Sal Castro

Sal Castro, a founder of the so-called “Chicano Movement” (i.e., the overt fostering, in the U.S., of Mexican racial pride) died this past Monday, after living sweetly from both his teachers union pension and the additional pension he likely received from his gig as Park and Recreation Commissioner for the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. Castro is best known for organizing, with the help of other racialist community organizations such as the Brown Berets, the ’68 Walkouts (also known as the ‘Blowouts’), which involved organizing 20,000 hispanic students from 15 California public school systems to walk-out of school. (The irony of skipping school to protest the alleged lack of hispanic opportunity in school was apparently lost on him.)

This morning, NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates provided a paean to Castro so effusive that it’s worth pointing out, if only to showcase the radically different perspective the American Left has on race matters.

1968 was a turbulent year. There were black power demonstrations and anti-war protests in the streets and on college campuses. So in a way, it was natural that Mexican-American high school students in East Los Angeles became activists, too. After years of receiving an indifferent education that made no mention of their cultural history from educators that punished them for speaking their grandparents’ language, they’d had enough.

No mention of their cultural history? Most certainly, there was mention of their history (any instance of a CA public school system history class mentioning the Mexican-American War would refute that), but, ahhhh….. she means cultural history, which is leftspeak for multiculturalism’s emphasis on the collective racial consciousness of non-whites.

Punished for speaking Mexican? Were students punished for speaking Mexican to each other? Ahh… no. The Wikipedia page on Castro notes:

Around 1956, while still a student at LACC, he got his first job in the educational field, as an assistant playground director in the inner-city neighborhood school. He held various positions in the Los Angeles-area schools before being hired at Belmont High School in Downtown Los Angeles as an interpreter and social studies teacher. He began coaching Mexican-American students to run for positions in student government. At a campaign assembly, candidates from the new political party addressed the student body in Spanish; when addressing the student body in Spanish was prohibited at that time. This prompted the cancellation of the assembly and the suspension of the offending students. Castro, who was ignorant of the rule, had given the go-ahead to use Spanish…

Was Castro truly ignorant of the rule or, as his subsequent arrest 12 years later (for disturbing the peace) implies, deliberately organizing some of the high school’s students into a wider political movement (and moment)?

I’ll hazard to guess the latter.

What was the point of the ’68 Walkouts? What were they protesting? An LA Times story on Castro’s death cites “overcrowded and run-down schools, soaring dropout rates, poorly trained teachers, and counselors who steered Latino students into auto shop instead of college-prep classes.”

Making post-high-school career recommendations based on aptitude? What a crazy idea!
We also know Castro was arguing for bilingualism and ethnocentric education (for Mexicans) in American public schools.

The NPR segment contains audio of Mr. Castro recalling the ‘1968 Walkouts’:

In the morning, as I walked in the school – as the bell rang for the kids to go to school, heading for their classroom – out they went. Kids from all over, different hallways and everything else, they were out in the streets with their heads held high, with dignity. It was beautiful to be a Chicano that day.

After the Walkouts, the martyr Castro was inconvenienced:

Castro was jailed for five days after the walkouts and lost his job, but he was rehired after weeks of protests by Eastside parents. [LM – There’s nothing like racial solidarity in action. Si! Se puede!] Months after the protests, 40 teachers at Lincoln High asked to be transferred if the district allowed Castro to return.

40 racist teachers.

Where did Castro’s anger come from? From the LA Times:

The son of Mexican immigrants, Castro was born in Boyle Heights on Oct. 25, 1933, and spent some of his early childhood in Mexico, where he learned to read in Spanish.
When he returned to Los Angeles for second grade, his teacher made him sit in a corner because he was the only student who could not speak English. [LM – How much do you want to bet Castro was made to sit in the corner for other reasons?] Instead of accepting the stigma, “I started thinking, these teachers … should be able to understand me,” he said in a 1988 interview with The Times.

I had to laugh at this line in the LAT piece, with CYLC just one of the hundreds (if not thousands) of leftwing groups that receive some form of gummint funding:

In 1963, he founded the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference, a nonprofit organization that trained future leaders at annual workshops held until 2009, when it lost its funding.

In the Huffington Post’s “Latino Voices” section (sigh…), Mario T. Garcia, Professor of Chicana/o Studies (yes, the a/o is how they spell it) at University of California Santa Barbara sings Castro’s praise, especially Castro’s fostering of ‘critical consciousness’ (aka racial consciousness):

Castro worked with students to develop a critical consciousness that further recognized that the schools as constituted were not there to help them but instead to limit their opportunities so that they could be recycled as cheap labor, like their parents. Castro believed that the development of this critical consciousness represented real education, as opposed to the regimented “schooling” that the students received that only intended to produce submissive citizens who would not question the inequalities in the American system.

Armed with this more critical consciousness and inspired by Castro’s leadership, the students went on strike in what may be the largest high school student strike in American history. Some 20,000 students walked out of 15 schools in the first week of March 1968 in the “blowouts.” Their strike eventually led to various reforms, although even today education in inner city schools leaves much to be desired.

But what the walkouts really changed was the consciousness of the students…

The Movement made Chicanos and other Latinos into major national political actors for the first time, and we are seeing the fruits of that movement today in the rise of Latino political power.

So, beyond forging the above-mentioned Chicano racial consciousness, what other successes did the Walkout engender?

According to DemocracyNow:

Many of the students who participated in the walkouts went on to successful careers in politics, academia and the arts. One of them was Antonio Villaraigosa–he’s now the mayor of Los Angeles. Another was award-winning filmmaker Moctesuma Esparza, who was indicted for his role in organizing the walkouts. He is now executive producer of a new HBO film about the 1968 protests simply titled “Walkout.”

I wonder what became of the other 19,998 students involved in the Walkouts?…

In terms of public education reform, what has been the legacy of the Great Chicano Awakening of ’68?

Well, for starters, we have CA school boards dominated by Chicano activists, the longterm effects of bilingualism, and 50%+ dropout rates for ‘Chicanos’. In short, we have the rousing success that the CA public education system is.

Fear not. Castro won’t be forgotten anytime soon. In the spirit of Cesar Chavez-like sanctification:

  • On October 13, 2009, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to name a new Middle School, located on the campus of Belmont High School, Sal Castro Middle School.
  • Anaheim’s Savanna High School celebrates Sal Castro Day every March 27.

Si! Se puede!

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