Loading...

The Devil and Mr. Hicks 

How one of L.A.’s leading lefties joined forces with David Horowitz and Southern California’s conservative elite

Wednesday, May 22 2002
Comments

”I‘m pissed at him,“ says a former Hicks ally from the Multi-Cultural Collaborative. ”Guess he just wanted to be in the winner’s circle. He got tired of fighting and sold out.“

It‘s probably fair to say that the above sums up the current view of Hicks among mainstream African-American activists. But none of this fazes Hicks. In fact, he’s having the time of his life. Dressed, as usual, in a dark and dapper sport coat, crossed American and Israeli flags on his lapel, Hicks gives Horowitz a warm birthday hug. Later that night Hicks says to me he has never felt better. ”I know, I know what some of my old friends are gonna say,“ he says. ”Don‘t matter what this guy Hicks has done on the streets for the last 20 years, he’s now persona non grata, he will now be shunned, he‘s now the enemy. But that won’t be my posture.“

Hicks argues that he has made no great break, no radical shift. Instead, he sees his political transformation as merely part of a long, fluid arc: ”Looking back over my history, you see some moments where I was very consolidated in certain positions, but I was always thinking and always re-evaluating. Internal reflection was ongoing. But every now and then something would come along and jar my fundamental beliefs. What‘s going to happen now is an interesting test. Not only of me. But of the left. Can it overcome its dogmatic religiosity and get into a dialogue?“

Related Stories

  • Better Weather

    This news is not going to knock anyone off their seat. But, yeah, L.A. County is home to the best warm weather places in the nation. At least that's the conclusion of personal finance site WalletHub, which this week named Glendale, Pasadena and Burbank as "cities with the best ... year-round...
  • L.A. Teens Fast For Central American Immigrants 2

    When you were a teenager you hung out at the mall, made mixtapes and ate McNuggets. These here L.A. kids are going without food this week to support the children coming to the United States illegally from Central America. The young people "will be drinking water only" through Friday, a...
  • We Wish We All Could Be Caprice's Kind of California Girl

    “This is myself with my best friend at the time, frying my skin," says the across-the-pond celebrity Caprice Bourret while looking at old photos, nibbling a scone at high tea at the Culver Hotel. "I used to be such a California girl. I used to fry. Hawaiian Tropic, no sunscreen at all."...
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 40th Anniversary

    @ Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre
  • Porn Flight 14

    California porn studio Kink.com, which last year came under scrutiny for a condom-free production in which a woman who afterward turned up HIV-positive had performed, said this week that it's opening facilities in Las Vegas. The company, which was investigated by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) following...

No matter what one’s view, it‘s an excellent question. Indeed, those who might write off Hicks’ defection from the left as a simple caseof selling out or facile opportunism do so strictly at their own peril. If money or position were all that Hicks desired, he could have used his a ample multiculti credentials -- not to mention his recent role as city human-relations commissioner -- to retire to a cushy position as diversity czar for some corporation or government agency. But, in fact, Hicks is in it for the same reasons he manned the barricades of the left: for the pure passion of politics.

Perhaps Hicks just hankers to be in the middle of the political buzz -- and the middle, nowadays, is way over on the right. Maybe Hicks got so fed up with the knee-jerk aspects of the left that he finds it satisfying to kick back from across the divide. Or maybe Joe Hicks has simply been won over to the conservative cause by force of argument. I don‘t pretend to know his deepest motivation, and in the end what difference does it make? The left hardly needs to agree with what Hicks is now doing -- and of course, it won’t. But it ought to at least give him a listen. Falling back on the left‘s default reflexes of branding its rivals as racists, Klansmen or ”fascists“ won’t wash in the case of Joe Hicks, who -- until a few months ago -- was considered by many to be among the most thoughtful, reflective and complex activists that the local left has produced.

The sorts of issues that still obsess Hicks -- race, class, social and economic justice -- are all those dear to the soul of the left. But too often that same left confronts these complex issues in a frankly reactionary manner, unwilling to as much as re-examine assumptions ossified decades ago in a very different America. But from even the most rigid of leftist positions, you make a mistake if when you lose an asset like Joe Hicks, you simply slam the book closed on him, and don‘t take the time to at least hear his story.

Watts ’65: Journey Into Blackness

Hicks‘ social consciousness and activism are firmly rooted in the political geography of a segregated Los Angeles. Educated at Jefferson High in the 1950s, Hicks was rather late in coming to any sort of political belief. His father, still alive today at age 92, was what Hicks called a ”borderline Garveyite“ -- referring to the back-to-Africa movement of Marcus Garvey. But the younger Hicks eschewed the call of politics and instead enrolled at L.A. Trade Tech wanting to be a draftsman. After a year of study, Hicks had a conversation that changed the course of his career. ”One day a teacher pulls me aside and says, ’Kid, I got to let you know. There isn‘t a single black person working as an architectural draftsman in the city of Los Angeles, and you are probably not going to be the first.’“

Hicks reluctantly turned in his T-square, packed in his studies and signed onto a U.S. aircraft carrier courtesy of the Navy. Stationed in Japan in the early ‘60s, Hicks says he first was called a ”nigger“ not by a fellow sailor, but by a Japanese bar girl.

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets

Slideshows

  • 21st Annual Classic Cars "Cruise Night" in Glendale
    On Saturday, spectators of all ages were out in multitudes on a beautiful summer night in Glendale to celebrate the 21st annual Cruise Night. Brand Boulevard, one of the main streets through downtown Glendale, was closed to traffic and lined with over 250 classic, pre-1979 cars. There was plenty of food to be had and many of the businesses on Brand stayed open late for the festivities The evening ended with fireworks and a 50th anniversary concert from The Kingsmen, who performed their ultimate party hit, "Louie, Louie." All photos by Jared Cowan.
  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.