TW: This story involves graphic imagery.
I moved out of Orange County, California nearly two years ago. I don’t miss it. At all. And, on days like today, I am ever grateful that I got out of there when I did.
Most people who know me know that I worked “for the Mouse” for five years. This means I worked at Disneyland.
I didn’t sell pretzels or ice cream. I wasn’t a character in a parade. I worked behind the scenes, what they call “backstage.” I have chronicled very publicly my experiences with racism and misogynoir there. Also, I, like many other people, have been critical of the economic disparity and racist frameworks on which Disneyland thrives. So, hearing about a violent Ku Klux Klan rally at a local park no more than 10 minutes away from my old place of employment was of absolutely no surprise to me.
Yes, I said there was a violent KKK rally down the street from Disneyland this weekend. It was at a quaint neighborhood hangout called Pearson Park in the city of Anaheim. It’s a park I have gone to for various church functions and other celebrations.
The Klan planned to have the rally around 1:30 pm on Saturday, Feb. 27, but protesters started gathering more than an hour before.
Once the Klan members arrived, all hell literally broke loose. Fighting erupted. One protester was stabbed by a Klan member with a flagpole. 13 people were arrested and at least 3 were stabbed, some are in critical condition. Apparently, there was no police presence until well after the violence ensued. They were probably all guarding the entrances to Disneyland’s many parking lots.
— luis sinco (@luissinco) February 27, 2016
What’s funny about the reactions to this story is how many people are flummoxed at the thought that this could have occurred right down the street from “the happiest place on Earth.” In many people’s imaginations, altercations like this are reserved for the rural South, for the backwoods and backwards people from Duck Dynasty. For me, though, it makes perfect sense.
Disneyland is the physical embodiment of the American Dream. It is a place that is meant to whisk you off into your wildest imaginations, away from the realities of racism, sexism, misogynoir, homophobia, transphobia, and everything else. At Disneyland, we’re all just participants in a grand fantasy. A fantasy created, maintained, and reproduced in the crucible of White Supremacy.
From a theoretical perspective, Anaheim in and of itself is the neoliberal mecca of Orange County. A city and county which were once starkly White has worked tirelessly to build industrial centers, hockey and baseball teams, theme parks, shopping centers, and chain stores all the while exploiting the people of color in it and in surrounding cities. These industries thrive on low-skill, low-pay labor, Disneyland included. And, it seems their central goal each year is to find innovative ways to pay even less for the people they employ.
They put forth a dishonest image showing how they work with the Make a Wish Foundation, local hospitals, or their volunteer efforts whilst many of their own employees can’t afford to eat three square meals a day and pay the light bill. Even worse, we’ll never hear about the people who have been over-worked by the Mouse, taking extra shifts and ridiculous workloads, just to make ends meet. What’s more, that the Park has grappled with women’s hairstyles, and employees wearing hijabs in recent years is not lost on me.
Meanwhile, the public schools in Anaheim aren’t great — of course Walt Disney Elementary is one of the better funded ones. Housing is overpriced and inaccessible. People in neighboring communities are being pushed further and further from the city’s center as businesses, like Disneyland, expand into Downtown Anaheim and across the southern section of the city for whatever new land they are building this year.
This is what modern racism looks like. It is a game of capitalism, liberalism, and individualism which requires that each person attain success independently but never addresses the fact that being White and male gave you an extra set of lives to play with. This type of environment is perfectly suited for a Klan rally. In fact, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.
The Klan doesn’t just spring up in unsuspecting communities where they’ll be maligned and marginalized. They don’t hold rallies where there are no people who support their hate. As an organization, they emerge where they are, where they already live and raise their families. The Klan didn’t drive to Anaheim, a few minutes from Disneyland, from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, or anywhere else down South. They drove from Anaheim and its sister cities in Orange County.
This weekend’s event proves that one doesn’t have to be backwoods to be backwards. Even the happiest places on Earth can — and do — function because of racial injustice. In some cases they even need it to survive.
All the beautiful images came from an album by Facebook/Heather Davini Boucher. Please use caution when viewing the gallery because it could be triggering (violence, aggression, racism, assault).