuses will accept transfer students for the spring 2013 term, and none will accept new freshmen. “The decision will leave thousands of community-college students with an unenviable choice:
Spend the time and money taking unnecessary community-college classes for an extra semester or drop out and try to make ends meet until Cal State reopens its doors,” wrote Matt Krupnick.
“The dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital,” the 30-member task force, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, the former chancellor of New York City’s school, declared this week. “The failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.” This statement came shortly after U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told a Howard University gathering, “President Obama has challenged all of us to lead the world with college graduates by 2020. But we cannot reach that goal unless educational opportunities are extended to everyone fairly and accurately.”
Regrettably, the contrast between what is being said about education in our country, and what is actually happening on the ground, serves to illustrate the galling amount of flim-flam and hypocrisy that characterizes today’s public discussion of the nation’s schools from kindergarten to the university level.
Since Duncan took up his post, somewhere in the vicinity of 270,000 teachers and other public school employees have lost their jobs because state and local education budgets have been slashed. “The teachers who have not been laid off have also been deeply affected by the economic downturn: class sizes are larger, after-school and arts enrichment programs have been cut, and an increasing number of their students are relying on safety net sources for health services and other basic needs,” observed the New York Times March 7.
In California alone, the number of full-time teachers has decreased by 32,000 statewide over the past four years.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Tucson - Mexican American Studies

From “Deliverance” to “The Godfather”
“Be Careful What You Wish for 'cause It Might Come True"
Rodolfo F. Acuña

My dream was to live in Tucson. In the early 1970s I even applied for a job at the University of Arizona, but the interview invitation was withdrawn after I participated in a protest there the weekend before my interview. I woke up.

The saying, “Be Careful What You Wish for 'cause It Might Come True," could have not have been more prophetic.

I did much of the research for my dissertation in Tucson. The pueblo’s charm was seductive and eclipsed its flaws: Whites and Mexicans rode separate bus lines and housing patterns created two Tucsons. Yet, change was possible and white and brown progressives coalesced on many issues.

In the late 1960s there were not many Mexicans at the U of A. Most professors there seemed to believe that Arizona history began in 1853 when US minister James Gadsden told Mexico, sell us southern Arizona for $10 million or we'll take it.

Western history was Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral. A well-known U of A history professor taught his classes with six shooters holstered at his side, wore cowboy boots and had a swagger to his walk and talk.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Labor Solidarity Tour: Mexican trade unionists

by Duane E. Campbell
A delegation of Mexican labor organizers speak at CSU-Sacramento  on  April 3, as a part of a Labor Solidarity Tour.  Humberto Montes de Oca, of the SME Electrical Workers union spoke on their struggle over the last two years since 44,000 workers were dismissed and the electrical company privatized under the order of Mexican President Felipe Calderon.  Some 16,000 workers remain on strike.   They occupied the Zocalo in Mexico City for over 6 months.  Currently they are working to defeat the two conservative candidates for president, representing PAN and PRI. They are working for Manuel Obrador of the PRD who has supported their struggle.   For more on this struggle see David Bacon . .
Fernando Mendoza of  the Teachers Union and Ignatius Mercedes of the Mine workers in Canea, Sonora,  explained the role of neo-liberalism in privatizing public industries including public schools.  They urged the students at the university to unite with the faculty in their own struggle to renew their contract which has expired.  The tour has traveled from Los Angeles, to San Diego and San Jose and plans on appeals to workers for international solidarity. 

Monday, April 02, 2012

Labor Solidarity Tour

Cesar Chavez, Dissent, and Nelson Lichtenstein

Duane Campbell and Cesar Chavez, 1972. 

 by Duane E. Campbell
   Dissent Magazine has a review of Frank Bardacke’s book on the Cesar Chavez written by Nelson Lichtenstein,  Director of the Student of Work, Labor and Democracy at U.C. Santa Barbara.  The review is here.
While there are some distinct strengths to the Bardacke book I also find some strong drawbacks which Lichtenstein did not deal with.   I wrote a response to the Lichtenstein review but Dissent decided to not post nor print my response.  Here is my response.      I think that these issues concerning Chavez and the UFW deserve a response, not because Chavez is above reproach, which he wasn’t, but because the Chavez -Huerta, Vera Cruz legacy of the UFW has made a strong and lasting contribution to Chicano/Latino politics.
The review of Frank Bardacke’s book,  Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers,  by Nelson Lichtenstein that appears in the Winter 2012 Dissent does an excellent job of describing some of the issues in farm worker organizing in California and of summarizing the views of Bardacke in his book.   It also makes some strong arguments about union organizing and repeats several unfortunate claims about Cesar Chavez and the union.
            Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. (2011, Verso). is the view of a well- informed observer  who  worked in the lettuce fields near Salinas for six seasons,  then spent  another 25 years  teaching English to  farm workers  in the Watsonville, California  area. His views on the growth and decline of the United Farm Workers union – some of which I do not share–  offer  important points of history and reflection  for unionists today.
            Lichtenstein in his review  summarizes well  some of this important issues and he reveals his own position in claims such as , “ instead he focuses his narrative onto the next decade when Chavez became increasingly self-destructive  leader even as an enormously hopeful wave of farm worker militancy exploded across the state..” By the way.  Why was there an explosion of militancy ? Perhaps it was the development of hope for change provided by the early UFW victories.

Cesar Chavez: A True American Hero | California Progress Report

Cesar Chavez: A True American Hero | California Progress Report

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Intellectual Incest

By  Rodolfo F. Acuña

It has always been difficult to convince Anglo-Americans that they should know more about Latinos.  It did not seem to matter to Anglos that their ignorance spawned stereotypes that damaged Mexican American children.    

This brings me back to Tucson, which as you all know has been on my mind. Right now the issues are being played out in the courts where the state courts punctuated by intellectual light weights are beholding to politicians beholding to the same special interests as those influencing the Supreme Court.

Red flags went up when United States District Judge, David C. Bury, held “This Court finds that discontinuance of the MASD courses during the remainder of the USP’s life expectancy will not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by intentionally segregating or discriminating against student’s based on race or ethnic group.” The issue with many of us was the enforcement of the law, which Arizona has avoided with impunity since Brown v. The Board of Education.

Bury acted on the recommendation of Special Master Willis Hawley who on paper has a good record in supporting progressive education. But most of his experience is with African Americans in Maryland and he has had little exposure to Latinos and even less with Arizona politics.  The decision alarmed many of us since we have seen the decimation of Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program and the retaliation against teachers through retaliatory, disparate, and discriminatory practices.