Talking About Immigration in Watts
Revolution #043, April 16, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from correspondence from a reader on their experience taking out the article “What Is Behind the Immigrants’ Struggle — And Why We Must Support It!” that appeared in Revolution #41 in Watts, Los Angeles, CA.
We went to a bank line on 103rd Street, and over to a market. Both places we went, it was a good mix of Black and Latino people. We were there for about two and a half hours. I did some agitation and we passed out papers and came back with a can to collect money. The more intermediate and backward were saying they illegal, ain't they. They need to do it the right way like everybody else. They need to apply and wait, not just come over here. They taking jobs from Black people. From the very beginning debate broke out with this one loud backward older Black woman who began talking about how Mexican people won everything, they taking all the jobs from Black people, they got a Latino mayor. She even said in Hurricane Katrina the governor was Latino (which is false). But she was so backward the way she put this little piece together was by saying the governor's name was Blanco, and she kept saying Blanco, and said to me, don't you get it? She thought she was grasping some Spanish but really she was grasping some reactionary American chauvinism. This got some discussion going in the line. This got another Black woman responding to this backward woman's comments, saying something like ignorant people just open their mouths and don't know what they talking about. She also remarked how proud she was of us being here talking to people about this. In the face of this backward woman jumping out, a number of people stepped forward to get the paper and talk with us more deeply about this issue.
The mood among the Black masses at the places we went to was mixed and contradictory. We found that most Black people simply don’t even know what HR4437 is. The specifics of the law and what it will mean for immigrants. They also don’t know these other bills either. They see the phenomena of Latino people, students all in the streets uprising but they don’t know the specifics of why. They know they fighting for their rights as people say. They know it has to do with illegal immigrants. But the full picture of what and why, they don’t have that picture. Another thing I notice among both Black and Latino people (or should I say English-speaking Latino people), many of them don’t have an understanding of the history of Mexican people, or Black people. Which once again shows you the bankruptcy of the school system in this country. Here they crying about kids walking out and they ain’t been teaching nobody shit throughout the decades.
Then we met people—Black people and Latino—who did know some of the specifics of the law, the point about making everybody a felon who’s an illegal immigrant. At the same time, they didn’t know about the proposed 700-mile wall, criminalizing everybody else who helps an illegal immigrant, and these other bills which are also no good the McCain Kennedy, the Bush bill. The mood among people was one of outrage once they found out the full truth of what this law is and what it will mean for immigrants and the masses broadly. As I was agitating and then going through the line calling on people to get the paper, asking people what they think about the students walking out, the protest.
This Latina youth from Jordan Downs who was part of the uprising was so happy and so proud. She said we did it, she said we walked out of school on Thursday and Friday. She took a bundle of 10 English and 2 Spanish papers. She said she was gonna get it to some of the kids who walked out. She said I agree with everything you saying.
She said the cops had been beating kids at Locke High. They had her school and others on lockdown and would let kids go to the bathroom. One teacher told them if they wanted to go to the bathroom they would have to use a pot right in class (I’m not sure which school said this.) This was also reported on KPFK. (Now they doing all this talk about the kids shouldn’t have walked out because they need an education. The education they getting and we all getting is that these schools ain’t nothing but gotdamn prisons.)
One Black youth who’s 18 yrs old from Southwest College, said him and some others walked out with the high school students. He said the students from Locke and Fremont I think. He also has a friend who was left on his roof for three weeks in New Orleans. I asked him to have his friend and him write a letter to the paper. He was doing a lot of agitation about how this system is no good, he talked about the war in Iraq, New Orleans, etc. He thought it was great that students walked out and people are protesting. He said that’s what people should be doing now.
One Latino man was very serious and really into it. He had gone to the march saw us there and got the paper. He said he had just recently begun to read the first one. We still got him the latest one and the a sampler DVD disk with clips from the video REVOLUTION: WHY IT’S NECESSARY • WHY IT’S POSSIBLE • WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT by Bob Avakian. He really does want to see a revolution. He said that’s what we need. Things are getting worse, and he agitated about how they use immigrants to do all the work and they make money off them, they keep Blacks and Latinos against each other because they know if they come together that’s it for them. He had an even broader vision than just Blacks and Latinos too. He said he wants his kids to know the truth. He wants them to understand why things are the way they are and how they got that way, he says. His kids asked why people are protesting. He explained it to them. He knows details of the bill. He felt people need to get organized and we should help the students join with them. He has some sense of urgency. He wants to meet soon.
One Black guy who grew up in either North or South Carolina and was a part of the Civil Rights movement was advanced. He had marched with MLK, had dogs put on him... He said he supported the students and the immigrants. He said they (meaning Bush and crew) taking this country to hell, they got that war going in Iraq, they spying on people, killed up all those people, now they doing this.
One thing I think is really important is that we keep hammering away with people is that we dealing with a system, a global imperialist system, the terms are not one nation against another nation (Blacks versus Latinos). At times I raised to people that we needed to have a conversation about the I word— imperialism. The I word is something they not gonna teach you in school, they not gonna tell you about that. (I was thinking we need to have a little pamphlet people can back pocket called the dirty little secret, The I word. This could be popular with youth. It should spell out what imperialism is and examples throughout the world what it does and what it means. It should get into the dirty little secret of superexploitation). One thing we were surprised to hear is how many Mexican farmers have been pushed off their land due to these imperialists exporting cheap grains, pork, etc. 1.5 million farmers in the last ten years. And how people all over the world are pushed into the cities of different countries to find work.
One Latina woman who looked to be in her thirties gave $10, took a bundle of 20 English and 20 Spanish papers. She said I liked what you said about the need for a revolution in this country and how they do people. She was a mix of contradictions. I noticed on her jacket it said Administration of Justice. She said she had taken classes in criminal justice and wanted to be a cop. She had gone to the gun range with the sheriffs dept, but she said because of all the politics of the police dept she thought she shouldn’ t be one. Now she works as some counselor or something. She also worked on Villaraigoaza’s campaign, and knows various politicians. The revolution she is talking about is reforming the system, fighting for bourgeois democratic rights. I told her we are talking about a Communist revolution, and got some into that. She liked the vision, but in her mind she was seeing it as the bourgeois democratic revolution I think. I told her to read the Chair’s article (in Revolution #41) and got her the REVOLUTION DVD sampler.