Monday, May 28, 2007

Ken Burns, PBS and the Latino Body at War

Professor Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez "is credited with igniting a grass-roots effort to pressure famed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns to include Latinos" in his upcoming documentary The War. See Guillermo Contreras' article, "UT Professor Has a Way of Getting Nation's Ear."

Prof. Rivas-Rodríguez has also been involved in the "US Latinos and Latinas and World War II" project at UT, Austin. This important project seeks to document the stories of Latina and Latino participation in the armed services.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"El paso del norte" and the Mexicana Body

"El paso del norte": from the XIX c., to Juan Rulfo, to Ninón Sevilla in Aventurera, and on to Alicia Gaspar de Alba's Dessert Blood and our own present, the spaces between Ciudad Juárez, México, and El Paso, Texas, are more spectral and more deadly than what representation can conjure.

Life Along 'La Linea'
A portrait of the complexities of life along the U.S.-Mexico border

Monday, May 21, 2007

Legislating the Mexican Body

(Photo from The Washington Post online by Melina Mara)
Congress Continues to Grapple with Immigration Reform Today

Racism seems clearly and conveniently tangled with immigration and the very fiber of "American" nationalism. Ironically, some cultural theoreticians have announced that the demise of race as a critical object of study is not something to be feared. It would be disingenuous, however, to assume that, because race is not a biological category, Americans do not continue to think, feel, and act as if it were a biological truth. As Congress grapples with immigration reform today, protesters cry "No amnesty!," recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and sing "God Bless America." Many of the 400 protesters were apparently flown in from California and Arizona (get a load of the guy's T-shirt!), which begs a series of questions even the article below can't begin to fathom. In this myopic narrative of nationalism even the right's "man of reason," John McCain, is just too far left of right supremacy.

'No Amnesty' Is Cry at D.C. Immigration Protest

Black Bodies and Unequel Justice in Jena, LA.

"The tree was on the side of the campus that, by long-standing tradition, had always been claimed by white students, who make up more than 80 percent of the 460 students. But a few of the school's 85 black students had decided to challenge the accepted state of things and asked school administrators whether they, too, could sit in the tree's shade."

That "black students" have to ask where they can sit for shade is disturbingly reminiscent of Jim Crow era racist practices and laws meant to deprive Blacks of their civil rights through institutional and quotidian obeisance to whites. Is deep south Louisiana still in the murky waters of uncivilized race-hatred? Yes.

" 'Sit wherever you want,' school officials told them. The next day, the nooses were hanging from the branches."

And then a past of ignorance and racism emerged untouched by reason or state protection...

See Howard Witt's story "Racial demons rear heads" in Chicago Tribune.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Latino Body Politic: Chicana Civil Rights Leader Dolores Huerta Endorses Hillary Clinton

From Nuestra Voice:

May 18, 2007
Washington, DC- Hillary Clinton received today the endorsement of human rights leader and community activist Dolores Huerta, the co-founder and President Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America. Huerta will serve as co-chair of the campaign’s Hispanic outreach efforts.

“Throughout her life Hillary has been a strong leader, working for issues that make a difference in every family’s life, like education, health care and good paying jobs,” said Huerta. “I believe she is the best qualified candidate and the one that’s ready to put our country back on track.”

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Latino Bodies in Question: The LAPD and the May Day Police Riot

While most of the rallies held around the country in defense of immigrant rights were peaceful, the march in Los Angeles ended with police firing rubber bullets and using their batons against marchers. See previous post here.


LAPD Chief Reassigns Two Officials Over May Day Violence
By Duke Helfand and Andrew Blankstein
Los Angeles Times

Tuesday 08 May 2007
The pair directed the violent police response in MacArthur Park. An inquiry suggests tactical errors created problems.

Two high-ranking Los Angeles Police Department commanders were reassigned Monday for their role in overseeing the violent police response to last week's MacArthur Park immigration rally.

Deputy Chief Cayler "Lee" Carter Jr., commanding officer of Operations Central Bureau, and Cmdr. Louis Gray, the No. 2 official in the bureau, were shifted from their command posts.

At the same time, a preliminary inquiry suggested that police had made a series of tactical errors in the incident, which injured at least 10 protesters and journalists, as well as seven police officers. Carter and Gray were the senior commanders in charge of policing the protest.

"We're not going to shift responsibility down the chain of command," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a City Hall news conference that included LAPD Chief William J. Bratton and Police Commission President John Mack. "Accountability begins at the top. What happened on May 1st was wrong. We're taking immediate action to address it."

The action comes as officials attempt to quell outrage over videotaped images of LAPD officers swinging batons and firing nearly 150 "less-than-lethal" rounds at reporters and largely peaceful protesters last Tuesday.

The staffing shift was announced as LAPD officials were preparing a preliminary investigation into what went wrong at MacArthur Park. Sources close to the probe, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because it was an ongoing case, said investigators had broken down the incident into three distinct phases that occurred between 5:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Investigators now believe that LAPD commanders made significant errors at all stages of the MacArthur Park action that served to inflame tensions rather than ease them.

About 5:15 p.m., LAPD officers came under attack from a relatively small group of protesters just outside the park who threw plastic bottles and other objects in their direction.

LAPD policies call on officers to isolate troublemakers and get them away from the larger crowd.

But for reasons investigators still don't understand, officers actually pushed the 30 to 40 agitators into the park, allowing them to mix with hundreds of marchers who were behaving peacefully, the sources said.

By about 6 p.m., commanders had decided to clear the park and surrounding area. The job was given to about 60 Metro Division officers, many of whom wore riot gear and were armed with shotguns that fired "less-than-lethal" rounds. Commanders directed an LAPD helicopter to issue a command in English - but not Spanish - for people to leave the area.

But investigators found major flaws in how the order was carried out. For one thing, the helicopter appeared to be hovering above the intersection of 7th and Alvarado streets at a relatively high altitude, the sources said. It was two blocks from the park, making it difficult for some in the crowd to hear the order, they said.

LAPD officials say commanders are told that crowd clearance orders should be given from the ground whenever possible - because helicopters can drown out the sounds and can confuse people on the ground. The LAPD had at least one sound truck that could have been used for such an order next to the park, the sources said. But for some reason, they said, the truck was not used.

The Metro officers then moved in a "V" formation from the southeast corner of the park. There too, errors reportedly occurred. LAPD sources said the preliminary investigation found that supervisors were too far away from the officers' "skirmish line" and lost control of the operation, with some officers wandering off on their own.

Bratton downgraded Carter to the rank of commander and placed him on home assignment. The chief said he would announce Carter's replacement at today's Police Commission meeting.

Bratton also targeted Gray, who was the second in command at MacArthur Park and, according to a source, responsible for tactical decisions made at the scene. The 39-year department veteran was reassigned to the Office of Operations, but his new job had not been determined.

Bratton described the changes as "personnel actions" rather than disciplinary in nature. His actions drew praise from Mack and at least one march organizer.

Carter did not return phone calls seeking comment. Gray declined to comment when reached at his office.

Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles called the swift reassignment of the two ranking command officers a good start but added that further reforms were needed to change the department's culture.

"These quick, concrete steps are appreciated," Salas said. "But the department also needs to look at its internal structure, its training, and how officers view and treat immigrants."

But reassigning Carter and Gray rankled some of the LAPD's 9,500 rank-and-file officers and the unions that represent them. Union officials have said that they believe that there has been a rush to judge officers before the facts are in. L.A. Police Protective League President Bob Baker questioned whether the officers involved had adequate training in the last year.

Both Villaraigosa and Mack sought to soften the blow by underscoring their support for officers on the street.

"This is not an indictment of the entire Police Department," Mack said. "The overwhelming majority of the men and women within the department are dedicated, decent public servants who are out there every day. However, sometimes some of them don't get it."

The sources said that many questions remain unanswered as the preliminary investigation moves forward. For example, investigators are still trying to determine exactly how the decision to authorize officers to fire the "less-than-lethal" rounds was made. Moreover, they are trying to figure out why the LAPD seemed to ignore many of the rules for crowd control established after the 2000 Democratic National Convention, particularly regarding creating a "safe area" where the media could operate.

As LAPD investigators work to answer those questions, civil rights groups and political leaders are stepping up pressure to rein in the LAPD.

City Council President Eric Garcetti announced Monday that he was forming a special task force to monitor the progress of the investigation and provide an extra layer of oversight.

The task force will hear reports on the investigations pursued concurrently by the Police Department and the Office of the Inspector General.

It also will provide a forum at which members of the public can express their views and concerns on the confrontation and the investigations, and it will provide policy recommendations for future encounters involving the police, protesters and news media.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lou Dobbs on the "Infirm" Latino Body

Lou Dobbs' source on Mexican immigration issues and the politics of scientific rigor (mortis).

From Southern Poverty Law Center:

Dobbs said he stands "100 percent behind" his show's claim that there had been 7,000 new cases of leprosy in the United States over a recent three-year period, and he further suggested that an increase in leprosy was due in part to "unscreened illegal immigrants coming into this country."

Dobbs' endorsement of the claim came after CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl challenged the leprosy figure during a profile of Dobbs on "60 Minutes" this past Sunday. Stahl cited a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services document that reported 7,029 cases over the past 30 years — not three.

The dispute highlights the SPLC's concern that Dobbs and some others in the media are regularly using discredited and inaccurate information about immigrants — material that often originates with far-right ideologues and organizations dominated by white supremacists and nativists.

Dobbs and CNN reporter Christine Romans said they had gotten the information from the late Madeleine Cosman, who was described by Romans as "a respected medical lawyer" – but who, in fact, was a woman who repeatedly ranted about Latino men raping boys, girls and nuns.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Latino Bodies Are Again the Targets of the KKK

"[M]ore Latinos were lynched in California than were persons of any other race or ethnicity." -Ken Gonzales-Day, Lynching in the West: 1850-1935 (Duke, 2006)

Welcome to the past... As Ken Gonzales-Day's important new book Lynching in the West: 1850-1935 makes clear, in California and many western states the majority of lynching victims were Latino. This is a history still being told in ever varying shades of black, brown, and the white sheets and hoods that must be wrested from derelict political bodies in order to demand a literal and symbolic accounting of the corpus delicti.

KKK growing, with a new target

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Latino Body in Question: Police Brutality

August 29, 1970? No, LA on May 1, 2007. I'll risk an incendiary question because the circumstances demand it: Would police brutality of this magnitude be tolerated if the ethnic, racial, or minority group in question were anything other than Latino? Rhetorical questions are sometimes the necessary, if not egregiously overdue, starting points for more pointed engagements with "American" cultural history.

I'd never thought I'd be saying this, but to their credit, FOX actually aired this story.