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. Woohoo! Now though, I’ve got other items to cross off the to-do list, and per usual, the clock does not stop ticking.
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, news in the U.S. 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. 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 houses more prisoners than any other city in the nation each year, with over 171,000 people sent to central booking annually. 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.
I also think it’s critical for us to reflect on the media circus around violent protesting in response to police violence. While 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 are much less disturbing to me than the institutionalized violence which police inflict on primarily Black and Brown Americans every day in this country.
Of course, none of this is really new to say, as I don’t think any advocate of social justice considers our major news outlets as sources for critical news and dialogue, so their coverage of “protest” is no surprise. But I do think it’s something of a pretext to get out of the way before something equally important to the discussion of solidarity with Black and Brown lives. One thing I believe has been 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 impoverished Black and Brown 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 since the Great Depression. Just the other day, I read an article on The Davis Beat discussing the gentrification of the university, which called attention to another one of the administration’s efforts to eliminate affordable housing for students on campus 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 neighborhoods undergoing ‘development’. The piece on Davis reminded me of just how far this problem spans. Whether one is there or in Berkeley, Los Angeles or New York, the dismantling of affordable housing in our country is increasingly a fact.
In turn, the more acceptable it becomes for police to murder poor Black and Brown people on the street, the easier it is to accept a similar mistreatment of the growing number of fellow White, Asian, and other working class people in need of such affordable housing.
After all, at the end of that article from Davis, the author states that it’d be his honor to stand in front of the bulldozers threatening affordable housing at the university. And if such a provocation merits anything of a response from the Davis police department like that of 2011, 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 anyone who identifies themselves or stands in solidarity with poor or working-class people.
How ironic in a country where so many people purportedly worship 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 many marginalized groups of this nation.
With that, however, I think it’s enough on my part. 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, have you noted any efforts at developing something else besides turning to 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 pinching pennies for the most, 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,
Jimmy “JIMBO” Recinos