I grew up 45 minutes outside of Los Angeles in a town by the name of Pomona. The LA riots however were just as prevalent in my hood as any hood in the middle of LA. The night they happened I was in fifth grade, and the season finale of the Cosby Show was on TV. My family and I lived in a two bedroom house in a not-so-great part of town. In looking out of my window, I could see angry people reeking havoc. I have this very vivid mental picture of this woman, Latina and pregnant, throwing a trash can through the window of Church's Chicken across the street. People had bricks, and they were screaming, and my eleven year old brain prayed that they did not turn their anger towards my apartment. Though I have to admit, as upsetting as it was, I might have been more upset at the possibility that the news cycle would interrupt the finale of The Cosby Show.
The next day, at school, I was one of 4 other kids. The others; a white male, an Asian female, 2 black females and myself; did diligent work and play for an entire day while exhausted teachers tried to collapse their classrooms and decide who stayed with the remaining children. I remember overhearing my fourth grade teacher (a woman I now get was probably around my age now) talking with my fifth grade teacher (an older very respected but ornery woman) "We should talk to them about all this. They must be scared." and my fifth grade teacher responding "And what do you suppose we say, we can't make them unscared. Last night was the product of a whole lot of crazy we can't control."
I bring this memory up because it was the end of a certain kind of innocence for me. The way the news covered the trial and the aftermath of the trial, built this anger in the community that lasted for years. My middle school experience for the next three years was marked with racial rioting. My school was put on lock-down on a number of occasions. What this meant, we were locked into the confines of the school until a parent came to pick us up, because the racial rioting at the high school endangered our safety.
And steadily, I watched as the racial divisions at my own school became fiercer and fiercer until there were "race problem" at the middle school level as well. I watched many things at the age of 12 that left many scars. I could tell you many stories of moments when my heart broke because of what I saw happen with and around my peers. At the end of the day, the worst part, is how much anger we all carried around. All of us. Actually, scratch that, the worst part, is we had no idea why we were angry. We just knew this world around us was very unfair and for some reason skin color mattered and though many of us wanted to "deal" with it. There was so much anger and so much violence, you had very little power over it. And this likely created even more anger.
I write this today because I have been watching the racial divisions that are being marked up and discussed as far as the presidential campaign goes. Its exploiting our community. I have watched stories and read articles about Latinos and Asians that simply won't vote for Senator Obama because of his race. Where those voting blocs are addressed as unreachable for the good Senator.
Now let me be clear, the Senator's Latino strategy has been pretty crappy and started pretty late in the game. Really, I don't even know if there has been an Asian American strategy. Given all he's overcome to be this kind of a contender at this point, I can forgive it. You can't handle the whole pie in one sitting, you take it in slices and the Clinton's have just been eating for way longer. Doesn't make Senator Clinton the best candidate, just the one with the luxury of being at the table longest.
But really, I'm pissed off at the way this is being marketed. Because it sounds like a simple news story for the journalistic world, a valid point that can be addressed from time to time. But what this is doing is causing scars and divisions in communities that really don't need more. It's a news story for whatever conglomerate prints or airs it. But its years of living in racial discord and violence for a middle school kid. Repercussions of which, we won't even see immediately. And that, is bullshit. You can't dangle the lives of people out there for fodder and take to responsibility for what it does.
I've been so proud of the black leaders of this country for seeing this. There have been many slaps in the face to the black community throughout this presidential race. Yet, these leaders, knowing the fall out of any quote that divides have stayed away from speaking. Choosing instead, to be "above the fray" and working to keep some sanity for everyone. So as a constituent, a Latina, and a kid who grew up in the middle of racial havoc; thank you for thinking of all of us. Thank you for acknowledging that in division there is danger. And though at the mountain top it sounds like an interesting discussion, without adding the many layers and many truth and many lies within the arguments, down in the valley's its not interesting. Its hurtful.