Chepe and I met up at ZuccottiPark last Friday the 21st. The weather was refreshing, there weren’t any demonstrations or too many people we knew to distract us from coming to terms over our fray. I told him from the onset that he took a lot of venom out anger by taking the time read my story, wrap his head around were I was coming from and by making the effort to meet in person. I respected his response. He had wished he had managed to get in contact with me sooner. I asked to hear his side of the story since he had already read mine and he agreed to let me take some notes for a follow up reply to the story. I also mentioned that I had big reservations about having identified him as well as others in the story and he said he could tell from what I had written.
He began by telling me that he remembered virtually nothing save for a few scant but important details after the fray since he had been drinking a lot. He remembers Corujita asking him “what’s something someone should never say?” Chepe said he didn’t remember saying “If you ever call me a spic I”ll kill you” specifically but he said that he stands by whatever he did say.
Chepe explained that he has been called this specific racial epithet (which I’ve only spelled out as it’s been used in direct quotes as I’m sure the careful reader has observed), many times over the course of his life. He recalled a lot of trauma in the process of responding to Corujita’s question.
He talked about his racial identity a bit and how he can pass for Chicano or a bourgeois intelligentsia which clearly implies whiteness. He explained how 80% to 90% he’ll typically attack someone for calling him a s***. One of the only times he wouldn’t attack someone for calling him this would be if he needed to hold down a job and he told me about being called a s*** by fans at sporting events where he’d work as a vendor in the stadiums. He told me he’d been through plenty of times of feasts as well as famines.
He told me about the mother of an ex-girlfriend who suddenly looked at him in new-found shock after she learned about his ethnicity and she began talking real slowly to him in a stereotypical white southern drawl so that he could understand her clearly, even though she had known him and had been speaking to him in English for about a year at that point.
I acknowledged that it must have been difficult for him not to attack his former ‘almost perhaps/practice, mother-in law’ while we both chuckled over the absurdity of that particular story.
He told me he knew a few Cherokees and didn’t think that white people with indigenous heritage get mocked with the same sort of epithet’s that Latino’s have to deal with such as “mud man” or “beaner” with s*** being the worst and most common. I was tempted to interrupt him at this point with my favorite racist joke ever which is “What do you get when you have 64 Cherokees in a room? A full blood!” in order to begin respond to this notion which I’ve listened to my parents struggle with since I was small child running around with as little clothing on as possible.
I understood how the word triggered him into a particular head-space that wasn’t based on some abstract summary of social circumstances but rather upon actual experiences of derision and hate. He understood that I hadn’t felt comfortable using the word what-so-ever but that I did because his head-space had triggered my head-space. He understood that the words ‘check your privilege’ can drive me into a similar rage based almost entirely upon my experiences with #OWS alone. He suggested I do so over twitter after I had done an interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity. He thought it was a funny burn and stood by his words even though he now had a much clearer understanding of why I found it offensive.
He indicated that he became aggressive before I did but he didn’t know if there was any baggage with regards to our racial identities and politics. Corujita’s question had conjured everything for him.
He said that he did remember me using the word ‘s*** and that he also remembered going for my throat as well, although poorly he admitted. The next thing he remembered was being on the floor with me on top of him, then us getting up and then shaking hands saying it was cool before I left. He said the bartender gave him a free shot since I had called him a s***. He said his tailbone hurt for about a week after that. I laughed a bit since I was a little pissed that he played the race card for a free shot. He said he ‘lost a fight and lost it pretty well’ and we shook hands.
We went on to have a conversation we had both been meaning to have since before our fray about our perspectives as revolutionaries. I knew the details would get technical from this point out and Chepe said he knew in advance that we had a lot of differences in perspectives so I stopped taking notes, not that the rest of the conversation which went on much longer than our retrospective of our scuffle.
He asked if I had ever been to an anti-oppression training. I haven’t as I am quite honestly afraid to go to one given how prone I am to flipping out with rage just by having to listen to conversations about anti-oppression. He mentioned how horizontalism can become puritanical to the point of actually preventing the kinds of spontaneous, free, humane associates that it’s supposed to help create. He mentioned further that language, or the terms used in anti-oppression pedagogy such as ‘privilege’ can be used for purposes and ends beyond the scope of their intended meaning. I was glad that we agreed upon this much at least and I further suggested as I shall continue to, that the language that he and others use perpetuates a harmful stereotype overbearing white leftists speaking as if they represented everyone’s concerns which essentially distracts us from the fact that anyone can be an oppressor and indeed that the worst thing about being oppressed in my opinion, is the urge to share the pain of oppression, and the subsequent social isolation that occurs upon doing so.