Strait On: Are we a racist community?

Photo courtesy of Rusty Strait
Rusty Strait.

■ Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter

Racism is defined as any program or practice of racial discrimination, segregation, persecution, and/or domination, based on racialism.
If a white man is asked to produce his Green Card, it usually makes the front pages and involves either drugs or national security. Mexicans, even American-born Mexicans, are routinely asked by law enforcement to prove their nationality. Not necessarily because they are under suspicion of having committed a crime, but because of their skin color.
Whites are treated differently, either intentionally or by habit. It happens at every level of law enforcement from city cop to the feds. You hear the talk of “illegals,” but officials who use derogatory comments about our neighbors south of the border do not like to be quoted by name.
Several thousand Canadian “illegals” live and work in Southern California, and that includes the San Jacinto Valley, but is practically never cause for concern.
An ICE agent shrugs his shoulders. “We know they are out there, but they are white and we do not want to be accused of picking on our Canadian friends.” He said, “Canadians are not our problem. Our problem are illegals from Mexico and Central America.”
Ask any recent chief of police or deputy sheriff in the valley and you’ll likely get the same story, as one told me some time back. “We try to address the Hispanic community by having Hispanic speaking personnel in key positions and thereby eliminating the need for interpreters. Will we make mistakes? Sure, but we learn from those mistakes and hope to do better next time.”
I checked and could find no case in which someone brought charges against either Hemet or San Jacinto for discrimination.
Local gang activities invite racist commentary because most gangs in our area have a Hispanic base, many of which migrated here from Los Angeles.
The African American population has grown in the valley over the past few years due to folks unable to keep up with the high cost of living in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. Parents, coming here to find a better, less costly way of living, often come with teenage boys, some of whom have been indoctrinated by gang members. They bring with them their own cultural racism. Some folks believe that only whites are racist, which is not true at all. I’ve taken the time to discuss race with any number of black, Hispanic and white, young and old alike, and I get the same story, over and over.
“You want to know how racism works? I can tell you how I see it. Fear. The white man fears the black man is going to steal from him. On the other hand, the young black man fears the white man’s jail,” explained one black man whose family lives in my neighborhood. “It is ingrained in people and the only way I see getting away from that idea is to getting to know one another on a personal level, because if you do that you soon find out that all our real differences are cultural, not racist.”
Most young men complain that adults are killing them with programs. “It is like feeding the homeless,” said a 19-year-old Mexican MSJC student. “If you really want to get rid of the homeless, teach them a paying job. Money cures that kind of problem.” He went on to say that “Maybe…[an organization] like the public library could hold seminars to bring different races together so they get to know one another.”
Maybe. I remember back in the 1950s President Eisenhower said that the best way to make friends is “one on one.”
A white construction worker had a more negative view. “I moved out here from Los Angeles to get away from all the blacks and Mexicans in the San Fernando Valley. I know when those two groups get together it can end up in a race war. I work with blacks and Mexicans all the time. We get along okay, but I don’t have anything in common with them.”
Is he racist? He doesn’t think so. “I just like to stay with my own kind.”
I’ve known and worked with Erlinda Parker Towler, nee Rodriguez. She has her own slant regarding racial discrimination.
“My brothers were more the butt of ‘name’ racism. I married young and the non-Hispanic last name opened doors that ‘Rodriguez’ might not have,” said Towler. “A Mexican woman can change her name through marriage. Mexican men do not have that luxury. I have diluted the racism in my life through education. However, being Mexican makes me streetwise in a world run by men.”
Towler, who earned an MBA from University of Redlands, confesses, however, “I felt the racism in the lower elementary grades. Some of the teachers had an attitude that I was just another Mexican and the tendency was to neglect or ignore questions when Mexicans asked them. Getting a clear answer was difficult at that time. I believe some of that has changed. I had expectations and I simply did not accept that.”
The manager of a local fast food restaurant admitted that “All my employees are Mexican, but I don’t see them as a lower caste or anything like that. Mexicans are the hardest workers I’ve ever employed, and they have a great sense of family. I don’t know about blacks, because I’ve not really been exposed to their culture.”
Another discovery I made was that non-whites are more apt to accept minimum wage.
“White people tend to feel they are above minimum wage [jobs],” I was told at a local grocery store. “When I hear talk of immigrants taking jobs away from whites, I want to laugh. My brother is a farmer and he tells me without immigrants who come up here to work the fields, he wouldn’t have any crops to sell.”
When the dirty word “racism” hits the front pages we shudder. Perhaps it is time to do some inner thinking on our part to stop a bad thing in its tracks. Treating others as we like to be treated is a beginning.
HomeSnacks, a real estate organization that keeps tabs on the real estate demographics around the country, finds Hemet as the fourth worst California city in which to live. The criteria used for these rankings include FBI crime data, the government census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sperling’s Best Places, population density (lower is worse), unemployment rates (higher is worse), adjusted median income (lower is worse), average home price (lower is worse), education spending (lower is worse) and crime rates (higher is worse). San Jacinto ranks No. 6.
The site also recently posted a video of the “10 Most White Trash Cities in California.” Hemet was listed as No. 1.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and the Urban Dictionary define white trash as follows: “A term used broadly to define a person or group of persons whom embody the concepts of ignorance, racism, violence, alcoholism, poverty, and Anglo-Saxon ancestry. Similarly used with the term ‘cracker,’ ‘hillbilly’ or ‘redneck.’”
Might that more accurately be defined as “uneducated” or “illiterate?” Is that who we are?
Just sayin’.
rustystrait@gmail.com

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