Californias Misadventures

Disney fetes Californias diversity as Anaheim trashes it

This is a town where people don't give donations to charities unless they're assured undocumented immigrants won't be among those getting help. This is a town where suspected gangbangers have been brutalized by police anti-gang officers. This is a town where the now-national program that puts federal immigration officers in city jails was born. This is a town where the cops' penchant for profiling Asians landed them in hot water with a federal appeals court. This is a town where the cops' treatment of minorities brought a fact-finding mission by a federal civil-rights panel.

This is a town where—if the hatemongers get their way—anyone who looks Mexican could face constant harassment by cops demanding to see citizenship papers, a notion one clear-headed councilwoman correctly likened to something "that happens in communist countries."

This is a town where schools have flirted with billing Mexico and—when that failed—the federal government for educating children of suspected undocumented immigrants.

This is a town where longtime Anaheim cop and Mexico-hater Harald Martin thrives. Championing the abolition of bilingual education, Martin was elected by Anaheim voters to serve simultaneously on the city's primary and secondary school boards—until he was slapped with a lawsuit that forced him to step down from one of the posts (he chose to stay on the high school board).

This is a town where Martin and former Anaheim police civilian employee Barbara Coe try to shape anti-diversity policy through their Huntington Beach-based California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR). Coe recently told KOCE's Real Orange news program that her group has designated Anaheim as the beta site for its anti-immigrant campaign. Once it takes off there, she explained, it'll go nationwide. The CCIR is allied with the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has suggested forming a "citizen militia" to take care of immigration if police fail to get INS authority.

This is a town where the officially sanctioned treatment of immigrants and minorities creates clouds of fear, mistrust and lawlessness directed toward nonwhites.

This is a town that has been a hotbed for housing discrimination against nonwhites in low-income neighborhoods.

This is a town of more than 300,000 people (more than 50 percent of them minorities) where only two hate crimes were logged in 1999. Officials say that proves all is well in the shadow of the Mouse, but you could make an equally strong case that the frightened people feel safer underground. A 12-year-old Anaheim boy died of complications from leukemia in 1994 because his parents, undocumented Mexicans, feared they'd be asked about their immigration status at the local hospital.

This is a town where skinheads and White Aryan Resistance leader Tom Metzger flock to hear white-power bands.

And this is a town where fallout from Disney's nightly fireworks show often blows over poor folks who are forced indoors to escape eye-irritating, sulfur-laden black smoke.

This is also a town where poorer neighborhoods didn't see a dime of improvement from the $4.2 billion, city-, state- and Disney-funded transformation of the Disneyland Resort and its surrounding area.

Given Anaheim's history of hate, we should welcome California Adventure. Despite its shortcomings, anything that plays up the positive side of racial diversity is sorely needed in this town. Given the city that surrounds the park, the $43 admission price is a cheap escape.

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