This article is in response to the last “Hot Take” printed in the Messenger entitled “We should abandon California.”
Moving from Southern California to Minnesota was definitely a culture shock, but not in the way you might think. The Midwest is different from what I’ve always known, but I don’t look down on it or have some type of California-superiority complex — I love Minnesota.
I love the winter and the joy of spring that comes after. I think that Minnesotans are kind-hearted and lovely people. Minneapolis is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to, and I respect the small community of Northfield and their way of life. I respect the history of Minnesota and am interested in its legacy. This perspective is only available because of my undying love for the place I come from – California – and all that it has taught me.
I firmly believe that if we are going to tackle the problems of our country — systemic racism, environmental destruction, extreme poverty, mass incarceration, sexual violence, white supremacy, the list goes on and on — we are going to have to do it together, in coalition, coming from a place of empathy and curiosity.
That being said, the idea of “abandoning California” is one of naiveté and ignorance. Your thoughts on my home are based on a false media image. Imagine if I formed all my opinions and assumptions about the Midwest based solely on stereotypes. How horribly reductionist would my opinions be? It isn’t fair to do that to the Midwest, so it isn’t fair for California either.
I don’t deny ecological damage from crops like almonds, or a nauseating Hollywood culture of wealth, or the Los Angeles housing crisis, or the need for Diane Fienstein to finally retire. I have lived my whole life in California, I know about its deep-set faultlines. However, these things don’t tell the complete story. They don’t tell the story of diversity, innovation, community and culture that continues to build and change across California.
California — and Los Angeles — especially, has a rich and important history. It is the birthplace of the internet, blue jeans, skateboarding, Apple, Walt Disney, West coast hip hop, a plethora of fusion food, talking movies, wetsuits, supermarkets, the electric guitar, fortune cookies, and U.S. rocketry— just to scratch the surface of its cultural contributions.
California is home to over 39 million people, and is the most diverse state in the country. Fifty-nine percent of the households in L.A. alone speak a non-English language. There are 4.4 million immigrants living in L.A. and there are nearly four million small businesses in California. If California was its own sovereign nation, it would rank fifth in the world’s economy. Losing California would be a hit to American diversity, culture and economic power.
Los Angeles has a rich history of grassroots activism. It provided us with the birth of the Gay Rights movement involving a protest and riot at Black Cat Tavern in Silver Lake in 1967, over two years before the Stonewall riots. LA is also the site of the Chicano Movement, and was a major location in the Civil Rights Movement and in the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Not to mention the power of democratic California politics. Think about the current fight for reproductive rights — If the United States didn’t have California, the balance of power in Congress would tip toward complete Republican control.
Environmentally speaking, California has made immense strides toward green living. California has set clean air standards for the auto industry and continues to move further in that direction. The L.A. Metro Bus System is transitioning to completely electric vehicles, currently boasting the first all-electric bus line. I’m not dodging the frightening environmental issues in California, but I think it is imperative to look at the whole picture, both the good and the bad.
Based on your logic, maybe we should just “abandon” the entire United States. As much as this sounds ideal, this is not the reality. I would argue that California is working to come up with solutions to national problems — environmental, economic, and political. So the next time you eat some California-grown vegetables for dinner, write your paper on your California-designed laptop, and sit down to watch a show written, produced, and filmed in California — think for a second that everyone comes from somewhere. If we are going to actually do something about the ecological and environmental destruction of this country, we are going to have to do it together. None of us should be abandoning one another, especially now.
Caroline Peacore is from Pasadena, Calif.
Her majors are English, and race and ethnic studies.