Rudy Acuna on Student Activism


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Stupid America!

Student Unrest

How Chicanas/os Lost Their Swagger  12 12 14


Rodolfo F. Acuña


I constantly hear references to winning football teams having swagger – they play with a chip on their shoulder.


In the sixties, black youth had that swagger — after years of being taught that they should stay in their place, they adopted the mantra of “black is beautifuldon’t fuck with me.” Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans displayed a similar swagger as if to say “I am someone, I demand respect.


The Chicano Movement was serious business. It spawned a ton of characters.  You delighted in their audacity and their challenging of the man. I remember Dr. Ricardo Sanchez telling anyone who would listen that he went from a GED to PhD.


Sanchez, a high school dropout and ex-convict, wrote poems about cultural justice. He received a doctorate from the Union Institute in Cincinnati and had an academic appointment at Washington State University, teaching creative writing and Chicano studies.


He would saunter into El Paso restaurants and deliver poems “reciting not from memory but from the moment.” I remember how he and Tigre captured a Tex Mex cafe in Milwaukee.


You had those who would snicker about his doctorate. But he did not give a shit – he knew he was a doctor because he willed it and his poetry established that. Ricardo did not need to attend a Princeton or a Yale to validate himself — his swagger said it all.


Another favorite was Abelardo. Like Sanchez he was from el Chuco (El Paso).  A teacher, social worker, and administrator of community service organizations he declared himself a poet, producing mountains of poetry, fiction, and essays. We both taught a summer session at the University of Utah.


He loved the sound of his name, my favorite poem was “Stupid America.”


stupid america, see that


with a big knife

on his steady hand

he doesn’t want to knife you

he wants to sit on a bench

and carve christ figures

but you won’t let him.

stupid america, hear that


shouting curses on the street

he is a poet

without paper and pencil

and since he cannot write

he will explode.

stupid america, remember

that chicano

flunking math and english

he is the picasso

of your western states

but he will die

with one thousand


hanging only from his mind.”


The truth be told, a person or country is only stupid when they make the same mistakes, over and over and deny them.  For example, in August 2014, Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, a black youth. Two grand juries failed to indict the white police officer. The previous month Eric Garner was strangled by Staten Island, NY police officers. These incidents tapped the grief and grievance of centuries of injustices. Protests against the police killings of Brown and Garner turned violent and spread to campuses and cities throughout the country. .


On September 26, 2014, 43 Mexican students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. In all probability, they were assassinated and incinerated.


In the 60s, the U.S. spent millions of dollars studying the causes of urban and student rebellions — studies that were ignored. The catalyst was the 1965 Watts Rebellions that shook the nation “to its democratic foundation.” A 101-page report of December 2, 1965 titled “Violence in the City—An End or a Beginning?: A Report by the Governor’s Commission on the Los Angeles Riots, 1965” startled America and then went away.


Two years later the Kerner Commission, “The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders,’ was commissioned by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots in the United States and to provide recommendations. It warned “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal“, adding that “Unless there are sharp changes in the factors influencing Negro settlement patterns within metropolitan areas, there is little doubt that the trend toward Negro majorities will continue.”  The report called unemployment a major cause of the unrest as well as the poor training of police. 


Despite or because of the war on students, launched by the patron Saint of Greed, Governor Ronald Reagan, student activism escalated. The largest and most heated were at the University of California, Berkeley that along with San Francisco State was the flagship of student protests. .


Reagan’s (1967-1975) approach to solving student turmoil was to “get rid of undesirables. Those there to agitate and not to study might think twice before they pay tuition. They might think twice how much they want to pay to carry a picket sign.” It was a smoke screen for one of the biggest shifts in taxes from the rich to the poor, and the wedding of the Republican Party to the super rich.  


Student protests came to a climax on May 4, 1970 when guardsmen shot down four student protesters students at Kent State, leading to nationwide campus protests. More than 450 violent and non-violent demonstrations broke out across the country. At New York University banners read, “They Can’t Kill Us All.”


Over 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington, D.C., against the war and the killing of unarmed student protesters — “The city was an armed camp. The mobs were smashing windows, slashing tires, dragging parked cars into intersections, even throwing bedsprings off overpasses into the traffic down below. This was the quote, student protest. That’s not student protest, that’s civil war,” said a Nixon adviser. The Jackson State killings occurred on Friday, May 15, 1970, at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) in Jackson, Mississippi. It resulted in the killings of two students and injury of twelve.


According to the Urban Institute’s national study the Kent State shooting was the single factor in the first nationwide student strike in U.S. history, as over 4 million students protested in over 900 American colleges and universities that were closed during the student strikes.


Yet another commission, “The President’s Commission On Campus Unrest,” was chaired by William W. Scranton, the Former Governor of Pennsylvania. The report gave a sense of urgency. It exhausted the available material on the subject, concluding that “Studies of activist youth reveal that in most cases students become activists through an extended process.”


Rounding off the reports was a 1979 book by Fresno State English Department Chair Kenneth Seib — The Slow Death of Fresno State: A California Campus under Reagan and Brown. The conclusion was that Black Studies and La Raza Studies programs were intentionally killed by far right senior professors in collusion with Governor Gov. Ronald Regan and CSC Chancellor Glenn Dumke. They deliberately murdered the programs.


These studies are readily available on the internet. As I have said, it is not stupid to make a mistake but is to keep on making the same mistakes. Americans are stupid not because they are Americans but because they won’t admit their mistakes and find ways to correct them.


“Stupid America.” You lost generations of geniuses. Gone is the boasting, “From GED to  PhD,” giving of gritos of liberation. As a result Chicana/o lost their swagger condemning the poorest them to staring an “Y Qué” look. Part of the swagger was hope.

Attorney Aram James on Darren Wilson


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Darren Wilson Walks, Begging the Question: Will Cops Ever Be Held to Account?

No Indictment, no justice, in the cold blooded killing of unarmed African-American  youth Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson.  Déjà vu!

Former LAPD officer & private investigator Alex "Renegade Popo" Salazar at NYC demo

Former LAPD officer & private investigator Alex “Renegade Popo” Salazar at NYC demo

Can we achieve systemic justice in officer involved shootings, and other forms of police murder? Is it possible in this country, given our two tier justice system, one designed for the police and another designed for the rest of us? What are the necessary steps we must take to restore trust in our criminal justice system, when the police seem, rarely, if ever, to be held fully accountable, when they shoot and kill, strangle and tase and brutally beat to death, unarmed people of color, and the poor?

Former Public Defender Aram Byer James

Former Public Defender Aram Byer James

How is it that in 2014, a decision whether to prosecute such a shocking crime, one carried out in broad day light, before numerous witnesses, can be relegated to a secret, behind closed doors, grand jury process? This secrecy is particularly ironic for an incident that has played out so publicly in our media, both here at home and worldwide. Doubly ironic, when mostly peaceful demonstrators, demanding an open flow of information regarding the case, have instead, been met with a martial-law war-zone-like response, from both the police and local government in Ferguson. As more than one commentator has said about closed proceedings: “Democracy itself dies behind closed doors.”

The importance of open proceedings, our supreme court speaks

Sixth AmendmentOur U.S. Supreme Court in Richmond Newspapers INC. v. Virginia (1980) eloquently expressed the importance of open criminal proceedings, and the risks inherent to the public trust, and public safety itself, when such proceedings, instead of being held in the open, are closed off to the public view, and the necessary scrutiny of watchdogs from the community, and the press:

“The historical evidence of the evolution of the criminal trial in Anglo-American justice demonstrates conclusively that at the time this Nation’s organic laws were adopted, criminal trials both here and in England had long been presumptively open, thus giving assurance that the proceedings were conducted fairly to all concerned and discouraging perjury, the misconduct of the participants, or decisions based on secret bias or partiality. In addition, the significant community therapeutic value of public trials was recognized: when a shocking crime occurs, a community reaction of outrage and public protest often follows, and thereafter the open processes of justice serve an important prophylactic purpose, providing an outlet for community concern, hostility and emotion. To work effectively, it is important that society’s criminal process ‘satisfy the appearance of justice,’ which can best be provided by allowing people to observe such process. From this unbroken, uncontradicted history, supported by reasons as valid today as in centuries past, it must be concluded that a presumption of openness inheres in the very nature of a criminal trial under this Nation’s system of justice.”

Our own Supreme Court’s logic dictates, in fact compels, the conclusion that secret grand juries should be abolished and that public proceeding (preliminary examinations) be the rule in probable cause hearings, in all serious cases, where the determination is made, whether there is sufficient evidence to believe a crime has been committed, and that a particular person has committed such a serious crime, justifying a subsequent jury trial on the charges. This standard of probable cause, in an open setting, should apply to all persons charged with serious crimes, but certainly those involving the police, and others public officials, who hold the public trust. Public officials should be held to a higher level of public scrutiny and accountability, not a lower standard.

If you or I (as ordinary citizens) are charged with a shocking crime, say shooting down an unarmed human being, apparently without provocation, it is extremely unlikely that our potential prosecution will be decided in a secret closed door proceeding (by a criminal grand jury) . What is likely is that our guilt or innocence will be played out in a public setting, for all the world to view.

First, we can assume, except in the rare circumstance of a clear case of say self-defense, determined by a prosecutor, early in the process, that we will be arrested, and shortly thereafter brought to an open court proceeding, to enter a plea to the charges. Subsequently, all proceedings in our case, preliminary examination, jury trial, sentencing, etc., will be open to public and press scrutiny. The opposite of the secrecy and government oppression, that most often characterize grand jury proceedings.

To mitigate mistrust of our government, and the police state mentality often associated with our police, and our entire criminal justice system, particularly when they interact with people of color and the poor, we must do away with secret proceedings (grand juries). Secret proceedings that allow the police, in officer involved shootings, to shield their actions from public accountabilty. No openness means, more often than not, no justice. We the people, can no longer allow secret proceedings to stand.

As we have seen in Ferguson, one person, the elected prosecutor, in this case, Robert McCulloch, makes the call as to whether to use a secret grand jury, instead of insisting on an open proceeding, such as an open preliminary examination. Such calls (the exercise of prosecutorial discretion) are made by the elected prosecutor in each county .

If we the people are ever to change the two tier system of justice , we must take the time to know our local elected prosecutors, and how they think on the critical criminal justice issues of the day. We must actively participate in their election. If an individual elected prosecutor insists on treating police with prosecutorial kid gloves, we need to vote that prosecutor out of office.

Finally, every district attorney’s office in this country needs to establish a specialized police crimes unit. Such a unit would consist of a district attorney, an investigator, a former criminal defense attorney, and a retired police officer. All members of this unit would be highly trained in best police practices.

The elected district attorney would delegate to this unit the responsibility for prosecuting serious police crimes, with the same prosecutorial skill, equal protection of the law and professionalism as any other serious criminal activity.

In the end, absent our willingness to engage in “participatory justice” where the community is an equal partner with the local prosecutor, the local defense bar, and the local police, we will continue to hear the cries of injustice go unanswered in officer involved shootings, and other acts of police brutality.

Original Article at:

Rudy Acuna on Ethnic Studies & Immigration


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Thinking Critically

Is a Victory Really a Victory?

Obama’s Immigration Order and Ethnic Studies

If it stinks light a match


Rodolfo Acuña 11 28 14


Jan B. Tucker, Rudy Acuna, Estela Ayala

Jan B. Tucker, Rudy Acuna, Estela Ayala

People want to believe, they want to have hope. Everyone loves a happy person, and that’s great but it makes critical thinking all the more difficult. It is like having a gas attack at a party. No one appreciates Mr. Doom in their midst. Most people are just making a living and surviving, and no one wants that Chicano bullshit messing up a good time.


I am very mindful of stepping on shit and getting those sniffing stares.  So when I heard President Barack Obama’s announcement about signing an executive order staying the deportation of about 4.5 million undocumented parents of children born in the United States, my reaction was cautious.


Watching the White House playing out the immigration scenario has been like watching a schoolyard toughie tell someone repeatedly, “I am going to beat you up.” About the 20th time he sings the same old song you want to say to him, well just do it!   


A lot of us were hopeful when Obama first said that he was going to fix the immigration mess. Indeed, there have been partial actions such as that for the Dreamers; however, at almost every step of the way he seems afraid that to alienate Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats – afraid they will not love him.


ICE data shows the Obama administration deported 357,422 (2013); 409,849 (2012); 396,906 (2011); 392,862 (2010); 389,834 (2009); and 369,331 (2008) — totaling 2,316,204 deportations between 2008 and 2013.  Also, according to ICE statistics for the fiscal year 2013, of the 357,422 deportations,  67.6 percent were from Mexico; Guatemala 13.4 percent; Honduras 10.3 percent; El Salvador 6 percent; and Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, and Jamaica 2.7 percent.  The deportees were almost all Latino/a  or of Caribbean origin. Contrary to popular belief over 40 percent had no criminal record.


The truth be told, even before Obama gave the speech, many Latino/a immigration advocates were praising the president for “a monumental and historic undertaking”.


Obama’s plan limited it to undocumented parents who had children that were born in the United States – the parents of the dreamers would not be protected, and the order will only be in effect for as long as Obama is in the presidency.


When some critics mentioned this, the cheerleaders started lighting matches, hoping that the “sulphur smell from the match masks the fart smell from the dog.”


In this context, the recent Los Angeles Unified School Board of Education’s vote to make an ethnic studies course a graduation requirement, beginning with the class of 2019, has produced a similar euphoria among many Latina/o activists.


Student Cindy Reyes told ABC7, “We want to learn our side of the story as well.” The board’s motion calls for a phasing in of the requirement, beginning with a handful of schools in 2015-16. It will become a one-semester course by 2019.


This one is difficult to criticize because the Ethnic Studies Now Campaign and other supporters have invested an awful lot of emotional capital. Activists such as Jose Lara (AKA Jose del Barrio) have worked tirelessly. ·Ibarra, a Board Member of El Rancho Board of Education got the Pico Rivera School District to adopt an ethnic-studies requirement for all students starting in 2016, and there have also been rumblings in Santa Monica and other districts.


In the summer, the hopes of the activists were raised when California Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) introduced a bill that require the state’s Department of Education to develop a model for implementing a standardized, statewide ethnic studies curriculum for high schools. It met with opposition and the bill was never taken to the floor.


Latinos are the largest ethnic group in California schools comprising 53 percent of the California student body (whites are 26 percent, and Asians, 9 percent). Despite this, as a rule a student learns very little about the Mexican/Latino heritage of the state.


More important and fundamental to Ethnic Studies, it leaves out critical thinking.


The California thrust for Ethnic Studies comes from the “Save Ethnic Studies Campaign” around the outlawing of the Tucson Unified School District’s tremendously successful Mexican American Studies Program that almost eliminated the dropout problem and significantly improved the attendance in higher education. They forget it was based on a pedagogy of critical thinking.


The MAS model was never intended to be merely cultural experience or courses on race theory.  It was based on the research of educators such as Paulo Freire and Edwin Fenton. The goal was to produce critical thinkers.


Nevertheless, the devil is in the detail and there are a lot of pitfalls — as we witnessed in the Alejo Bill. Chicana/o legislators like Obama are with you for as long as it is not inconvenient for them. Moreover, as we learned in the Tucson campaign just calling it “Save Ethnic Studies” does not unify people and in fact builds in contradictions.


So take out the matches while I air some of my concerns:


·       This could prove to be atole con el dedo – 2019 is a long way to away, and there is no funding as of yet. Will conservative members and the internal bureaucracy use the budget to kill it?

·       We were further down the path with bicultural-bilingual education; what have we learned from that experience?

·       One of the biggest obstacles to Mexican American Studies at the university level was our fellow teachers who would ask, “Well, if we give you this, how about the Asians, the Native Americans, Russian Jews, and later Armenians? You are asking for special treatment.

·       That leads to the question, what is a minority?

·       What is an ethnic minority? Or, for that matter, a Latino and should they all be given equal time?

·       Who is going to determine the curriculum and the pedagogy?


My own opinion is that Mexican American Studies deals with identity, skill development and critical thinking.  Its development has to have internal checks and benchmarks in order for it not to become one more senior problems class.  Our community deserves more. Up until now education has been exclusively the study of white America; it must be expanded to reflect the nation’s diversity but at the same time attack the dropout problem.


The truth be told, few educators know much about Mexican Americans and they only think that they know about black Americans. We have the opportunity to educate the majority society, which will not easy. It is also educators who control our universities, and it is the universities who have contributed to this ignorance and kept us in this state.


Is a Victory Really a Victory? We are supposed to have diversity in academe; however, we are more segregated than the community at large. Only 3-5 percent of the faculties are of Mexican origin. 


The cheerleaders say that Obama’s Immigration Order shows he is pro-immigrant, does it? If questions are not asked, we’d better get a supply of matches and light them – in case we are not able to stand the smell.


Executive Action on Immigration


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J.B. Tucker & Associates

News Release

P.O. Box 433 Torrance CA 90508-0433

Tel: 310.618.9596 Fax: 310.618.1950

Cell: 818.720.3719

Criminal Justice Columnist, Counter Punch Magazine

Commentator, Black Talk Radio

Public relations guru”Los Angeles Times 1996

Former 1st Vice President, LA Newspaper Guild

Member, CWA Local 39521, Pacific Media Workers Guild

For Immediate Release: November 20, 2014

For Information: Jan B. Tucker, CALLAC State Director (as above)

CALLAC Says Time For Executive Action on Immigration Action

Long Overdue

Reacting to the impending announcement that President Obama would issue an executive order to address congressional inaction on immigration legislation, the California League of Latin American Citizens (CALLAC) gave an initial single word summary of its viewpoint: “ORALE!”

Jan Tucker, State Director of CALLAC, described the elements of the impending executive order as gleaned from news reports as “positive to the extent that law abiding working families are protected and that the family reunification principles of the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1976 (INA)—signed into law by Republican President Gerald R. Ford—are followed. We have long said that immigration action must provide a pathway to citizenship and which takes into consideration families, whether the families are here or not. This action would not even have been made if not for the Latino and especially the growing Chicano vote and our decades of grassroots action demanding change—actions which must continue with increased vigor.”

In President Ford’s October 21, 1976 signing statement of the INA he told the world that:

This legislation will also facilitate the reunification of Mexican-American families by giving preference to Mexican nationals who are close relatives of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents, or who have needed job skills. I am concerned, however, about one aspect of the legislation which has the effect of reducing the legal immigration into this country from Mexico. Currently about 40,000 natives of Mexico legally immigrate to the United States each year. This legislation would cut that number in half.

The United States has a very special and historic relationship with our neighbor to the south. In view of this special status we have with the Mexican Government and the Mexican people, I will submit legislation to the Congress in January to increase the immigration quotas for Mexicans desiring to come to the United States.

Shortly after its formation, CALLAC adopted national goals proposed in a leaflet which the group charged have yet to be addressed either by the bipartisan legislation that passed the United States Senate and stalled in the House or by the President’s imminent executive order:

Recognition of the need to redress grievances of the special status of Mexicans and people of Mexican origin in the context of the conquest of Mexican territory in an unjust war, the unlawful ethnic cleansing of 2 million people including 1.2 million United States citizens in the 1930s, and continual US interference in the internal affairs of Mexico

Recognition and respect for the rights of indigenous Native Americans in the context of their conquest, de facto attempted genocide and negotiated peace treaties.

Far reaching proposals for immigration action have been put forth by CALLAC and its sister organization PALLAC which they contend address the underlying systemic economic, cultural, and international legal issues which “an American unilateralist approach to immigration” continues to ignore.

Pennsylvania League of Latin American Citizens (PALLAC) State Director Ruben Botello, has long proposed an “American Union” which would emulate the European Union (EU). In a 2011 article on the subject, Botello wrote that:

Instead of band-aid approaches to the immigration problems its sovereignties face, this region of the world needs an American Union (AU) similar to the European Union (EU) that helped end the serious conflicts and hostilities between the EU’s member nations that led to World War II.

CALLAC State Director Jan B. Tucker has pushed for invocation of Article XXI of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo as a means to legitimize the process of migration action and to place it within the multilateral context of the legal relationship between the United States of America, the United States of Mexico, and of the treaty rights of Native American tribes, many of whom assert the sovereign authority to make their own immigration rules for Mexican and other immigrants. According to Tucker, Article XXI provides for a bilateral commission or third-nation neutral arbitration for issues between the United States and Mexico.

“It is a truth of history that the border crossed the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere—not the other way around—and unilateral efforts to block centuries old patterns of migration are doomed to fail in the short and the long run,” said Tucker, who holds a double major B.A. cum laude in Political Science & Chicano Studies. “Consistent with the model proposed by my friend and colleague Ruben Botello, however this process moves forward, it should also formalize U.S. [EEUU] recognition of dual citizenship as a step towards Western Hemispheric integration.”

In a related move, the Office of the Minister of Information of the National Brown Berets de Aztlan (NBBDA), applauded the statements of CALLAC calling for the invocation of “Guadalupe Hidalgo Article XXI remedies.”