A protester holds a sign in front of L.A. City Hall

The Future of the LA Times Depends on Disowning White Supremacy

In November 2016, the world found itself reeling in shock and disappointment that an anti-intellectual, openly racist talk-show host could clinch the hearts and minds of a decisive portion of the electorate to seize the White House. From New York to Los Angeles, newsrooms and editorial chiefs-of-staff across the U.S. conceded they largely failed to take seriously the power of race-baiting among the U.S.’s predominantly white “swing” voters, and promised to be more comprehensive in their political coverage going forward. But four years later, with the threat of a second Trump term on the horizon, in Los Angeles, a clear unwillingness to condemn white supremacy from the L.A. Times shows just how much our intelligentsia still has to learn.

At the height of unrest in Minneapolis and later Los Angeles, when businesses shuttered and police sirens shrieked through nights of “curfew,” the L.A. Times published headlines decrying broken shop-windows and damaged property, with photos of mostly Black and Brown Americans under arrest and awash in turmoil. Meanwhile, on all of the “big five” social media platforms, many saw a different story playing out: window-breakers and vandals were not simply random Black or Brown people, but more often masked, white agitators, so-called “anarchists” with professional training, and Trump supporters exploiting police forces spread too thin attacking unarmed protesters. From L.A. City Hall, Mayor Garcetti responded with armed forces to the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters, and once again exposed “democracy” in our city as little more than a poster-board term for government and police organization more ready to defend racial hegemony here than to supply local hospital workers with protective personal equipment in the fight against a global pandemic.

When it came to coverage of these events, or their retelling, scores of people ‘on the ground’ relied on Twitter updates from citizen journalists such as the team at L.A. Taco and StreetWatch L.A., and not on the L.A. Times reporting staff. The biggest reason for this is simply because of the Times’s reputation as an “objective” source, which most experts today agree is just a stand-in term for “coverage without reference to race.” Such coverage by default is not objective reporting for racialized groups, who consistently bear the brunt of police and state violence, but it also plays a major part to obfuscate officials’ roles in acts of violence against such groups.

Consider that Eric Garcetti was originally elected to office in 2013 by only 12.4% percent of L.A. county’s registered voters. Despite such a weak show of support, when protests in L.A. were blamed for damaged property, Garcetti became the commander of an LAPD force that arrested more than 2,700 unarmed protesters in three days, and which at one point jammed those protesters into crowded buses at the height of the worst uncontained respiratory pandemic in over a century.

Garcetti’s mass arrests were an offense against the democratic ideals of free speech and the right to assembly in Los Angeles. But along with Michel Moore and Alex Villanueva, respectively official “chiefs” of the LAPD and the L.A. County sheriff’s department–and backed by Governor Newsom’s National Guard–Garcetti re-branded military law as “curfew.” As the city entered an otherwise undefined legislative realm during the unrest, this euphemization rather easily undermined any notion of democracy in the second largest city in America. Yet the curfew acted not just as a terror for youth, elderly and disabled citizens everywhere who had nothing to do with BLM protests, but also as a restriction on all residents in L.A. County, whether in the city proper or in its suburban respites. The L.A. Times board needed to call this “curfew” out as unacceptable, but instead chose to mostly just “retell” the story, offering virtually no commentary on the larger implications of a military-police state abetted by a “curfew.” Similarly, during coverage of the unrest, the paper relied heavily on officials’ accounts and narratives over the events of the day, even as everyday citizens had far more evidence of aggressive tactics by the LAPD against them than vice versa regarding the danger posed.

Garcetti’s decision to disperse protesters in Los Angeles with SWAT teams and the National Guard also placed him in the same ideological camp of the president despite any “liberal” status. The L.A. Times would thus not have been wrong to juxtapose the way in which whether officials wear red or blue ties, during civic unrest, the vast majority of them side with the state, and by extension, the state’s enforcement of white supremacy. Consider that just a few weeks before the civic unrest the same L.A. Times board published a strong statement lambasting L.A. City Hall’s dirty corruption schemes as exposed by the FBI. Yet smothering protesters’ rights to free speech and assembly with batons and smokescreens was also a dirty corruption of every one of our constitutional rights. Is the editorial board waiting on the FBI for the green-light a statement on this?

In any case, renouncing police brutality and white supremacy is not as hard as the editorial rooms may believe. Remember that the very phrase of “white supremacy” itself is not an attack on white people, just as “police brutality” is not an assault on individual police officers. These phrases are observed facts of the structural realities that continually marginalize and criminalize non-white communities in Los Angeles and cities across America. The numbers and stories and data on this have been relayed ad naseum. Yet they still need to be referenced so long as they’re facts on the ground, including from L.A.’s largest paper.

It’s true that calling out such facts ‘on the ground’ should prove difficult for a historically white-owned and white-led paper, especially considering that ownership for decades rested on the Chandler family, an anti-union and pro-white elite dynasty. But it’s for this same reason that acknowledgement of the facts on the ground will be even more fruitful for the paper’s future.

During the height of protests in Washington D.C., when the lights of the White House went dim, Trump and his allies tucked into a bunker, presumably hiding from the “thugs and rapists”–as the administration is fond to label non-white communities–too close to the gates of the White House. In fact they were Black, white and more protesters assembled en masse for Black Lives Matter, and against policies that see mostly white men at both the lowest and highest levels of government consistently face almost no accountability for crimes against the public. In Los Angeles, a similarly multi-ethnic mass has spent the last few months organizing and pleading with officials, looking to have their concerns and proposals meaningfully addressed, only to find at nearly each turn elected officials who are unwilling to meaningfully commit to anti-racist policies and anti-racist budgets. This leaves only the “the fourth estate” to show leadership.

If newsrooms and editorial boards like those of the L.A. Times are serious about an informed populace for a democratic republic, they need to take an active position against the power structures threatening these ideals, including white supremacy. They must do so through consistent anti-racism, including anti-racist stances in their coverage, in their opinion section, and in scrutiny of elected officials’ decisions when they support policies that reinforce racial hegemony. This is not just a matter of what’s been trending on Twitter, but the proven way to hold some of the most powerful actors in our cities and states accountable for their actions.

Taking a stance will not be entirely new or completely innovative, either. In Burlington, Vermont, for example, where the population is more than 85% white, the city recently declared racism a public health concern, which is a good starting point for policy. In turn, continuing to do the opposite, or to remain “objective,” has damaging effects, and only keeps the paper’s credibility and readership low, particularly with non-white communities, a grave concern given the majority non-white demographics of L.A. County. But the fact is that the paper’s low readership has well to do with the impoverishment faced by Black and Brown communities in Los Angeles; it’s not easy for a single mother, for example, to subscribe to the daily news when her first concern is food for the family and keeping a roof overhead. Yet she lives here, and the city depends enormously on her labor. Our paper needs to show it truly grasps this.

It’s also true that actively addressing white supremacy each time it rears its head, including in the actions of our local and national officials, is challenging, and likely to turn some people away. But leaving this battle for scholars and communities of color to keep waging by themselves ‘on the ground’ reeks of the indifference and elitism of the Chandler paper. Moreover, the distinction between ‘just policy’ and policy in defense of racialized hegemony is as important in this election cycle as the distinction between “rebels” and the treasonous, pro-slavery armies they actually were during the civil war.

Less than a century before that war, a small band of white men were written into the nation’s history books as courageous and impeccable ‘founding fathers’ who freed ‘us’ from tyrannic Redcoat soldiers, and who produced the laws of the land which govern millions of citizens to this day. It’s now self-evident that much was omitted from those history books, and that such omissions continue to have consequences. The L.A. Times can thus not afford to continue omitting the legacy of white supremacy from its coverage, just as it cannot afford to ignore the demands for equity made most recently by the paper’s Black and Latinx caucuses. In the same way that Biden has been beckoned to do with his campaign, the paper’s leadership has more than a responsibility to stand in defense of a progressive and inclusive agenda. It has an active interest in it; the future readership of the paper is still waiting to have its concerns meaningfully addressed. It falls on the fourth estate to fill the void. The time is now.

J.T.

Rick from Rick's Produce, Serving the People

Our communities are not defined just by struggle. We thrive even as we fight for our humanity

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 100)

Through more than five lifetimes across the American continent, even after the genocide and enslavement of our bloodlines, from the rainforests of Brazil to the mountaintops of Canada, and through this dizzied land of war-songs and bombs, Indigenous, African and more descendants of colonization have still managed to live, love, and laugh in America. We still do. Some days we only manage one of the three. But we get close enough. Each day we fight to keep living.

Most of all, we continue to push past heaps of winds threatening to slow down our progress. Let it not be forgotten that as hostility for our communities rose, our communities chose to rise up in power, guided by love, not by hatred. Let it not be forgotten how this pandemic has shown the whole world the way we keep rising. The way we refuse to be put down.

As one student I worked with last year put it in her first spoken-word poem:

“We broke them damn chains.”

We continue breaking them today. What has also lain exposed after three months of “Pandemic in Los Angeles” is that while the people’s elected leadership and representatives have largely failed, the people themselves have not. The land forgets nothing. And we are the land.

More than as just Americans, we have acted as global citizens with the world for our localities. In marching, outraging, and organizing, we have done so not just for the benefit of ourselves, but for the benefit of all people, for the 21st century and beyond, if our global pueblo can manage to see it.

We have done an immeasurable amount of teaching, just as we’ve done an astounding amount of learning. Consistently in our discourse it’s become apparent that our teaching and learning has been most of all for ourselves, to continue uplifting our youth, families, elders, and more with this lifetime.

If white Americans have been able to grow in their perspectives from our teachings, which have been offered to all since the first day, to become more than just “not racist,” but anti-racist, then great. But if not, that’s fine just as well, because what’s also become abundantly clear for our communities is that it’s not our responsibility as the oppressed to consistently guide our oppressors into behaving more humanely. Moreover, it’s clear that in any case, whiteness is breaking itself down, collapsing under its own fictitious weight, exposing its brutality through the baton for anyone who dares to challenge the inequality it has created as anything but just. One way or another, white Americans need to come to terms with this, which is likely not the end of “whiteness,” but the end of white supremacy, to the best of their abilities.

As for our communities, which still need to see to the development of at least the next generation of great teachers, artists, critical thinkers and more to expand on this great, axis-turning shift in consciousness:

We have an incredibly long way to go. But that’s because we have incredibly long ages to live for.

As I witness the brilliance of our people past even a great fracturing of the roads before us during these last few months, I think of all the societies lost, burned down by the greed of the colonists and slave-masters. And of all the great minds, kidnapped and broken into by the infectious lust for power. But the fact of the matter is that these minds never wholly died, just as the societies never entirely left. Remember: the land never forgets; its roots are here once again now, speaking through only more of our voices as we collectively reclaim a world we know we’ve been given to love.

Speaking of which, this makes 100 blogs from yours truly in as many days for “Pandemic in Los Angeles.” Thank you to each and every reader and supporter, and please expect more soon after a small break to refresh the sound and keyboards.

J.T.

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Police cruisers parked along 1st street and Hope street in Los Angeles

To the Board of Police Commissioners in Los Angeles: Your Time Has Come

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 76)

The following is a statement edited for publication on the site and delivered by yours truly to the Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC) in Los Angeles, in what would turn out to be eight hours’ worth of public comments for the meeting this past Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020.

LAPD COMMISSION:

I want to echo all of the Black & Brown voices who have made themselves heard at this public meeting thus far.

I want to commend the public for their bravery in speaking against this police and military state that we are seeing unfold across our city and across cities all over America.

To the board:

You have a chance to be on the right side of history
by standing against the militarization of the state in response to working class communities marching for an end to genocidal practices against Black and Brown bodies.

Even before the protests, you were already overseeing a caste system in the L.A. County Jail with a daily population of more than 17,000 people, where Black people make up 29% of that jail system while making up less than 9% of the population in Los Angeles.

You, the board members, have a chance not to stand with the fascists. You all heard the president just yesterday declare war against unarmed Black & Brown people, even while only a few days earlier he praised armed white militias for standing for liberty against covid-19 restrictions.

Mayor Garcetti originally said he would not be calling the National Guard. An hour later, he called the National Guard. You’re closer to fascism than you would like to think.

You all need to call for the national guard to LEAVE. They’re armed with M-4 assault rifles and intimidating our community and you are standing by, doing nothing.

You need to call to disarm the LAPD right this second, who, in line with police departments across the country, are battering and injuring unarmed civilians.

You’re closer to fascism than you think.

You have enough blood and injuries on your hands already, but you still have a chance to scale all of this down before it gets worse.

If you think today’s meeting has been long, just wait until the summer when more than 2.5 million people are out of work and looking into their city’s budget, and into the leaders and representatives tasked with overseeing the interests of the people.

Finally, consider that you live in a city where more than half of the population speaks a language other than English at home, yet you offer no captions for non-English speakers.

How much do you really want to hear from your city?

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 52

The Department of Labor recently reported the unemployment rate as rising to 14.7% during the month of April. Of a population of about 330 million people in the U.S., that’s at least 48 million citizens out of work over these last few weeks.

The numbers suggest long and difficult days ahead for people from literally all walks of life; whether white, black, gay or heterosexual, christian or muslim, immigrant or citizen, or younger or older, effectively everyone and their mom has been affected by a disaster which few of us could have anticipated only two months ago, when reports of the coronavirus began to break news.

If we were preparing for the future, as in, for the 21st century still ahead, I am certain there is much we could achieve with 48 million Americans–and more who will accrue–in need of a new safety net, pastime and direction.

A brief glance at the past during similar turning points for the American project can provide readers some clarity about the present moment. Here are just three quotes from other extraordinary times when the goal was still to look forward:

In 1932, when at the height of the great depression a quarter of Americans were unemployed, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of getting ‘back to work’ with a renewed purpose:

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits.”

In 1961, during the throes of the Cold War, or the fight against liberty-bashing ‘communism’, John F. Kennedy spoke of fighting alongside people all over the world against ills affecting all nations:

Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out…a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

In 1965, one week after Alabama state troopers attacked Martin Luther King jr and a group of protesters in Selma, Alabama, for marching for the right to vote, in a joint-session to Congress, Lyndon B. Johnson reflected on the great power suddenly placed into his hands, and how his memories as a “small-time” college teacher in Texas guided his decision over how to apply that power:

My first job after college was as a teacher in Cotulla, Tex., in a small Mexican-American school. Few of them could speak English, and I couldn’t speak much Spanish. My students were poor and they often came to class without breakfast, hungry. They knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They never seemed to know why people disliked them. But they knew it was so, because I saw it in their eyes. I often walked home late in the afternoon, after the classes were finished, wishing there was more that I could do. But all I knew was to teach them the little that I knew, hoping that it might help them against the hardships that lay ahead. Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.

I never thought then, in 1928, that I would be standing here in 1965. It never even occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students and to help people like them all over this country. But now I do have that chance—and I’ll let you in on a secret—I mean to use it.”

These words may be from a different time, but on closer inspection, they don’t feel radically removed from our own. In the days ahead, we will continue documenting and sharing to inform and uplift Los Angeles.

J.T.

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Still Resilient in Los Angeles

JT_Red
Metro Red Line Station; Vermont Ave and Santa Monica Blvd.

When you’ve known a place your whole life, a place that you take pride in, where you’ve found love in, and where you’ve found yourself in, what do you do as that place is taken from you? When the people who comprise this place are people who look like you, or who speak the same language as you, who hail from that same “otherness” like you, what do you do as they’re taken from you, too?

I think of the local Metro’s Vermont and Santa Monica Red Line Subway station. A place where thousands of people pass one another by each day, past the flocks of pigeons nestled above in the station’s arches, and past the heaps of other people laying by the entrances to the terminal.

The birds cradled in the station’s altitudes are conditioned to the factors of the environment, which are often rather unfriendly to their livelihood: Food is scarce, competition for food is abundant, and the winds push people and traffic through their huddled masses daily.

The humans below, whether moving with the traffic or anchored to the sidewalk, are conditioned to the factors of the environment, too: Food and housing are expensive, finding decent work to afford decent food and housing is likewise competitive. As people push through flocks of pigeons in the race to get to it all, we push past one another too; over time, this has the effect of insulating us from the environment and one another as a whole.

I think of my own experience in this sequence, in terms of just how many people I’ve walked past over the dozen or so years I’ve stepped foot through Metro’s Vermont and Santa Monica corridor. Past people conflicted by mental health disorders, addiction, or no place for shelter at night. Past people trapped in abusive relationships, police violence, or no access to a steady meal each day. Past children who had no choice. I’ve got a feeling that this is an experience which binds me with millions of other people in the U.S. today.

In the 21st century, America isn’t just pushing people away from its borders, but it’s also pushing them from their homes, their livelihoods, and even from its street corners. In the pending displacement of Super Pan, my pueblo is dealing with wealth in this country, and the power of wealth to shove human beings out of the way instead of using it to uplift them and our community together as a whole; a legacy as old as the country itself.

But all around us are more mom and pop shops at risk of displacement, just as there are more Metro stations serving as shelters for more people with less than us. Not far off are also those individuals with wealth who simply want to take each of these spaces for their own benefit without pausing to consider how others can be harmed by such obnoxious claims to space.

If I’m somewhere in between, that is, not enamored by the power of wealth, but also not forced to sleep by the Metro stations at night, then just where do I stand? I pass by the less fortunate like the rest, to try to be better in some other way, which is for the most part what I have to do. But I don’t believe I’ve always got to do things this way.

I believe there’s still a world to build right through the one we see now, both with and alongside others: a world that’s been here before, actually, and which still glimmers through the shadows in moments each day out there; a world of people helping each other, uplifting each other, and building great things as a result.

A world we have to fight for, and which we continue fighting for each day: Nuestro Pueblo, Los Angeles.

More on Super Pan in the Virgil Village SOON,

J.T.

Survivors in Japan: Hiroshima

“My mother entered the center of Hiroshima three days after the bombing. She was four months pregnant with me. I was very sickly in my childhood, suffering from many kinds of infectious diseases, which might have been because of a weak immune system.

My mother developed bladder cancer in 1992, but recovered completely. Fourteen years later, she was bedridden half a year and could not stand up or walk at all. But she is now 99 years old and healthy. We live together.

My grandfather was in the center of Hiroshima. He was buried alive underneath a house, but returned home late at night. Ten days later many purple spots appeared on his body. He became weaker and weaker, [and] had a lot of bloody diarrhea and vomited excessively…

He could not eat or speak, and died twenty-seven days later.”

Mito Kosei, In-Utero (before birth) Survivor

Hiroshima, Japan

Dear Los Angeles, a new day has arrived

All it takes for evil to win is for good to do nothing.

Over the last 2+ years, I’ve enjoyed an immense amount of support for J.T., an ode to the city of L.A. Now it’s time to fly again.

There is no question about it: the election of a bigot to the nation’s highest office has drawn the lines of a new political landscape. In it, silence in the face of today’s bigotry is tantamount to complicity. Therefore, J.T. cannot afford to be silent; a new media project is born.

POC (for People of Color) Today is dedicated to people everywhere who are frightened, dismayed, or angered by a warmongering presidential administration that utterly fails to represent the values held by our nation. 

Whether our faces are black, brown, yellow or red, or whether we are allies, we strive every day to stand against xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, and the miserable racism that’s so deeply embedded in the veins of our country.

And it is our country. All around us it’s true: we are a world of one another, and we’ll either share it or lose it altogether, but the choice is ours.

POC Today chooses to find the moments we share, where the walls are broken and it is the people who are built instead. Similarly to JIMBO TIMES, the emphasis at POC_T will be placed on storytelling, but unlike J.T., it will not just be yours truly.

The team is small, but it is a team in every shape and form nonetheless. And at the moment we do not yet have our official website, but our outreach is expanding week by week.

Together we stand in solidarity with our allies fighting for a better tomorrow everywhere, not completely certain of our victory for the day, but damn certain of our victory overall.

In the short term for POC_T, our goal is to find as many allies as we can through our media. In the long-term, it’s to translate our passion into action that affects change, even if only in the miniscule of ways. Thus, I leave it to the people of J.T.

If you can support us in this new venture, we welcome your support. If not, J.T. thanks you for your time up to this point.

We will need all the help we can get, not only for moral support, but also to expand the possibilities of our scope and range. Indeed, no matter how tempting it is to be cynical about the good that’s still possible with the challenges ahead, with POC Today the sky is just the beginning. And we are preparing for lift-off —

We are flying. Won’t you fly with us?

J.T.

Here We Go Again!

“…After apprenticing for seven months in a firm headed by William Le Baron Jenney, Sullivan left for Paris to continue his studies, and when he returned in 1875, work was hard to find because the city was in the grip of an economic depression. So for Sullivan this became a time of preparation, a chance, as he put it, “to get the lay of the land.” Every day he would walk twenty miles or more around Chicago and out into the yellow prairie that stretched beyond it. What explained this raw, robust place? What gave it its impelling drive, the “sense of big things to be done” and the will to carry them through?”  – City of the Century, Donald L. Miller

J.T.