By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
But what is it about Los Angeles, where this black-brown divide seems to be on everyone’s nervous radars? Whenever I am visiting relatives in the Bay Area or at home in San Diego, there doesn’t seem to be that “black-brown tension” that apparently permeates everyday life in L.A.
Visiting over the weekend in the old barrios in San Diego where I grew up — Sherman Heights, Barrio Logan, Shelltown, Chollas Heights, National City, City Heights — I was reminded that in the state’s second-largest city, blacks and Latinos have, and continue to live in, relative harmony. Both groups there have rich, deeply rooted histories, and have shared the same neighborhoods for decades, meaning in San Diego brown kids grow up with black playmates and black teens are seen walking down the street with brown teens — and it’s not a head-turning anomaly.
Geographic distance and racial isolation in Los Angeles are partly to blame for the fomenting of tensions, Hutchinson said, but L.A. has something to learn from its less flashy, less wound-up neighbor to the south.
SAN DIEGO HIT A MILESTONE on Sunday, and the national media barely had time or energy to notice. Police and the Union-Tribune said about 50,000 people marched from Balboa Park to the county administration building on the San Diego Harbor, which made it the largest demonstration in San Diego history.
Local Spanish-language-press reporters didn’t buy the figure, and could be overheard at the media tent pressing the march organizers to inflate their estimates to 150,000 or more. Whatever the actual number, the march’s size was another overwhelming sight. By the time my mother, siblings and cousins — from San Diego and Tijuana — reached the destination, my older brother and sister-in-law, who stayed behind at the park with their two kids, said the end of the march was still far off. People were jammed side by side for almost two miles.
“Never, never seen something like this in San Diego,” said Daniel Castañeda, a 48-year-old landscaper from Escondido, who wore a long ponytail, held an enormous U.S. flag on a long pole and wore a T-shirt covered with the Aztec sun stone and the words “Children of the Sun.”
“I’m a son of immigrants myself. As a Chicano, I’ve been waiting for this for years.”
All people know about San Diego, Castañeda said, is that “it’s a vacation spot and we have a border problem. We got to fix it somehow. I wish Mexico would get its shit together.”
In this spirit, and this being San Diego, there were a few instances where the city’s intolerant character and traditional disdain for Tijuana came through.
A small group of “Save America” demonstrators reached the administration building first, and squared off with some of the more hardcore San Diego Chicanos who came looking for a fight. The counterdemonstrators were a micro-percentage of the total number of people there, but local TV news program KFMB gave the “Save America” camp equal time on its evening newscast.
At one point during the march, on Broadway at First Street, a guy who looked like a Camp Pendleton Marine, or maybe a La Jolla heir or San Diego State party dude, threatened to ram through the march when the light turned green. “It’s green! Go!” he screamed at the motorist in front of him, who was waving and honking her horn in support of the march. The dude tried going around the van in front of him, prompting my mother, a smiley, good-natured woman who never backs away from a fight, to stand in the crosswalk, joined by some of my teenage cousins. They held the line until the guy was given room to back up. He zoomed off, his tires screeching angrily on the pavement.
The national media were still reeling from the size and scope of the marches by Monday night. Images were beamed to viewers from Jonesborough, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Dodge City, Kansas; Tyler, Texas, and broadcast live from outside La Placita in Los Angeles, where people kept vigil past sundown, as if they were waiting for the Independence Day grito or New Year’s Eve.
The scenes from La Placita appeared on Anderson Cooper’s CNN evening news program 360, where a remarkable thing happened during the call-in portion. Cooper took a call from Erica, a nervous-sounding woman in Alabama who, by the sound of her Southern twang, might have been expected to use her airtime to rail against “the illegals.”
Instead, Erica had a simple, raw question. “My husband, if he has to go back, what’s gonna happen? Who’s gonna raise my children? Who’s gonna give my children the love that my husband does?”
It was a breathtaking moment.
“Wait, you’re saying your husband is illegal?” Cooper asked.
“He is,” Erica said.
“But you’re legal?”
“Yes, I am. I’m an American citizen. I was born here.”
“Well,” Cooper said, “by law, my understanding is, he should be able to become an American citizen.”
Cooper was right. But he seemed oblivious to the actual weight of Erica’s plea — would the immigration wars tear her family apart?
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