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January 14, 1981 - Image 4

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-01-14

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OPINION
Wednesday, January 14, 1981 TeMcia al

Page 4

The Michigan Daily

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

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Vol. XCI, No. 89

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

An Ann Arbor magic act

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N OW'S YOUR chance - step right
up and see the Ann Arbor magic
act at work. Watch as city officials pull
a "( snow emergency ordinance'' out of
a hat; gape in awe when - presto -
this wily group of conjurers makes
tickets appear on car windshields after
only fourteen hours.
Probably the most dazzling part of
their act is the old shell - er, parking
game itself. Supposedly, during a
"snow emergency" like the one Ann
Arbor experienced last week, parking
is' prohibited on the uneven number
sides of streets during uneven days and
on even days parking is prohibited on
the even-numbered side of the street.
The added gimmick to this trick is that
these streets are secondary routes, and
therefore not designated "snow
emergency routes."
This trick is a tough one, and even
the top prestidigitator didn't have it
mastered. "'On odd-numbered - days,
you park on the odd-numbered side of

the street. On even-numbered days,
you park on the even-numbered side of
the street," Ann Arbor Mayor Louis
Belcher told the Daily. Luckily for the
old wizard, however, his able-bodied
magician's assistant, Assistant City
Administrator for Engineering God-
frey Collins, was able to set the mayor
straight.
But not so for Ann Arbor residents.
Like the audience at any magic show,
they were left in the dark as to the
secrets of the act. Most of them knew
little or nothing of the ordinance until,
to their shock and amazement, the
tickets appeared on their cars. Most of
them must now pay a fine - a high
admission price for a lousy perfor-
mance.
Why would city officials suddenly
pluck out an ordinance no one was
familiar with? Why didn't they give
residents adequate warning? Why
aren't all emergency snow routes
posted? No one will know - magicians
never tell their secrets.

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A secret code in the west.

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A second chance for a cut

WE CERTAINLY didn't need any
prophets to predict that the half-
dozen confusing ballot proposals that
confronted voters in November would
all be defeated. The average voter,
bled with rage against the excesses
of *aivernment, was eager to strike
out-and pulling ail the "no" levers in
the voting booth seemed the most im-
mediate weapon.
Unfortunately, that hasty reaction
had its price: We sanctioned no tax cut
proposal to ease the wildly increasing
burden of property taxes. Inflation
cgntinues to boost assessed
valuations-and therefore property
tales-ever higher, but we left our-
selves with no possible relief.
.ow Governor Milliken has come up
wth a property tax relief plan that is
qgite similar to his defeated Proposal
C:_The proposal seemed the most sen-
side of the three November tax-cut
propositions and it still looks
promising today; we hope in the
isolation of a special referendum this
summer the plan will get the careful
pblic scrutiny it missed in Novem-
ber's clutter.

Milliken proposed yesterday cutting
most property taxes by 35 percent and
hiking the sales tax from 4 ut to 5 per-
cent to make up for the lost property
tax revenues. The governor's plan
would mean Cnett tax reduction of $200
for the avera e homeowner, whose
property tax bills have been increasing
at a much faster rate than his income.
The idea is a sound one. Sales taxes,
although somewhat, more burdensome
to the poor, are generally a more
equitable taxing instrument since they
affect all consumers (and a one per-
cent increase is not excessive). Fur-
ther, sales taxes are paid by the
thousands of tourists to Michigan,
relieving somewhat the weight of taxes
on state residents.
The legislature, to which Milliken is
expected to formally present his
property tax plan tomorrow, must ap-
prove the proposal before it can go to
the voters in a special election. '
Our elected representatives should
recognize the crying need for tax relief
in the state and give the public a chan-
ce to decide-logically, calmly, and
most of all, simply-on Milliken's plan.

SAN JOSE, Ca. - The spray-painted words
are large and bold and sprawl across
everything from the back of a bus seat to the
fences between houses in residential neigh-
borhoods. They proliferate especially in
Chicano areas. To many, thegraffiti is simply
an eyesore, the result of criminal acts by
teens bent on defacing property.
But looking a little deeper, the bizarre in-
scriptions can be seen as an important
cultural force, an intricate system of codes
and symbols passed down from generation to
generation of Chicanos. Throughout the West
and Southwest, from Los Angeles to San An-
tonio and dozens of other cities, its distinctive
style can be recognized instantly on walls,
telephone booths, and buses. And because
much of the graffiti is related to Chicano
youth gangs, some police departments are
beginning to take a special interest in it.
FOR THE gangs, the graffiti stakes out and
maintains territories. But another purpose is
cultural pride. It is as distinctive as the
''cholo" uniform of baggy khaki pants, plaid
Pendleton shirt, and sleeveless undershirt
worn by young Chicano men everywhere. It is
a quickly recognized symbol, like some of the
characteristic tattoos found on Chicano
youth. A girl with a teardrop tattooed on her
face is recognized as having a boyfriend or
brother in prison. No other ethnic group uses
that symbol, and no other ethnic group has
wall writing like the Chicanos.
"It feels like you're the boss of this place.
You have to claim the barrio so other people
will know," said David, 14, a self-professed
gang member who uses the nickname "Sir
Goofy" for his graffiti. "Other people think
you're bad (meaning good, important)."
"It makes you proud of yourself," said "Lit
Joker," 14, who said he has been writing for
the fun of it for three years and is not part of a
club.
Chicano youth for 50 years have been
passing down, refining, and paying attention
to this graffiti ever since it began appearing
in areas populated by Mexican immigrants.
Rudy, 16, who began wall-writing at the age
of 10, says he remembers seeing graffiti in old
family photographs. The basic symbols and
style have not changed much over the years,
he said.
AT TIMES just a sign of fun and youthful
dares, the graffiti also can be the signal that
will prevent a youth from getting beat up by
opposing club members across the street.
"It's the style, an ego trip," Rudy said.
"It's just clubs (trying to) protect their
grounds."
Above all, this specialized graffiti is a non-
verbal message intended just for those who
know the code.
David said that at age 11 his sisters taught
him how to write and understand the graffiti.
The distinct lettering system, he added, is
used "because white boys don't know how to
read it."

Smokey
VHHG
14

By Al Goodman
To many Anglos, the words and phrases
spray-painted on buildings can be puzzling.
One reason is that some of the letters are
stylized. What looks like- a "Z" is usually an
"L". An "N" is usually written with the slash
going in the opposite direction. To dot an"i,"
a small "x" is used.
EVEN WHEN AN outsider figures out the
letters, the meaning doesn't necessarily
follow. As a schoolyard, Rudy pointed to gold
letters painted on a wall and challenged an
Anglo companion to figure out the message. It
read:

Rudy's translation revealed a wealth of in-
formation beyond the cryptic letters.
The message was written by a kid using the
nickname of Smokey, who belongs to the
youth club called Varrio Happy Homes Gran-
de (VHHG), or big barrio of happy homes.
The number 14 identifies the school as being
in Northern California, and is taken from the
fourteenth letter of the alphabet "N," for nor-
th. South of Bakersfield is considered
Southern California and is shown by the num-
ber 13, which stands for the letter "M" for
Mexico, which it borders. Often, barrios are
referred to by Roman numerals only.
California cities usually are ab-
breviated-San Jo for San Jose, Sacra for
Sacramento, Los for Los Angeles.
The other part of the above message is that
Smokey has staked out this school for his
friends in Happy Homes (the club ab-
breviated to HH) and wishes them much luck
(Suerto Buena Grande, or SBG).
The message is typical for Chicano wall
writing, with the author's nickname on top
and his club name below. The most important
part of the message, however, is not written
at all-it is understood.
BY STANDING alone on the wall, with no
other graffiti crossing it out, this message
shows that the school is in the heart of
territory claimed by VHHG.
Just across the street at the community
center is a vastly different story. There, sym-
bols and words are defiantly spraypainted on
top of others in cross-out fashion. The conflic-
ting graffiti, cross-outs, and filled-up wall
reflects the clashes VHHG has had with com-
petitor clubs.
Appearing next to simple messages such as
Smokey's are the Spanish words "Y Que?"
meaning "And what (are you going to do
about it?)"
Another piece of graffiti, responding to the
dare, would then typically be written over
Smokey's message, such as:
Wino (nickname)
Los Chicos (club name)
R (I'm the best, from the Spanish word
Rifa)

SBG
HA

C/S (There's nothing you can do about it,
from the Spanish phrase con safos)
THESE CROSS-OUTS, said Lt. Raymond
Gott of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department,
are "one of the inflaming factors" in
numerous gang war deaths. The Los Angeles'
Police Department even photographs
Chicano wall writing and explains the code to
its officers to "stay ahead of the gang wars,"
said Lt. Dennis Tipps. In a brief manual, the
sheriff's department has decoded some of the
graffiti.
Chicano leaders, however, scoff at the
negative term "gang" applied to all groups of
their young people, and say that not all graffiti
is related to violence.
Police officials point out that some youths
who use aerosol paint to write on walls do so to
sniff the fumes and get high. These youngsters
spray on their own hands and sniff them,
leaving telltale stains on their mouth and nose.
Paint-smeared children as young as age 10
have been seen in San Jose in recent months,
prompting fears about possible brain damage
and calls for merchants to stop selling them
paint.
In December, Los Angeles put into effect a
city ordinance banning the sale of aerosol
paint to those under 18, and several other
California cities may follow suit.
The clean-up cost of graffiti on buildings
and transit property-estimated at millions
nationwide each year - also is a major
problem.
BUS AND SUBWAY interiors now often
have specially coated walls and ceilings that
make graffiti removal easier. Many transit
systems, including San Jose's county bus
company, offer rewards for apprehending
graffiti writers and put those caught to work
in the clean-up effort.
And some cities try a different alternative:
involving Chicano youth in painting murals
instead of painting graffiti. San Jose artist
Ray Romo, pointing out that both wall writing
and murals date far back in Mexican history,
is working with parks officials here in
training youth as muralists.
But wall writing is not likely to disappear,
despite city ordinances, the wrath of the
police, clean-up campaigns, and the efforts of
muralists. The reason is that the graffiti is a
source of pride to its youthful authors.
"Some people feel walls look better blank,
but other people feel insulted by that," said
Dr. Ruben Leon, a Los Angeles clinical
psychologist who has been collecting samples
of wall writing for years. "They (Chicano
youth) liven up the wall and make it reflect
humanness, rather than the inhumanity of the
wall and its control over their lives.'
Says Dr. Leon: "It's a theater marquee of
pride."
Al Goodman is a reporter in San Jose,
California. He wrote this article for the
Pacific News Service.

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LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Racist Daily uses redneck tactics

---%I

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Tothe Daily:
I really don't expect you to print
this letter. To print it would not be
in keeping with your very racist
militaristic attitude toward black
progress at The University of
Michigan. However, I am forwar-
ding the letter to you to register my
protest against the news article
(Daily, January 8) and editorial
(Daily, January 9) that you
carried about Sherrie King, one of
two black homecoming queens in
the history of The University of
Michigan. I have been looking at

Johnson hesitates to talk to you,
and so does President Shapiro.
Why? Because you seem in-
capable of giving adequate or
honest representation of their
statements!!!! Nearly every of-
ficial of the University is afraid to
talk to you due to your
dishonesty. This includes leaders
of the student body-especially
Sherrie King. Therefore, you
could not have documented your
accusations that she was going
into University officials' offices
"raising the red flag of racism."

are the flaming maniacs. You can
call upon black stereotypes all
you wish. But it will not help you.
If you can't get an audience for
your page without resorting to
redneck bigot tactics, I really feel
sorry for you. You seem to be
very insecure in the face of black
achievement, because you do not
have your own shit together. If
you did, it wouldn't threaten you
for a small group of black people
to try to get somewhere in
-American society.
Your article on the Klan

that you were trying to cover
your ass.
If I were the homecoming,
queen, I would sue you. You are-
just one of the many people at the
University who would rather
smear the reputation of any black
person who achieves anything
than applaud and admire them.
Your case.is not unique, it just
doesn't appear as abnormal
because it is a common disease.
I am a black achieving female,
despite you!!!!
God help you!

0W

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