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Xavier Hermosillois the President of CrisisPros, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 20 years 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

May 16, 2005

The world is full of people who are convinced someone is out to get them. Media people tend to ignore these folks and the issues that become the center-point of their apparent paranoia.

However, as we analyze this week’s Mayoral election here in Los Angeles, let me share a scenario with you that has picked up a lot of traction in our minority communities. It is a telling tale of the type of hype, or truth as the case may be, that becomes reality for some people. And when all the analysis of the election is completed, it is possible the contents of this story may have played a role.

This is an in-depth story about Black-Brown tensions in Los Angeles and whether they are real or whether they have been manipulated by some political elements.

For those of you who live outside of Los Angeles, you may have missed my recent comments about the folks who have been on edge because of increasing racial tension between Blacks and Mexicans. Over the past month or so there have been a few brawls at local high schools, including a big one at Jefferson High School, just south of downtown L.A. involving more than 200 students.

Then the tensions were inflamed by a letter that was circulating around the city last week claiming that in retaliation for some beef between Black and Latino gangs, 500 Black kids wearing white t-shirts would be targeted and killed by Mexican gangs on Cinch de Mayo.

Fortunately nothing remotely close to that happened but the scare was strong enough that 51,000 L.A. Unified School District students stayed home from school. That’s close to 20% of the school district.

There was one reported standoff between Black and Latino students at Lynwood High, located next to Compton, but that was quickly quelled. Obviously, 500 African-Americans did not get killed, but someone was working hard to ensure tensions were still high as people headed into the weekend and Cinch de Mayo celebrations developed all over L.A.

Out of all this came a new letter that received surprisingly wide circulation, having been sent via email, and then later reproduced and passed out in malls and campuses throughout Los Angeles. For the most part, the letter appears to be a hoax. Folks who work closely with the gangs in L.A. have not heard of any craziness like this happening, but because the letter has been so widely circulated, it led to some town hall meetings and increased police presence on all the high school campuses in South Los Angeles.

The letter read as follows:

”Hey everyone, We all have friends who this can affect, unfortunately. This is not a joke, and you know this if you've been watching the news lately. There are no city limits on the actions taking place below. Please read below and take it very seriously.

Unfortunately, the word on the street (which has been confirmed by a probation officer) is that the Rolling 60's (an LA gang) stole 160 kilos of cocaine from the Mexican Mafia. In retaliation, the Mexican Mafia and other Mexican gangs have decided to target and kill 400-1000 black men of all ages who are wearing white t-shirts. This is not limited to the freeways..... I understand that this is very real and very serious. Please pass this on to EVERYONE that you know. I suggest you do not wear any white shirts at all if possible. Also, if you have on a dress shirt, consider wearing your jacket over it.”

THAT was pretty scary, though it could be argued that if it were true, law enforcement personnel would probably have issued some sort of quiet warning to community leaders.

It’s important to note that this on-going beef between Black and Brown is not happening in a vacuum and seems to be sparking off in cities with large minority populations with increasing regularity, but we have had a franchise on it here in L.A. for quite a while. What started this phenomenon other than the sheer pressure of different cultures trying to occupy the same space?

I caught up with an L.A. rapper not too long ago who spoke on the seriousness of this situation. He spends a lot of time working to heal any rifts which he says start from the racial segregation and the “divide and conquer” techniques used in the California prison system. The way he sees it, this tactic has now spilled out onto the streets and is starting to impact everyday folks to buy into these rumors of conflict.

For those who don’t see the connection with the California penal system, you should know that inmates are separated by race, ethnicity and gang affiliation. Because the Latino population is so large (almost a third of the state prison population is Latino), prison officials separate Northern and Southern California Mexicans/Latinos. Within the prisons gangs, some alliances have been made with Northern Mexicans, known as Nortenos, hooking up with Black inmates.

The Southern Mexicans, known as Surenos, are aligning themselves with the White Arayan Brotherhood. The initial split with Northern and Southern Mexicans is something that many feel was a well orchestrated ”divide and conquer” plan that state politicos put into effect years ago to stem any sort of large state-wide Brown block that was holding and yielding major social and political power.

The rapper I spoke with sees Blacks and Browns as related to one another socially and that both groups have to be aware of the outside forces that continuously work to keep large groups of people divided and separated. Black and Brown unity has become a threat to some who want to maintain their traditional power structure and see the large minority numbers as a threat to everything from job security to political outcomes on key issues.

He also opined that authorities, especially the police, seem to work overtime to try and stir up problems after the Rodney King riot when many of the Crip and Blood sets formed a truce. He claims the undermining efforts were also directed at the Latino gangs who also formed truces after the riots. When those efforts by the police failed to eradicate the truces, we suddenly started to find an increase in tensions between Black and Brown. The rapper says the latest scenario involving the letter warning Black kids to not wear white t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo was a deliberate attempt to create drama where there wasn't any.

It should also be noted that recent racial tensions have been exacerbated by a hostile political climate here in California. Part of it centers on the recent remarks and subsequent endorsement voiced by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of the controversial Minutemen vigilantes patrolling the U.S./Mexican border. The "Governator", an Austrian immigrant, said he supports the Minutemen and though he backtracked later, he said the border should be closed. He later blamed his lack of command of the English language for his political blunder that drew a lot of heat.

His remarks have been compounded by the objections voiced by other political leaders in LA who felt that a number of recently erected billboards advertising a Spanish language radio station were offensive. The billboards, which say “Welcome to Los Angles, Mexico” with the letters for California, CA, crossed out, were a promotion gimmick allegedly designed to attract Spanish viewers. Instead, it drew anti-Mexican heat.

Many forget that a lot of folks of Mexican descent are keenly aware that the California is one of the seven western states that was once a part of what was called Atzlan. In other words, there is a strong sense among the more radical of Mexicans that they did not cross the border illegally. Rather, they take the position that the border crossed them and that at the end of the day, this is indigenous land.

Naturally, that theory has a rather narrow following although the most right-wing zealots denounce this notion as pure fiction, trying to erase the history that buttresses such a feeling. Some have gone so far as to try and shut down and silence professors and other public educators who have spoken about Atzlan.

All this controversy has not been lost in the background discussions about the L.A. Mayoral race.

There has been some quiet speculation about this latest rise in tension between Black and Brown and concerns that it may actually be connected to the highly contentious mayoral campaign and the fear of many that a Mexican Mayor will favor Latinos to the exclusion of Blacks and Whites. Even though Antonio Villariagosa received the blessing of prominent Black leaders including Congresswoman Maxine Waters, former police chief Bernard Parks, county supervisor Yvonne Burke, and former LA Laker and mega-businessman Magic Johnson, the tremendous mistrust on the streets by many Blacks matched the White fear that the old days of political dominance are really gone for good.

That has prompted some minority leaders to wonder out loud why we suddenly have had a surge in school race battles and the email and letter threats of Blacks being killed by Latinos. The timing and possible political implications of this have not gone unnoticed. Was there a political conspiracy behind the clashes? Was someone in power trying to scare conservative White voters into blocking the ascension of a skilled and effective legislator like Villaraigosa as Mayor of the nation’s second largest city?

No one is surprised any more by the depths of political skullduggery and the negative attack ads that have littered our televisions and radios, not to mention our mail boxes. We are living in a new era of a majority population that is minority. Latinos, Blacks and Asians together constitute nearly three quarters of the L.A. population.

No one should be surprised that political change needs to keep pace with the changing faces and voices in our great Los Angeles. There is no time like the present to jump in head first and see if Latinos can govern such a diverse community and one in such great need of healing and getting along.

It doesn’t take a conspiracy to achieve harmony and political unity in L.A. It just takes the willingness of the larger community to decide that while we can disagree on many things, we should work together on those issues upon which we do agree and learn to celebrate all of our strengths, and stop allowing the miscreants who work overtime to exploit our differences.