news Archives - The Jose Vilson


Luis Ramirez and Son

Luis Ramirez and Son

… or you’ll be laying next to him.

That’s what Luis Ramirez’ murderers told his friends after killing him. And that’s why this post-racial talk is simply pure nonsense. I get it: we have a Black president, and we have the first____ and the first ____ in ____ and _____. While I get tired of the “first” attribute when it comes to racial achievement, it has its place. We’re only a few decades from the Civil Rights Movement and a century and a half from the abolition of slavery, an institution that this country’s had for five centuries give or take (and still exists in different countries). We’re only a few decades from Latinos officially being recognized as people in this country that existed, and only a few decades from Japanese internment camps springing up in the West.

So I have no such fancies about extreme racial progress in this country. We got a long way to go.

But when incidents like this happen, it’s just a reminder of how long we have to go. Even at my job, the xenophobia is rather atrocious. “Those damn Filipinos taking our jobs, they’re not better than me!” or “You look like a Mexican, orale guay!” Some of these Dominicans have nerve! Let anyone call these people (children and adults) Platanos or Dumb-in-a-Cans or “only good for beisbol and curvy, submissive women” and those necks will snap. Meanwhile, it’s OK to refer to others who’ve immigrated from a foreign land as hicks, immigrants, and “hard workers meant to do this.” Actually, sons and daughters of immigrants who are anti-immigration irk me. The whole crabs-in-a-barrel mentality irks me.

Then again, so do humans. Check this:

… this was a pretty clear-cut case of jury nullification: the weight of evidence against the accused was so powerful that it’s clear the all-white jury — like similar juries in the South during the Civil Rights struggle — was not going to convict two young white men of murdering a Mexican. Even if, as Friedman says, “the only reason he is dead is because he was Mexican.”

Prosecutors alleged that the teens baited the Ramirez into a fight with racial epithets, provoking an exchange of punches and kicks that ended with Ramirez convulsing in the street, foaming from the mouth. He died two days later in a hospital.

Piekarsky was accused of delivering a fatal kick to Ramirez’s head after he was knocked to the ground.

As they poured out of courthouse, the teens’ supporters shouted “I was right from the start” and “I’m glad the jury listened” at cameras that caught the late-night verdict.

But Gladys Limon, a spokeswoman for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the jury had sent a troubling message.

“The jurors here [are] sending the message that you can brutally beat a person, without regard to their life, and get away with it, continue with your life uninterrupted,” she said.

- Crooks and Liars, May 3rd, 2009

None of this is fair, and only one of the people who had a role in the death apologized. One can put a (gross) generalization that only 1 out of every 7 hate crime participants feels any remorse, even if it’s just to get out of a grossly inhumane situation. And to think, Luis only had 25 years to live, many of those he suffered just getting into this country and walking on a tightrope known as the illegal immigration worker program.

For his family (3 kids, at that). For himself. For a chance at a better life.

But they need to get the fuck out of Shanendoah. There’s no room for their American dream in that town.

Jose, who just wants a little more action for my satisfaction …

Comforting the Afflicted and Afflicting the Comfortable

by Jose Vilson on December 29, 2008

in Jose

Misconceptions about the News

Misconceptions about the News

There’s a famous quote that journalists learn every so often when it comes to the news:

” The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
- Finley Peter Dunne

It seems to be the general theme that I come across when I talk to newsies and other affiliates about the profession of news delivering. On the one end, journalists are entrusted by millions across the nation to deliver the day’s news. Even those of us who blog largely get our news from the big kids like the New York Times, Washington Post, the AP, and Reuters. Of course, that’s why it’s imperative for the news to be as balanced as possible, not just in ideology, but also in content.

But that’s where most networks fall flat on their faces. Even when they do a reasonable job of just reporting the facts, they still get caught up in that Murdochian mentality of keeping as much negativity in the news as possible for ratings. All we hear about is the terrible economy, the war, the murders, fires and firings, but never have a balance of what real people do, the rescues, the charity work, community service, the fun and exciting.

I’m asking for a lot, especially because the news is often criticized for not being everything for all people. The more well-informed of us want to hear more positive stories but at the same time want journalists to be more poignant with their coverage of things. They’d like more independent voices rather than the cronyism and tepid coverage we’ve gotten as a result of the media manipulation by corporations and ideologues. Jay Rosen has recently been twittering about “safety”

You know why there are bloggers, @Newshour? Because there is “safety first” reasoning in news. People get sick of it and take up their pens.

And that’s the crux of our existence. It isn’t so much that we want to take your jobs (as Pandagon so eloquently posits here), it’s that we want you to do your jobs as well as you can. Make things interesting. Report the good and the bad. Don’t limit the amount of good news to a 30 second segment because you know that 10 minute segment on the rough times will get you better ratings than the other network. Those of us who want to be informed want the news unfiltered and raw, and the closer you get to the “truth,” the better.  That’s why cable shows, as far as this informal eye can see, do better amongst my readers than the network news does.

Again, I’ve never taken a journalism class in my life nor do I profess to know what the editors and producers of the hundreds of news channels know, but as a consumer, I do have an understanding of what others are and have been saying about the news. Of course, if that’s news to you, then I guess we’re not watching the same thing.

Jose, who doesn’t believe no news is good news for the news you don’t know can kill you …


Hooray Accountability …

by Jose Vilson on December 6, 2007

AccountabilityI like sitting down listening to Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and thinking whether they had a worry in the world while smoking their drugs in their recording sessions. At the time of that song’s creation, they were already considered geniuses, so they didn’t really have “bosses,” or anyone to really hold them accountable outside of their mothers. The same can’t be said for the average worker in NYC these days.

Lately, the biggest talk amongst administrators in any sector containing unions has become accountability. Bloomberg and Co. have brought the discussion of accountability to the schools, and 3 reorganizations later, he’s made every principal into the schools’ CEO, thus deflecting responsibility off himself and his administration and concentrating it on the principals. Unfortunately, they also forgot to clean up the previous schema so the residue of years of failure still exist. We still have the same issues, just much more uncertainty, much more profit made off individual schools through “not-for-profits”, and teachers whose job security is in free fall. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be held more responsible for the parts we play in children’s education; everyone, though, has to do their part to make equity and stability a factor in our children’s success. We’re farther from that than before the 3 reorganizations.

Thus, if they can restructure education in that way, then public transportation is a walk in the park. Bloomberg intends to reorganize the hierarchy of the subway, breaking up the system by train lines, and establishing managers for each, with the premise that the manager now has more incentive to maintain order within his or her line. Yet, the decentralization of the subways again serves to distract the average rider from the messy administration that the Mass Transit Authority has established over the last decade or two and place more attention on the workers themselves. The MTA has such a history of mishandling money and providing spotty service on many of the important bus and train lines in the city that they probably never sought out any other solution but dispersion (They could have just removed the offending administrators and effectively cleaned up the department, but I just ride, vote, and pay taxes. what do I know?). Look how well it’s worked for schools (in Bloomberg’s favor).

So the principals hold teachers accountable, the managers will hold train workers accountable, the mayor and co. will hold the principals and managers accountable, but who holds the administration accountable? Not only is this a citywide predicament, but a nationwide problem too. While innocent workers from here to Iraq and all points in between left and right are held accountable for their acts, our administrators have no qualms burning secret videotapes of Al Qaeda interrogations. The more we demand from our administration, the more we probe about their torture and water boarding, the more we hold them accountable for their actions, the more they burn and blackout their documents, inciting even more questioning.

Yet this is the example that the country sets for their city counterparts, which continues to spell opaque terms for people like you and me, wherever we work …



A Tale of Two Lower East Siders

October 30, 2007

I’m a resident Lower East Sider. I don’t teach around here, but my heart, soul, and body still resides here. So when news from this area comes out, my ears perk up. We’ve had some of the more peculiar and iconic events happen around these parts, yet they hardly get recognized because 1) people didn’t […]

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1,572 Since Mission Accomplished

August 20, 2007

Keith Olbermann of MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” signs off his show with, “That is Countdown for this, the _ _ _ _ th day since the declaration of ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Iraq. I’m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.” As of today, it’s been 1,572 days since that day (5/1/2003), 1,608 days since […]

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100 More Years of Solitude

April 22, 2007

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been reading 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez (great book, just takes some getting used to), and the central theme of the book is the idea that life simply works in cycles: it doesn’t just move forward, but plays hopscotch with its past. While that may […]

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