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
Bastardsmakes a point of connecting dots between history and the present, showing how myriad forces have gone into destroying the black community. In what ways, if any, did the connecting of those dots change how you see the political system in America?
Connecting the dots didn’t change what I thought about politics in this country. It confirmed what I thought. Langston Hughes wrote about a dream deferred. How about a movement deferred? Or, even better, a reality deferred? With every attempt we’ve made to empower ourselves, the rug gets snatched from under us. The leadership has been nullified or, using Wes Swearingen’s words, neutralized. People don’t know our history but continue to wag fingers and dismiss our struggles.
You say at one point inBastardsthat yours is the generation that has failed the political heroes and heroines from the ’60s. But it’s also a generation that has been failed. What steps can be taken, now, to get black folk — especially youth — back on track with the visions once held by Malcolm, Martin and the Panthers?
From where I’m sitting, the climate is right for change, for getting people back on track. I talk to different homies every day — Crips and Bloods, young and old — and we all pretty much agree, black males here in Los Angeles are being moved on. Our only salvation is coming together.
Explain what you mean by moved on.
It seems that we’ve been green-lit by any and everyone who ain’t black in this city. You may think that’s extreme, or that I’m overstating the situation, but like I said, this is from where I’m sitting. There’s a push toward extinction for black males here in Los Angeles. If you’re locked up for life, you’re extinct. Of course, if you’re murdered, you’re extinct. If you’re unable to join the blue-collar lightweight industrial boom that is now going on here in Los Angeles, you’re economically extinct. We are the minority’s minority at this point, unfortunately. But I believe we’re gonna get back on the right track.
Talk a bit about how gang culture has shaped the ways that a lot of black men define themselves.
A lot of us are defined and define ourselves with this gangsta shit. We hang on to it all of our lives, even when we quote-unquote stop bangin’. I think we walk around with a sickness because we haven’t been debriefed. We live out war stories every day. For example, brothas gon’ come home from Iraq fucked-up if they don’t get debriefed, because the camaraderie from killing and surviving becomes the only thing that’s tangible. From what I understand, an LAPD officer who kills someone is counseled so it doesn’t consume him. Now, take the average cat from Compton or Watts who has experienced this lifestyle; it becomes his whole persona, his very existence. He becomes that mythical gangster figure. That’s not easy to let go of.
What’s your opinion on Bill Cosby’s views about the ills that plague black America?
I respect and love Bill Cosby. I still watch reruns of I Spy. I enjoy his Jell-O pudding antics. I think the Huxtable family is a black American dream that is attainable. But Bill Cosby is out of touch with what’s going on with the black community today. We’re not a bunch of dysfunctional niggas who can’t get our shit together. Bastards proves that the stage was set before we went on. A lot of the groundwork for the foolishness and misinformation came from the generations before us. Everybody’s mad at rappers for exploiting women, for saying nigga, etc. If we are going to hold people accountable, we got to start with the CEOs at the MTVs and BETs. And if we’re talking about black accountability, we gotta talk about black CEOs like Bob Johnson, founder of BET and Bill Cosby’s friend. We gotta start at the top. I got the bottom covered.
The media are filled with stories about tensions between black and brown folk in L.A., with gangs being fingered as the primary antagonists. If you had time in the film to dissect the clashes between black and Latino gangs, the history of those clashes, and how they affect larger communities, what would you want to say, what questions would you ask of all parties affected or involved?
I guess the best way to answer that question is to start with the latest black-and-Latino clash over in Torrance, with the 204th Street situation. I’ve seen the mayor over there. I’ve seen the Torrance City Council. I even watched a so-called black-Latino gang truce. But the bottom line is, there were no gang members in sight at this so-called truce calling. The media has been playing up the murder of the little girl who rode her scooter too close to the 204th Street boundary and was shot in the face as a result. Now, we know the 204th Street gang is a Latino gang, but who is the mysterious black gang in Harbor Gateway or what we call the Great City of Torrance? If you look back, this is not the first aggression toward blacks in that area. There is no black gang versus the 204th Street Latino gang. Somebody go check the body count. This has been an ongoing assault on black civilians in that area for the last 10 years.
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