The following is an opinion piece, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Timbers Army or the 107ist Board of Directors.
by Vato Chris
From the time I started in high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem (or turned my back when I did). For the most part I did so quietly so as not to offend those around me who did not share my beliefs. This small act of defiance at the time was a general illustration of my teen angst rather than a pointed act of protest. As a Chicano in New Mexico, I was not a minority, and had no knowledge I was living in a very poor state, with a very poor education system; a state which had, per capita, the highest crime rate in the country, and I was in an area of the state which did not have a viable industry for the less than fifty percent of students who did manage to graduate. I did not stand more because I was a punk than because I wanted shit to change.
In NM, I had had my run-ins with the police. I had been arrested several times, both as a juvenile, and later as an “adult” (I was 18/19 when I was last arrested in NM). Most of my crimes for which I was arrested were fairly normal for a Burqueno: DWI, Criminal Damage to Property, Burglary, small-time stuff that most kids did. Usually I was arrested, taken to the juvenile department on the west side, and put on probation for a little while longer.
Shit changed around the time of the Gulf War (Number One, kiddos). Police at the time began to be a little rougher, calling me names and pushing me around a little more. I was called both a Spic and Iranian on the same day by two different cops (that day I was arrested for Battery on a Police Officer, later dropped to an Assault on a Police Officer. If you don’t know the difference, that’s on you). On another occasion I was hit with a baton in the stomach because I had witnessed a car accident involving a cop (who was at fault) and dared to speak up when the other cops arrived. Thinking back on my time in Albuquerque, what strikes me is that for a town made up largely of Latinos and Indios, all the police who had been rough with me or talked shit were White (the dude who called me an Iranian was a Latino CO at the jail). But at the time, as stated above, I was not a minority and had not thought in terms of racial/ethnic identity.
This would change with my move to Minneapolis, MN. I was different from jump there. In a city with arguably the biggest punk scene in the country, I was one of two Latino punks. Where I had come from, Latinos were punks, skinheads, metalers, cowboys, etc. Not in Minneapolis. As far as I could tell, the Latinos there were in one neighborhood (West St. Paul) and made and sold Mexican goods to one another. In addition, in Minnesota, everyone thought I could speak Spanish. In NM it was really only old folks who spoke Spanish. Everyone else had an accent like they could, but thought “Fuck you ese” was perfectly good Spanish. I was soon given the name Vato by my homie Norman who was from Orange County and had known Latino punks from CA.
This new feeling of being a minority also brought with it a new sense of pride. I started to learn more about my culture and my history. I flew a Mexican flag on my rear view mirror, I started to rock pro-Raza t-shirts and seek out Latino punk rock. At the same time, I started getting more and more shit from the police in Minnesota. I had gotten a ticket for obstructing a rear view mirror for the flag, I had been regularly pulled over while driving and racked up so many tickets I would eventually lose my license. But before I lost my car, I almost lost my child as one cop who pulled me over for a broken headlight (it was not broken, by the way) threatened to take my son who was in the back seat unless I could I could prove he was mine. But this was not the worst thing that happened there. One night I was crossing a street at a crosswalk. There was a cop car at the light. I walked in front of the car against the light and the cop got pissed. On this occasion, I had a gun pulled on me by a cop while I was on my knees facing a wall for crossing a fucking street.
And this treatment was not limited to me. The police were well known by the black community in Minneapolis for taking black men on a “river run,” where the black man would be driven to the Mississippi River, be threatened by gunpoint and told to walk home. A Native American man was taken to the drunk tank in the trunk of a police car because the cop said he had just washed his car and did not want an Indian throwing up in the back seat. The women’s drunk tank in South Minneapolis was shut down because so many Native American women had been assaulted both physically and sexually by the cops there or on the way.
I ultimately moved to Portland, where liberals are liberal about race because there are so few people of color, most people can go their whole lives with never having one as a neighbor. But before I moved here, what I knew of Portland was a black man being beaten to death by boneheads, and the WAR separatist movement which wanted the Pacific Northwest to be the new white fatherland (this was the first context in which I heard the word Cascadia). When I got here, the boneheads had been run out of town by some of the folks who have been gracing the Timbers terraces for many years now, but those boneheads were soon replaced by yuppie 20/30-somethings who have decided to reclaim what they have always thought of as theirs. So while I am able to go home to NM and feel what it is like to have a place where people look like me, the blacks of Portland have been relegated to the outer reaches of the city and have nowhere to return to when they are tired of being the outsider.
This treatment over the years has decreased to me directly as I have gotten old and gray, but has been incessant generally since. My country has been in a perpetual state of war for most of my life with the fodder for those wars, its soldiers, being overly represented by Latinos, blacks and Native Americans. These are men and women who are good enough to die, but not good enough to be your neighbor. I have watched a country that has not honored one treaty signed with Native Americans and wants what is theirs now that some of them have managed to make lemonade from the lemons they were given. I see a country that is ready to take away working people’s right to collectively bargain, unless of course you are part of the police union. I have watched as my country has sold its prisons to the highest bidder and now has to fill those prisons by any means necessary, and those prisons, like our military, are overrepresented by Latinos and blacks. I have watched my country wag its finger at other nations over human rights while blacks and Latinos are being shot in the street by cops, while our country is imprisoning those who act out and vilifying those who speak out.
So fuck you, I refuse to be quiet. I no longer sit through the anthem, but instead make my voice of dissent known. I am the Vato who yells ACAB during the anthem or who yells other such niceties. I am not trying to effect change; I am screaming out of frustration. Do I think any of this shit will change? If it hasn’t changed in 500-plus years, it ain’t gonna stop now because some white folks care. I am tired of being respectful, cuz if you don’t respect me and mine, why the fuck should I respect you and yours? So for now, ACAB!!!!
NB: Do I really believe All Cops Are Bastards… yes. Most (if not all) of the officers I deal with or know are good people as individuals and we get along, but as a group, when you do not speak out against the things that are wrong or you deny things are wrong to start with, you are part of the problem.