Race, Immigration and Who Runs the Joint

EASTSIDER-I know it’s hard for anyone to write honestly about race, but as a third generation Californian, I’ll give it a whirl. With a different context. 

I grew up all over California, mostly in the 50s and 60s. In San Francisco, my dad was a hod carrier along with a whole bunch of fellow Bohunks, while he worked his way through dental school. We lived on Oriente Street over by the Cow Palace, and the community was a vibrant and very mixed-race area of blue collar workers. Nobody seemed too tooled up about race -- just work and makin’ it. 

Years later at Hunters Point, while waiting in a Quonset Hut for my dad to come home from the Korean war, I was on the wrong end of the ethnic majority, and of course I got picked on and occasionally hammered. At the same time, in a weird way, it was not personal. Nobody who was living there was happy. So, I didn’t think too much of all the race stuff. Besides, I was a little short kid with an attitude, so I couldn’t really claim to be blameless. 

When we moved down into Orange County (while there were still Orange groves) there were very few black kids, and a lot of Mexican kids. But at that time, a lot of the Mexican kids lived in segregated LULAC communities around Santa Ana, with few points of interaction except for schools. You can glimpse that history here.  

At the same time, while immigration was grist for the OC Register, in truth the agricultural business required lots of low paid labor, and I don’t recall any of the employers actually caring where their help came from. Then, after the orange trees were all cut down and replaced with housing, there was a huge need for construction labor, and again, outside of the public rhetoric, I don’t recall employers grilling anyone on whether or not they were legal. 

Anyhow, we mostly got along, and it may have helped that I was a serious loner. 

I can’t overlook the reality that it was also a very up-front racist society in Orange County during those days, at least among a lot of our parents. Sunkist Growers, Standard Oil, and a bunch of creepy antediluvian politicians ran everything. And they were no joke. I heard that back in the ’30s, the Ku Klux Clan had a shootout with the Catholics at their church in Anaheim, although nobody won and I don’t think there was much in the papers. 

Santa Ana, the “big city” in Orange County, had some very mean streets, and the annals of the Orange County Registerreveal those folks and those times for history. 

And I’ll never forget driving down Imperial Highway to Inglewood to see my girlfriend, only to be stopped by a bunch of terrified white National Guardsmen in a Jeep with a machine gun on it. I was told to turn around and get the hell out -- blacks were rioting in Watts. Turns out, of course, that the “Watts Riots” had a lot more to do with systematic economic suppression of the mostly black citizens living there than it did with some race war. 

Growing up, however, the times they were a changin’. I mostly got along or ignored and was in turn ignored by my schoolmates who didn’t look like me. That has held for most of my personal experiences in life, be it in St. Helena or in Oroville in Northern California, La Jolla or LA County in Southern California, or visiting my parents’ friends in Bakersfield (well, Weedpatch to be exact). Most of us are simply trying to get by or get ahead in life. 

So, for my generation that pretty much was how it worked. You could have friends who were of different races or beliefs, but few were getting invited to someone else’s home for dinner.  

At UC Berkeley in the late 60s, I was put in my place while trying to be a cool radical and going with the Black Panthers to do voter registration in Oakland, but what the hell did I really know about living on East 14thSt. or Fruitvale Ave? Instant learning it was, and frankly the Panthers were pretty straight up. Much cooler than the SDS or the Oakland PD. 

When I look back to college, I have admit that my contemporaries were more concerned about being drafted and sent to Vietnam by our government, than we were all excited about who was what color. 

I have always felt that my neighbors, wherever I lived or worked, were overwhelmingly good people who had been dealt good to bad hands and were doing the best they could under their circumstances. Didn’t know (or particularly care) about the rest of the world, and most of the race haters of my parents’ generation retired or died over time. Except, of course for the whacko John Birch crowd in Orange County, who simply seemed to be people from another planet with unseemly longevity. 

Cometh the East Coast 

Such would have always been my California world view, had I not had “issues” in school, and got thrown out of Fullerton Union High School at the end of my freshman year. Just to be clear, those issues were with authority figures, not students, and I was officially “not invited back.” 

So, my freaked-out parents shipped me one-way only to Lenox Mass, to a private Episcopalian Boarding School, for boys, and oh, by the way, “have a nice life.” It was not cool, but it was a serious learning experience. Also, it gave me an aversion to freezing places. 

It was there that I learned that a small group of very networked people on the East Coast actually run the United States of America, and party affiliation means less than being one of the Club with access to serious wealth. The club starts with the prep school system -- places like Phillips Andover and Phillips Exeter and the like, who feed into the “right” Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale and Georgetown. 

These are the people who move into the highest levels of FIRE, that acronym being defined as the Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate industries. The real skim off the top economy. 

These super-networked graduates also go into government, foreign service, Big Four Accounting/Consulting Firms, become high-end lawyers, and salt the other professions that feed and protect the elites who own the Country. 

Anyhow, I got booted out of the Prep School during finals, although I did graduate, and was spit back into the minor leagues of California, I suspect much to both my relief and theirs. 

I know this all sounds nuts to many Californians, and even my friends often humor me when we have serious discussions about this view of who controls what. But it’s real. When I talk to East Coast transplants to California, they mostly look surprised, nod knowingly and say, “Sure.” 

Anyhow, it was a first-class education and an eye-opening experience into the world as it really is, as opposed to what we read and see on TV. 

So, to me, I worry a heck of a lot more over the East Coast transplants that come to California in order to grab the reins of power and exploit us, than I do the ethnicity or immigration status of my friends and neighbors. And maybe you too should consider the idea. 

The Real Governance Structure 

The East Coast Establishment may hold the reins of power, but they do so on behalf of the 1/2 of 1% who own them, and inferentially, you and me. In many cases, they themselves are of that group.  

The West Coast, of course, has bags of hi-value money people, like the Google, Apple and other Tech rich, and there are plenty of FIRE rich individuals as well. What most people fail to understand, however, is that the really, really rich could care less about political careers. They ownpoliticians, and don’t have to put up with the BS that passes for politics these days. 

That’s who the East Coast Establishment is, and those who are not stinky rich work for those who are, gaming the law, the political process, and the financial services industry including the Federal Reserve. 

Take two perfect examples: Steve Mnuchin (Treasury Secretary) and octogenarian billionaire Wilbur Ross (Secretary of Commerce). 

Mnuchin was labeled “the Foreclosure King” in California for a reason, as he literally destroyed the lives of thousands of homeowners. As reported in The Hill:

“This is all well-documented by David Dayen, author of ‘Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud.’ In an exhaustive article in The Nation, Dayen chronicles how Mnuchin got fabulously rich while hundreds of thousands lost their homes.” 

You will not be shocked that Mnuchin fits my East Coast elite profile. NYC, father a Goldman Sachs executive, prep school, Yale, and on to Salomon Bros and then Goldman Sachs. Then on to greater glory in gutting California mortgage holders by hook and by crook. 

Then there’s his partner in Cabinet Crime, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The Boston Globe has a great article about Wilbur called, “The biggest creature in the swamp? Wilbur Ross.”

Quoting from the article: 

“According to Forbes, Ross is alleged to have siphoned or stolen more than $120 million from business partners and customers. Forbes recounted accusations against Ross that included “taking handfuls of Sweet ’N Low packets from a nearby restaurant, so he didn’t have to go out and buy some for himself,” and not paying workers who had done work at his house in the Hamptons. One would imagine that the latest transgression would have been most appealing to President Trump, considering his own legacy of stiffing contractors who did work on his casinos.” 

Just like his unindicted co-conspirator Mnuchin, Ross’ background fits my profile. New Jersey, Catholic Prep school, and his father’s alma mater, Yale. Finally, Harvard MBA. 

The Takeaway 

I know this column has drifted a long way from race, but my experience is that people who are happy, secure, and have good jobs, mostly have better things to do than play the race game. I know who to really worry about, and it’s not the majority minority folks in California. We’re all doing our best to survive in a world that no longer makes any sense. So personally, I wish that everyone would just shut up about all the race and immigration blather that simply serves to try and divide people. 

Concentrate on the economic elite that is using these tools to get us fussing with each other as they literally loot the country. Think Mnuchin & Ross, prototype East Coast establishment looters. 

Anyhow, if it were up to me, I’d open up immigration full boat in California. Instead, we should ban any of those East Coast hucksters from coming to California, period -- particularly lawyers, priests, and politicians. Cut ‘em off at the Mississippi River, I say. Build a wall. Yes sir, that’s the ticket.