We need to reset everything. From being a state that pollutes and excavates or drills for the profit of a few, to a state that is based on the shared well-being of everyone.Luis J. Rodriguez, Candidate for California Governor 2022
Matt Sedillo: Hello Luis! Thank you for being here. Let’s get right to it! This is the second time that you are running for Governor with endorsements of several political parties. The first question is why did you seek out multiple endorsements and what in particular about your political vision has inspired this rarely seen unity around your campaign?
Luis J. Rodriguez: The California Green Party and the state’s Peace & Freedom Party came to me last November about a “Left Unity Slate” that would include endorsing me for California governor and other candidates for state offices. I agreed because we cannot turn over the electoral arena to corporate interests, whether in the Democrats or Republicans. The radical visions and answers to address poverty, homelessness, mass incarceration, deadly police practices, climate change, healthcare, education, and immigrant rights must blossom and take root. Governor Newsom in recent polls is losing ground among progressives, youth, as well as Black and brown people. Where will these constituencies go? Not to the Republicans! A clear electoral alternative must be reimagined and constructed. When I accepted the two most progressive third parties’ support, I also asked the Justice Party to join with us. This is historic. These parties have rarely, if ever, united like this. I’m also reaching out to independents and the growing number of disaffected Democrats. It’s a unity not just around a candidate, but for the issues and solutions that actually close the huge gaps in our social, environmental, and economic systems. Our campaign’s taglines are “Imagine & Build,” “Dream & Deliver.”
Matt: As everyone knows our planet is in crisis. California is a major economic engine within our country which is still one of the, if not the, biggest environmental polluters in the world. What would you as Governor do to change the destructive industries and green the economy?
Luis: We need to reset everything. From being a state that pollutes and excavates or drills for the profit of a few, to a state that is based on the shared well-being of everyone. We have great beauty and bounty in California. Massive abundance. But our governance, like our economy, is based on scarcity, competition, and maximizing profit. It’s misaligned. We are a schizophrenic society—where technology, nature, and human capacity can provide great wonders and resources, but the way we run things is based on industrial models and manufacturing relationships that arose out of a different period. Instead of the old and dying capitalist system paradigms, we should birth a new world of meeting needs and peaceful and positive resolutions to any and all problems. War and adversarial relations, which is everywhere, must be replaced with a caring society, one that recognizes and enhances everyone’s talents, propensities, passions, and gifts. We must be a society that replenishes, not takes away. That regenerates, not stagnates. As governor, I will implement a Green New Deal. Remove ourselves from fossil fuel energies and shift to clean and renewable energies.
Matt: Tent cities are growing throughout our state as more and more people are growing houseless. Mayors, city governments and the state as a whole preach compassion and reform in words but are more apt to crack the baton in practice.
How would you as governor address the growing and looming houslessness of so many Californians as well as address the needs of those already find themselves houseless?
Luis: The unhoused themselves have the answers. Go to the most impacted. There are leaders arising out of these encampments and shelters. The Union of the Homeless is one of the organizations that arose out of my last run for California governor in 2014. What’s the answer? Decent and affordable housing for all. Remove homes from the volatile housing markets. Yes, we should also provide mental health and drug treatment on demand. But the first thing is to get people adequately housed. Millions of abandoned homes and structures dot the landscape. This is obscene as the numbers of homeless worsen in the fifth largest economy in the world. This also involves providing jobs that are consistent and well paying. People are homeless because housing prices and rents have risen astronomically, even after millions lost their homes during the 2008 mortgage crisis. Gentrification, with big developers at the fore, has driven the poorest out of most cities. The answers are in our hands. We don’t need to criminalize the unhoused or just provide short-term solutions. Give us the “hammer and nails” and we will rebuild our communities, our cities, our state. People are homeless, they are not helpless.
Matt: All throughout the state they are closing schools and building prisons. The police are being militarized and ICE is terrorizing our communities. How would you address the questions of Police/ICE terror as governor of the state?
Luis: We must end providing our biggest budgets to police and mass incarceration. The police and prisons are profiting from the economic misery. The prison and jail budget in California is around $18.5 billion. This has become the largest subsidized housing for poor people in the state. Crime and poverty are linked. As Charles Darwin once said, “you want to end crime, give people a chance to live.” We must do more on the front end—from cradle to crave—to align our resources to people’s needs. We cannot just be feeding the back end—more police and prisons—which respond after people have become mentally unstable, on drugs, driven into the streets, and left to their own devices. There are plans, books, blueprints, and more one how to do this, to end crime without relying on police, especially a militarized police that is armed to the teeth against our poorest residents. And, yes, we must remove ICE from our communities and workplaces; we must close down all detention centers, and provide dignity and rights to all migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
Matt: The recent debates about Critical Race Theory and even more recent book ban in Tennessee have brought questions about this country’s foundations and persistent myths to the forefront of political debate and discussion. The book ban today in Tennessee in many ways is reminiscent of the one that took place in Arizona in 2010. During that period several of your books found their way to be blacklisted. As a writer, you are no stranger to the question of political censorship.
These struggles and their sides are obvious. Here in California these questions get murkier. With the passage of Assembly Bill No. 101 Ethnic Studies will become a mandatory requirement for high school graduation. However the process has been anything but smooth.
The original Assembly No. 331 was vetoed by Gavin Newsom who specifically raised objections to the curriculum, essentially demanding a new one that pleased him for its passage. This too is censorship. This too is white supremacy.
How then do you view the ongoing struggle today here in California over the Ethnic Studies curriculum? How as Governor how would you support Ethnic Studies and those who develop its curriculum?
Luis: We need truth and critical thinking in our classrooms. What has been taught in our schools is largely fantasized ideals of a reality that never existed. We don’t need to pay homage to racist and class-based curriculums created mostly by white supremacists. They made Europe the center of the world, and white men of power the center of all their narratives. All human beings have contributed to human development. If you smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, love chocolate, fly a kite, write on paper, use fireworks, barbecue, etc. (considered “all-American”) you have done things created by people of color. All the world’s main religions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism—have origins outside of Europe. The world’s seven recognized “cradles of civilization” were outside of so-called white regions of the world (these are the Niger River and Egypt (Africa), Mesopotamia (Mideast), Indus Valley (India), Yellow River (China), Olmec/Toltec/Aztec/Mayan (from Mexico and Central America), and Inca (Peru and other Andean areas).
Europe has contributed immense things, but let’s be full and complete in our research and re-telling. California has failed to fully expound on our story. Especially around the terrible destruction of indigenous peoples and land since Europeans first arrived here. We study the great mission systems in benign ways, removing the slavery and genocide implicit in their design. Or the terrible role the US had in Indigenous genocide, slavery, race-based social practices, and labor battles, including bounties to murder as many Native peoples as possible. We must tell the “good, bad, and the ugly.” That’s why I support Critical Race Theory and a full Ethnic Studies program in all our high schools, colleges, and universities.
Banning of books has always been part of the white supremacist educational model. My own first memoir, “Always Running” became one of the most 100 censored books in the country, although it’s also one of the most checked out–and stolen–books in California libraries. What happened in Tennessee and in Arizona must not happen here. But then, as you say, even Governor Newsom vetoed the first Ethnic Studies legislation because it failed to please him and other gatekeepers of our history.
We have teachers, historians, researchers, and students from all our diverse communities working together to create such curriculums. There’s no excuse for not having a comprehensive Ethnic Studies program in all our schools.
Matt: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some quick questions, Luis. We hope our readers are more informed on your positions and wish you the best in your continued campaign.
Luis: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for having me.