Community · ethnography · Language · poetry · research

Generations 3


I don’t know the girl

called Shut Up Arianna

her mother I know

Shut Up Ari’s mom

was called Raggedy Ho by

her mom, Stupid Bitch

Shut Up Ari speaks

like those around her whose speech

and affect are flat

Tell me: Why does a toddler have ample amounts of time to stand in the window or doorway and shout her cousin’s name? He is 10, and tired of babysitting, wants to play with other boys, his peers. Why is Raggedy Ho not engaging her daughter, not interacting with her except for Shut Up, Arianna? Is it only me, or does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?

art · Community · Craft · Criminal Organizations · ethnography · Health and wellness · Language · power · research · Sociology

All, before 10:30

Someone called in a bomb threat on me.

The Century Sheriffs responded, 3 cars X 6 deep, frisked and detained me in the back of the lone cruiser that remained when bomb was not found in the place the caller apparently said it would be.

The Deputies were very efficient and not  violent at all. I was frisked thoroughly, but barely noticeably by the female deputy.  The deputies asked me about a lockbox under my bed and I told them it was there and what it contained. They retrieved it and found nothing out of order, and returned the lockbox to its original location.

My idiot neighbors, the gang family, came out to gawk, flipped me the bird; one was in such a hurry to try and snap my picture (It was almost as good as being followed by the paparazzo, not), she nearly tore up her big old, out-a-date, fossil fuel burning, rolling target of a van backing out of her driveway.  She pulled alongside the cruiser, but I lay face down on that hard plastic back seat.

It was my first time being in a squad car or whatever you call ‘em now.  That back seat is hard as black walnuts.  You can’t open the back doors because the mechanisms to exercise such autonomy do not exist back there in the nether regions of the cruiser.

One of the crowd (maybe you can tell I’m trying to find a concept with which to label these inhabitants, these neighbors born of propinquity – yeah, I said it) in the van attempted to take a picture of me with her cell phone. And me without my lipstick . . ..

I’ve always brought out the worst in people, the jealousy, the sense that I can be goaded and won’t really retaliate in any way. I bring out that sense that I can be bullied. Of course, I see myself as a strong, lithe, independent scholar artist who only wants to be left the hell in peace. Dejame en paz, por favor. 

Having this marked characteristic, as well as a series of similar experiences for comparison has always made me think I have AS because I cannot for my life figure out why people are jealous of me.  I mind my own business, am a helluva good dancer, can cook well with even the meanest equipment, and while I like to laugh, I have a skewed sense of humor. Nobody’s perfect.

Hence, I suppose, the bomb threat.

It is almost nice to know I’ve still got it like that, not.


Peace be upon Nora Ephron forevermore.

Community · ethnography · News and politics

Critical Incident Stress Management Teams: Where Are They?


When living in a war zone, emotional support services should be available to help people manage the inevitable stress that accompanies witnessing murder, dodging bullets, or suffering abuses emanating from the environment.

We live in an occupied community, dominated by gangs who traffic in guns, drugs, and other illegal actions. They routinely bully and otherwise intimidate residents, leaving us living in fear, imprisoned in our own homes. There are some who would encourage us to move, but who can afford to pay $1000 a month for an apartment or a house in an area no better than this one?

That we are not represented by our elected officials is an understatement. For four years, I have sent letters of complaint and concern to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

For about a year, I wrote to the supervisor’s office complaining about the noise assault issuing from the boom cars the gang members seem to use as communication devices as well as weapons to keep the community cowed. I also contacted public and environmental health to ask for their help in getting something done to curb the noise. I was finally referred to the Sheriff’s department, as they were deemed the only department capable of dealing with the problem. The majority of the noise stopped after two years of complaints, but resumed once the jails and prisons were emptied because of overcrowding.

Back to square one.  Here, we have witnessed murders, either by sight and sound, or by palpable sound. When high-calibre ammunition is fired nearby, it can be felt, particularly in this narrow street, where we are packed together like matches in a book. Population density is very high here with multigenerational families and/or multiple families sharing one dwelling. Many is the time I have had to hit the deck as bullets whiz past the house, audible as they swish through the leaves of the trees, our only shields from the violence.

If I leave my front door open at the wrong time of day, I’m forced to hear the verbal abuse that passes for parental talk to young children. Gang members know how to speak to their children they way they were spoken to as children, I suppose. However, the way they speak to their children makes my flesh crawl. And I feel beaten up by the verbal onslaught. Imagine, a daughter calls her mother a stupid bitch and the mother responds by calling her daughter a raggedy ho. It would be comical if it weren’t such a tragedy.

Where are the critical incident response teams? Where are the emotional supports for those of us who fear walking down the street, coming home after dark, or who dread having to ask our ‘neighbors’ to move their vehicles from across our driveways so that we can park on property for which we pay taxes?

Why should we have to suffer the presence of murderers, thieves, and career criminals without respite and without support? Why are they allowed to persist in our communities? It becomes ever more difficult to retain good neighbors, particularly those with children, because they move away as soon as they can after discovering the negative environment they will have to tolerate. 

We really do pay a hefty price for living in the 2nd Supervisorial District of Mark Ridley-Thomas.

ethnography · research · Sociology

Structural Implications of Negricide

Of course, negricidal behavior does not spring from nowhere. Society, culture and her institutions support its presence. If I learned anything in grad school about sociology, I learned that situations, conditions, behaviors, the status quo do not exist unless serving some purpose in the social system.

We know that those who commit crimes, or look like they might, are fodder for the prison-industrial complex. They keep the courts, cops, and concentration camps (prisons) in operation. Once they are released, the parole and probation officers get paychecks, though it is questionable just how much monitoring of their charges they are performing. Felons are not likely to find employment because they are perceived to be more likely to commit violence or more felonies, causing many employers to forgo hiring them unless they are given some incentives (financial) to encourage them to take the risk. Without legitimate employment prospects, former inmates are likely to return to the behaviors responsible for getting them committed in the first place. And the beat goes on.

A couple of decades ago, working middle-class Blacks were lured from the neighborhood to outlying suburban areas by jobs, cheap housing, and the promise of reduced crime as the crack heads, gangbangers, and run of the mill petty criminals would be left behind. Older homeowners in retirement refused to move, but left us anyway by dying out. Younger families jumped at the opportunities, sold their homes, and moved to avoid the long commutes by locating closer to their jobs. They did well for a while, but the jobs began to dry up and the gangbangers expanded their territories and their criminal activities to the suburbs in the high desert and Inland Empire regions. The working middle-class began to make the commute back to the inner city, where the jobs had relocated to take advantage of cheap office space and to occupy the revivified downtown and surrounding industrial areas and enterprise zones.

Those of us left behind in the initial hiatus were witness to the continuing destruction of the sense of community we’d taken for granted. There was a shift from home ownership to renting, where you had no idea of who lived next door to you, but you knew they were paying exorbitant prices to rent modest homes built in the 1950s that now qualified for Section 8 subsidies. It was no longer safe to invite your neighbor into your home for fear they’d rob you blind. Old people that you thought knew better succumbed to crack and heroin. Women became “strawberries”, trading varieties of sex with the men and boys controlling the drug trade when they didn’t have other forms of capital, like food stamps, welfare checks, jewelry, or electronics. Pretty much, the left behind crew of people who either couldn’t or wouldn’t move knuckled under and did our best to maintain a low profile to avoid drawing attention, and bullets, to ourselves. It did no good to complain to our elected officials; they didn’t give a damn. The police were all too happy with the situation as it kept them employed. The middle-class folks were simply happy to have escaped the mayhem. They didn’t consider themselves role models or the glue that held the community together. Drugs, gangs, and guns trumped whatever credibility and social control they wielded in the past.

ethnography · Health and wellness · research · Sociology

Thoughts on Sagging and other Negricidal Behaviors

Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the most dangerous element of society are those who feel they have no stake in the society, that they will unconsciously seek to destroy that society because they have nothing to lose. Russell Jacoby asserts that violence is more often perpetrated upon those with whom we are most familiar.

With these thoughts in mind, it came to me that the imitation of prison garb chic in the outside world is an unconscious statement that even though some of the wearers are on the outside, they feel as if they are on the inside, prisoners of the system that provides them with few options to feel like stakeholders in our society, but every option to feel like a criminal, a thug, or a convict.

Of course, some people who adopt this ‘fashion’ are simply trying to stay current with a trend, but it is likely that many of these adopters, with their criminal records, revolving door negotiations of the criminal-legal-industrial complex, negligible participation in the traditional workforce, gang affiliations, and linkages to violence and disorder in their everyday lives do feel like prisoners.

Criminal Organizations · ethnography · Health and wellness · research · Sociology

Negricidal Behavior

After observing self-destructive behavior in people of different ethnicities, I recognize negricidal behavior is not limited to lower-income Blacks, but is visible in many people of the last couple of generations. It seems more noticeable to me in the former group because of their smaller numbers and high visibility in my immediate arena.

I remain convinced that the at- large culture is  to blame for behavior that causes many people to act as if they have no stake in the world around them, no stake in their communities, none in their families, not even a stake in themselves. Easy come, easy go. Live fast and die; get it over with.  Our culture’s reduction of value from our humanity has created this behavior.  Such death affirming ways of living occur when people are commoditized, marketed incessantly, and made to feel they have no purpose for being other than that of endlessly dispensable consumers.

Take the thugs I observe daily as an example. No one has a job, but they all drive late model Lexus on gigantic rims, equipped with the loudest state of the art sound systems that turn these luxury vehicles in rolling sources of annoyance for anyone unlucky enough to be within earshot. They do not dress to match the luxury of their vehicles, tending to wear extremely baggy pants belted underneath their posteriors with oversized bright, white tees. If the weather is cold, this uniform is accompanied by a black hoodie. Everyone looks the same so as to be indistinguishable and unrecognizable to witnesses.

The sagging pants are worn to show underwear and seem to say, “Kiss my ass.” It is the elevation of prison practical style to street chic. I dubbed these young people niggarati as they seem to be the street intelligentsia of our times. As different ethnic groups have adopted ‘nigga’ as a greeting and term of endearment and signal of relationship, the concept seemed fitting.  It makes my skin crawl to hear them speak to one another this way, but I am a child of the 60s and of a different sensibility.

A young man was killed by police the other day.  Riding in a stolen vehicle with a 14-year-old companion, fleeing police, the young men bailed out of the car and took off on foot. The 19-year-old driver was shot and killed by police after he appeared to place a hand in his pocket.  The officers thought he was going for a weapon and shot him dead. Likely, he was trying to pull up his pants in order to run faster as no weapon was found on the body.

Essentially hobbling oneself as a fashion statement, then engaging in behavior guaranteed to get you noticed and chased by law enforcement, and attempting to run away seems stupid to me.  There has to be a better explanation for engaging in this potentially self-destructive practice than plain stupidity.  I simply don’t know what it is at the moment.

ethnography · research · Sociology


Remember the era of Negritude, when there was awareness of and pride in all that was Black culture? Seems to me that what we’ve got now is negricide, the extermination of Black culture.

I’m working on developing a concept here. Negricide encompasses that awkward term black-on-black crime, child-rearing practices, general cultural practices like wearing one’s pants around one’s ankles and expecting to be able to run away from the police when they attempt arrest.

Class is involved in negricide. It seems to be a practice of the lower classes, the underclass, the long-term, hard-core unemployed, the African-Americans who frequent the prisons and jails as if they were colleges and universities, gang members. It is also an internal practice, beginning from within, unlike genocide that begins from without. Mothers speak abusively to their children; the children return the abuse in kind and go on to abuse others. It is the extermination of the emotional, mental, and physical portions of Black culture.

A working definition, in progress, copyright 2011.