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DEALING WITH DIVERSITY

Erin Aubry
Kaplan, in response to Marc Cooper’s article on my political transition [“The
Devil and Mr. Hicks,” May 24–30]
, has crafted what must rank as the Weekly’s
all-time poorest attempt at a journalistic hit piece [Cakewalk:
“Joe, We Hardly Knew Ye,” May 31–June 6]
. Instead of raising the ante by
dealing directly with the issues, Kaplan goes for the lowest common denominator
and simply attacks my motives. I welcome the challenge; I just wish it had been
based on sounder reasoning.

After one tries to sort through her logic, the centerpiece of her attack seems
to be that I have abandoned “black folks.” Odd. Let me get this straight. If
I disagree with the tired old argument that white people conspire against blacks
and other “minorities,” and believe that this viewpoint retards additional black
social, economic and political progress, then I’ve abandoned blacks? This approach
is frighteningly similar to the religious fundamentalist who resents any
challenge to his or her beliefs.

Apparently, Kaplan’s view is that “blackness” equates with being “down” with
black racialism. Here, she and I agree. But we also agree — sort of, I think
— that leftist and black movement politics are linked, that there is no black
political monolith, and that much of today’s black leadership is stagnant. However,
she then whines that my work with David Horowitz, in her opinion, just simply
goes too far. Okay, I’m a supporter of freedom of speech. It is troubling, however,
that Kaplan never addresses the current status of black people in the American
milieu. If race is really such a large part of everyday black life experiences
today — beyond the pathetic, old-style rant of “the white man just won’t gimme
a break” — factually, how is that manifested?

Her attack on me neatly avoids dealing with the issues that my defection raises.
Has nothing really changed since Dr. King and other valiant civil rights figures
assaulted the barricades of white supremacy? Despite the fact that many of today’s
black and other minority-advocacy figures continue to look into the face of
reality and argue that racism is as strong today as it’s ever been, most folks
simply know better. Perhaps in Kaplan’s view, these issues are beyond challenge
and unworthy of examination. But others, just as “black” as she, have looked
at the issues and judged the current racial orthodoxy retrograde at best.

It is frankly puzzling that someone like Kaplan has come to represent such
stuffy, backward views on race. She has reaped the rewards of a culturally rich,
black middle-class lifestyle, and has equipped herself to be successful in life.
Yet there she is, somehow wandering in “the American desert of place that has
always paralleled the universe of American plenty.” Nonsense. Kaplan chooses
to lift up an eclectic, artsy form of “blackness” that gives her the cover to
operate within the confines of the black political elite, all the while perpetuating
the dysfunctional view that blacks are “nomads” and a victimized people. While
the black elite sit around and sip chilled Chardonnay and discuss the coming
racial Armageddon, the vast majority of black people are concerning themselves
with the issues all Americans worry about: safe streets, education for their
kids, political representation and paying the bills.

In case Kaplan believes that only those on the right castigate identity politics,
the brilliant Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawn rejected this set of beliefs for
its reduction to a “coalition of self-centered minority groups and interests.”
He offered that these groups are “about themselves, for themselves and nobody
else.” Kaplan seems honestly offended that anyone “black” might disagree
almost completely with her and America’s self-appointed black leaders regarding
race and racial progress. She champions “diversity,” yet can’t seem to handle
the fact that others may look at the same issues she does and come to completely
different conclusions. That’s called intellectual diversity. Deal with it!

—Joe Hicks
Los Angeles

Erin Aubry-Kaplan, in her very odd meditation, reputedly about what
might or might not be in Joe Hicks’ cranium, was obviously not interested in
Hicks but chiefly in her own obsession with the academic hair-splitting “identity
politics” (cue laugh track). All I came away with was a sense of having
wasted my time. Where was her editor?

Marc S. Tucker
Manhattan Beach

SECESSION

Re: D.J. Waldie’s secession article [“A
Necessary City,” May 31–June 6]
. What is this? I never read a more diffuse,
convoluted piece of silliness. Just what was his point, anyway? He says the
Valley secession movement is racist. But he doesn’t provide any proof of this
accusation, and indeed he points up that the Valley will have a large Latino
population whether it secedes or not.

He then argues that some of the Valley’s complaints are consumer issues. His
main point seems to be that he doesn’t think that secession will do everything
its backers say it will. He talks about how hard it will be for a new city to
provide services. But he never disputes the pathetic quality of services from
the city of Los Angeles, nor does he offer any solution. Just what is the point
of his wordfest, anyway (other than the fact that the Weekly pays by
the word)? Does he also write long, bloated articles arguing that battered women
should stay with their spouses because — who knows — the next guy might beat
them worse?

[

Just because some idiot knows how to string together words â doesn’t mean
that the Weekly should give him a bully pulpit to spew nonsense. You
already have Marc Cooper on the payroll, for crying out loud!

—Bill Cody
Los Angeles



If D.J. Waldie — or Lalo Alcaraz, for that matter [cf. “L.A. Cucaracha,”
May 31–June 6] — thinks the San Fernando Valley is some sort of upper-middle-class,
lily-white enclave, then you are very ignorant about the Valley. Not that ignorance
should stop you from having an opinion of a community that you don’t live in,
or excuse you from the race-baiting that is so characteristic of L.A. politicians.
And what do all politicians want? Power! And if the city is split up, then the
city politicians will have that much less of it.

—Steve Salo
Van Nuys

Regarding the story about the secession movements of Los Angeles — it is great
to finally see alternate, more realistic views on the subject and not another
revolutionary-glorification piece. I would like to address those who think they
are going to save tax dollars and expenses by breaking from L.A. with an admittedly
unglamorous analogy: Which is cheaper, living with your parents or moving out
on your own?

Yogi George
San Gabriel

D.J. Waldie’s melodramatic, meaningless diatribe is a joke, right?
“To be a citizen of Los Angeles means, in this hour, not to dream, but
to pick up the burden and gift of bearing witness to this place” — what
the hell does that mean? Reality to witnessing citizen of Lakewood Waldie: There
is nothing “vulgar” or “cowardly” about citizens working
together, petitioning the government and organizing themselves for better local
control — it’s called participating in a democracy, and it’s how this country
was founded. “Backward-looking”? Boy, have you got it wrong. It’s
forward thinking at it’s finest. Can’t any of you think outside the box?

Under the “never reorganize” theory, Waldie and his fellow writers
appear to think it will be just fine when, 200 years from now, there’s a city
of Los Angeles with 100 million people. Sorry, but that is not local
government, which is what cities are supposed to be. Cities are the only
voluntary form of government. You have to live in a state, and a county. But
cities only come into existence when a group of citizens gets together and chooses
to form a local governing organization. It’s obvious if you think even a little
about it, that as cities grow beyond a certain size, there should be a systematic,
non-hysterical method for breaking them back down into more manageable entities
— maintaining local government. Under Waldie’s theory, why have any cities at
all? Or counties for that matter? How about just citizens of the State of California?
Of the U.S.?

A reorganization of Los Angeles will rejuvenate all areas of the city. It will
empower the poor and provide the average citizen with closer representation,
and an opportunity to regain control of what has become an amorphous, corrupt
system that subsidizes the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

Ellen Fitzmaurice
West Hills

Of all the media in Los Angeles, I felt for sure that L.A. Weekly would
“get it.” I have spent years reading your objective, hard-hitting
work in exposing stupidity and corruption in L.A. City government. If anyone
could understand the need for change, it would be you.

So what do we get when you decide to approach the secession issue? A knee-jerk
series of articles that attack the idea, written by opponents who in most cases
don’t know the Madrid Theater from Hansen Dam. Arguments talking about “white
flight,” based on how the Valley was populated a generation ago. Ignoring
any possibility that residents of the Valley have significant grievances about
government services.

Why don’t you do an article on the disparity of city services in the northeast
Valley, where low-income minority residents are regularly denied the benefits
of federal grants because they are not “contiguous” to the downtown
minority populations? Where were you when the Woodland Hills Neighborhood Council
racially “cherry picked” territory, including Topanga Mall and Boeing,
but excluded directly adjacent minority areas, with the full support of the
L.A. Department of Neighborhood Empowerment? Did you cover the ensuing hearing
where 50 people, including spokesmen from the Latino community, testified in
protest, only to be rebuffed without comment by the ruling board? In reporting
polling data, you omitted the information that the greatest support for secession
was to be found in the largely Hispanic northeast Valley. Why was that?

[

I could give you example after example of legitimate individual instances where
the Valley is being defrauded. I’m not talking about not getting “our fair
share.” I know that a city has an obligation to support areas that need
it, and you don’t look for exact parity in funding. But $1.7 billion taken out
of our area for rapid-transit projects, without a penny in return? How about
$1 billion or more for erecting a downtown football temple that nobody wants?

Don’t give me articles about the theology of a “great city.” I live
in the real world, and I want a city that works. Reading the L.A. Weekly
for years has convinced me that what I have is a city dominated by hacks. The
downtown power players have had more than enough time to address the root causes
that have driven the Valley, Hollywood and the Harbor area to want out — and
every effort for reasonable, moderate change has been received with adamant
opposition. So don’t tell me the burden is on us to prove that secession would
be better. Getting out of the current mess is the first step of a long journey.

You don’t have to agree. Just don’t deny the dignity and legitimacy of the
grievances of the 200,000 residents who signed the secession petition. Engage
in an honest debate on the real issues. Depict the Valley as it is now, not
as it was. That way, when the issue is decided by a vote, we won’t have to spend
years in further acrimony based on condescension and parochial assumptions.

Ronald Clary
Los Angeles

Your rather hyporbolic set of articles published on the secession issue appear
to imply that, when Los Angeles is split, there will be a revolution. The blood
of the poor will run down Sunset Boulevard, and all those cool restaurants on
Sunset Plaza will vanish in a puff of smoke. The skyscrapers of downtown will
topple, and there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth on the streets of Watts.

Wait a minute. This doesn't sound quite right.

I believe in local control, and quite honestly, so should you. Take the recent
mayoral election. If there was a separate Valley, it would have been ruled by
Steve Soberoff, a fellow who seemed to have really thought about how he wanted
to run things. L.A. proper, in turn, would have been run by Antonio Villagrosa,
who likewise has really thought about how he thinks the city should be shaped.
Instead, because the poor are afraid of Soberoff and the rich are afraid of
Villagrosa, we got a lumpy compromise in the shape of James Hahn — and I haven't
heard the Weekly praising Hahn lately.

You try to brush off the quality-of-services question like an irritating ant.
All of California was affected by Proposition 13. All of California has suffered
financially to some extent. And yet the small independent cities — Glendale,
Culver City, Santa Monica, Newport Beach and so on — have somehow managed to
provide services at a significantly higher level than L.A. If for some reason
you think L.A. should remain a massively centralized bureaucratic mess, you
have an obligation to explain how that's going to help its citizens, who have
historically been served so poorly. You mention a decentralization plan, but
you fail to mention it was created as an attempt to fend off a split. Without
at least the threat of a split, we wouldn't have prospects for improvement at
all.

If you ask me, I'd like to see independent cities all over the place — a City
of Woodland Hills, a City of Hollywood, a City of Sylmar, and so on. This is
not so much about money as giving control back to a people capable of taking
it. All the money in the world won't help if it's chewed up by a centralized
bureaucracy. As we have seen, and as the Weekly has reported so many
times, that's a recipe for apathy and benign neglect — problems your paper has
been (quite rightly!) fighting, or trying to fight, for decades. I consider
the split to be a first step toward this decentralized vision.

—David H Dennis
david@amazing.com
Woodland Hills

D.J. Waldie's assertion that “secessionism is contemptuous of poverty” is backwards.
It's the L.A. city government that gives the poor the callous shaft. Los Angeles
spends less than 2 percent of its budget on affordable-housing programs — one
of the dead lowest levels in the county.

[

But somehow the city found money to subsidize the poor millionaire owners of
Staples Center and the destitute movie stars that needed the new, subsidized
Academy Award building. Our allegedly compassionate council blew $300 million
in taxpayers' money for their palatial City Hall rehab. And now they're working
on a scheme to subsidize billionaire NFL owners.

Listen, L.A. — and this means everyone: the Valley, Watts, Westchester, etc.
If you truly want to help the poor, then vote for the breakup. Grab for your
local control, then scratch, bite and kick to get your money back from the pockets
of the powerful wealthy who want nothing more than to continue using your money
for their projects. Then you can direct it to those truly in need, and to programs
that actually help.

—Dale Ma
Sherman Oaks

One error in Waldie's Valley secession story: Carey McWilliams' first name
was misspelled.

—George L. Garrigues
Los Angeles

 

PAKISTAN’S FOLLY

I was amused to read in Ali Ahmed Rind’s “Letter
From Pakistan” [May 31–June 6]
that Pakistan has lost half its territory
because of three wars with India. He is trying to mislead your readers. If he
is referring to the secession of East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh in January
1972, he cannot attribute that to India. The people of East Pakistan agitated
for years for freedom from various internal oppressions and ultimately gained
independence. India merely helped the freedom fighters. Pakistan lost its eastern
wing because of its own folly; no country can pull on with two parts, a thousand
miles apart.

—Bibekananda Ray
Los Angeles

TRUE PATRIOTS

Re: Bruno Shapiro’s “Indicting
Ashcroft” [May 31–June 6]
. My congratulations to your newspaper for the
excellent article. True patriots are now asking the questions that should be
asked. It is becoming more apparent every day that the September 11 murder of
more than 3,000 Americans could have been prevented. To the people who say,
“Forget it and move on”: Tell that to all those who lost loved ones on that
awful, bright, sunny September morning.

—Martin Gavin
Jackson Heights, New York

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