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When White Writers Do “Latino” Issues 

Wednesday, Nov 18 2009
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Crime and Punishment
It was chaos this week in the Weekly’s virtual mailroom, which received a deluge of reactionary attitude in regard to Christine Pelisek’s cover story “Chaos in the Casitas: Lawless, south of the border–style speakeasies get a grip on L.A.” (Nov. 4). The piece details the growth of small clubs called casitas in areas like South Gate that allegedly parlay a rather relaxed sense of morality — drug use, prostitution, the usual.

One young “B-girl” associated with a particular casita was murdered. And when law enforcement raided that club, the Weekly was invited along. A number of readers were not amused, but for differing reasons.

Someone signing themselves L.A. Weekly=RACISM writes in very large letters: “THESE STORIES ARE WHAT HAPPEN WHEN THE L.A. WEEKLY HAS NO LATINO WRITERS OR STAFFERS. ‘SOUTH OF THE BORDER–STYLE’? GIVE ME A BREAK!!!” No need to yell, L.A. Weekly=RACISM. Or is there?

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“This article is disgusting,” adds Bob from L.A. “I am shocked that the L.A. Weekly allowed it. [It reflects] a complete lack of understanding of the culture and status of illegal aliens and Hispanics in this country. These bars are illegal, but it is an issue for zoning and the state beverage control, and not the LAPD, state and federal agents. These cops should be protecting good citizens instead of busting illegals for minor drug offenses.

“This country encouraged the illegals to come here and fails to properly deal with them now. Using military-style police for this issue is crazy. The decriminalization of drugs, the deportation of illegals and the proper cleanup of our city would [make for] a better article than trying to justify the police raids that accomplish nothing.

“The reporter tried to connect the horrible murder of the lady to the bars. The real story is the failure of the government in being able to identify aliens in this country and track them and control their deportation.”

Illegal from Costa Mesa piles it on: “Oh, geez, how come this white girl doesn’t write about her ‘white sisters’ getting gangbanged on video for porno out in San Fernando Valley? What about all the social decay that creates? Oh, yeah, I forgot it’s okay when whites do it.”

But several readers were more disturbed by the casitas themselves.

“The issue with the casitas as I see it isn’t that folks go there to drink and hang out in a culturally appropriate way,” writes Marc from Los Angeles. “It’s the trafficking in women, guns and drugs — the associated violence and murders.

“Whatever your cultural background, those make it a police matter, and Pelisek’s incredibly well-written story shows not only that but also the complexity and richness of the culture around them.”

Jan from Los Angeles has more: “Why is it that when someone is bold enough to write about a problem affecting us in South L.A. all the others who don’t live here and run away from this area scream racism? Then I beg you to let the casitas take their illegal activities to your neighborhoods.

“It’s not just casitas, many of the illegal immigrants now have loud parties in their yards with flashing strobe lights keeping everybody up at night. The sole purpose of many of these activities is to sell drugs and alcohol. They charge people to come in and set up just like a club and the police never respond to noise complaints unless you tell them that there are gangs involved.

“We the decent, hardworking homeowners of South L.A. who did not run away from the city are suffering. So I don’t want to hear any of you talk about racism. Let’s talk about how this City Council has sent our city into decay. Let’s talk about the lack of police response to all these noisy parties in people’s yards. Write on, L.A. Weekly. And I don’t care about the race of the writer. Thank God someone is finally addressing our problems.”

And then there are the Latino readers turning all these charges of racism on their head:

“So much ignorance all over the place,” laments Latin Guy from Los Angeles. “Since when are Latinos a race? There are black, white, East Asian, Indian (American) and mixed Latinos. And since when do reporters have to match the genetic, national or cultural makeup of the subjects they cover?”

“Racism? This article is painful for a Latino and Mexican-American to read. But it is not racism,” comments FSL from Pasadena. “What is racist is the corrupt, very white Mexican elite that forces so many of its people into abject poverty. Take a look at Spanish-language TV to see how the racial caste system works throughout Latin America. The casitas are at the lower end of the caste system that is being imported into the U.S. and they serve a purpose for the Mexican cartels that are operating more and more brazenly.

“I feel for the people of South Central, who now must live under the oppression they thought they had left behind. This should be an eye-opener to Latinos everywhere. If we don’t live up to our obligations as Americans, Latin America’s corrupt oligarchs will oppress right here in the land of the free.”

Finally, of course, there are the Joe Schmoes of the world who really, really hate us. A reader who identified himself as Joe Schmo gets the last word this week: “L.A. is the worst city in the United States, next to New York. Stop bitching about overpopulation and move out of the crap hole of a city you all live in. Live in reality, not some artificial concrete jungle.”

Okay, Joe, let us know which Edenic burg you call home and we’ll all see you soon!

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