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The Good Long Road | Commentary by Jennifer Fischer
| Saturday, Dec 6, 2014

JenniferFischerIn many ways, I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for the last two weeks – trying to wrap my brain around everything that has happened; struggling to find my voice because silence is deadly. Silence is not acceptable because silence implies acceptance.

As a pastor’s kid, the words of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer come to mind:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Still, finding the right words is not always easy. In fact, sometimes it can seem impossible, particularly when searching for the right words for the right circumstance.

As I searched for the “right words,” I immediately thought of the famous “First They Came” poem:

 

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me

– Martin Niemoller

 

Perhaps what has happened in other parts of the country doesn’t feel relevant or important here in the Santa Clarita Valley, but injustice anywhere is relevant to all of us everywhere.

So as I struggle for the right words, I find that what makes the most sense for me to write about is what I personally know; what I have personally experienced and seen.

When I lived in Newhall and mentioned that fact to individuals who lived in other parts of the Santa Clarita Valley, I would often get a questionable look and would be asked if I felt safe living in Newhall.

I often get that same look and question now when I mention that I live in Val Verde. Despite the low crime rates in both areas (and in all of the Santa Clarita Valley), people often seem genuinely shocked that I am not afraid to live in Val Verde.

These sentiments come primarily from the fact that both Newhall and Val Verde are viewed as low-income communities of color.

Right now, the residents of Val Verde are struggling to have their voices heard and recognized as they speak out against the expansion of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill instead of its impending closure (as was previously agreed upon by the landfill and the county).

I see the existence of the landfill so close to homes in Val Verde, and this proposed expansion, as clearly related to systemic racism and the power of privilege.

Historically, Val Verde was an African-American community. In fact, the community’s actual existence is directly connected to segregation. Black Hollywood actors were not allowed to vacation in Palm Springs and were not welcome in many other areas, so Val Verde was created to be literally a “Black Palm Springs,” a vacation resort area for wealthy black Angelenos.

Today, Val Verde is still viewed as a community of color – although no longer African-American, but Hispanic.

I’ve read various comments about the community in which it is spoken of in derogatory ways. Its residents are often referred to as “illegal,” or the community is mentioned as being full of “gangs.”

As a resident, I can tell you that not only are those comments racist, classist and crude; they are also wrong. There may be some residents who are undocumented – I personally do not know, for I don’t go around my community asking people to prove their citizenship. Nor do I care – because what I do know is that my community is full of interesting and wonderful residents who are healthcare workers, educators, professors, filmmakers, college students, sculptors, farmers, entrepreneurs, artisans, social workers, janitors, beauticians, painters, Ivy League graduates, chefs, contractors, dancers, pilots, veterans, real estate investors and more.

The Chiquita Canyon Landfill is counting on its privilege and its money, and its promoters are counting on silence. They are assuming the pervading views of Val Verde will keep people from speaking out against the expansion of the landfill. Their assumption is that the majority of Los Angeles County residents, and even Santa Clarita Valley residents, will not pay attention and will not care. All they need to expand is for the five individuals who make up the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to vote for the expansion – and why wouldn’t they?

Those supervisors are elected by the whole. What difference would the loss of 1,000 votes from Val Verde residents make to any of them, or even to our supervisor? No difference at all, and here I find it coming full circle – I find all of the words and images swirling around in my head colliding. I see how the global is local, and the local is global, and I can’t breathe.

The landfill stinks. Senseless, unnecessary deaths stink. Distrust of our law enforcement officers stinks. Unequal treatment stinks. The devaluation of lives stinks, and the power of privilege is suffocating.

I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I can’t write. But I also can’t be silent. All lives matter, and I won’t breathe freely until there is a world in which every person’s life is valued and we are all treated with love and compassion.

 

 

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

 

 

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39 Comments

  1. Gina Stewart Gina Stewart says:

    You forgot to add that criminals stink and lack of respect for those who put their lives on the line to protect us from such criminals stink. I can’t breathe either, watching people coddle criminals and undermine police.

    • Yep, this has everything to do with crime and not race, which is why you’ll find white-collar criminals get sent to jail just the same as any person of color trying to make a dime out on the street. Those bankers that irresponsibly set America up for an economic collapse a few years ago are enjoying a lengthy, well-deserved stay at your local penitentiary.

      My dad’s LAPD, come at me brah.

    • <3 Thanks for liking my comment until you realized I was pointing out the cruel irony in the law and not siding with you, Gina. Cops enforce the law, that doesn't make the law right. Who makes the law? Our representatives. Who are our representatives? Old rich white guys, including our own Buck McKeon, who's a deacon in the Mormon church and has a funny little street named after him that leads to Wal*Mart. Does he represent the interests of people like me, or the residents of Val Verde who have to live next to a dump? …Nah, prolly not.

    • <3 Thanks for liking my comment until you realized I was pointing out the cruel irony in the law and not siding with you, Gina. Cops enforce the law, that doesn't make the law right. Who makes the law? Our representatives. Who are our representatives? Old rich white guys, including our own Buck McKeon, who's a deacon in the Mormon church and has a funny little street named after him that leads to Wal*Mart. Does he represent the interests of people like me, or the residents of Val Verde who have to live next to a dump? …Nah, prolly not.

  2. Gina Stewart Gina Stewart says:

    You forgot to add that criminals stink and lack of respect for those who put their lives on the line to protect us from such criminals stink. I can’t breathe either, watching people coddle criminals and undermine police.

  3. Sorry Jennifer, I don’t agree. If someone goes out of their way to harm others (like ISIS) or many other cases, their life doesn’t matter and they need to be eliminated from this earth. Your views are sweet but completely unrealistic

  4. Sorry Jennifer, I don’t agree. If someone goes out of their way to harm others (like ISIS) or many other cases, their life doesn’t matter and they need to be eliminated from this earth. Your views are sweet but completely unrealistic

  5. If you are speaking of the landfill issue, specifically, what are other options?
    I’m not sure I understand the sentiment in your article…

  6. If you are speaking of the landfill issue, specifically, what are other options?
    I’m not sure I understand the sentiment in your article…

  7. Thanks Jennifer. The casual and systemic racism that allows these things should no longer be tolerated.

  8. Thanks Jennifer. The casual and systemic racism that allows these things should no longer be tolerated.

  9. Julie Vetrie Julie Vetrie says:

    Thank you for not being silent!!

  10. Barb Green Barb Green says:

    Your story was unclear. Was it about outrage about verdicts or a landfill that you knowingly moved near?

  11. Obviously .. A bored housewife

    • Obviously you are a sexist chauvinistic pig for writing and thinking this; for attacking her opinion based on the fact that she’s a woman. You are what is wrong with this world, Steven.

  12. What a heartfelt and well written explanation of “The Inability to Breath” in witness to our social problems. You are right, for those who claim to deny any ownership of these problems, will only be surprised when it reaches their doors.

  13. And Gina criminal cops stink too!

  14. Thank you for not being silent.

  15. Steven Williams that an incredibly sexist comment, way to look like an ass.

  16. Thank you for writing this Jennifer. Being white, we have the privilege of being outraged at the turn of events (i.e. Lack of indictments) rather than be terrified at these outcomes like people of color now are. We don’t have that fear of law enforcement because, statistically, white people are not unjustifiably harassed or killed as often as people of color at the hand of police.

    A Criminal is a criminal, regardless of race, religion, social class, etc., but that does not mean the institution that is put in place to protect us (and the institution paid for by our tax dollars) gets to get off killing someone for something as harmless as selling “loose cigarettes”. It’s why we have a clause in our constitution forbidding “cruel and unusual punishment”. Choking someone to death over the illegal sale of cigarettes–when a chokehold is forbidden as a means of restraint to begin with–is cruel and unusual and unjustified punishment.

    But, of course as the privileged, W.A.S.P-y inhabitants of this sheltered valley, I don’t expect you all to grasp that concept. We are so quick to jump to the side of the cop because they are supposed to be the “good guy”. But I can almost bet that not one of these commenters who has commented negatively on this article has been hassled by law enforcement, or has had to fear a police presence. You don’t want to believe it because racism is a hard pill to swallow, especially when we all subconsciously carry around white-guilt. But we need to use our white privilege to fight alongside our people of color counterparts and stand up for their rights as well. This doesn’t mean all cops are bad, or that Eric garner or Michael brown weren’t doing something illegal to begin with to elicit a police response, but they should still be alive and their killers should’ve at least been indicted. That is where the systemic racism lies. And we cannot stay silent.

  17. Why are the stories so badly written always ?

  18. David Devlin David Devlin says:

    When a police officer asks you to put your hands behind your back…..PUT THEM BEHIND YOUR BACK!!! and WHY would you get into a situation wher you have to put your hands behind your back????

  19. Bad cops are on notice.

  20. I’m not sure you made clear your position on anything but the landfill

  21. Chris Kramer Chris Kramer says:

    I am fairly certain that I won’t be shot or choked by any LEO for one reason, and surprisingly enough its not my skin color or ethnic background. It’s because when an officer tells me not to commit an infraction (read: don’t walk in the middle of the street) I say “ok officer, have a nice night”. If I’m selling illegal cigarettes, I’m not really surprised when the officer tells me to put my hands behind my back for fitting those ugly bracelets. I don’t resist, I don’t fuss, I don’t regard myself a victim.

    Every life lost prematurely is a tragedy, regardless of cause. The real fact is there are about 300 to 400ish deaths during arrests, etc. in a country of 300 millionish, and many are a phenomenon called “suicide by cop”. If there is 1 death due to a “bad cop” it’s too many, but let’s find one of those cases to hang the banner from, not the cases we see now*.

    * my assessment of the case in New York may change, since the Grand Jury transcripts aren’t as readily available as they are for the Ferguson case.

  22. I thought the article was well written and informative. It all came together for me personally and I could see how clearly it related to the recent social and political upheaval. We are all in this together.

  23. Gina educate yourself the 12 year old, Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun in the park. As well the big sweet guy, Mr. Eric Garner on a New York sidewalk was just standing there! No crimes in many of these people’s actions. Most black people are not criminals. You need to get out of SCV, maybe travel abroad or friend some minority people and you will find they are struggling to survive just like us here.

  24. Abigail says:

    The people who moved to Val Verde had it in writing that the landfill “dump” was closing. So don’t try that “you knew” garbage with the people of Val Verde. It was not just a rumor it is in writing and the landfill, AKA “Good Neighbor” is going back on a written contract. Get your facts straight commenters who hate Val Verde.

    Jennifer – good article :-)

  25. John Musella says:

    Hey Abigail… If you read the language in the 1997 governing permit for the landfill it clearly states that nothing in the permit shall prohibit Chiquita Canyon from seeking future expansions.

    The Agreement signed with Val Verde created the language to include in that permit which established the end date for the permit. I know it can be a little confusing, but we should be clear about the facts. Thank you.

    • SCVNews.com says:

      John, the entire Val Verde agreement was included in the conditions of approval by the Board of Supervisors. Upon certification of the Final EIR for the 1997 expansion, the terms of the Val Verde agreement, including closure no later than November 2019, became terms of the approval of the expansion. I know you weren’t there at the time, but the 1997 expansion was contentious and would not have been approved without the closure condition – and in fact it was not. (Leon)

    • SCVNews.com says:

      Read for example Condition #46 in the Conditions of Approval for the modifications to the landfill’s CUP (i.e., the expansion) as signed by the Landfill manager and the property owner (NLF).

    • Bonnie Nikolai says:

      Semantics. The agreement states that the landfill would close. So it should close. It’s pretty simple. I’m fairly sure a court would agree. Which sadly, it may come to that. You are admitting to underhanded trickery. It’s like that time someone won a Toyota and the prize committee gave the winner a Toy Yoda doll. Guess what? They got used and had to buy the winner a Toyota.

      Go expand somewhere else. I’m sure the massive corporation that owns Chiquita (and pays you Mr. Musella) has plenty of money to buy land somewhere else. Preferably more than 2 miles from people. We don’t want to dump our problems on another unsuspecting community.

      • John Musella says:

        The landfill permit which governs the landfill says nothing in these conditions shall preclude the landfill from seeking future permits and expansions. That’s a fact. Val Verde signed that agreement that’s in the permit.

        • SCVNews.com says:

          Huh … Not immediately seeing that language (or equivalent) in an agreement signed by Val Verde reps, as you suggest. Please post it here, thanks.

  26. Get those poor Latinos outta here! Hell yeah the dump belongs next to their breeding ground and not next to squeaky clean shiny Bridgeport where no one has ever been murdered and domestic violence and quiet rage definitely does not exist! https://www.google.com/#q=santa+clarita+murder+suicide

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