Against the Current, No. 39, July/
— The Editors
Race, Class and Rage
— Dolores Trevizo
Crips and Bloods Speak for Themselves
— Voices from South Central
— an interview with Roy Hong
A Diversity of Viewpoints and Generations
— an interview with Julie Noh
Koreans Weren't Special Targets
— an interview with Kyung Kyu Lim
Without Larger Programs, There Are No Solutions
— an interview with Kye Young Park
Police Riot in San Francisco
— Cheryl Christensen
Realities of the Rebellion
— Mike Davis
Class and the Glass Fortress
— Don Sherman
Time for a New Party
— Ron Daniels
Beyond '92: For a Labor Party
— Tony Mazzocchi
UAW and the "Cat" Defeat
— Earl Silber and Steven Ashby
- UAW Announces In-Plant Strategy
Women in the ex-USSR Today
— Anastasia Posadskaya
Bernard Chidzero: Portrait of a Comprador
— Patrick Bond and Tendai Biti
Background on Zimbabwe
— David Finkel
The Rebel Girl: Fitness or Exploitation?
— Catherine Sameh
Random Shots: In the Year of the Perot
— R.F. Kampfer
The Austin Hormel Strike Revisited
— Roger Horowitz
Movements of the Unemployed
— Dianne Feeley
- In Memoriam
Celia Stodola Wald 1946-1992
— Patrick M. Quinn
Ahmed Nassef: How do you feel about the overwhelming police and military presence in your community?
Baby Nerve (Watergate Crips-blue): Yes, Black people are out there looting, yes Black people burnt down buildings. It might have been Koreans and white people that burnt down their own buildings just to get money from insurance. People need to figure out how the government works, how the system is, before they come and try to pass judgement and call us these different names such as gangsters, looters, Bloods, Crips, thugs and thieves.
We are Black people, we are Mexican, we are Japanese and we are even dirty little white people–you know what I’m saying. You all got to figure out who you are, where you come from, and what’s your foundation in life. As of today’s society, we’re accepting the white man’s way of living, we’re not living by our own ways. And we got to find out where our feet come from, our soil.
We have to have knowledge, wisdom and understanding of our past and our culture, because your culture is your freedom. We have to find out the truth so we can refine ourselves from this white man’s ways.
Ahmed: When you referred to whites, you called them “dirty little white people,” there’s obviously anger there.
Nerve: It’s frustration with the white man’s system. They created the system. They made the laws. They wrote the constitution. We didn’t have any say in it, we’re just people living in their society in which they try to control us in every which way. They bring drugs into the community and give it to us, then the people selling drugs, they put them in jail and say they were wrong. But you bring the drugs into our community.
Spud (Inglewood Centerport Bloods): We ain’t got no coca plants in our backyards, they don’t grow in the U.S. Just like when they brought us over here–we didn’t want to come over here. We didn’t know nothing about war when we came over here, we learned all our ways from the white man. Cause this is their world, we’re just living in it. Now you say it’s over, the looting and the fires, but it’s not over until we make a change. It’s like Little Monster said: It’s time to break it down and build it up.
Nerve: Build and destroy. We’re going to build ourselves and we’re going to destroy their system. That’s what we want to do.
Spud: It needs to get fair. Until you can treat us all like you treat the people in Simi Valley, it ain’t gonna stop. The violence, as far as looting or whatever is gonna stop, but we’re not gonna sit down and be passive and just let what they say go. We’re gonna speak our mind, we’re gonna protest, we’re gonna do whatever we have to do in a positive way, or if it has to be in a negative way, to get our point across.
We’re tired. This Rodney King incident wasn’t the first thing–it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. It just let us know it’s time to get started. The looting and the fires, that was frustration let out by the Black community as a whole.
Ahmed: So you’re saying it wasn’t just a bunch of “thugs” or a bunch of “hoodlums” arbitrarily destroying things. There’s a political message to what is happening–this was a real uprising.
Nerve: Yes, it’s a point that people made. People are out there with no jobs, there’s people out there hungry. It’s Blacks, Mexicans….
Spud: People of color.
Nerve: People of color just out there with no jobs, you know what I’m saying. Okay [if] you got some money in the bank, you can keep on rollin’–you know the government will give you a loan.
Spud: How many gang members do you know that can get a loan.
Nerve: How many gang members do you know that can get out of jail and say, I want to start me a business and get me a loan. You don’t have none. The government is so crooked, the Koreans don’t understand–the government gave you a loan and put you in our community to set you up for this. Yes, you’re in our community. You got tooken just like we got tooken.
Spud: So the frustration get took out on the Korean instead of the white man.
Nate II (Watergate Crips): You know we’ve been deprived of a lot of things: civil rights and basic humanity. I want to let people know that it’s a diversion, they want us to focus on the Korean and the Black issue, which is not really a Korean and a Black issue. It’s a Black and a white issue, it’s a minority and a white issue.
The media was so biased. I get so frustrated when I turn on the idiot box–that’s what I call my television. I have to take everything they say and put it in proper context because it’s not a Korean/Black thing; the merchants were there, there were problems, but it’s a diversion to get us not to think about the real problem, which is the oppressor, which is the major majority which are whites.
They want to say that the Korean-Americans and the Black-Americans are feuding and having gun fights in the streets. This has been going on for years and years. But the whole focus is the trial, civil rights, humanity, fairness…that’s it.
Nerve: Equality is the biggest thing that people don’t understand. Equality. See, the white man has all the money. They have all the control. They tax us, they tax our dollar so they can put their money where they want to put it. They put their money back into drugs. How you gonna give another country money, but you can’t give us no money. How you gonna take our tax money and give it to somebody else when we ask for it for our community and you can’t give it to us.
Jason Belok (Inglewood Centerport Bloods-red): They say that’s the system, but where does the system concern us? The system’s not benefiting us, it’s benefiting them.
Nate: I believe throughout the whole incident, throughout the whole rebellion, America’s mass media is painting a bad picture of gang members and Blacks. People that were out there looting and stealing and robbing, weren’t out there because there was nothing to do on a Wednesday and a Thursday. They were angry. They were angry from years of deprivation coming to a head, it was just the tip of the iceberg. Right now we’re trying to plead to all young Black males and females that are in gangs or associated with gangs to come together, united we stand divided we fall.
Ahmed: Come together and do what?
Nerve: Come together and understand, form a political party if that’s what it takes. Wake-up! and find out who is your enemy. Just like they say, your enemy could be a Black man in your organization who is going out and telling the white folk your plans. What we’re saying is come together, find some peace, find out what we need to do to break the system down. That’s all we want. We want the whole world to understand that equality is the basic thing. We want the whole world to understand that we’re not taking this no more.
Spud: The Bloods and the Crips can squash their beefs and realize that we’re not the enemy. We’re not the common enemy as we thought we were. We can wake-up and keep this on our minds and realize we got a bigger and worse enemy then ourselves, because we’re not enemies at all.
Ahmed: Last week, would you have been able to stand here together, the Crips and the Bloods, different colors standing in one room together? How new is this and is it going to last?
Spud: This is new and it’s going to last because we want it to last, and we’re gonna do whatever it takes to make it last. If the little peons in certain Bloods and Crips organizations don’t want it to last and want to keep drama comin’, we’re gonna squash them because we’re not gonna let them control this. We’re gonna control this ourselves, and think and keep our minds strong the whole time so we can overcome all of this.
Ahmed: On the streets there are a bunch of National Guardsmen with their M-16 rifles. What’s going to happen if they stay on the streets another week, another month? Are people going to allow this to happen, or is there going to be some sort of response from the community?
Nate: The show of force by the government is only there to pacify. It’s there so the white people can turn on their television set and say we’re keeping the Blacks in line. That’s why the media and that’s why Bush and Gates and the Mayor have all put that together: to give them a sense that everything’s all going back to normal. It’s not!
Spud: How fair is that? How fair is that for them to have over 9,000 or somethin’ arrests and when their seventy-two hours before seeing a judge is up, all of a sudden the Governor and
Bush pass down a new law to give it a week. How fair is that? But if the majority of the 9,000 would have been white, they would have been out of there in seventy-two hours when their rights were violated. Our rights are violated so now they make a new law. It just proves more and more that it’s not fair and we’re not going to stand for it or sit by and accept this no more.
Ahmed: People are being told by the media that there is an African-American leadership–people like Jesse Jackson and Reverend Cecil Murray at the AME Church who are asking for people to stop the violence, looting and burning. Are these people your leaders?
Spud: They’re spokesmen for certain parts of the Black community, or maybe as a whole. They want the violence stopped. We want the violence stopped. We’re not here to promote violence; just because we’re gang members and we’ve been caught up in this train of thought for so long, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re here to promote violence. We’re here to promote unity with our Black community, that’s all we want–equality and fairness.
Nerve: See, right now we’re the leaders. If they want to speak to us, they’ve got to get with us right now. If you want to know what the gang members think and how we feel, this is where we are. We’re on the streets, we’re not in the church. We don’t go to church with a suit on every Sunday. We’re the ones who have been manipulated by the system. You guys [African-American leadership establishment] are political and the government ain’t gonna touch you because you’re doing exactly what they want you to do.
Spud: You’re the little percent they like–that will talk nice. But we’re here to tell you the real. We’re gonna tell you how we feel, what we’re tired of, what we want, and how we plan to get it. And that’s by any means necessary.
Belok: For the people that didn’t understand and that just looked at us as violent people, just imagine this: Just imagine if the Rodney King incident wasn’t captured on videotape. Who was he gonna turn to? Who is he going to tell, the sergeant, or someone that was probably there hitting him with a billy club fifty times?
Spud: That happens every day, there’s nothing new about that. That’s common law–especially to gang members. They [the police] abuse us, they come and smack you just because you got on a burgundy shirt, “come here nigger,” callin’ me all types of slang names and disrespecting me, making me feel less then human just because I choose to wear a certain color.
Ahmed: So that’s normal procedure for the L.A.P.D.
Spud: That’s normal procedure daily. They look at you like dirt, they talk to you like dirt. This Rodney King incident ain’t nothin’ new, this time it was able to be seen on videotape. And it still wasn’t no good `cause they got off free, so that shows you the injustice in this system.
Ahmed: What do you think about the media and the propaganda campaign that seems to be going on showing the people sweeping the streets, many of them white people?
Nate: I think that’s very necessary. You have to have a cleanup process–nobody is knocking that. You have to get things done. Debris has to be moved. Maybe those people are genuine in their feelings and thoughts and that’s why they come down here to help the community. Everyone’s not evil per se. It’s not like the media says where gang members hate all white people. It’s not really like that. All a person really wants to do is focus on the points after the cleaning up is done. What about the reconstruction? Are we gonna be the first ones there?
Belok: You got to get out here and get to the root of the problem and understand and communicate and know what’s really on people’s minds. You can’t just get on the news and think or assume what you want to think.
Nate: Now if you get some people that’s already pissed off and there’s no police around and they see some people taking stuff for free and they ain’t got no money, what’s next? This whole thing was fueled by the media. Everything that happened in South Central Los Angeles was fueled by the media. When they had a chance to go focus on the churches and the peaceful rallies which were going on (and you know sometimes I feel you got to get off your knees sometime and dust them off and get out there and do something).
But the whole thing, I want to put it in a nutshell: it’s KABC’s fault, ABC’s fault, and CBS. They’re the people that hyped up the rebellion. I don’t know if it’s a money thing. I don’t really understand the system<197>all I know is I’m a victim of it.
Spud: Some people are genuine with their sincerity and that’s good. When we say the white man is doing this, we’re not talking about the whole Caucasian population as a whole. Just the system–the ones in power. They’re the white people we’re talking about. We’re not racist and we’re not prejudiced `cause we know how it feels to be on the receiving end of prejudice.
Why do we want to turn around and let another person, human being, white, Korean, or whatever, feel all the pain and hurt that we’ve been through? We don’t. We just want them to see and realize that it’s not fair.
Ahmed: What do you tell a white person who is living in Santa Monica or Pacific Palisades, who usually knows little about the African community and who may not have even been to South Central or East L.A. and who wants to do something to help? What can they do to help?
Nerve: They can organize their community, their white community, and fight against what’s going on. They have to fight their war and we have to fight our war and we’ll all go against the system.
Spud: People should be living in happiness. We don’t need to continue to go through poverty and problems, racist problems or any other type of problem that’s detrimental to us. Ask yourself–is it really fair? Would you like what’s happening to us on a daily basis to happen to you? Would you like to be called a punk white boy just because you chose to wear a red or a blue shirt? Just because the media hypes up gang members as mindless senseless killers who just ride by and shoot innocent children?
I never met a gang member, Crip or Blood, in my life that purposely tried to hurt an innocent baby. But look who’s got the biggest gang in the world–the military. Who drops bombs and kills millions of babies in other countries–the military. Who’s the military run by<197>the white man, the system.
Ahmed: Are you registered to vote and do you perceive change occurring through the present system?
Nerve: I have no reason to vote. Why should I vote for George Bush or Clinton when they don’t do anything but bring drugs into our community? They don’t do nothing but send our people to war. The government is a big cover-up. I have no need to vote for none of them. They ain’t doin’ nothing for me. They ain’t walkin’ on the streets tellin’ me to stop the violence. They’re not down here where we are. They’re in some big old white building talking about White House, white system and let’s try and do something to contain these Black people–let’s try and do something to control the world.
Wherever there are people of color, they’re in the same predicament as we are. No matter if it’s Mexico, Afghanistan, Iran<197>the white man is living in his big old house and all he does is point his finger and send his troops and try to control that country while he’s sitting up fat.
Spud: They have our people so confused thinking that everything he’s [the white man] doing is the right thing. When he’s just hurting their culture, their heritage, the other Black brothers and sisters in the community. We’re still a part of them whether they like it or not, no matter what they feel we do, or their opinions or assumptions of us.
Nerve: We’re talking about breaking the system down. We want to take all that paper that you got, all those laws you got, we want them burnt up. We want that paper recycled.
Spud: Exactly, recycled!
Nerve: The system has been so wicked for so many years, and there’s no candidate that’s running for office that is going to do anything for the Black community, but I am registered to vote. But it doesn’t really mean anything for us.
Ahmed: We’re standing at Masjid Al Saff, a Muslim Mosque in Inglewood. Why are you here? What role does Islam play for you?
Belok: We want to be heard, simple as that. We want people to understand what’s really going on, instead of thinking that we’re bad so they have an excuse for doing something like the Rodney King incident.
Spud: I’m here with the Muslims because their beliefs are basically what I believe in, what I want, what we want to fight for. And they’re backing us and advising us. We all want the same common goal…peace.
Nerve: You got probably a million churches out there and what do you see them doing?
Spud: The Black churches are happy that we’re out here still getting abused and beat up, because they feel they safe. They safe regardless. We don’t want to hurt them. We don’t want to hurt no other Black elderly. We don’t want to hurt their children. We don’t want to hurt nobody, we just want to be treated fairly. And they’re happy that the white man, the system, has sent down armies to contain us to keep them out of danger. They ain’t never been in danger in the first place. You joining the person that’s really keeping you in danger, the system, that’s who you need to speak out against.
Nerve: The African Muslims come and talk to you as if you’re a person. They give you respect as a person. They don’t look down upon you, well you wear red, you wear blue, you’re a Crip or you’re a Blood. They don’t call you no name, they don’t call you no thug, they give you respect as a man.
Spud: And that’s all we want is respect. Treat us like you treat everyone.
July-August 1992, ATC 39