Anaheim’s Racist-as-Hell History Beyond the KKK, and Why OC Weekly Covers It

Yesterday, the Anaheim Police Department—which was nowhere to be seen when counter-protestors fought Ku Klux Klan members at Pearson Park, in a melee that’s making international headlines—put the blame on the media for the whole fiasco. Per the Los Angeles Times, APD spokescop Darren Wyatt said “unlike previous [KKK] gatherings, the media announced the Klan was meeting ahead of Saturday’s rally and in at least one case, encouraged counter-protesters to show up”—code for the Weekly. Hey, Darren: What part of—and we quote ourselves—”Protest PEACEFULLY” and “Do NOT try to beat them up and feed into [the Klan’s] victim narrative” don’t you understand?” You can look it up—hell, we even offered a tip on how to make carne asada tacos.

Meanwhile, the Times‘ editorial board essentially parroted Wyatt’s position, writing, “One can imagine that if everyone had ignored this rally,’ the Klansmen (and women) would have exercised their 1st Amendment right to spout hate, gotten bored with the lack of outraged response, then left with nothing to show for their deliberate attempt to stir up trouble.” 

For the Times, Anaheim PD and people who decided to rally against the Klan two days after the Klan actually showed up, racism in the city ended when the Invisible Empire ruled over Klanaheim in the 1920s, and the Kluckers showing up last weekend is an anomaly. “Isolated” incidents shouldn’t be acknowledged to this crowd, but rather left alone in the hopes bigotry finally fades away on its own. But to them, to parachuting reporters ready to offer tut-tutting dispatches from Anaheim, and to everyone shocked and disgusted that Klukkers decided to emerge again , we have this to say: you don’t know your Anaheim, and you obviously haven’t been reading the Weekly.

No press coverage as of yet has discussed racism in Anaheim outside of the Klan, yet no other city in Orange County—not even Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa, long the OC cities most associated with neo-Nazis in the local imagination—can boast of a white-power history as noxious as Anaheim. And for the past 20 years, this infernal rag has documented how white supremacy is interwoven into the city’s DNA, going all the way back to its foundation myth of a stupid Mexican selling the plot of land that German settlers turned into Anaheim because he thought it couldn’t support a goat. The Klanaheim story is old hat, the one all the media is retelling because it’s easy—we told that one, too, but we highlighted someone no one ever had: brave Orange County District Attorney Alexander Patrick Nelson, who took on the Klan by himself (if only our current DA had but a pubic hair of Nelson’s manhood). 

And oh, have we told tales. We dug into Klan membership rolls to show Anaheim and a bunch of Orange County towns still has street names, schools, and businesses named after Klan members. We documented how beloved Anaheim pioneer Rudy Boysen, the man who set up Pearson Park, once kept Mexicans penned up in a segregated section of the park and arrested a Mexican activist for daring to go into the white part. Speaking of Pearson Park, you know the pool also used to be segregated, just like the city’s schools? Or that packs of white teenagers would beat up Mexican students like my Tí­o Ezequiel at nearby Fremont Junior High in the late 1960s simply because they were Mexican? And you can’t forget Anaheim’s much-lionized citrus industry, which essentially treated Mexicans like slaves–and when they tried to organize for better working conditions in 1936? Brutal suppression. 
All of that ancient history that has nothing to do with the present day, you say? Righteous Brothers member Bobby Hatfield declined to perform at Anaheim High School (his alma mater, as well as mine) in the 1980s and right up to his death in 2003 because he thought the school had too many Mexican students by then. The Confederate flag hung at Savanna High School (home of the Rebels!) well into the 1990s, and the school colors are still red and gray.  Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance (WAR) found many recruits at Katella, Magnolia and Esperanza high schools during the 1980s, especially whenever he appeared on Wally George’s late-night show on KDOC-TV Channel 56. A former schoolteacher at Thomas Edison Elementary recently wrote in saying she remembers an incident during the 1990s when jack-booted thugs stormed Sycamore Junior High and Thomas Edison after school and then invaded the surrounding barrio—and police did nothing then, too.

How about elected racism? We profiled Anaheim Union High School District Trustee Harald Martin, who compared Mexican children to Tribbles, the spawning space aliens of Star Trek—that was 1999. We were there in 2001 when an anti-Mexican rally at Anaheim City Hall turned into a free-for-all where Anaheim police sat back and did nothing again (that was also the place where a black minister called me a “Jap,” then a “Flip” because he thought I was Asian—HA!), and at the Phoenix Club in 2009, when notorious anti-Mexicans Joe Arpaio and Barbara Coe joined forces for a fundraiser for former sheriff’s candidate Bill Hunt. Speaking of the German restaurant, we never got around to writing about the neo-Nazis who love to hang out there, but the Jewish Journal sure did–and they know a little something about hate. 

More! We exposed a nightclub called The Shack as a haven for white-power shows–that was 2001—and also found neo-Nazis at the legendary Doll Hut (under previous owners, not the current batch) in 2009. And can’t forget the House of Blues, where PEN1 members love to keep the mosh pit for themselves and neo-Nazis terrorized people of color as recently as last year (although not before getting their asses kicked). We broke the story in January of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan–the same Klukkers who showed up at Pearson Park this weekend–frightening a multicultural city neighborhood with their fliers, a scare tactic they’ve employed across OC for years. Anaheim was where Sikh temple shooter Wade Michael Page said he had “the best time of his life. He’d always say it was like he’d finally found his bros.”

 Man, Anaheim is so goddamn racist that even the White Rabbit at Disneyland got caught being a bigoted ass

Yet we as the press—as a newspaper committed to exposing corruption in Orange County, as a newspaper run by an Anaheimer whose family has been here on and off since the 1910s—are somehow supposed to ignore all this and let racist dogs lie?

Fuck dat.

Almost none of the above history will you find covered anywhere else. We don’t subscribe to the Orange County Register’s notion that the default bias of any OC publication should be that Orange County is a great place full of decent, God-fearing Americans. It’s as if such chroniclers think that by closing your eyes, hate disappears—and then the Klan shows up and makes everyone crazy. But that’s a dereliction of duty. Orange County is the best place on Earth—and it’s filled with scum who muck it up for the rest of us.

And that’s why we write: to let Anaheim, the county—whoever is willing to listen—know about the hate still present in a beautiful, multicultural town.

We’ve received plenty of criticism by people over the years for our coverage, by people who say to forget, that the past has no influence on the present. Yet you can thread a noose from Saturday’s events all the way to the city’s foundation. And when you have a city leadership intent on keeping the brown down by fighting Latino activists and throwing as much money as possible at the Resort District while letting the rest of the city rot, the KKK isn’t an anomaly; it’s the hometown cheer squad.

And we’ll keep our eye on them, hooded or not, every goose step of the way.

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