Oxnard at the Crossroads | Fear or Love



By Armando Vazquez, Founding member of CORE  & the Acuna Art Gallery and Community Collective 

Fear makes psychological prisoners of us all, it is as if we are walking around with chains and locks around our hearts and minds.  A pathetic way to live, we would all agree.  So, why do so many of us in America and in Oxnard, live this way?

There is the liberating NOW alternative; wherein we choose to confront our fears and begin to dispel them.  In a moment of mindful liberation we embrace the NOW.  In this very moment we may/can come to the sobering self-realization that most of us don’t even know what or how we were driven so insidiously into our horrific, mobile, 24/7 fearful hell that consumes many us.

I make this observation in this historically important moment when again, the residents of Oxnard will be confronted with the choice of continuing the deployment or elimination of the two constitutionally flawed Civil “Gang” Injunctions that currently plague our wonderful city.  What will drive the final community decision fear or love?

In the 25 years that I have been working with at-risk youth in the greater Oxnard area I find, universally, that the at-risk youth and those residents that are fearful of the youth are both frightened and petrified of one another; the unnamed, unknown “dangerous” strangers.

The hate mongers among us have no trouble giving these youth names and labeling them for us.  Some people quickly adopt the language of the hate mongers and begin calling these humans that they may not know: predators, super-predators, gang members, illegals, rapist, killers, thugs, dope dealers and drunks.  The list labels is as long as human ignorance and fear.  Often people are complicit in helping hate mongers add fuel and stoke long-held prejudicial beliefs that keep people at each other’s necks.  At the end of the day no one feels any safer, and perhaps even more fearful instead.  This is no way to live, and it is a slow excruciating way to die!

In its 115 year history, Oxnard has stupidly self-inflicted more black-eyes on its reputation than an inept hockey team, all because of race and fear.  The current Civil “Gang” Injunctions rank as two of the worst black-eyes ever self-inflicted, despite the fact that Oxnard, for its population size, ranks as one of the safest city in the entire nation.  So why is Oxnard so safe and its citizenry so fearful?  For 115 years there has been a power sharing and communication vacuum.  The Mexican/Latino population that represents approximately 80(or more) % of the population in Oxnard has little to no political decision-making power.  A people that hunger for inclusion, justice and democracy are a people that have systemically been oppressed for 115 years. Conversely the small yet omnipotent ruling white population have had a run of uninterrupted control of the city for 115 years.

The Mexicans and Latinos are fearful because they have no power and the white ruling class is ever-fearful of losing their power and control.  Former City Manager Greg Nyhoff, early on in his short tenure in Oxnard, quipped, “Where are all the Latinos in the city?”  I guess the guy could not find us and left.  The truth is of course that we are here, we have always been here!  Now we must demand full and equal democratic participation in the civic life of Oxnard.

Chiques Organizing for Rights and Equality (CORE), the Oxnard community, and the Oxnard Police Department (OPD) are, for the first time in the 115 year history of the city is talking openly, democratically and honestly about what constitutes community safety.  Recently we pointed out to the OPD and Chief Whitney that the police budget for fiscal year 2017-18 is $69,491,809 dollars and that as far as we are concerned the city does not spend one dollar on independent community based restorative/rehabilitative social service programs for our troubled and at-risk youth.

CORE is working with the OPD and the rest of the community to develop effective, humane and universal access to restorative and rehabilitative programs to provide jobs, vocational training, educational opportunities, mental health and substance abuse counseling to our at-risk youth and troubled adult population.  A serious investment into these social service programs will be far less expense than the roughly $70 million dollars that we spend solely on a police force that is looking to the community for safety innovation and dynamic partnerships.

CORE invites the entire community to our next meeting with OPD, this Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 1 PM, at 445 South B Street (the old Social Security Building).


Armando Vazquez

Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.  is Executive Director of  Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition

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