Friday, January 19, 2007

Be the Change You Want to See in the World

Last night, when I was driving home listening to one of our local public radio stations (KPCC-FM/89.3), I heard a story about Cheryl Green. Cheryl Green was a 14-year-old black girl who was shot and killed last month by members of a Latino gang while she was hanging out a block from home in the Harbor Gateway neighborhood. She had no gang affiliation and no beef with the gang members. They shot her simply because she was black:

Flight from gang violence proved to be futile
Residents of a mostly black Harbor Gateway area say they live in fear of a Latino gang. A girl was slain Dec. 15 in an apparent hate crime.
As I listened to her mother speak, I just wanted to scream. Her mom moved the family to Harbor Gateway a few years ago to escape gang violence in West L.A.

One of the reasons I moved to Los Angeles was because of its mix of people. It’s one of the reasons I like it here. I like it that I am not swimming in a sea of sameness as I go about my daily life. Since I grew up with a mix of people both in my family and in my community, I feel more comfortable with a blend.

In recent years, however, I’ve noticed some disturbing trends. You may have heard of the tensions between black and Latino students in the public high schools in L.A. There have been racially motivated brawls in some local schools; police have had to come out to quell the violence and schools have even been placed on temporary lockdown to restore order. Sweet Dub and I have talked about it at length, and as a graduate of a Los Angeles public high school, he’s mystified by it: “We never had trouble like that,” he says. “We all hung out, blacks, Mexicans, whatever.”

I also know that there is a perception among some black folks that undocumented Latino immigrants “steal” jobs from the black working class because they’ll work for less money. And I had heard on the news that a Latino gang in northeast L.A. – in the Glassell Park and Highland Park areas -- was also targeting black people (“They Wanted All Blacks Out,” L.A. Weekly, July 26, 2006). And now they’re killing black children.

Well, shit. I’m not ashamed to say I cried a little on the way home. In Harbor Gateway, they’re applying for a gang injunction, and evidently they’ve also reached a gang cease-fire agreement. For the moment. Officials are working on “making improvements to the neighborhood,” whatever that means.

What does it mean for my city? What does it mean for my family? I’m disheartened and scared by it. What can I do in my small way, in my small corner of Los Angeles, about something so big?

As I was just typing that, and feeling heavy-hearted, one of my co-worker friends just danced goofily by my office doorway. I burst out laughing. Laughter helps.

More later, when I figure out how to solve this complex problem in my spare moments between writing marketing materials here. It'll take me a minute.


E. said...

How could you not cry? Hearing about a child being killed so senselessly, thinking about what her family must be going through. And when it's a black girl living in the very city where you're trying to raise your precious daughter. That must feel very frightening.

In the East Santa Monica working class neighborhood I lived in during the early 90s, Asians, Latinos, and African-Americans, and whites lived in peace. And that was a period when racial tensions were high, around the time of the riots. But we didn't have much gang activity in that neighbhorhood, and I recall hearing many sad stories from other LA neighborhoods while I lived there.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

I guess, too, it just adds fuel to the fire of certain family members who can't understand why we live here (they live up in Ventura County). I guess I won't mention it.

My 17-year-old nephew (who is black) lives in the South Bay and had a very scary encounter with some Latino gang members in a neighborhood store last year. They just started messing with him for no reason. He stayed mellow and told them he didn't want any trouble and he was able to leave the store without further incident. You just never know...

Cee in SF said...

Gang members are idiots no matter what race they are.

I want to say more about this, and I will later, but my head is pounding.