I read the article “Concert concerns voiced during Pier Corporation renewal” by Matthew Hall in the Tuesday 7/21 issue of the SMDP, and I found a couple statements by Santa Monica Ocean Front Walk resident and former chairwoman of the Pier Restoration Corporation, Ellen Brennan, more telling than the primary focus and subject matter of the article about the Twilight Concert Series.
Commenting about the Pier Committee, Brennan was concerned about, “large groups of white males” who congregate in the chess park as a “sign of trouble just around the corner.” She continued on to mention, “…if this pier continues to offer headliners and free concerts when the light rail comes to Santa Monica, all of East Los Angeles will take the light rail and come to these concerts. … Now there’s a thought to give the Chief of Police nightmares.”
Interesting statements, no doubt.
Why specifically point out that the males at the chess park were white? Are these men white in the European sense or white in the larger Caucasian sense? Is that determination based solely on skin color? Have blood tests been performed on these assumed miscreants to specifically identify their race? How white were these men? Are these white men the kind of men that compel you to cross the street when you see one walking toward you?
Additionally, what does she mean by “all of East Los Angeles will take the light rail and come to these concerts?” What is it in particular about these geographical outsiders that are not desired by Brennan (and her neighbor, apparently)? Should these Twilight Concerts forbid people who travel into Santa Monica from a particular part of Los Angeles? Should IDs be requested upon arrival to determine outside residency to ease the minds of the locals before they are allowed on the pier? And what is the “thought” the Chief of Police should be concerned about? What kind of activity does Brennan assume a large population group is guilty of contemplating before any activity takes place?
According to the 2010 census data, East Los Angeles is about 97 percent Hispanic/Latino. Is she concerned about these Hispanic/Latino people coming to Santa Monica? I can only assume she is concerned about these nightmare-inducing Hispanic/Latino people, because she can’t be talking only about the 3 percent left of the population in East Los Angeles that includes other races. Is Brennan aware that Santa Monica’s population includes about 13 percent Hispanic/Latinos? Watch it folks, Santa Monica Hispanic/Latinos, because more of your “kind” may be coming to Santa Monica soon to enjoy what this city has to offer. Oh no! The horror!
Additionally, is Brennan aware that of that 51 percent of that Hispanic/Latino population in East Los Angeles is females? God forbid those women visit Santa Monica and conduct a clothes-buying flash mob at the businesses along the Promenade. Is Brennan aware of the increasing number of “white” people moving into and buying residential and commercial property on the East Side of Los Angeles (and not just East Los Angeles proper, but other areas also including Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights and El Sereno) as gentrification moves across the river. I’m compelled to call the police forces in these areas to share a “thought” about this questionable activity, potential or realized.
Are these bigoted and prejudicially charged statements by Brennan? Yes, and without question. Racist? I wouldn’t go that far, based on the context of the statements. I took a moment to find out what race Brennan is, and it was easy since there is a video of her on YouTube addressing the City Council in 2013. Not that it really matters, but considering her words I found it important. Ellen Brennan is a white woman and it must be mentioned because of her aforementioned statements, even the one about men of her own race.
Considering all issues regarding race in America these days, statements like Brennan’s are not surprising. It’s truly unfortunate that prejudicial assumptions about skin color and race, institutionally, unconsciously, or otherwise do not simply die. It was author and activist James Baldwin who said, “This is the place in which, it seems to me, most white Americans find themselves. They are dimly, or vividly, aware that the history they have fed themselves is mainly a lie, but they do not know how to release themselves from it, and they suffer enormously from the resulting personal incoherence.”
Needless to say, Baldwin was speaking at the height of the civil rights movement in 1965, and his focus was on black and white racial divisions. However, those same words apply today, and they offer a timeless reflection on the inherited divisions in our society and the responsibilities we have due to that history. Baldwin’s words can be applied to any group of Americans making assumptions about people of another, or their own, race. The point is bigotry and prejudice damages everyone.
Greg Goyo Vargas is part of Santa Monica’s 13 percent