Manuel Pastor: The Ongoing Struggle Against Racism | KCET
Manuel Pastor: The Ongoing Struggle Against Racism
Manuel Pastor: Manuel Pastor, I'm professor of sociology at the University of Southern California, where I also direct the center for the study of immigrant integration. I do a lot of research with and for community-based organizations around issues of community empowerment and social justice and have long been involved with the social movement organizations that sprung up as a result of the struggle against Proposition 187 but of the broader set of racial propositions and racial attacks that were characteristic of the 1990s in California.
I think it's important to see Proposition 187 not just on its own, but as part of a sort of broader wave of racial anxiety that gripped California in the 1990s. After all, after Prop 187 passed, we wound up seeing propositions passed that eliminated affirmative action, eliminated bilingual education, three-strikes laws, criminalizing black and brown youth. It was really part of a broader set of what political scientist, Daniel Hosang calls the racial propositions of the 1990s.
Now that sense of demographic anxiety came in part because of the huge immigrant inflow into California. In the 1970s and the 1980s, half of all immigrants coming into the United States came in through California. In fact, one-quarter of all of the country's immigrants in those two decades came in through Los Angeles County. There was a tremendous shift in the demographics and it created a lot of white anxiety. This racial anxiety played out against a background of economic uncertainty as well.
People forget that in the early 1990s half of all of the jobs lost in the country during that recession of the early 1990s were lost in California because that recession was driven by a cutback in defense spending and it had big ripple effects on our aerospace industry and chip manufacturing in Northern California. We had this perfect stew of anxiety about demographic change, a nervousness about economic uncertainty and job loss, and wanting to blame someone for that rather than to look for structural solutions. California was also the place that in the late 1980s, Rush Limbaugh began his talk radio career bashing on immigrants, celebrating small government, et cetera.
This stew of racial anxiety, economic uncertainty, and profiteering from political polarization, that was the context for Prop 187. That's why it's important to see the struggle that emerged about Proposition 187, and then the broader set of social movement organizations that emerged afterwards has not been just the Latino thing. Certainly, the passage of Prop 187 induced a lot of, particularly, Latino immigrants to naturalize, and then become quite active in voting in the late 1990s. That had a big impact on California and its politics.
It's also because it was part of this broader context of attacks on people of color, of looking to displace the blame for economic de-industrialization and job loss, displaced that blame onto immigrants onto scapegoating. It's the reason why you saw immigrants start to align with labor to try to raise wages and secure community benefits agreements. It's why you saw a flowering of black and brown organizing, African-Americans and Latinos coming together to resist the racism that was driving public policy against both groups. It's the reason why we began to see the building of much broader movements for social justice.
Yes, the Latino political mobilization was a key part of the story but it's in the context of a broader set of social movement recognitions. That the attack that was symbolized by Prop 187, it may have been a direct attack on immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, but it was clearly an attack on people of color more generally, clearly an attempt to not deal with the economic problems, but to scapegoat and it needed a much broader set of struggles to really transform California politics.
It's often hard to realize in the context of the current day, in which labor and immigrants seem pretty well aligned to realize that in the late 1980s, a lot of folks in the labor movement were concerned about immigrants as competitors in terms of jobs, particularly in construction, and also, thought that immigrants were not able to be organized successfully, particularly undocumented immigrants who had very vulnerable status and therefore might not be amenable to union organizing. What Los Angeles in the late 1980s and early 1990s showed was that undocumented immigrants were indeed organizable, and even more than that, could actually spearhead a movement to try to take some of the new jobs emerging in the service industry and transform them into unionized jobs.
You saw the organizing of janitors and the successful janitor strike of 1990. You saw the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union really tackle the hospitality industry. You saw immigrants really revitalized the labor movement in Los Angeles, both in terms of actual membership, but also in terms of politics. What people began to realize, particularly in the labor movement, was that while undocumented immigrants might not be able to vote, they often brought with them from their home countries, Mexico, Central America, a repertoire of political practices around community organizing and mass mobilization that could help move people to the ballot box who were able to vote.
There was a flowering on recognition on the part of, particularly Los Angeles labor that immigrants could drive a revitalized labor movement. That's really the birth of these kinds of labor immigrant alliances that became quite a persistent feature of the law Angeles political renaissance and remain with us as a vibrant part of the political landscape of Los Angeles today.
Prior to the early 1990s, when you thought about Latino politics in Los Angeles, you thought really about Chicano politics, Mexican American politics forged on the Eastside. The 1992 civil unrest was pretty, important in terms of transforming that because the unrest occurred all over the city and county really of Los Angeles. It occurred in South LA, but it became clear that South LA had changed dramatically. It would become 45% Latino because of Central Americans moving in and Mexicans moving in as well. There was also this huge pocket of Latinos that was in Pico-Union, Westlake area.
In the days of the civil unrest, there was a very famous press conference that was done at the Hollenbeck police station. That was celebrating the fact that there hadn't been unrest in Latino neighborhoods, basically, because there hadn't been much unrest in Eastside, neither in Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, or at Highland Park. What people pointed out there wasn't much unrest on the greater Eastside, but there was tremendous unrest and rioting and looting in South LA, which was 45% Latino in Mid-City, which was called Koreatown, but with 70% to 80% Latino, and that there were Latinos all over the city that were not actually fully incorporated into Eastside political machine.
What you begin to see is a realization on the part of a lot Latino political leaders that they needed to reach out in a way that would incorporate these new populations. You see the emergence of people who wants to call themselves Chicano, Mexicano, Mexican-American talking about themselves as Latino, talking about a broader political conception and identity that would bring in these other populations as well.
The Los Angeles civil unrest was significant for the organizing that emerged in the 1990s in a couple of different ways. First, while the Los Angeles civil unrest was at least initially triggered by a reaction to the verdict in Simi Valley, in which four police officers were acquitted for the beating of Rodney King, and so part of the initial wave of unrest was a political protest against police brutality and injustice. If you look at the pattern of unrest that emerged afterwards, after the first initial flashpoint, if you looked at the next couple of days, what really seemed to drive it was poverty.
If you looked at the areas in Los Angeles that were the most impacted by the LA civil unrest, these were places that had twice the poverty rate, twice the unemployment, half per capita income, half homeownership rates of other places in Los Angeles County that were not affected by the civil unrest. This was a pattern that was driven not just by a reaction to police brutality but to the desperate economic conditions that working Angelenos often faced.
The second big realization with the LA civil unrest was that about half of the people arrested during the days of the unrest were Latinos. While the image had been this was mostly a Black-white or perhaps Black-Korean affair, the fact that half the arrests were Latino was very significant. It turned out folks tried to explain that by saying that perhaps the police were more scared of African-Americans and more prone to arrest Latinos. They certainly were not.
There were a number of other kinds of explanations but the easiest was that the neighborhoods, particularly in South LA, had become 45% Latino by this time. The Pico-Union, Westlake had become overwhelmingly Central-American, and yet the Latino political establishment was mostly based in the Eastside, in Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, et cetera, and really hadn't done the organizing and outreach in either the Westlake area or in South Los Angeles. You had a very unorganized but angry about poverty Latino population. I think that what that did was wake people up to the fact that there were these huge disenfranchised Latino communities, not just in East Los Angeles but in Central Los Angeles, and South Los Angeles, as well as in the San Fernando Valley.
The LA civil unrest was significant in one other way. I think activists realized that if you have a population that is angry enough to burn its own city down, that's a reflection of its reaction to systematic inequality, police brutality, economic exclusion, but if they're angry enough to burn the city down and you have not been able to channel that into something more productive in terms of social change, there's not just something wrong with the system, there's something wrong with your own organizing.
It is really out of that recognition that we needed a new and different kind of organizing that you began to see immigrant rights groups focused not just on people crossing the border but on the lives of immigrants here, the Central American Refugee Center became renamed The Central American Resource Center, concerned, of course, with conditions in Central America, but also very much concerned with Central American families who are raising children and establishing their roots here in Los Angeles. You saw immigrants and labor come together. You saw people begin to realize that Black-Latino organizing would be very crucial to the future of Los Angeles. You began to see people think that we needed to pay attention to the economic distress, and out of that grew movements for the living wage, for community benefits agreements, et cetera.
I would say that the Los Angeles civil unrest was fundamental in the sense that it shocked Los Angeles into recognizing the pattern of inequality and economic desperation that existed, but it also shocked the Los Angeles progressive forces, the left, into thinking that we needed a new form of multi-racial organizing focused on lifting up people at the bottom of the income distribution that needed to connect people all over the city and county of Los Angeles to form broader coalitions for social justice. It's in that context of that initial realization that Proposition 187 is proposed and the organizing against it takes place.
The other thing about the Los Angeles civil unrest is it caused a shift in terms of people's time horizon around organizing. I still remember after the civil unrest, I was rushing from meeting to meeting, like so many others, thinking that if we went to one more meeting, we'd actually get something done. In the middle of one of those meetings, an activist leaned back and said, "You know what? There's an immediate need to think long-term."
Interestingly, what emerged from that was the idea that we needed to have long-term sustained campaigns around economic justice that could scale up from living wages, to community benefits agreements, to a minimum wage for the city, to a minimum wage for the state, long-term scalable strategies that would go from getting local police forces to not cooperate with immigration customs enforcement, to getting a DREAM Act for undocumented kids who grew up here at a state level, to securing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, to the new California Values Act that governs the relationships of local police and sheriff's departments, to immigration and customs enforcement, the idea of really thinking through a long-term strategy, a long-term march in terms of community mobilization, and organizing, and power-building to really shift the political dynamics of the state.
That played out very deeply in the context of the debates about how to resist Proposition 187. There was a big debate about the march that took place in October 1994 against Proposition 187 here in Los Angeles. Many who were thinking about defeating Prop 187 in the short run said that the kinds of arguments that we should be making against Prop 187 were arguments like, "If we pass Prop 187, undocumented kids won't be in school so they'll be roaming the streets and it'll be dangerous," or, "If we pass Proposition 187, undocumented immigrants won't get immunizations and they'll be a public health hazard," but that's painting undocumented immigrants as pests and dangerous instead of thinking about undocumented immigrants as assets, as individuals with full dignity and a right to participate civically in the state that they're living in.
On the other side, where people who said it's really important to organize undocumented immigrants themselves and so when that march took place in October, 1994, those immigrants, some of them, yes, marched with American flags, a lot of them marched with Mexican flags. Those people who thought that this would be damaging in terms of winning the Prop 187 battle were looking very askance at those who supported people marching with Mexican flags, but those who were thinking about the long-term march through institutions realized that it was important for immigrants to speak for themselves, for immigrants to hold whatever flag that they felt comfortable with, for immigrants to build their own political power, to more fundamentally, in the long-term, challenge the balance of power.
I think that in the long run, it turned out that the kind of mobilization that took place around that march actually changed immigrants' sense of their self, their desire to participate civically, and it is striking to me that Kevin de León, who eventually became president pro tem of the State Senate and passed the minimum wage legislation, passed the California Values Act that prohibits local law enforcement from actively cooperating with immigration and customs enforcement, that Kevin de León cut his teeth organizing against Proposition 187 and organizing that march here in Los Angeles. That was a view of how to march long-term through the institutions, how to mobilize immigrants to speak for themselves, how to fundamentally change the balance of power in the long run.
The day of the march against Proposition 187 in October of 1994 was a formative moment, not just for me but for my family. It's the first major demonstration that my wife and I took our children to. It's so great, and they remember that we were teaching them that this is what we do as a family, as a family we show up for other people's rights, we show up for people's dignity, we show up against injustice.
There was a lot of debate about that march and during that day about some folks who were carrying Mexican flags, others carrying US flags. We weren't carrying a Mexican flag. We're Cuban. We're not Mexican by origin or heritage, but we stood with other people carrying that flag. It wasn't our flag to carry but it was our march to be at and stand in solidarity.
Proposition 187 was a short-term ploy by Governor Pete Wilson to ensure his re-election. He was about 20 percentage points behind Kathleen Brown in his re-election campaign. He felt like if he latched on to Proposition 187 and demonized immigrants, that would guarantee his victory in his re-election, in the short run. It worked in terms of his re-election, but it wasn't good long-term policy. The idea of banning immigrants who are undocumented from education and from social services, even he knew that was not good long-term policy.
He got a short-term win out of it, that is he got reelected, but in the long-term that led to the decimation of the California Republican Party because it became so identified with an anti-immigrant xenophobic stance that it wound up alienating an emerging Latino electorate from even considering voting for Republican candidates who might've appealed to them on other sorts of issues with regard to, say, abortion or conservative family values, et cetera. The litmus test was if you supported Proposition 187 and adopted an anti-immigrant attitude, you are not going to be the candidate that we favor.
As a result currently the GOP, the California Republican Party, when you asked the question amongst voters, who do you identify with and register with? The biggest group, of course, is the Democratic party, the second is decline to state, and the third is the Republican party. Short-term ploy by Governor Pete Wilson, which led to the long-term decimation of the California Republican Party. Not a very good trade off, maybe for him, but not a very good trade off for the GOP in California.
There was a similar struggle going on amongst leftist forces, progressive forces, and the Latino community itself, whether or not to adopt a short-term strategy of trying to win against Prop 187 but creating an image of immigrants as pests that is campaigning against Prop 187 by saying, "Well, if you pass it, children won't be in schools. They'll be roaming the streets. It'll be dangerous," or, "If you pass Prop 187, immigrants won't get immunizations and there'll be widespread diseases in the community." That's not a campaign designed to create long-term dignity amongst Latinos. That's a campaign designed for potentially a short-term win and it didn't work.
In the long term, what did work was the fact that Latino immigrants and others began to recognize the racial nature of these attacks and began to realize that they were not surgical strikes against undocumented immigrants or nor were they a good faith effort to try to deal with the problems of immigration that the state of California might've been facing at that time. I always say my family's Cuban. My dad came to the United States in the 1930s. He did come, himself, as an undocumented immigrant. He was able to get citizenship during World War II when he joined the US Army.
My dad prior to Prop 187, always proudly called himself Cuban. He was very insistent on that national stance. After Prop 187, he called himself Latino because he realized that was not an attack on undocumented immigrants and it was not an attack just on Mexicans. It was an attack on all Latinos. I think that's a fundamental thing that happened. He saw Chicano politicians move to calling themselves Latino politicians.
He saw people begin to realize that this was a very broad attack and it was going to require a long-term strategy. Not a strategy about winning a particular election, but a strategy about mobilizing Latinos who are eligible to become citizens, making sure that once they became citizens that they voted, and also, importantly, that Latinos began to form long lasting alliances with labor and unions, with African-Americans with progressive voters to be able to push their issues because Latinos were never going to be able to get anywhere in the state just on Latino votes. We always needed to align with other folks and it's better to find that common ground, anyway.
If you look at the language of Proposition 187, it never specifically mentions Latinos. It mentions immigrants who are undocumented illegally in the country, but the same groups that were pushing Proposition 187 were groups that had long been taking anti-immigrant stances. If you looked at the language of talk radio, when it was pushing for 187, the image was of Latino immigrants. If you look at the campaign of Pete Wilson, who aimed to benefit from Proposition 187, the key image of a family running across the border from Mexico made it clear who was being considered to be an undocumented immigrant and someone to be concerned about.
I think one of the really interesting phenomena in California is that as Latino, political leaders got more influence in the state. There was a realization that Latino issues were California issues and California issues were Latino issues. Yes, Latinos are definitely concerned around immigration. Here, for example, in the County of Los Angeles, there's about 850,000 undocumented immigrants, aabout 70% of whom have actually been in the country for longer than a decade. Living with those 850,000 undocumented immigrants is about another 825,000 or so US-born family members who live with them and another 250,000 people who have a Green Card, lawful permanent residents who are family members living in the same household. That means that about 20% of Los Angeles County is affected by the issue of immigration and uncertain legal status.
Clearly, for Latinos and for others as well, immigration is a really central thing, but what are Latinos concerned about? Good wages at the jobs that they have and mobility that allows them to move up, decent education for their children, which means the necessary investments in public education, a healthy environment so that their children can thrive in places where they can breathe the air and be free of toxic wastes, and a set of broader justice standards so that youth don't get caught up in the incarceration system. When you think about that, those are California's issues. We need to generate an economy that delivers good jobs and mobility. We need to generate a society that doesn't over incarcerate its youth, but instead puts lots of money into education. We need to generate a set of environmental policies that address climate change and protect all of us.
Really interesting example, it is Latinos who have led dramatically in the state on cleaning up the environment. It's not an issue people tend to think of as a Latino issue, but if you do polling, and the Public Policy Institute of California has done this, and you ask people in California, "Do you think that climate change is a very serious issue that threatens the quality of life and the economy of California?" about 50% of white Californians say yes, about two-thirds of Latino Californians say, yes. Why? Because for them, the environment is not just polar bears, but it's asthma of their children who live near a refinery or it's toxic wastes that are typically embedded in their communities.
It is no surprise that Latino legislators, as soon as they began to achieve power in the assembly and in the state Senate began to push for environmental justice and a better environment. It is no surprise that it's Fabian Núñez, who was Arnold Schwarzenegger's ally on passing AB 32, the legislation that declared our first set of standards with regard to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. It's no surprise that it was Kevin de León who pushed SB 32, which reaffirmed and tighten those standards so we can make more progress addressing climate. California's issues are Latino issues. Latino issues around job quality, education, decent policing, protecting the environment, and securing good housing, those Latino issues are California issues.
I think it's important to understand that Proposition 187 can't be seen in a historical vacuum. It occurs after the Los Angeles civil unrest in which a city tore itself apart and was struggling, particularly African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians, to figure out how to put the city back together and build bridges of understanding. Proposition 187, while it might have been perceived has been primarily aimed at Latino immigrants, also threatened undocumented Asian immigrants too. It was followed by an attack on affirmative action that was aimed at African-Americans and Latinos. It was followed by an attack on bilingual education, which looked like it was primarily aimed at Latinos who are conversing in Spanish in schools but also involved Asians who might be trying to educate their kids and Chinese or Korean, et cetera. It was followed by overall racial animus.
If you look at Proposition 187 in isolation, you might think that it's just a Latino thing, but if you look at Proposition 187 in the context of these racial propositions of the 1990s, what you begin to see is that there was a broader racial animus that was deeply concerned about the shifting demographics of the state. It is no mistake that by 1999, the state had become majority, people of color. That was something that was in transit through the 1990s. It was that deep concern about a state, changing demographically, that really drove the underlying politics of that era. I think it's in that context that Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Pacific Islanders realized that we actually needed to come together, and that these struggles were very similar.
Bringing communities of color together in the wake of Proposition 187 was also built on some history and prior organizing that had taken place. In particular, in the late 1980s, here in Los Angeles, there were a number of different efforts, one the ethnic coalition, another, that I was part of, the new majority task force, which brought together African-American, Latino, and Asian Pacific Islander, civic leaders, urban planners, community organizers to talk about the future of Los Angeles, just as Los Angeles itself became majority people of color in about 1987, 1988.
That term, the new majority, actually, is a pretty interesting term because it signified two things. Number one, African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian Pacific Islanders came together and began to resist their common enemy of racial animus that they could actually constitute a bigger and more powerful political force than if they organize on their own. Second, if you think of yourself as a majority rather than a minority, then you're not just in opposition, you're also in proposition, you proposed new policies. That new majority concept was actually in the air in Los Angeles in particular, as early as the late 1980s and early 1990s.
It's no surprise that in the late 1990s, which we began to see was communities of color coming together saying, "It's not just that we need to resist the 187, or the elimination of bilingual education, or the elimination of affirmative action, we need to propose a living wage, we need to propose different kinds of policing that doesn't target young African-Americans or immigrants. We need to propose environmental justice standards that protect those communities of color that are overexposed to hazards. We need to propose a living wage and minimum wage that can protect working communities that are predominantly communities of color." You saw folks moving from not just opposition to Prop 187, but to proposition in terms of bringing forth their own ideas, policies to move things forward. You saw tremendous flowering of Latino political influence in the state.
In the late 1980s, 1987, 1988, Mark Ridley-Thomas, at that time, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Stewart Kwoh, at that time, head of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, since renamed Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and I put together a group called the new majority task force, which really was trying to say, "As people of color become a majority in the City of Los Angeles, what's the economic strategy they can actually benefit low-income communities of color in a way that would be substantial."
It's that economic program that Mark eventually ran on when he ran for the City Council of Los Angeles, one of his first important political position. The group lasted until and then after the Los Angeles civil unrest, but it actually was a loose network of folks working in communities of color, who developed a very high level of trust and were able to formulate the strategies that helped to lead to a lot of the progressive movements of the 1990s.
The United States seems to be passing through its own Prop 187 moment, that is widespread attack on immigrants, but one that's actually deeply informed by fear of the demographic change that's occurring in the United States as a whole. It's been occurring against the backdrop of economic uncertainty after the Great Recession of 2007, 2009, and it's been fueled by political opportunism particularly on the part of the president and his allies. In many ways, the United States is going through right now, what California went through in the early 1990s, demographic distance and anxiety, economic uncertainty in the search for scapegoats, and a politics of opportunism, that allows that reckless set of policies to gain political footing.
It's also important to realize that the demographic change in California between 1980 and 2000, when we went from being about 67% non-Hispanic white to being about 53% people of color, that is basically the demographic change that United States is going through between 2000 and 2050. California is America just sooner. Because California is America just sooner, when we look at the current politics nationally, you can see that they mirror so much what went on in California in the early 1990s.
What that suggests though, is that the route ahead for America should probably be the route that we took here in California. That is to dig in deep for the long haul, to have strategies that try to bring communities, particularly communities of color together with progressive allies, and that look for long-term transformations in power based in community organizing rather than short-term political victories that don't build political strength to really sustain, what you need to do to move past the racial animus that is gripping the nation right now.
California has made tremendous progress over the last 25 years. The level of racial tension and racist policy that was typical of the 1990s, that seems something of a bygone era. We've got significant Latino political strength and that strength is translating into a big voice in the state assembly, and the State Senate, and an ability to shift policy in terms of education, o wages, and the environment, but we still have a long way to go.
This is a state that, yes, that tracks about half of the country's venture capital, but it's also the fourth most unequal state in the United States, and it's got the highest rate of poverty once you account for the high housing costs here in the state. We've shifted a lot in terms of our attitudes, and in terms of our politics, but we still got a lot to do in terms of what we need to do for economic advancement, educational equity, and protecting the environment, and housing for all Californians.
In many ways there's that great expression in Spanish se cree muy muy, he believes himself to be very, very, meaning, you literally can see it. California
se cree muy muy, is very proud of what it's done in terms of attitudes in reducing tensions between racial groups but we should be very aware of the shortcomings that we've got. Yes, we're not cooperating with immigration and customs enforcement but if we really extended workforce development so immigrants can thrive. Yes, we're proud that we've begun to de-incarcerate, but if we created the re-entry programs that will allow people to be successful in the economy and society when they leave the prison system. Yes, we've raised the minimum wage but are we growing jobs in the middle so people can actually attain a really middle-class lifestyle.
We've got a lot to go, but I'd say that we're in much better shape than the country, which is had each other's throats and not able to even find a consensus about what direction to take.
- Written by: Pilar Marrero, Portrait by: Ricardo Palavecino
Find more firsthand accounts of the campaign against Prop 187 here.
On the day of the march against Proposition 187, Professor Manuel Pastor marched alongside a hundred thousand others, along with his wife and children. Being of Cuban origin did not diminish his desire to be part of the march. At the time, he was a professor of economics at Occidental College, born in New York to Cuban immigrant parents.
“It was a formative moment, not just for me, but for my family,” says Pastor. "This is the first major demonstration that my wife and I took our children to, and it was great. They remember that we were teaching them that, as a family, we show up for other people's rights and dignity; we show up against injustice.”
So much of the rhetoric around Proposition 187 was racialized and very particularly against Latinos, but eventually it became clear that it also threatened undocumented Asian immigrants, he says, and that it was followed by another proposition two years later, which dismantled affirmative action programs, and later, another that eliminated bilingual education.
"By the time 187 had passed, my dad, who is born and raised in Cuba, had started calling himself a Latino instead of Cuban.”
Pastor sees the nineties in California and the political tensions that showed up in several racially charged ballot initiatives as a reaction to rapid demographic change.
“It is no mistake that by 1999, the state had become majority people of color. And that was in transit through the 1990s. And it was that deep concern about a state changing demographically that really drove the underlying politics of that era,” says Pastor.
Moving forward in time to today, Pastor clearly says a similar dynamic at play in the larger United States.
“The United States seems to be passing through its own Prop 187 moment that is a sort of widespread attack on immigrants, but one that's actually deeply informed by fear of the demographic change that's occurring in the United States as a whole,” he explains.
Economic uncertainty and political opportunism created the perfect storm for the Trump administration, he adds. And given what happened in California, the results may be unexpected in the long run, he theorizes.
“California is America, just sooner,” he says. "The States has made tremendous progress over the last 25 years; the level of racial tension and racist policy that was typical of the 1990s seems like something of a bygone era. We've got significant Latino political strength, and that translates into representation and ability to shift policy on education, wages and the environment!"
But California has a way to go, and its contradictions remain. “We still have a lot to do in terms of economic advancement, educational equity, environment and housing. We should be very aware of the shortcomings that we've got.”
Dr. Manuel Pastor is Turpanjian Chair in Civil Society & Social Change, Distinguished Professor of Sociology (formerly in Geography) and American Studies and Ethnicity, Director, Program for Environmental and Regional Equity and Director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.
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