Dear Ashley,

I hope this greeting finds you well!

I’m writing to you from my mom’s today, not long after learning that I actually don’t have to go to court for jury duty this morning. Now though, I’ve got other items to cross off the to-do list, and per usual, the clock is ticking rapidly.

Here, I wonder: are things the same for you in Myanmar? Are people as crazy about time outside of Western culture? I think you mentioned in your first letter that they are, but still I wonder.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the news has been rampant with police violence as of late. It reminds me of the fall of 2011, when Occupy Wall Street made national headlines. Unlike back then, however, the discourse on police impunity from their crimes against black and brown lives hits much closer to home, both literally and personally. While I don’t like to talk about it much, like so many young people all across the country, my mind and body have also suffered at the hands of brute police force. I don’t think I need go into much detail, but I can assure you that if what we’ve seen online is horrifying, men in badges behind walls and the sealed doors of a compound are much worse.

This is particularly true in Los Angeles, where the L.A. County jail creates more prisoners than any other city in the nation, with over 171,000 people sent to central booking each year. Even as I write to you then, someone is being jailed. The probability of that person being black, brown, and under the age of 30 is staggering.

However, before we get to that discussion, I think it’s critical for us to get through this media circus around violent protesting first. While naturally I don’t condone looting businesses and setting the streets on fire, the plain truth is that the rare and isolated instances of violent protesting is much less disturbing to me than the institutionalized violence which police inflict on black and brown Americans every day in this country.

Of course, none of this is really new material, as I don’t think any rational advocate of social justice would consider the major corporations a source for critical news and dialogue today anyway, but I do think what I mentioned is a significant kind of pretext to get out of the way before something more important, which is that even within those organized groups who want to stand with black and brown lives, what they discuss less than the factor of race in the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and those like them, is the fact that they weren’t just black men, but poor black men.

Why does this matter? Because in a country with an increasingly dwindling middle class, poverty today binds more Americans than at any other period throughout the time that you and I have been citizens of it. Just the other day, for example, I read an article on The Davis Beat that talked about the gentrification of the university, as it called attention to another one of the administration’s efforts to eliminate affordable housing for students on campus in order to make way for wealthier residents and visitors.

It’s interesting: up until before reading that article, I was caught up in discussions on the gentrification of my neighborhood here in East Hollywood and that of similar vicinities undergoing ‘development’, but the piece reminded me of just how far this problem spans. Whether one is in Davis, Berkeley, Los Angeles or New York, disparate wealth in our country is increasingly true. In turn, the more acceptable it becomes for police to murder poor black and brown people on the street, who are at the lowest end of that disproportionate wealth, the easier it will then be to accept similar treatments of a growing number of fellow poor white, yellow, and other people struggling to pay the rent in these times.

After all, at the end of the article I mentioned, the author states that it’d be his honor to stand in front of the bulldozers threatening affordable housing at Davis. If such a provocation merits anything of a response from the Davis police department like that of 2011, then the consequences might be even worse than a pepper-spraying.

It’s clear then, that police violence doesn’t just affect any one group or race, but any group of people who recognize and stand with the poor.

How ironic, in a country that purportedly worships Jesus! As I’ve read it, Jesus was a revolutionary, and if he came to America tomorrow, I believe he’d stand first with the black, brown, and other poor people of this nation that have been fighting for peace and equality in our world since the first arrival of European colonialism in 1492.

With that, however, I think there’s enough on my end. How are you doing, my friend? What’s it like to meet so many different counterparts of your family in Myanmar? And what do they do out there? Do they read news from America as well, or does their literature perhaps revolve more around China and other Asian politics? Is there such a thing as race to them, or is it more about class? If it’s the latter, then have you noted any efforts at contesting such relations besides turning to the insurgencies? As always, you know I’m curious to know!

Oh and before I forget: I’m going to visit your mom in TC before the new year is out! I originally wanted to take some soup over to her, but as I’m still rather broke, I think I’m just going to take a chessboard or cards.

Thank you for your time, and cheers to more letters between us soon.

With hugs, warmth, and wishes for the best to you during your time out East,

Your loyal friend,

Jimmy “JIMBO” Recinos

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