Panel discussion on racism leads to a loud demonstration in the mall and along San Pedro Avenue.
By Ansley Lewis
Racism is alive and thriving in the U.S., panelists stressed at a discussion “Confronting 21st Century Racism” Thursday in the Methodist Student Center.
Sponsored by an unofficial student organization, Documentaries For Social Justice, three panelists spoke to an audience of 25 about racism and bigotry against Latinos and African-Americans in the U.S., as well as riots in Ferguson, Mo.
The office of student life said Documentaries for Social Justice is not an approved student organization at this college.
Raphael DeLaGarza, environmental science sophomore and event organizer, briefly introduced the panel and theme of their discussion.
Panel members were English Professor Mariano Aguilar; immigration attorney Joe Miller; and a woman from Brooklyn, N.Y., who is a founder of Atlas:DIY, a Brooklyn cooperative empowerment center for immigrant youth and their allies.
She declined to give the audience her real name but introduced herself as Naima. She later gave Jumboonta as a last name.
Atlas:DIY provides free legal services, language classes and scholarship opportunities to immigrant youth, according to its website.
Aguilar began the discussion by describing The GEO Group, Inc., which, according to its website, is the world’s leading provider of correctional, detention and community re-entry services.
He said this organization incarcerates a large number of Latinos and African-Americans and immigrants.
“It’s a gigantic topic, obviously. We’re trying to connect the dots,” Aguilar said. “I’m going to give data more than anything else because I believe it is data that we should know.”
After pointing out how GEO’s stock exchange is down about 10 percent and now worth around $37.04 a share, Aguilar said he wanted the audience to realize “GEO is primarily a money-making institution.”
He said the company partners with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Aguilar noted two detention facilities in Karnes City and Pearsall that primarily deal with undocumented immigrants and deportation.
Aguilar’s introduction on detention centers led to Miller’s discussion of racism and what he called a mass incarceration of young minorities in detention centers and prisons.
“The U.S. has historically used immigration policy to control the labor markets,” Miller said. “The important thing about this is corporations in America need low-paid workers, and there are different ways of how they get these low-paid workers to work in these different jobs.”
Miller said one of the ways corporations keep low-paid workers is pitting minority groups against each other.
“One of the ways they want to keep everybody in fear and not looking for higher wages is to tell every group that some other group is the enemy,” Miller said. “So it is very convenient for the system to be able to tell the black community that the Hispanic immigrant community is taking their jobs.”
Miller pointed out what he described as “racism” and said he would be using the word freely in the discussion.
Holding up the event’s flier, Miller said, “This is very rare to see a publicly handed out — if illegal — flier actually using the word.”
Miller called the flier illegal because minutes before the panel discussion, campus police followed social justice members into the Methodist Student Center and chastised them for handing out fliers to students without the office of student life’s stamp of approval.
Jumboonta talked about undocumented youth and families, Fascism and riots in Ferguson, Mo., after the shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer Aug. 9.
“In a word, it’s fascism. The Nazis in Germany had their style of fascism. The U.S. in 2014 have their own style of fascism,” Jumboonta said.
Fascism, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and the people are not allowed to disagree with the government. She equates democracy with fascism.
Jumboonta said they (democracy and the government) do not have plans for undocumented and minority youth, and most of the options available to this group are unemployment, debt, slave-wage jobs and the military.
“When I say fascism, it’s when the mask of this ‘democracy’ really comes off and what you see is naked capitalism,” Jumboonta said. “That’s coercion. That’s intensified racism. That’s terror. That’s super exploitation.”
Jumboonta said she arrived in Ferguson Aug. 26, the day after the funeral of Michael Brown, the victim of the controversial police shooting that sparked mass rioting.
Even though Jumboonta said she arrived after the National Guard had dispersed, she said, “The anger was palpable in that neighborhood.”
She described how police asked people to stand 25 feet away, not for safety, but for their tear gas bombs to be more effective.
Jumboonta then asked the audience if they would be willing to practice a “call and response” chant with her, similar to the chants made during the Ferguson riots.
When the audience agreed, Jumboonta shouted, “If we don’t get it? If we don’t get it? Ferguson? Chicago? Louder! Brooklyn? San Antonio? The whole damn system?”
After each line, the audience responded, “Shut it down!”
When the floor was opened to the audience for questions, political science major Daniel Arevalo asked, “Are there prisons that are privately owned and state-owned? What are the rules to open up a privately owned prison?”
“There are slightly more federally owned prisons than privately owned prisons,” Aguilar said. “Between the federal government, state, and local government, they just don’t have enough money to own these detention centers.
“So that’s why they contract it out to other groups, and these group see the big money they can make — and that’s where the danger is.”
After the panel discussion, DeLaGarza took out a banner reading “Workers and Students Unite and Fight Racist Police Terror, Mass Deportations and Mass Incarcerations.”
DeLaGarza asked if any members of the audience would be willing to protest with him around campus.
A group of about 12 students, including Jumboonta, agreed to chant with DeLagarza.
The group walked from the Methodist Student Center, through the mall and across San Pedro Avenue shouting, “This racist system has got to go!” and “Capitalism means? We have to fight back!”
When the demonstrators passed by Loftin Student Center for the second time, Mary Schlabig, office of student life administrative associate, was outside waiting for them and told the group to “wrap this up” because they did not have permission to protest.
According to the student handbook on the this college’s website, freedom of speech and assembly rights must be exercised in a manner and location that does not intrude upon, or interfere, with the academic programs and administrative processes of the Alamo Colleges.
Demonstrators must contact the office of student life to reserve an area on campus for protests.
Petitions, handbills and literature are permitted for distribution but must be submitted for approval when applying for demonstration space.
However, the protesters ignored Schlabig and continued with their demonstration for another 15 minutes before dispersing.
Campus police arrived on bicycles but did not confront the demonstrators.
This is the second time the organization has protested police shootings. The first time was in August on San Pedro Avenue west of this college.