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Issues | Essay

'Our Children Were Not Born to Kill'

March 15, 1997|STEVEN VALDIVIA | Steven Valdivia is a youth and gang expert

Why is it that some are repeatedly presented to the world as primitive and violent while pains are taken to prepare and present select others as ready to cross a magical bridge to the 21st century?

For some of us, life and art do not imitate each other; they are one and the same. My family recently watched a television report on a Latino prison gang. The public's wonderment that gangs exist in the face of race and ethnic antics would be laughable if it weren't so tragic. Our children were not born to kill, as we are left to conclude; they are sending us a message, a response, if you will, to relentless attacks. And although the issues are far from simple, some stupidly see the "youth violence/gang problem" as a black and other minorities' issue.

It never has served anyone's purposes to refer to people by mere subheadings, unceremoniously lumped together because their youth are dying off in similar fashions. To then have already put-upon African American spokespersons explain it all during their numerous TV and radio shows and print appearances makes me cringe at the futility.

Racial warfare chimes in as another aspect of the street gang wars. This is America, where the Washington Redskins is a national franchise and children learn scalp removal as part of that city's tribal custom. And "Too Hot Tamales" has replaced the Frito Bandito on public television. Let it suffice to note that not much has changed at the crux of social stigmata.

All minorities have been kept as inert as is humanly possible for as long as possible. And all of us will continue to pay the freight of such unnatural a burden. Anyone familiar with nature's law of action-reaction may conclude the same.

Since the riots, African Americans have made relatively wondrous gains. Maybe not enough for some of their leaders, but to those of us still completely left off of the American quilt, unimaginable gains. For blacks, doors have opened and respect is on the rise. Such success was at a tremendous cost to all of us then sinking in society's mud. The rioting took 19 Latino lives as well as several Asian brothers and sisters.

Where shall the rest of us go to have a continuous and full public airing of the issues affecting our youth and our futures? Has the limit on social consciousness been reached? The homicide numbers suggest that better not be the case.

Life and art have merged through the magic of movies and television. The media is not only a tool of self-aggrandizement and deification for a privleged few. It is a weapon for manipulation and seduction, control and therefore, power. In the wrong hands, it can be a killer.

There has never been an honest portrayal of certain minorities as America's co-creators and positive contributors. For Latinos, the portrayal has been limited to the Mexican Mafia or something else illegal, immoral or backbreaking.

You will not see portrayals of the rest of us--planning and discussing issues and solutions to save our youth from the death row end where America's media-business trials places young minds and bodies on life support.

We have no vehicle to fight or demand changes to the negative media messages that all youth are subjected to. We other minorities are subject to whim and fancy and as villain fodder for various popular vulgarities, crippling the next generation in preparation for giving up on them, too.

The only significant media depictions of Americans of Latino ancestry continues to portray an entire people as the primary source of the modern scourges of the Western world: gangs, drugs and illegal immigrants. It is time to cut off the poison coming out of the TV.

These are the messages sent to all children and to the rest of the world.

Guilt and morality mean nothing to a bloodsucker. Someone should know better and they do. Business nor anyone else will change until it is in their financial interest to do so.

I will turn the TV channel, buy a different newspaper, stop paying to see their movies, stop buying their products, using their banks and stores and do it so it shows up on their bottom line. That message is guaranteed to be heard.

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