Is your community becoming a Third World City? That's what Save Our State (SOS), an organization closely linked to the so-called Minutemen, wants to know. According to the organization's website, their "members are committed to educating California's citizens about the disastrous effects of illegal immigration and creating positive change through aggressive activism and advocacy."
Aggressive activism? Ah, yes... they must be referring to the type of aggression that Hal Netkin subscribes to. Less than two months ago, Netkin attended a speaking engagement for Minutemen Project founder Jim Gilchrist, in Garden Grove. Although Garden Grove is in Orange County and television programs like the OC would have some believe that the city is lily white, there is are a significant amount of activists organizing in the city. As demonstrators held signs and denounced the Garden Grove Women's Civic Club that hosted the engagement, Netkin ran over four protestors, sending two of them to the hospital. Not surprisingly, Garden Grove police hesitated in arresting Netkin, ignoring the victim's and witness' pleas for over half-an-hour before arresting him. After spending just a few hours in jail, Netkin was released. Garden Grove police says Netkin feared for his life and had no choice but to defend it by ramming it into the demonstrator's bodies. The District Attorney agr! eed. Meanwhile, Teresa Dang, who was one of the demonstrators that Netkin ran over, has seen her home ransacked by Garden Grove Police, who claim she robbed them of a flashlight. Dang's arraignment has been continued until later this month. Despite organized activism, Garden Grove continues to be a place where a white xenophobe like Netkin can run over demonstrators, yet it's the injured demonstrator that faces prosecution. Regardless, the issue of immigrant rights has galvanized many activists in the community, particularly since the physical attacks in Garden Grove.
Not satisfied with their latest Klan-like adventures, which include protesting and intimidating migrant day-laborers who seek work near a local Home Depot, Save Our State has now turned its sights to co-opting two Los Angeles area African American activists: Najee Ali and Earl Ofari Hutchinson. According to SOS founder Joe Turner, Ali expressed interest in working with the group, and put Turner in touch with Hutchinson, who subsequently invited SOS to a monthly Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable in Leimert Park, which Hutchinson hosts. According to the SOS website, Hutchinson not only invited Turner to speak at the Roundtable, but he also explained that "he has received tremendous feedback from residents who are angry with illegal immigration and suggested that [Save Our State] will be warmly received by many in the community and at the roundtable." The Roundtable is set for August 20, in the middle of an LA summer, when racial tensions – real or perceived, are typically at! their hottest.
While Hutchinson admits the invitation, he said that people have been misled by Turner's claims. Hutchinson explained that he is now considering "dis-inviting" the organization. When questioned about Turner's direct statement about community support, Hutchinson responded that he said, instead, that "there are some in our community that have reservations and question about illegal immigration."
Hutchinson came correct in a recent LA Daily News article pointing out the rampant racism that exists in Mexico, and how a just-issued Mexican stamp featuring a racist, monkey-like Black cartoon character named Pinguin illustrated the degree to which racism is ignored by our neighbors to the South. He called on the Mexican government to drop the stamp, which they, in fact, did do. Just as importantly, Hutchinson has written in the past about the way that "Blacks have little understanding of the political repression and economic destitution that drove many Mexican immigrants to seek refuge in the United States." Unfortunately, Hutchinson may not yet realize that inviting a deeply xenophobic group like SOS will not bridge that understanding, and will instead, stoke the summer flame of racial antagonisms in South LA.
I trust that Hutchinson, and Ali along with him, will realize the way the in which anti-immigrant organizations like Save Our State seek to co-opt people of color as a way to divide the solidarity and shared experiences that often cause our communities to work together. While it's true that there are deep tensions between LA's Black and Latino communities, we cannot leave it up to supremacists and xenophobes to control and stifle the dialogue we can and should be engaged in.