Yesterday, between rallying with a nurses union for Medicare for All and a protest and demonstration around police violence, Shervin Aazami, got around to writing a guest post I had asked him to do as a context for the video above, his slot last week during Marianne Williamson's candidate summit.
Please watch the clip and read Shervin's post. If you are impressed, please consider clicking on the 2022 Blue America ActBlue Bluer California thermometer below on the left. Shervin is running for a seat occupied by a corporate Democrat whose campaign coffers are stuffed with legalistic bribes from the companies who are his real consituents, rather than the families in Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Tarzana, Woodland Hills, Reseda, Northridge, Granada Hills, Chatsworth, West Hills and Hidden Hills. It's a D+20 district and the key is the primary since no Republican is going to be elected in the solid blue district. Trump pulled just 29.4% of the vote last year.
Poverty Is A Policy Decision
-by Shervin Aazami
My parents were teenagers when they fled religious persecution in Iran during the 1979 Revolution. With nothing but the clothes on their backs they fled to Italy, and spent their later formative years trying to assimilate in a foreign nation, culture, and language. After living in Italy for nearly 15 years on student and work visas, my parents decided to immigrate to the San Fernando Valley where my mother’s siblings had already settled. For a second time-- and then with an infant child-- my parents changed continents, and uprooted their lives and attempted to assimilate into a foreign nation, culture, and language.
We were granted asylum in the United States, and the long road to citizenship began and didn’t conclude until I was in elementary school. My mom worked long hours, nights, weekends, and holidays in retail to make ends meet for the family, while my dad went back to school to become a family doctor because his Italian medical license wasn’t accepted here in the United States. It took my dad nearly a decade to gain an American medical license, and it wasn’t until I was in college that he was able to open his own primary care clinic here in the Valley. We moved from apartment to apartment, lived off food stamps, and I was raised for much of my youth by my grandparents while my parents worked. I always say I learned the power of responsibility from my mother, and the power of service from my father. My parents endured incredible hardships and made every sacrifice to build a better life for me here in America.
The story of being a “nation of immigrants” is the story that America sells to the world. But the dark reality is that xenophobia, bigotry, and anti-immigrant sentiment is as old as America. From the Naturalization Act of 1790 which limited citizenship to whites from Western Europe; to the Page Act of 1875 that specifically barred Chinese women; to the National Origins Act of 1924 that set nation-quotas for immigration; to the Muslim Ban under the Trump Administration-- anti-white racism is deeply embedded in the fabric of American history. Over the last several decades we have seen our southern border become hyper-militarized in similar fashion as we have seen with local and state police forces.
The truth is, budgets firmly reflect priorities. Funding for immigration and asylum courts are at just 5% of the funding levels for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Our federal policing budget is more than double our federal housing budget. Our bloated Pentagon budget is more than the next ten nations combined-- most of whom are allies. Meanwhile, the basic needs of our community members-- from living-wage jobs, to public education, to healthcare access, to housing, to clean air and water-- have been grossly underfunded.
This is what policy violence looks like-- when our lawmakers deliberately neglect and divest from the basic services that actually keep us safe and healthy, while propping up the very institutions that oppress working people of color. These overt acts of aggression have tangible impacts on the economic, social, emotional, and physical health of our communities. In the wealthiest nation in the world-- poverty is a policy decision. Racism, corporate greed and political cowardice collectively determine why 5 unhoused neighbors die per day in our city. It determines why thousands of families in Los Angeles are scraping by paycheck to paycheck. It explains why building generational wealth is nearly impossible for Black and brown Americans.
The San Fernando Valley is a microcosm of what institutional racism, Indigenous land theft, and wealth inequality look like in America. In our community we have extreme poverty and houselessness overwhelmingly experienced by people of color rubbing shoulders on the same city block with the richest celebrities who live in multi-million dollar homes. When you think about the history of the Valley-- this place is the ancestral homelands of the Tataviam and Tongva Peoples who were forcibly displaced by white American and Spanish settlers. A syndicate of corporate tycoons like Henry E. Huntington bought thousands of parcels of land throughout the Valley-- to this day the largest land transaction in LA history-- so that they could justify the Valley’s annexation into LA to access a permanent water supply that the city had stolen from the Paiute People in the Owens Valley over 300 miles away with direct help from the federal government. For most of its modern history the Valley has been a largely wealthy, white enclave built first on racially discriminatory housing covenants and now by single-family zoning. The Valley was then connected to the rest of the city through a channel of interstate highways built in the 1950s and 1960s that ran directly through working-class Black and Latinx neighborhoods and pushed them further into poverty. We can’t forge a path towards dismantling white supremacy and healing economic and racial inequity without a true reckoning of our past and how we got here.
That's why we need new leadership. We need bold, transformative, structural change to our institutions of government. That means enacting single-payer Medicare for All, guaranteeing housing as an inherent human right, abolishing our military-industrial complex and private prison system, and ensuring clean air, water, and living-wage jobs for all. We can accomplish these goals and much more-- but we can’t do it without new progressive advocates that will put in the work each and everyday to bring these institutional reforms into fruition. That is why I am running for Congress in my hometown West San Fernando Valley-- California’s 30th Congressional District.