Walkouts, Lies & Videotape

Remembering my days at Lincoln

By Gil Contreras
Published on LatinoLA: March 31, 2006

Walkouts, Lies & Videotape

I remember it as though it were yesterday, I?m a 7th grade student at Lincoln High School, in the Lincoln Heights section of Los Angeles, standing at the window of my classroom watching all the older kids at my school ?walking out!? Now, I don?t remember if this was the first ?walkout? at Lincoln High, or one of many during that time period, or the one portrayed in the recent HBO film produced by Moctesuma Esparza, and directed by Eddie Olmos, called ?Walkout!? The thing I do remember is what it was all about.

I remember during that time at Lincoln High, the Vietnam War was in full swing, as was the ?Chicano Movement.? My dad, a former 82nd Airborne Ranger, dismissed the ?Movement? as no more than a push for communism in America (which he never believed would come to pass), by ?Mexicans? (his way of classifying Mexican-Americans in the days prior to political correctness) who should have been asking, ?What they could do for their country, rather than what their country could do for them.?

I remember the Brown Berets, the eastside?s answer to the Black Panther Party, which never took hold with many in the ?Latino community,? as the Panthers had in the ?black community.? I remember wanting to go to a concert at Lincoln High, the ticket was 50 cents. When my father found out the name of the group I wanted to pay to hear was called El Chicano, I was told ?no.? Just the term (even back then) had negative connotations to it for those who didn?t subscribe to socialist leanings.

As I was watched kids at several Los Angeles Unified School District campuses ?walking out? this week, it took me back to that day at Lincoln High, looking out the window. The ?walkout? I watched wasn?t an anti-war protest, it wasn?t to protest 500 years of oppression at the hands of the blue eyed white devils from Spain who enslaved ?our people,? it was over a ?smoking area.? The senior high students who walked out the day I stood at the window, were pushing for a smoking area for students on campus (hey, it was their RIGHT to smoke?this wasn?t Russia!), and fighting the fact that they couldn?t leave the campus at lunch time. Cigaros?Viva! Freedom of movement at lunch time?Si Se Puede!!

Apparently, many of those walking out this week have viewed the HBO film ?Walkout,? and found it inspiring and followed its lead. A ?walkout? in protest of U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia is much sexier than a walkout protesting a high school administration that will not permit its students to smoke cigarettes on campus or to leave campus for lunch, I suppose, and, I guess that would have been a really boring movie. But, since none of those responsible for the film have vocalized any opposition to today?s students walking out of class and breaking the law, I suppose they feel they?ve educated our youth and are happy to see young 8th and 9th graders clashing with the Sheriff?s Department. Long live the Movimiento!

Many of the kids walking on the 405 Freeway, and the streets of San Pedro, Van Nuys, and at my daughter?s middle school, were there, and continue to be, to enjoy defying authority with no consequences. Most of those walking out of class this week do not have even the most basic information about HR 4437;

By a 239-182 vote the House of Representatives approved the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, H.R. 4437, on December 16, 2005. The legislation, authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), would make improvements in this nation?s ability to control rampant illegal immigration.

H.R. 4437 calls for a variety of steps to rein-in mass illegal immigration. At the southern border, the legislation authorizes construction of an additional 700 miles of security fencing, similar to the highly effective barrier already in place in the San Diego area. The bill would also require implementation of an electronic verification system to be used by all employers to ensure that the workers they hire are legal residents. Failure to comply with the verification procedure could result in fines of up to $7,000 per violation for a first offense and as high as $40,000 the third time an employer gets caught hiring illegal aliens.

Illegal aliens themselves would also face stiffer penalties for violating U.S. immigration laws under H.R. 4437. Illegal entry, now considered a misdemeanor offense, would become a felony and illegal aliens could receive jail time for immigration violations.
My daughter came home from school Tuesday with tales of students climbing over fences and running out of the school to ?protest immigration.? I asked her if she knew what that meant, and she said no, and neither did her friends. She said most just wanted to get out of going to class. Of course, most of those who cut-class were Hispanic.

After she and I talked that evening, I had to smile to myself, as I recalled the words of my mother when I told her everybody was going to walkout of Lincoln High the next day at school. She said, ?I don?t care if you?re the last goddamn student at that school, you?d better not walkout.? And, I didn?t. My parents knew there were things I didn?t know and didn?t understand because of my age, level of sophistication, and the fact that I was only a 7th grader.

Since no Latino ?leader? will come out and denounce the silliness of Hispanic kids with the worst drop-out rates in the state, and one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, I am hoping that parents somewhere will take charge of their kids. As adults, we?re supposed to know better, teach, guide, and encourage. However, encourage not to break the law. You don?t protest the profiling of non-criminals as criminals, by becoming one. It pains me to see young Latinos running in the streets clashing with cops, stopping traffic, and making silly comments to journalists, when they should be in the classroom learning.

Can I get a Si Se Puede for that?

About Gil Contreras:
Gil Contreras is an award winning journalist, former police officer, and writer living in Los Angeles.

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