A ‘fantastical’ Chicano speaker

I was lucky enough to catch Chicano activist and Cal State Northridge professor Rudy Acuna at the International Book Fair on Saturday, Oct. 6.  I’ve been to many lectures and readings in the past like this, but because Acuna is such a magnificent speaker and because of the timeliness of his speech about banned books, I thought it appropriate to address some things he spoke about in this column.

I was able to personally identify with a lot of what Acuna said, mostly concerning the Anglo-controlled democratic society that we still live in today.  Acuna’s claims are that Chicano Studies programs at universities and public schools are curing illiteracy and creating an educated Hispanic public, and that white politicians and White-owned business interests fear this, is something everyone who is even slightly left of the mainstream establishment should identify with.  It is not a new thing in the United States for politicians and business-people to view demographics of the American public as future prison inmates, rather than future scholars.

Even someone like me, who is mostly of White, European descent, has been treated with that same indignity by local politicians.  When I spoke in front of City Council a few years ago, I was told to shut up by a council member simply because I looked poor.

The kind of class struggle that is going on now in Tucson, AZ., between their state legislator and the Chicano studies program from the Tucson public school district, is something people in Southern California should fear as happening in our city’s schools and local colleges.

San Diego is owned and controlled by just a few wealthy interests and families.  Most other people we could call powerful in this city are only powerful through appointed or elected office, not because they actually hold the purse strings.  Here, like in Tucson and many other cities in the country, if true wealth decides to start throwing money at a political issue, there could be nothing that anyone who disagrees with them can do about it.

San Diego locals, many of them by no coincidence of Mexican descent, all know that it was not that long ago that San Diego had people running for local office who were from the Neo-Nazi and KKK parties. No, not the 1880s, for those of you too young to remember; the 1980s.

Acuna used a striking adjective to describe what oppression can do to people.  He said the wounds of the oppressed are like, “fantastical scars.”  The impression I got of his use of the word “fantastical” was to describe something horrific and disturbing, meaning the physical reality of oppression is so horrible it is almost unreal.

We should all remember, especially in an election year and as citizens of a Democratic society, that many immigrants who attempt to cross our southern border are doing so to escape fantastically horrific realities in their societies, and not out of disregard for our laws, ill-will, or disrespect.

And, many times, it is for these same reasons that many of our ancestors came to this country, even if they arrived on the Mayflower, or crossed at Ellis Island.


Benny A. McFadden is a staff writer at the City Times 

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A ‘fantastical’ Chicano speaker