A Decade Later

Underlying L.A...still? Still!

By Cheryl Quintana Leader
Published on LatinoLA: April 30, 2002

A Decade Later

From the tenth floor of the Fox Plaza Building, there I was trapped. Only, unlike Bonnie Bedelia?s character Holly Gennero McClane from ?Die Hard? who had been held hostage within the mythical ?Nakatomi? Tower by foreign political terrorists, I was being held captive by domestic civil unrest which we were informed was ?heading our way.? Luckily, (for whom I still do not know) a decision from ?the higher ranking top echelons ? or as are commonly referred to in the biz as ?the suits,? was made to unleash the ?Lighter Shades of Brown? and/or those who had been fortunate enough to make it out of what they felt were ?unsavory? zip codes and lifestyles, down below. The people had immediately streamed out from their air-conditioned offices and cubicles into the manic of the street jungle. Now, they were all left vulnerable ? fearfully in gridlocked jams ? to be living targets in a virtual car conga line on Avenue of the Stars.

Looking atop from my observation perch, I thought ?Who?s brilliant idea was this?? If employee protection was the main goal, I failed to see how placing everyone in the middle of the street in dead stop traffic was truly helping anything. So, painfully, I watched these struggling cars, each with only one person at the wheel much like Disney?s Autopia ride ? but unlike Walt?s imaginary world, they were suffering perhaps from the potential fearful thoughts of becoming ?victims? of some undisclosed heinous future. For me, this was yet another (mis)informative decisions made by those whose consciousness?(and I use the term loosely) were highly charged and panicked about their own personal safety and protection of their materialistic possessions, yet who had escaped hours earlier via plane or conveniently were never in town at all.

An adage appropriately convenient here would have been ?Hindsight is 20/20.? If our societal ?in charge? ?green-lighters? had attached meaningful and purposeful thought into the potential future of their actions, in a quest for ?Justice for All,? then it?s a better than good chance that events such as ?civil unrest? could potentially be avoided or eliminated altogether. But, let us not ask ourselves to ensure that our leaders take responsibility of that which we personally choose not to take responsibility for, either.

From my glass-encased vantage point, I could see all the ?headless chickens? and trailing ?ant? population movement racing to avoid ?the big bad something.? None stopping to get a hold of themselves and determine the true depth of the situation.

If numbers meant something (by population), and a powerful statement was to be imparted, then wouldn?t a society hope that an educated leader could lead others to a resistance of civilized proportions? However, if others are treated with less respect and less opportunity in education, then the natural tendency is for the less-educated to react as they are treated?with indignity, with malice, with a beaten, burdened, abused and unempowered deference. A comedian at the time had shared that here was a situation where ?the ?whites? had gotten the ?blacks? so angry that they decided to burn down their own neighborhoods, and it made the ?Mexicans? mad enough to loot from the ?Koreans.?? What was to be expected? If we as a city, as a society are dense enough to not empower and educate all of our own, then the results eventually will remind us very clearly of our inability to have been inclusive and to have made concerted efforts to fortify our greatest resources ? our people (all of our people) with the best educational and employment opportunities. As the riots proved ? our past un-investment in our people ? was clearly indicated at that time and will only require, like a volcano, more time to rebuild and re-explode. Our investment is a definite result of the outcome. It?s up to us to decide how we choose to treat one another and what we see as the best results for all concerned.


It behooves us all to truly want to understand that our actions and/or inactions as constituents to issues which affect us all within our cities is always privy to some positive and/or negative reaction down the road. I believe those that enact certain policies, laws, and/or fight to exclude some Americans and potential Americans from true self-empowerment, opportunity, education, and maintain inclusivity into everything that is the ?American Way,? or in our case, the ?California Way,? is not understanding clearly the ramifications this will have ?around the corner? in our futures. Although, perhaps we may realize the potential negative outcome, it seems however, we hope its results will never have to affect any of us personally in our lifetime. Since California has the most people of any state in America, we stand as a barometer ? a subset of a superset ? which can be an indicator of ?things to come.?

If we truly believe in our country and what it stands for, then it is up to us to reinforce and properly educate our own people to become the best resources for our future in this country. Yet, if we are still battling a war of some 226 years ago, where despite other Americans beliefs ? whereby some should prosper and others should not ? been we have certainly defeated the purpose of accomplishing ?Justice for All.? Why is it necessary for a tragedy, a war, and people losing their lives to occur, in order for us to truly see this basic fact? Why is it so easy to forget? Why is it so hard to remember?

Look all around us, it?s everywhere we look in small increments. Some ?look the other way,? others ?sweep it under the rug? and many choose to believe that ?if it doesn?t affect me, it shouldn?t much matter.? These attitudes that have been in the key foundations of every disaster ever experienced by humanity are heavily based on those who either made decisions not to ?take care of business? or chose to fight democratically for what they believed in, giving their lives regardless if the outcome of a victory would profit them personally.

Ten years ? a decade being a drop in the bucket of time ? hasn?t seemed to change a lot. REBUILD L.A. came and went like a small band-aid on the moist skin of a gapping open wound. There to help out temporarily, as a goodwill gesture, but never there to lend permanent assistance from the accumulation of over 200 years of perpetual damage.

California, much like a neighborhood house owner that knows it will not be in their neighborhood for very long, is faced with a decision to put in the proper plumbing to avoid a pending disaster. The neighbor ? instead of opting for the reliable ?tried & true? and somewhat more costly solution to assure and guarantee the plumbing?s proper operational existence ? chooses to go with the cheapest and most unreliable materials (?just to get by?), since they believe that it will not be their problem once they decide to move or eventually die. Meanwhile, long after they are gone, the sump water leaks into the groundwater and the now-second generation of old neighbors and their kid?s kids, as well of course, some new neighbors, are subject to the poisons and disease of a careless, un-visionistic, un-integrity based person who makes decisions un-connected to other people and human beings in general.

And, what?s even worse and/or karmic, and is often the fare for the basis of great film, television or novel scenarios (which then garner hefty prices for ?real life? tragedies, is that the neighbor who decides not to properly pipe their plumbing, their son marries the girl next door, and both he and his wife do well for themselves and move to enjoy an ocean view. They have two kids and those kids are cared for by the in-laws in the?old neighborhood.? The kids drink the water and later are diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Thus, the original neighbor, who chose not to invest in the proper equipment to prevent a future problem because they weren?t concerned with a potential ?global? problem ? and in the end, have subjected their very own grandchildren to be affected. And, because it was an incurable illness, insurance could only cover a part of the medical cost, and the rest must be recouped by the assistance of the state. So, we as a people are now paying for a single-person?s decision not to do the ?best/right? thing in the first place.


When it comes to insight, people have grown deaf to the phrase ?His story repeats itself.? We decide, as a primarily patriarchal-ruled country, state, city, to choose to make decisions whose outcomes will, and more often than naught, do cost more on the ?other side? ? by virtue of its negative ?outcome.? We, as a people, suffer the loss of lives, property, livelihoods, well-being, prosperity, etc. It is up to all of us to take individual responsibility for the decisions being made every day, and for those making them.

If we still want to be divided by the ?haves? and ?have-nots,? then we will continue to get the lesson that this is not and has never been the path to true ?justice for all.? I do not believe that we as a nation have ever experienced true ?justice for all.? So, how can we claim to be the best role model for other countries, when we have yet to enjoy its ultimate value and protection? Its diversity. Its unity. It?s security FOR ALL.

We all continue to bleed if our own family goes hungry, goes homeless, gets treated like ?savages? to be caged, maligned by badged authority, discouraged and despised by teachers, counselors, college and university admissions office personnel, small loan business officers, political parties and the bastions of our Capital power.

Can minds be un-?brainwashed?? Can our spirits be cleansed of religious politics and centuries upon centuries of patriarchal dominance ? that is clearly not working, that continues to exclude, that continues to feed the greed and fear of those previously oppressed, of those people beaten down and made to feel ?less than??

A prime example is witnessed in our countries of origin (from men who dictated that they be the only religious story tellers). Countries and people, who now in the 21st Century, are still reminders of our own pasts, of how that has not worked, nor will ever work in preserving and ?optimally? propagating our species to its fullest positive potential.

The world is full of bottom lines and majority rules. However, if the large magnifying glass is placed over the globe of our origin, everyone, if they choose, would clearly see and know the real truth that the MAJORITY and the BOTTOM LINE is that people of ?Darker Shades of Brown and Darker Shades of Lighter Shades of Brown? with ?Brown Eyes?, and of FEMALE gender (all dominant gene pools) make up well over the vast MAJORITY of our world?s population.

That, in fact, it is the MINORITY of the ?Lighter Shade of Browns,? of those that have recessive eye coloring and that are of the male minority, who continue to try to POWER other human beings to what they have chosen to define them to be, what they have forced them to believe, and what film/television stories they want them to see. Today we are privy to Gladiators of ancient times where men are to be part of warrior fields of sports, as captured entities on a frenzied treadmill to money power, which in most cases, transcends to actions of ?powerlessness? onto their wives. To conquer the ?weak? in stature ? as a means of proving and perpetuating ?the fa?ade.? Prime Example: Simp?s Son and a Woman a ?Lighter Shade of Brown? ? ironically named ?BROWN.?


To keep unqualified people out? It is my opinion that the outcome of that horrific Tuesday vote was a matter of Californians choosing to be defiant (perhaps in direct retaliation to the riots) as to have purposely set in motion once more of not allowing those who had not been allowed to receive equal educational opportunities (and I?m speaking of the kind with qualified and highly ranked educators, safe and highly adequate institutions of learning (for all ages) and accelerated immersion transfers so that ?THERE CAN BE AN EQUAL PLAYING FIELD.?

Having to witness those who were determined to eliminate the ideal of Affirmative Action knowing full well that if America had kept women and men of ?Darker Shades of Brown? his storically for up to eight decades off the ?Playing Field,? women and men of ?Darker Shades of Brown? from ever attending our educational institutions, from ever working in the higher echelons of our corporate institutions (regardless of their equal qualifications), and equally worthy of higher political offices, and as visible images portraying American characters with as much frequency as other Americans within our film/tv storytelling programs ? then how efficiently could we create an ?Equal Playing Field.? Equal? From the very beginning of America, nothing has ever been equal among people and people who have been there to build the ?Playing Field? from scratch, those same people who were told that they could not play on the ?Playing Field,? and now are being determined by others of ?How Many Will Get to Play on the Field.? How very un-evolutionary of us.

The mere fact that we as Americans have to maintain laws that prevent other Americans from excluding people of their same national origin, their gender, etc. al ? and/or who will be future Americans, is self-explanatory. Just remember that our constitution was fought for and claimed as a working blueprint despite the ongoing efforts of other Americans who worked within our own government to dismantle or fight against the very things that some of us are privileged and/or entitled to enjoy today ? such as freedom ? the freedom to vote, the freedom of speech, the freedom to be educated, and to work in any job.

Ironically, over 226 years later, we are still trying to fight for those same issues to be held by those who originally had the vision and who won against those who had differing and un-inclusionary beliefs or notions.


Brilliant minds in the ?hierarchy? of the ?Status Quo?/?I?m More Entitled Than You? Club had surmised that in order to protect its employees and allow them to get home to their families as soon as possible once the verdict was read, instead created further ?pandemonium? by instructing its over 300 employees ?out early? to pour out into the streets in a scurried frenzy ?running and hiding ? ?racing? home to one?s cocoon to seek safety from what?

Perhaps, from themselves ? in the end. As an acquaintance of mine shared with me that day, that his greatest fear was that he needed gas in his BMW and he was afraid to stop at a gas station for fear of being assaulted or worse yet to have his car stolen. Getting gas was not worth the risk. Ironic, considering the climate of today?s current issues. Quite naturally, some two years later, he was also part of the larger voting populace in California who was in favor of Props 187 and 209. Not stopping to research their actions, not stopping to ask questions, not stopping to reflect upon our his story. Yet again, setting into motion an action which will have negative reverberations and create and secure the potential of future civil unrests to come.

Civil unrest wasn?t just outside my world, but within it as well. I was able to observe in my own life experience the fear of others and the negative actions they pursue to obtain personal gain. All apparently mimicking the behavior of those who live in fear and have set prior examples for the rest of us to follow if we so choose. Ironically, I was completing my post production on a short film, ?Tanto Tiempo,? which I wrote, directed and produced on behalf of winning Universal?s ?The Hispanic Film Project? competition. And, even here in an opportunity to ?open doors? for Americans with Hispanic Heritage, I was witness to the politics of a studio who was ?in bed? with an Hispanic non-profit (NHMC/Alex Nogales) who both were involved in taking monies from its own program which was to enhance and support the future of Hispanic talent in the entertainment industry. I believe the saying goes ?with friends (or supporters) like these, who needs enemies??

When confronted with the situation, the NHMC Rep stated after explaining that he had to ascertain monies for the next five to seven years of the program, in the hopes that I wouldn?t say or do anything that would ?rock the boat? of the competition ? asked, ?You do believe in the future of the program, don?t you?? To which I replied, after a long pause, ?I am the future of the program.? If we don?t get the funds which we were originally awarded to complete our projects than how can we expect to adequately create what we?re capable of producing? Wasn?t that the point of the program existing in the first place? To support and cull our own?

Sadly, other past participating directors (all male) had indicated that they too had had their winning monies misappropriated (a word used by the studio executive in charge), but reacted instead by saying, ?We should be grateful for the opportunity? and were willing to settle for what apparently every one knew henceforth but would choose to remain silent for the mere chance of being labeled a ?troublemaker? or even worse, ?ungrateful? for saying anything that might ruffle the feathers of those perpetrating the ungainful crimes. It was during the aftermath of the riots that I saw more and more people in the community be ?bought and sold? into complacency, into the enemy camps (those that perpetrated behavior or actions which limited growth and adequate progress of others), and worst yet, as spokespeople on behalf of the ?cause.? It was then that I also learned the meaning of ?greasing the palm.? Will we continue to let the ?political? be a reason for acting badly on behalf of the majority of all people, will we allow ?cultural? to be the reason for bad behavior and negative choices, or continue to elevate and promote others for their personal failings (the notion of failing upwards)?


While the vast majority of rulers, religious, political, educators and bastions of hierarchy are men, I have also witnessed this same greed, fear and absolute exclusion ?rubbing off? on some women I?ve encountered ? who appear not to be immune from the ?Invasion of the Body Snatchers? syndrome. For me, these women are not truly personally empowered, yet sit among Commission, Boards, and Pacs that I?ve been recruited and invited to sit on. Sadly, I?ve borne witness to the collectives of greed, and the fear it inevitably generates in people who attempt to tear others down in order to elevate on behalf of their own personal agendas which are not inclusive of the whole, nor those that do not truly encompass the notion of their missions and/or goals in ?the big picture.? I?ve encountered Presidents of exclusively women?s organization who have chosen to protect a male politician?s lies and actions for many years (which were clearly revealed in a nationally published article) to have been against the positive treatment of his own family, women in his working environment, and in question of the trust of his office, only to have California?s people pay for his own bad personal choices. As well, I?ve also experienced Executive Directors of non-profits who ensure their dominance over their Board of Directors (which is designed to be a Governing Board overseeing her staff position) by maintaining who sits on the Board and whom can be successfully manipulated by her. And, whilst this organization has over 70% of its clientele generated to be of Latina origin, they do not have any Latinas on what used to be a 30-year-old feminist entity serving on its Board, nor have made public their efforts to enhance and greatly support their Latina Services Program a priority.

?Qu? lastima!

Did the L.A. Riots change anything? Certainly, it appears that in response to the physical sense of things, people have responded by closing up tighter, of resisting the necessary change, of manifesting their fears into a ?false? sense of power by repeating the dominant/negative stance others chose to impale upon others in a previous lifetime as now their own way of ?being.? Much to their dismay, however, change is inevitable and one can make it as pleasant and as comfortable as one chooses, or one can choose to go kicking and screaming and not valuing the lessons of those lives truly sacrificed before us.

About Cheryl Quintana Leader:
Cheryl Quintana Leader is founder/president of INDIVISION Productions,
actively producing educational videos in English/Spanish for the Latino community.

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