Let Katy Do It
Bar column is brilliant: Katy St. Clair's column [Bouncer] is the reason I pick up SF Weekly. I like to check out the movie reviews, too. People like St. Clair are also one of the reasons I gave up trying to write for a profession. I hated everything I ever wrote, and why torture myself when I can pick up a free rag and read her brilliant musings? I got worried when her column went missing last week — glad to see it's back. Her writing is unique and a joy to consume, week after week.
More Than a Rat's Life
Not an accurate picture: We write to express our outrage at the article and the cover of SF Weekly ["A Rat's Life," Lauren Smiley, 4/27]. We are Salvadoran American leaders from San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area. While we will outline our objections to the article, we are appalled at the fact that we can't recall another time your publication covered any of our community events or issues that matter to us. Nearly one in seven San Franciscans is Latino; more than half are Central American. Salvadorans are by far the largest single group of Central Americans in the city.
It is disappointing that, rather than focus on the great contributions Salvadoran Americans are making to this city, SF Weekly has followed the national trend of focusing only on a small slice of the Salvadoran American experience, which by no means represents the majority of the hard-working community. Our objections are as follows:
The front cover picture sensationalizes gangs and perpetuates their dehumanization. In failing to present a more complex reality of why gangs exist, the article perpetuates the notion that Central Americans, Mexicans, and other Latin American immigrants are culturally violent and gang-prone. This opens the door for opportunistic politicians to push laws that discriminate against our community.
The article makes virtually no effort to humanize gang life. It does not discuss the social conditions and institutionalized oppression that gives rise to gangs. The article itself focuses on snitching among gang members rather than the institutional criminality of local and federal authorities. While the article does criticize the use of provocateurs by police and federal authorities to infiltrate gangs, its focus on the backstabbing among gang members diverts attention from this more serious public issue.
While gangs are a serious problem in our community, other issues also affect us, including the so-called Secure Communities Program and the attendant deportation of law-abiding residents, the wrongful deportation of children, and low-performing schools in predominantly Latino neighborhoods. Indeed, it is impossible to understand Latinos' gang involvement without taking account of these issues — just as it impossible to understand our community by focusing on gangbangers.
We Salvadorans are community leaders, business leaders, entrepreneurs, chefs, artists, and much, much more. We request that your newspaper stop inciting fear and dehumanizing us, and instead portray our community in all its complexity.
Victor Umana, Salvadoran Chamber of Commerce of the San Francisco Bay Area; Ana Perez, the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN); Jose Artiga, Share Foundation; Martin Martinez, Santa Rosa Hometown Association; Andrea Hightower, CISPES; David Mendoza, Mano de Esperanza; Roberto Alfaro, Three Nations Indian Circle; Roberto Hernandez, Ramón Cardona, Edwin Rodriguez, Roberto Alfaro, Patricia Rodriguez, Pastor Tony Lopez
Managing editor Alan Scherstuhl responds: SF Weekly remains committed to covering all aspects of life in San Francisco, including the Latino and Central American communities. This includes gang activity, of course, but hardly just that. Lauren Smiley has often covered issues of concern to these communities before "A Rat's Life," most recently in her March 16 cover story "U-Visa." As for "A Rat's Life": Besides detailing the troubling involvement of federal informants in high-profile crimes, Smiley's feature lays out — with sympathy — the consequences of law enforcement's assumption that a young Salvadoran man picked up in the Mission must be a gang member.
Last week's cover story ("Brokeback Festival," Joe Eskenazi, 5/4) stated that a $157,000 loan from the city to the LGBT Community Center was used "to make its mortgage payments." Officials at the center note that the city funds were, in fact, placed into a reserve fund stipulated by the bank as a condition of renegotiating its mortgage.