A couple weeks ago, radio journalist Aura Bogado asked on Ask a Chola's facebook page if she was an actual chola (a female gangster in a Mexican American gang).
Well, duh - she's not a gangster. But the real surprise was that she was not even Mexican or Latina. Her name is Chloe Michalopolous and she's not even working class.
Wendy Carillo followed up with a long blog post that includes Aura Bogado's text and responses, and Gerard Meraz' opinion, and brought in a lot of different positions, and generated the best comments (see this and the original version for all comments): http://blogs.laforward.org/2010/11/05/culture/someone-finally-asked-chola-who-are-you/
Gabriel San Roman looks into the status of the seemingly defunct Radio Chola show on Killradio.org. http://blogs.ocweekly.com/heardmentality/2010/11/does_radio_chola_have_a_future.php
Gustavo Arellano of OC Weekly commented about it: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2010/11/ask_a_chola_unmasked_and_guess.php
Since this controversy involves a member of the Killradio.org collective, and we consider them friends, this is being posted here for folks not entirely aware of this situation.
My personal opinion on this is that I found Ask a Chola hard to watch. I subbed to it for a month, but could not be motivated to click on the videos because they weren't funny. (My humor runs more toward the WineKone.)
Philosophically, we claim the same "gang" - postmodern, anarchist, theory-friendly - but I just didn't see the postmodern in her work. Unless a privileged white person making a video of a poor Mexican American gangster could be considered postmodern - which I don't think is postmodern at all. It seems "modern" because it reinforces existing power relations, where the people in power are free to cross borders, but the masses of people are not.
I'm just saying, if you're anarchist, and post modern, you are obligated to support the tearing-down of the structures of modernity: that means destablizing the hierarchy of captialism, first and foremost.
And if she's going to be doing this "ethnic" thing, why doesn't she do it with her Greek ethnicity? There's so many anarchists in Greece, and they are suffering badly. When Indymedia was starting out, Greece really built up their network quick and had reports coming out of Thessaloniki quickly. I didn't even know what Thessaloniki was until IMC!
I'm not saying you *have* to explore your own ethnic heritage, but shoot - it's a good idea. Immigrants and their descendents are like figures caught in the net of history. There are times immigrants are hated, and times they are allowed into America. There are political situations that drive immigrants from one country to another. It's good to explore our histories, whether they are radical, apolitical, bourgeois, or whatever.
You look beneath the surface, and the politics of other countries is complex. There are fascists almost everywhere. There are radicals everywhere. There are anarchists and leftists almost everywhere. The internet makes this underground - above-ground. Ask a Zapatista!
The Las Ramonas video embedded in Carillo's blog post is funny! Good writing. Funny editing too. Go Pico Rivera!
I sampled a few Ask a Chola videos, and the Las Ramonas has so much more depth. In 10 minutes they jump from gay issues, Chicano Studies criticism, brown identity within the US, ugly characters in film (and good and bad roles), many feminist issues, and a bunch of stuff I've forgotten.
These women touch on all these things without letting up on the humor. And another thing - I think it's very much humor for activists, of all colors including white. It's saying a lot of this symbology we adopt is kinda goofy, but we do it because we are trying to be "out there" representing people who are really getting the shit end of the stick in our society. It's like a little flag that reads "I resist this".
At the same time, recognize that activism isn't about a costume or a pose. It's about making time to continue the work required to improve the world. There are thousands of plain boring looking people doing this in L.A. It's about the supportive parents and children and families of activists.