In addition to being a touching coming-of-age story and a fascinating insider’s look at gang culture, Always Running examines the many different forms that political action can take. In Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, there are a great number of worthy political causes, both domestically and abroad. At various points, Luis describes participating in the resistance to the war in Vietnam, police brutality, racism, and other injustices. In doing so, he poses one of the book’s central questions: what is the best, most effective way to fight injustice?
One form of political activism that Luis discusses at great length is violent resistance. Throughout his memoir, he describes instances in which the most powerful people in the city—police officers, politicians, etc.—behave unjustly. In the face of this injustice, the best response is sometimes physical force to match that of the aggressor. For example, Luis witnesses two police officers using excessive force to arrest a woman, at one point punching the woman in the face. Almost without thinking, Luis chooses to intervene, attacking the two officers and ultimately going to jail as a result. Speaking more generally, Luis suggests that large-scale violent uprisings—such as the Watts Rebellion in 1965 and the Los Angeles riots in 1992 over Rodney King—were at least partly justified. In the case of the Watts Rebellion, Luis praises the “spirit of resistance” that emerged from Watts, a neighborhood that saw some of the worst racism and police brutality in the country, seeming to imply that violent resistance is a justified response to the violence of the LAPD.
Luis does not, however, claim that the Watts and Rodney King uprisings were unqualified successes. Although violence may have been justified in both cases, it’s also true that the uprisings resulted in innocent people getting hurt and millions of dollars in property damage. Plenty of violence was done, but not always to the guilty parties—and this, Luis argues throughout his memoir, is one of the problems with violent political resistance. Luis demonstrates this by describing a riot that flares up after a high school football game when police officers harass Luis’s friends and start choking one of them. In retaliation, Luis and his friends attack the officers, then some white bystanders, and then a group of Asian students watching the game. With every minute that passes, their violence becomes more indiscriminate and less justifiable as a result, until finally they’re hitting people just because they feel like it.
It is because violent behavior can easily become unbridled that Luis advocates a second, more personal kind of political resistance: one rooted in education. It’s a well-known adage that the political is personal and the personal is political. While these words have been interpreted in many different ways, to Luis they suggest that he has an obligation to educate himself and understand his racial and cultural heritage. With this in mind, Luis studies the writings of political luminaries like Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver, who argued for many different forms of resistance to racially unjust American society. Luis comes to see himself as part of a vast, exploited proletariat, meaning that he has a shared heritage with working-class people of many different races. Furthermore, because he sees his own education as having been integral to his political awakening, Luis also becomes more invested in education reform. At his high school, he leads protests and walk-outs designed to pressure the principal to introduce Chicano classes and dismiss teachers who disrespect Chicano culture. In short, Luis’s studies lead him to adopt a more personal, individualistic style of political resistance rather than a violent one. Put differently, Luis realizes it’s not enough to agitate or rebel in order to get what you want—you must also concentrate on understanding injustice—and this means reading, learning, and passing on your learning to other people.
Politics, Resistance, and Activism ThemeTracker
Politics, Resistance, and Activism Quotes in Always Running
Maybe the whites didn't care for them either, but at least they had their money' status and grades. But one Asian guy got into our face. It wasn't so much he thought he was white. It was more in defense of what was "right." It was wrong to jump on innocent people. It was wrong to focus on the color of skin. It was wrong to throw rocks at cars, police and homes.
"You can't do this," the Asian guy clamored. "We didn't do anything to you!
Five guys jumped on him.
The librarian looked at me through the side of her eye, as if she kept tabs on whoever perused those books.
They were primarily about the black experience, works coming out of the flames which engulfed many American cities in the 1960s.
I had a cell next to Charles Manson. They threw me in with a dude who had killed a teacher and another who had shot somebody in the Aliso Village housing projects. One of the dudes pressed a stashed blade to my neck. But I knew, no matter what, never show fear. I stood up to him, staring without blinking. Then he backed off. Soon we played cards, told jokes and stories. That night, we heard the "East L.A. riot! - this is what the media was calling it! - had escalated throughout much of Whittier Boulevard.
In prisons, where a disproportionate number of Chicano males ended up, pinto organizations and publications flowered into existence.
East L.A. also birthed artists, musicians and writers out of the wombs of conflict. […] Over the years, bands like El Chicano, Tierra, Los Lobos, Con Safo, Los Illegals and Califas carried forth the people's message through Latinized jazz-rock compositions, and later in punk and traditional corrido forms. Publications arose such as La Raza which chronicled through photos and prose the ongoing developments in the movement.
We have somebody willing to teach you," Mrs. Baez said. "He's an instructor for a folklórico dance troupe at one of the colleges. You look Indian enough with your long hair. And I think it would help involve some of the hard-core Lomas students in what we're doing if you tried out."
What do you say, Louie?" Esme asked.
They knew they had me. I accepted as a formality.
"Leave her alone - can't you see you're hurting her?" At this, a couple of deputies pounced on me. I fell to the ground. Officers pulled on my arms, picked me up and threw me against a squad car. I felt the blows of a blackjack against my side and back. I tried to pull them off me, when suddenly eight other deputies showed up. As they pounded on me, my foot inadvertently came up and brushed one of them in the chest.
Money talked here. Big money. Similarly a good part of the Hills found itself swept away with the massive land deals and influx of investments during the 1970s and 1980s. Between the police, Pacific Rim money and developers, the Hills didn’t have much of a chance.
"There’s some things to fight for, some things to die for - but not this. Chava, you're alive. I feel for you' man' but you're alive. Don't waste the rest of your days with this hate. What's revenge? What can you get by getting to me? I'm the least of your enemies. It's time to let it go, it's time to go on with your life."
The heart of the L.A. uprising was in the African American community. But it soon involved large numbers of Latinos (who make up almost half of South Central's population) and whites - Latinos were the largest group among the 18,000 arrests; at least 700 of those detained were white. Some called it the country first "multi-ethnic" revolt; the common link was the class composition of the combatants.