There is a Time AND a Place: Things Political Candidates Should NOT Do in Los Angeles or Anywhere Else
By Irene Sanchez
Do NOT have THAT conversation or meeting in an established restaurant (especially a Mexican restaurant) or any other established gathering place.
Do NOT assume someone isn’t listening. Someone always is.
Do NOT talk about people from the neighborhood and beyond because guess what? It is a small world.
I have learned enough in my life to know what to say and when to say it. My pops would often repeat a saying his dad would say “You keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut”. Now I don’t take this to mean I never say anything, but I myself know I do this in new social situations to observe first.
In the end of 2015 I moved back to Southern California after being away in school for 10 years. Needless to say a Ph.D. is no guarantee of employment so I was looking for a job. A distant family member who is a consultant of sorts invited me to an event she was helping to host so I could possibly network. Immediately I got a feeling that this event wasn’t the place for me. I decided to enjoy the event as best as I could and not make my family member look bad. After learning I had a Ph.D. in Education, a man comes up to me to see if I was interested in working at a charter school and the first question he asks me is “What do you think about charter schools?” I pause to look at him and smile knowing I am a guest of my family member and I was not about to take the bait to let him know what I really think. I said nothing or perhaps my face said enough. The man smiles and leans in to whisper saying I should be careful in this town and whatever I do or say will mark me especially on that question. Next, in what felt like a sinister movie scene he walked away disappearing into the crowd.
As an educator and writer I know most of what any of us do will mark us. This is also the age of social media where teachers like me warn younger people that someone is always listening and watching. “Do not post that because someone may be looking if you apply for a job”. “Don’t cuss here” not because adults don’t, but this isn’t the place. In general one never knows who is in a room so it is always good to assess if this is the time AND the place for even a conversation to occur depending on the topic.
This past December right before Xmas Eve on a glorious teacher holiday morning where I got to sleep in, I did not want to think of education, policy or politics, but I was forced to and that in itself I did not like. Little did I know the person that would sit next to me and my fiancée would be competing for votes. After waking up late, my partner suggests we go “downstairs” for breakfast. La Parilla is a well known establishment in Boyle Heights on East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue (Brooklyn Avenue). Over the years I had spent many meals there visiting friends and meeting with people. People normally meet over food. I understood what kind of place La Parilla is because it reminded me of growing up where I did near Riverside, CA where one can often spot local elected officials or people who know other people at the lovely Riverside restaurant I still frequent, Zacatecas Cafe. Mexican restaurants, particularly well established ones, are THOSE places.
As my fiancée and I relaxed and enjoyed our meals savoring the fact we didn’t need to down a cup of coffee before our first classes, a group of four sits down next to us. Suddenly we hear the words: school board, election, donors, and charter schools. I tried my best not to listen because I really didn’t want to, but then these people started speaking a host of names including ones I know personally or am one person removed from. It is a small Chicano/Latino political world especially at established Mexican restaurants where your table is about half a foot away from the next party, but I guess no one told them, there is a time AND a place.
The group began to discuss strategy, publicists and donors. One man says he knows what voters want. They begin to speak on how community college leaders would be interested in her LAUSD school board campaign because LAUSD students feed into LACCD. They mention a group called CCSA which I later realize is the California Charter Schools Association. They ask the candidate who do you know already and to identify her natural support base. Then as to make me sick they begin to speak of donors they needed to think about not just the contractors already in LAUSD, but those who WANT to be.
I shook my head in disgust at the potential political shadiness and corruption that was suggested less than a foot away from where I was still trying to enjoy the last of my coffee, but having enough of this conversation intruding on our meal that morning, we asked for our check. As we exited I made a point to look firmly this person running for LAUSD school board so I could note how this person would NOT be getting my vote if she was running for office in the area they were having this conversation in. With the little notes I had which included her name, I learned in December she is not running for a Board Seat in my area, but one right next door. Not only is she running for office, but I recently learned she has some big money backing her up along with some dirty strategies as she tries to win the District 5 seat on LAUSD school board (so maybe her strategists were on to something).
In short politicians or potential ones, please do not go into established neighborhood restaurants or gathering spots to discuss your campaign. You don’t know who the people are sitting next to you in sweats and baseball caps. Maybe you understand the risk and will do it anyways, but realize there is a time AND a place always in Los Angeles and anywhere else. One of those high priced strategists should’ve been paid to tell you that, but since they failed to, you can leave this teacher a tip for some coffee below. Needless to say at this point, but I encourage you to vote for the incumbent because big corporate money doesn’t belong in decisions that impact children’s lives and opportunities.
If you like what you’re reading, please support this Xicana Mama Teacher.