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Xavier Hermosillo is the President of CrisisPros, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 20years ago and is based in his native San Pedro, CA. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning print reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He is an elected member of the Board of Directors of CGI Holdings, Inc., a publicly-traded company that is headquartered in Chicago. He co-founded a NASDAQ company based in Chicago, serves as a Hearing Examiner for the L.A. Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds Honors degrees in Administration of Justice, Marketing and Management. He can be reached at

April 25, 2005

Would this be a better world if we didn’t have lawyers and politicians among us, or people who think they’re better than others and use physical violence or political finesse to try and prove it?

This is the story of people who can’t get along, the differences between the 90210’s of the world (that’s code for Beverly Hills) and the 90011’s (the poor Latino and Black neighborhoods 40 blocks south of downtown Los Angeles). From L.A. to Great Britain and of course, the oldest saga of hate and violence, in the Middle East, they all share common trait What prompts this discussion is the realization that while we are again having a vigorous debate in the U.S. about illegal immigration, we are not alone. At the same time, Great Britain is trying to close its borders to prevent its version of the unwanted: Indians, Asians, and refugees from anywhere.

There have also been hateful protests in China against Japanese, including those extorting their public officials to kill Japanese people. And of course, in the most diverse city in America, Los Angeles, there is new evidence that we just can’t get along.

Kids will always be kids, especially as they go through puberty and feel the frustrations of finding their own identity, and of looking or feeling like freaks. From bad hair days, pimples, and trying to figure out the opposite sex, kids in Urban America’s high schools today also have to deal with class status. The real irony is that even among poor people, there are fights over class status.

Sometimes it is about skin color, language, or whether someone can afford to wear $100-pairs of shoes, $50-shirts or jackets, etc. There seem to be rules and standards everywhere for looking cool. It happened when I was in high school and certainly when you dragged yourself through the humiliation that grades nine to twelve reserves for all of us.

However, it seems some people have forgotten the ugly ritual of growing up and competing for attention and affection in high school and the fact that violence is very much a part of that experience. It always has been a part, whether it was hazing, or proving that one person is tougher than the next.

This all brings me to the great trouble I am having with how the media and politicians are dealing with the recent Latino and Black clashes at one of the oldest schools in L.A., Thomas Jefferson High School. The school and the community it serves sit about two miles south of the tall buildings of L.A.’s downtown, immediately west of the Alameda Corridor that straddles the industrial areas of L.A., South Gate and Vernon, and that move thousands of ship containers from the ports to the rest of America.

It’s an area with a violent history, where the Black Panthers of the 1960’s and the LAPD had an infamous shootout at 41st Street and Central Avenue. It’s also the area of another famous shootout between LAPD and the group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst 31 years ago, the Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA as the media called them.

For generations, this was strictly a Black community. But like the rest of South L.A., the Black population has flowed out and the Latino masses have flowed in. If you didn’t know the history of this area, you would think large parts of it resemble a Little Tijuana. Spanish is the coin of the realm and that appears to be part of the problem at Jefferson High.

Last week, some ugly fighting broke out between kids at ‘Jeff. Fights are a part of growing up in tough neighborhoods. The fights are, and always have been, about some perverse validation of manhood, and of course, status. The status of proving you’re better than the next guy, smarter, tougher, richer, better looking, more sexually active, you name it and kids will try to prove they’re the best at it. But it isn’t just racial fighting. It happens in white schools too.

That is life in the communities where housing projects are old, poverty reigns, illiteracy controls success, and gangs make the rules. We expect the police to stop the violence and drugs that the gangs breed, and generally expect parents to pick up their share of the burden.

But the media reaction to the latest fights at Jefferson High have been about race, about the friction that having Latinos and Blacks coexist in close quarters brings out, and about how there is no limit to the ways in which politicians and other headline seekers will stoop to exploit a situation.

The Jefferson High story is about a lot more than race. It’s mostly about the one-upmanship that is an organic part of being 14 to 18 years old. That, however, hasn’t stopped the ugliness that only adults can bring to this story. After the first fight, LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, the Boston Brawler, showed up and declared that his “depat-ment” (in his Boston brogue) would not tolerate violence in schools.

That approach, of course, had not been approved by the chief of the L.A. SCHOOL Police, Alan Kerstein, whose ego is rivaled only by that of Boston Bill. When the second fight took place, and a student’s leg was broken, the LAPD Chief was nowhere to be found. There should never have been a second problem. Chief Bratton’s troops should have handled it but since he was on his way to another one of his legendary out-of-town trips, in an apparent attempt to break former Mayor Sam Yorty’s travel record, but Boston Bill dropped the ball. Meanwhile, the politically wounded L.A. Mayor, Jim Hahn, who appears ready to have his clock cleaned on Election Day, showed up for the photo opportunity at Jefferson, and not having his police chief handy to lean on, declared HE should have legal control over the schools.

Keep in mind that this is a mayor whose administration is knee-deep in state and federal investigations and who has had some of his closest allies, including deputy mayors and airport commissioners, resign in shame. Hahn also took advantage of the public relations services, speech-writing, coaching, etc., from a national communications firm that was being paid by the city’s Water and Power department to convince ratepayers they should pay more for their water and power.

The Mayor is in a death spiral fight with a councilman who has been in a few tough scrapes himself, but in the political sense, when he was the speaker of the state legislature’s Assembly. Antonio Villaraigosa doesn’t hesitate to remind voters that the incumbent lacks energy and focus and has delivered on very few of the promises he made four years ago.

The Mayor has been a hard guy to find until the election season. But as the son of a legendary politico in the Black community, and brother of a smarmy sister who as a councilmember displays all the hallmarks of her father, Jim Hahn will fight to the end to keep his family legacy alive and save his job. He is what many call a “two-fer” in that he is both and a lawyer and a lifetime politician.

Knowing the polls show him far behind in his bid to stay alive politically, and knowing the public is unhappy about the sad state of education in Los Angeles, Hahn showed up at Jefferson High and started making promises. Politicians are very good at that but Hahn has perfected the art.

At the same time, the LAPD Chief and his minions were trying to stay clear of the place, letting the city’s Human Relations Commission and others develop solutions. So much for the concept of the LAPD and its so-called “community policing” initiatives.

But the Mayor, who keeps hammering the point that he deserves re-election because HE brought East Coast police politics to L.A., has now told the community around Jefferson High that the LAPD WILL work with school police. Somebody better track down the Boston Traveler and tell him that Mayor Jim is telling everyone that Bratton’s “depat-ment” will clean up the Jefferson mess.

Mayor Hahn is also chortling that HE wants the power to appoint nearly half of the members of the L.A. Board of Education. Ah, that thirst for raw political power NEVER dies. It always lives like a virus in some sick politician who will go anywhere, promise anything, and demand compliance from his Boston Brawler to try and save his political patronage. Unfortunately for Hahn, Bill Bratton is gone from the city on his world travels more between 20 and 25% of the time. It must be nice to get a full time salary for a part time job. It is also unfortunate that gangsters and criminals work 24/7 while Bratton and his troops work only three days a week.

For the poor people of South L.A., who lack not only economic power, but political power as well, the night falls and another day of hopelessness and gang violence starts the cycle all over again.

In the mean time, kids will fight because kids do that, and race isn’t always the issue. But the media will report it that way because it sells, and politicians and chiefs of police will do their double talking. And in the final analysis, it doesn’t matter whether people are tired of illegal immigrants from Mexico, India, or the West Bank of the Jordan River, and whether the thugs are Palestinians, Crips, or Bloods, the lawyers and the politicians, from here to Kingdom Come, will ride in and take control.

They won’t bring any lasting peace. But they’ll buy time because they known these types of problems will ebb and flow, unsophisticated people will trust their elected officials for a while, and kids will be kids. Some more young people will get hurt at Jefferson High or other schools in L.A. or anywhere you have explosive mixes of uneducated kids with high levels of testosterone and unbridled enthusiasm and that thirst for status and getting their way.

Some more kids will die, either in the streets around the schools, or from the environment where they were raised and used by politicians, lawyers, and chiefs of police for their own selfish promotion and election.

Politicians are a lot like high school kids. They have no shame, think they are invincible, they always want to be at the top of the recognition heap, and they will do anything and use anyone for their own gain. And the media will only report the promises made and pronounce the establishment of new dialogue as the end of the story……….until the next fight on campus or the next taking of a young life by someone possessed with that unquenchable thirst for power and dominance.