By Sikivu Hutchinson
It’s always been the secret wish of people of color to play down home Deliverance-style crackers in a special trailer trash fantasy league like those Civil War enactment confabs where white men get off on pretending Dixie never died. Better still, it’s always been my personal ambition to enact a trailer trash fantasy league at a public school as an official observation of authentic white culture.
Weeks after Anaheim—home to Disneyland, i.e., the “happiest place on earth”— was still reeling from a series of police shootings in the Latino community, the city’s predominantly white Canyon Hills High celebrated its fourth annual “Seniores and Senioritas” day for graduating seniors. The day featured white kids sporting sombreros, sagging pants, gang paraphernalia, ICE and Border Patrol gear as well as girls with fake pregnant bellies pushing baby strollers. The racist display was only shut down due to the activism of 19 year-old Jared Garcia-Kessler, a former student who was told to “get a sense of humor” when he initially complained to a school official.
Anaheim and Orange County (the “O.C.”) have long registered in the American popular imagination as sun-kissed playgrounds for white Middle America. Despite having a predominantly Latino and highly diverse Asian community the O.C. is widely perceived as one giant tanning bed for spoiled rich white trust fund babies and their gated community sequestered parents. This perception is part and parcel of the media whiteout of Latinos, who, despite being 45% of California’s population, are grossly under-represented in West Coast-centric film and TV productions. Mainstream representation of Latinos is little more than a goulash of illegal alien, gang banging, spicy Latina broken English spewing stereotypes. A recent New York Times article focused on the TV industry’s attempts to court growing Latino audiences with the same old stale racist themes about breeder Latino families, border jumping and criminality.
The 85% white faculty at Canyon Hills High mirrors the faculty composition of UC San Diego; which elicited a firestorm in 2010 when white UCSD fraternities staged a Black History Month “Compton Cookout” in which participants were asked to wear gold teeth, cheap clothes, FUBU attire, etc. The Compton Cookout inspired massive protests, renewing discussion about admission, retention and graduation rates for black students and the miniscule number of tenured black faculty. Given the fever pitch xenophobia, nativism and anti-undocumented immigrant hysteria in the U.S. it is no surprise that the Seniores event was allowed to roll on for three years with virtually no incident or protest. Garcia-Kessler’s intervention is a commendable strike against the business as usual apartheid that defines K-12 schools.