The Latino Comedy Project is a sketch troupe out of Austin, Texas. They do a healthy mix of political and cultural sketch, and are bringing their live show, “Gentrifucked,” to SF Sketchfest this year for four shows this Friday and Saturday night. Tickets are available here, although you might want to act fast, as some performances are already sold out.
We had a chance to talk to one of the troupe’s founders, Adrian Villegas, on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration. We were both a bit feeling a bit raw that day, as you are about to see after the jump!
Where did you find the “Pachanga for Trump” video? What’s the story with that?
Oh, well, one of our members sent me the video. It was a CNN Facebook Live video. They had a person at that rally videotaping what was happening, and it was one of their more popular videos, in terms of numbers of views. And when I saw it, I was sitting in a lobby waiting to be seated at a friend’s show, watching this video, and I was sitting there laughing out loud by myself. I’m sure the people around me were wondering what the hell was wrong with me, but it was already a sketch.
Yeah, it was… You didn’t write a whole lot of extra material, from what it looked like.
Well, we just twisted what was there a little bit, just to take it clearly past the point of absurdity. But um, yeah there was some other stuff, I don’t know if you looked up the bonus footage of some of the other people that got up?
I definitely fell down that rabbit hole.
Yeah, yeah yeah so it was, the thing that I find amusing, every time it happens when I would show it to people, they would think it was funny and then the real footage would come up at the end, and just to watch the look on their faces of like, confusion, and then, you know, what? This can’t be, you didn’t just- this isn’t a real thing! So people have a hard time believing that that actually happened, and that those people actually exist, you know?
Yeah, I still don’t believe they exist, it seems like it’s all a parody.
So when you saw the footage at the end, of the real thing, that was your reaction too?
Yeah, like I don’t get how this could possibly have happened.
(Laughter) Well, I don’t know, it’s an interesting part of the world, The Rio Grande Valley. It really is. I mean, well, you could go down a rabbit hole on that too, but we have several people in our group who are from that part of Texas, and they could tell you, it’s unusual. And it’s probably not that uncommon there either, people who identify with something like “Pachanga For Trump.”
Yeah, what is it, thirty percent of Latinos voted for Trump in the election?
That’s what I’ve heard. I don’t know, I’ve heard different numbers, I’ve heard those numbers may be inflated, but it wouldn’t be shocking if that were true. I mean, a lot of Latinos voted for George W. Bush here in the state, and then in the national elections, and – something’s wrong. Something’s wrong about that, I mean. But of course, let’s not let off the hook the group that really made it possible for him to be president (laughter).
Yeah that’s fair.
But yeah, so something’s definitely – it’s interesting, you could dissect that forever: What’s the appeal for those Latinos? What’s the psychology going on there? What’s the psychology of a group ignoring an obvious threat to themselves, and their loved ones, and their communities? What is it that they’re prioritizing over those concerns? So, yeah, it’s a pathology that needs to be examined, and of course everybody has a right to vote for whoever they want to, but there’s definitely some kind of contradiction going on there, I think. Because, when Trump was getting up saying people from Mexico are rapists and drug dealers, a vast majority of the people who were listening to him weren’t of Mexican-American descent, and they aren’t going to bother to make the distinction from the kinds of Mexicans he’s talking about. Which is where the damage comes from, right? And it is unusual to think that there are Mexican-Americans who couldn’t make that distinction either, you know?
Yeah, it happens all over the place, and a lot of racism is rooted in. You know one, or two stereotypes, and you think that’s everybody.
Right, exactly. And that was kind of the foundation of a lot of his campaign, and we were targeted by it. And you had so many incidents of assault, and harassment, and white kids in elementary school saying “Build the wall” to their Mexican-American fellow students, and just a lot of ugliness. It’s been encouraged in a way that we haven’t seen in my lifetime. I mean, I’m not young, and I’ve never seen this level of license being given to people to act out on that ugliness. But, you know, there are a lot of humans who have predispositions to authoritarian thinking, and it’s just always going to be there in our species until we evolve more. They are attracted to the idea of a boot on somebody’s neck, they’re just naturally attracted to that, and there’s an empathy void there in some of our fellow Americans. And it’s tough because, as a culture, we’re so conditioned to accept simple narratives, simple answers, everything being resolved in the narratives that we’re fed. Things aren’t that simple in real life. They never are, you know, but it’s easy to believe that, it’s fun to believe that, it’s very seductive to believe that. So, when a guy like Trump comes along, and just offers a bunch of stupid, simple ideas, a lot of us are pre-disposed to accept that, you know? It’s just a part of the way I think our human brains work at this point in our evolution.
I think there’s a train of thought where people don’t believe that your government’s doing anything unless they’re blowing stuff up.
Yeah, and we’ve had eight years, and not to say that Obama was entirely great as a military leader, he definitely did kill some innocent people in office too, but his tactics were so calm and like, I mean, he killed bin Laden, and with very little effort and very little carnage, like I think people wanted that to be a massive explosion, and they forget that he was the mind behind that operation.
It was surgical.
Yeah, and even his tactics- like he doesn’t want to kill ISIS members, he wants to hurt them economically, not physically. I think it’s a good approach, because you hurt fewer civilians that way, but the right just doesn’t like that, and doesn’t understand that, and doesn’t think that that does anything. Because they think that your government’s only doing something for you if they’re blowing shit up.
Well it’s thinking like a movie. The movie version of things is, “Let’s blow the shit out of everything, and that will show them,” but in the real world, that creates more terrorism. In a movie, the credits roll after you blow the shit out of stuff, but in the real world, the world continues spinning. There are repercussions, and ramifications, and there are real consequences to think through – or not – when you take some kind of action. You know, we responded after 9/11 with really kind of, Big and Dumb. We’re still dealing with the repercussions of that, you know? But, it goes for a lot of things: Are we gonna be smart, or are we gonna do the stupid movie version of things? What do you prefer to do? And a lot of times, America has come down on the side of doing the movie version of things, which never seems to really work out great, because usually they’re not thought through. We’re about to see a lot of that. That’s going to be the default in every issue, and it’s not going to work out, anybody with common sense could predict what we’re about to go through. But again, that very basic way of looking at things is very seductive, because there are no areas of grey, it’s all black and white. The people who are usually seduced by that, are the ones who are addicted to thinking of themselves as being on the side of white in black and white issues, and nothing ever being more complicated than that, you know? That’s the drug of it: the idea of casting yourself as the hero in everything. That’s kind of the cultural drug that a lot of people are addicted to, in a way, and it’s cost us a lot.
But, the show (Gentrifucked) was pre-Trump. And it’s about the gentrification of east Austin, which is going on here, in our city, but is also happening in many cities across the country, including the Mission District. All of these issues are inter-connected, because gentrification, the way that it’s taking place, is proof of, and a symptom of, income inequality. And the worse that has gotten, the easier it has become for people to be gentrified, and for those abuses to happen.
Yeah, so I live in downtown Oakland which is interesting in terms of gentrification these days. San Francisco has been pretty much priced out for anyone that doesn’t make $200,000 a year, in any neighborhood at this point, so Oakland has been the next step. I’m kind of curious, Gentrifucked was prior to Trump, how do you feel this will change, do you think it’s going to get accelerated, do you think that, I mean, a lot of the economies, Austin is a very liberal city, San Francisco is, Oakland is. A lot of these urban centers that are being gentrified, are gentrified by people whose mind-set, the mind-set of their bosses is still very liberal, do you feel that’s going to shift at all under Trump?
Which part of it?
Do you think it’s going to be harder for the hipster, white, tech people, the current gentrifiers? Do you think that’s going to slow down, in the new economy?
That’s a good question. I’m of the mind that the economy in general is going to take a huge hit over the next few years. If nothing else, just because of recklessness, and the incompetence that’s going to be running our economy. There’s going to be trade wars, there’s going to be a lot of stuff that’s going to happen that’s going to affect the tech sector, which is predominately what you’re talking about, in terms of the gentrification. And here too, it’s not creative types, it’s not like artists are doing the gentrifying. Maybe at the tip of the spear, as I call it, in the first wave, it might be creative types who can afford to move in, but ultimately it’s well-to-do people. So yeah, that industry is going to be affected, because everything is going to be affected, globally. How that plays out on the ground level, I don’t know. I look to the example of places like Boyle Heights, in California, that are being very aggressive in resisting the early stages of gentrification in their community. They have a model to look at in all these other communities, to see the first steps of the displacement, and how those first steps are usually very innocuous-seeming. They’ve seen enough of that being modeled to know what the stages are, so they are actively resisting those initial stages, because a lot of that is Trojan horse stuff: “Oh, what do you have against an art space, or what do you have against a cat-friendly diner, or cafe?” All of this innocuous stuff, but it’s just getting the wedge in, you know? For the changes that are being planned. There are ways on the ground level to resist a lot of this stuff, but we have to be organized, focused. You’re up against a lot of different forces that either actively want you out of your community, or they’re just indifferent, you know? Or they’re going to profit from the changes that are going to be made, so they don’t mind if the way that those changes are carried out is very irresponsible. They just care about the end result of it financially. So, I don’t know how that’s going to affect the end of the gentrification, or how the Trump presidency is going to affect that. I have a feeling everybody is going to suffer. And, wealthy tech gentrifiers won’t be excluded, but obviously people of a certain class have a lot more cushion to protect them from the consequences of what’s going to happen. What has been your observation of the changes, how does it make you feel, how do you perceive it, there where you’re at? I have a friend who just moved back to Austin, from Oakland, and was telling me a lot about the culture there, and how it’s almost schizophrenic. You have huge poverty right next to huge prosperity, it’s in that stage right now, where they haven’t quite gotten rid of all the reality from the community. Is that accurate?
It’s fairly accurate. San Francisco is just kind of uncomfortable these days, in my opinion.
Mmm, how’s that?
A lot of the old shops that existed before are gone, but the weirdest is, people are a lot more aggressive, angry.
It’s changed. It’s happening here in Austin too. Why do you think that is? I have theories, but why do you think that’s happened, because a lot of people have complained that the character of Austin has changed, to where there’s just more assholes here. Is that from more assholes moving here, or is everybody being turned into an asshole, gradually?
I think it’s a combination of things, I actually think it’s crowding, like crowding makes people uncomfortable, I also think people are coming from non-urban cultures, like people are coming from the suburbs, going to college, and then deciding to move to San Francisco, because it’s where the money is, it’s where the jobs are. They get here, and they realize that you can’t own a car because there’s no place to park it, but you don’t like what life is like without a car, so you just drive around for hours, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, trying to find a place to keep it, while you can go get your $20 ice cream. Which, admittedly, some of that $20 ice cream is amazing, so I’m not totally offended by it, but I think it’s just, everything takes longer to get to, public transit is uncomfortable and crowded, there are too many people, and it makes people stressed and unhappy because everything is so deeply impacted.
We deal with that in the show, and it sounds like it’s the same everywhere – the institutional level of carelessness and almost apathy on the part of city planners, city management, city leaders – the obvious consequences of not managing this stuff properly. Like you’re talking about what a mess it is and how public transit isn’t accommodating the changes, and that’s the thing that kind of astounds me, just the incompetence. Like you’re inviting, and probably facilitating, all this growth on a population level, but there’s no commensurate level of thinking about what needs to be done to accommodate that so that everybody isn’t feeling like animals in a cage together. Then when changes do happen, they’re late, like, “That would have been helpful five years ago, ten years ago,” you know? It’s just funny, because it sounds like what you’re describing is what’s happening here, in Austin right now.
Yeah I’ve always considered Austin and SF to be sister cities in a kind of weird way.
That makes sense.
There’s a handful of towns that, whenever I visit, it feels like home, like everything seems easily adaptable to me, like San Francisco, New York, Austin, Portland, even Vancouver. The kinds of cities where I walk out, and just adapt immediately because everything just looks, and feels, like things I already know.
Mm-hmm, yeah. That makes sense, I’ve been to Vancouver too, it’s really beautiful, and Seattle, yeah.
Yeah, people in Vancouver and Seattle are definitely nicer. So, what do you think about the irony – this is something I would like to explore in future episodes of the show – the irony of liberal, supposedly progressive-minded people that are forcing these changes, and seem to be, as a community, indifferent, or defensive, about the changes that they’re causing, or that they’re enabling, or are sometimes the cause of. That seems very ironic to me, because it’s the same in most of these cities. It’s not red state-type people that are displacing minority families, or poorer people, it’s not those kinds of people. How do you make sense of the self-contradiction of that – supposedly holding to progressive ideas as an individual, but you’re part of something that is the total opposite of that, which is kind of a new colonialism in a way, which is about as anti-progressive as you can get? Do you ever experience any conversation about that kind of cognitive dissonance, or hear people even acknowledging that?
I have a weird connection with this, I call it the Elvis effect. I think Elvis Presley had great intentions, he was a fan of black music, and was able to guard those elements in what I always considered a very respectful way.
Yeah, he loved it.
Yeah, but then it kind of snowballed into something else, and sadly Elvis brings us to Kid Rock, who is horrifically racist and offensive. Instead of respectfully borrowing elements of a culture, he practically used it against them. And I think that’s the fear.
And, he deprived opportunities from people who actually created the music that he was stealing from, or appropriating is maybe the correct word.
Yeah, because a lot of performers were appropriating in the 50’s and 60’s. But also, Eric Clapton made a record with Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf, and was like, no, I want people to know where these things came from, I don’t want people to listen to me do it, but I’m in a place of power, and because I’m a white man, people are going to listen to me. So I’m hoping that means they will start listening to these originators that are doing it better than I am. And so, I know it’s not directly answering your question but it’s-
I’m just curious what kind of conversations, or opinions, you hear about that from people who I’m sure would take great offense to the idea that they’re directly, or indirectly, responsible for people being displaced, and lives being turned upside down. Generations of families living in particular places have been forced to move because of economic changes, I’m just curious if people even talk about that, and if they do, what do they say? That would be interesting to hear, because I wonder about that here in Austin too.
My social group, I think, the people that I’m friends with, are better than other people, sorry to say. (laughter) There are definitely people who see it, and I see those people on a regular basis, and I talk to them on a regular basis. The important thing is being a good ally, being aware of what you’re doing, and how it affects other people, and doing all you can to kind of prevent it from snowballing out of control. And there are little things too, like I’m half latino, half white, but present primarily as white, my fiancee is fully white. We have a Black Lives Matter sign up on our balcony that everyone can see when they go past our apartment, and I feel that that’s something, you know. But it’s also a matter of still going to, and spending money at, the businesses of the people who were there before you, it’s not going to the $30/plate Mexican fusion restaurant that opened down the street.
You don’t even have to make up shit, it’s all around us, and a lot of stuff in the show, it’s about that. Like there’s one sketch, for instance, based on one of our members who has relatives who figured out a way to talk about black people in code.
You know, it’s a way to be racist, without being detected. So, we have a sketch based on the process of how that works, and how you can detect it in the people around you. That’s nothing we made up, that’s real, you know? And then there’s some stuff that deals with the way policemen treat different classes even within the same communities. I think a cop will treat a frat kid a lot differently than they’ll treat a Mexican person who’s been living there for a while. We know how things change according to the person cops are dealing with, we’ve seen it over and over again. That’s a real issue. We’ve tailored a few regional references to fit the Bay Area, but I think people are going to connect with the material just as well there as they do here, because the issues are identical. We did it once before, at the Out of Bounds Fest, here in Austin. It was sold out in advance, and we got a standing ovation. I think people appreciated the comedy, obviously, but it was comedy about something relevant, and it was entertaining. So, we’re confident that the issues we bring up, and the way they’ll be received, will be just as generous there in the Bay Area. But there’s one sketch about a specific extreme example of gentrification that happened here in Austin in the last couple of years, and it’s still an issue. A local piñata shop was bulldozed in violation of the lease because the new owners of the property were trying to run this small business-owning couple off the property, illegally. They wanted to start making money off of that property for SXSW, and within a few months, they had bulldozed the piñata shop, with all the inventory inside it, everything, and the couple, the business owners, didn’t know about it. They showed up the morning of, and saw that the building had been turned to rubble. The place that popped up in that space within a few months was a vegan, cat-friendly cafe, which – I don’t know how much more hipster you can get than that, but that’s been a contentious thing. Even now, there’s still protests that go on there, and the owner is so defensive about it. They’ve kind of resorted at times to race-baiting the previous owners, and the thing is, these people, the cat-cafe people, they probably think of themselves as open-minded, progressive-minded, liberal, whatever. Yet, when it comes down to resources, and who gets what, they resort to the same racialized tactics and regressive mentalities that we’ve seen from people who don’t consider themselves liberal. So, that’s fascinating to me, and we deal with that issue in a sketch that’s actually from the point of view of the cats in the cat cafe. There’s also an ongoing thread throughout the show where a realtor and a buyer have to deal with people from the community as they’re doing walking tours of the neighborhoods they plan to gentrify. The show also deals with the issue of “self-gentrifying,” like Latina starlets succumbing to traditional caucasian ideas of beauty. There’s a musical number built around that, that’s, again – its a very high energy, very fast-paced, funny show. There’s video scattered throughout too, so there’s stage stuff and video pieces like the “Pachanga forTrump” video. That video was based on a live sketch we did, so we’re actually going to do that live, and there’s also a running thread of videos about the warning signs to look out for that your neighborhood is in danger of gentrification.
want to know what’s sad? We made it into a video before the election because we said, “This won’t be necessary- we can’t do this after the election, because he’s going to lose, so we need to get all of our punches in before the election.” That video wasn’t even directed at Trump, it was directed at those people stupid enough to support him. So I mean, it wasn’t directed at him, he’s his own walking punch line. It was directed at these deluded, self-hating people who were depicted in the video, that’s who the target was. So we were thinking we need to get this in before the election, then we’ll have to retire it. I was like, “We did it as part of the live show, people liked it, we could make a really good video of it, but we’ve got to do it before November 8.” So that’s why we got it out when we did. So now, we’re obviously not retiring it, we’re gonna be doing it as part of the live show, but it’s kind of like, “Damn, I would have preferred to retire this,” you know? But the interesting thing is, with this very extreme, backwards, ignorant landscape we’re occupying right now, it’s more important now for us to do what we do, and to address the things that are happening, and call bullshit where it is, and not be defeated, because, you know – he lost by 3 million votes. So, I try to tell people who want to feel that the whole country is against them, you know, it’s like, no, half of America doesn’t even vote, so that’s one thing, and even among the people who voted, he lost! They didn’t represent the majority of people who voted, and I guarantee you, if you polled the people who didn’t vote, the vast majority of them would be against him occupying the White House. So I think there are more good-hearted people, of good faith and good will, in this country than not. I think the ceiling for the kind of people who would vote for Trump is about 27% of the United States population – that leaves a lot of other people who are more reasonable, and empathetic, and good-hearted toward their fellow Americans, no matter how different they may be. I just think it’s one of these things where the people who had all the bad intentions were also the most driven, and that needs to change, and maybe this is what it takes for that to change, because we can’t go down this path indefinitely, we just can’t. The country is too diverse for us to shut down inclusiveness, it just is not gonna work. So I feel like what the LCP does is important, more now than it was even before the election. And the gentrification issue is part of it, it’s all part of cultural sensitivity, of treating everyone fairly, part of The American Dream, the pursuit of happiness, which gentrification is depriving a lot of people of, just living the lives that they want to live. I mean, what’s more American that that, being able to pursue the life that you want to live, where you want to live it? There are people that are literally being forced from places they’ve lived for generations. That’s not what America is supposed to be about. So all these issues are tied together and of course there’s the idea of racial inclusiveness and being considerate of people from different backgrounds, which I think is a huge blind spot for gentrifiers. I think there’s a lot of racial chauvinism and condescension. We saw that in the cat cafe thing – a lot of the talk about the piñata shop owners was very racially laced, so all these things are bound together. We need to be more enlightened, more inclusive. All those things that are in danger right now, we need to fight for them harder. Luckily, comedy is a way to get people to think about things with their guard down, to make them laugh.
Yeah, I do implore you, when you come to the Bay Area, visit Cat Town in Oakland, and you can see a truly racially diverse cat cafe, and hopefully you’ll feel better about cat cafes.
Oh I have no problem with cat cafes – we know about that place in Oakland, we looked it up – it was just the irony of the piñata shop being bulldozed and the cat cafe being what replaced it. It was a lot to deal with. And it’s an open wound here, but it’s emblematic of bigger things. Like, I’m sitting here right now in a place where I often came to write the material I wrote for “Gentrifucked.” I’ve been looking out for months at these town houses being built since last year and they’re just starting to look finished. I see this all the time now in different parts up and down the East side of Austin. It’s change. And change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the way change is carried out can be, so that’s what the show is about. It will be interesting to see who shows up to the show, and what the reaction will be.
Yeah, I’m expecting to possibly cry at this point.
(laughter) Well, there is some heart to the show, the show ends on a note of heart and of uplift and has a fighting spirit, which I think we need to have right now. I felt that even before the election, there’s always stuff to fight for in this country. But you know, it’s important to be a happy warrior.
I totally agree.
Nobody’s happier than we’re they’re laughing, right?
True. So, I’m realizing that we’ve talked for 40 minutes, and I’ve made it through one prepared question. I had so much about Latino comic influences, and I was even going to ask you about El Chapo getting extradited to the U.S., but I think we’re good.
Well, my influences were Richard Pryor, and Woody Allen, so…
Ah, those are fine ones. I, actually, if you have an extra couple minutes I am curious about your thoughts on something. Speaking specifically on Latino comedy, I saw Cheech and Chong late last year, live, and there’s something that I kept having to work through. So, a lot of their perspective on police, and Latinos is very spot-on, and very well-done, but there’s so much sexism and homophobia weaved into their live show.
Really? The live show, I haven’t seen it. That doesn’t surprise me, the generation they come from.
Yeah, how do you find that balance, how do you avoid those traps?
I personally find the balance, as a writer, by not being sexist, or homophobic.
Yeah, you just know better, that’s all. There’s your solution. I can’t speak for what they did, but like I said, given the generation they’re from, and maybe even the audience they’re playing to, which is a similar generation, the generation before mine – I love “Up in Smoke,” to me that’s their major achievement, but I haven’t really followed their live tour thing. I hear it’s been very popular, and I’m glad they’re still doing it, but what you’ve said makes me curious to see it. Is it because they’re doing material from their 70’s albums, are they just doing old material that would be retrograde that way, or is it new stuff that’s kind of backwards-ass like that?
I think they’re pretty much only doing old material.
Well, that’s why. So I would guess it’s a lot of swishy kind of stereotypes, and kind of sexist sex stuff towards women kind of thing. That wouldn’t surprise me if it’s stuff from the 70’s albums, I think that was a well people went to for comedy a lot back then, you know?
Yeah, although it still is crazy because the cops treating Latino men stuff is still incredibly relevant.
Oh yeah, you look at Richard Pryor and the material he did in the early 70’s, he was talking about being a black man, and getting pulled over, and being like, “I’m…reaching…for…my…wallet…’cause I don’t want to be no motherfuckin’ statistic!” I mean he’s saying this 40, 50 years ago. The only difference now is we have smartphones, capturing all this shit, but it’s been going on. He even has that joke in one of his other shows, he’s shooting up his own car, kind of going crazy, and he says, “ Then the police came, and I went in the house. ‘Cuz they don’t kill cars….they kill nig-gars.”
He even did a bit in that same show about the chokehold out in California police used to do. They would kill black people they were trying to arrest, they would choke them, and kill them. This is in the 70’s, so it doesn’t surprise me that Cheech and Chong would have that kind of material, because it’s true, of all people of color back then. It still is. There’s a reason why you have so many white people running to defend cops when these kinds of things happen in unjustified circumstances to people of color, because in the back of their minds, they understand that it’s very unlikely for that to be done to them. Not impossible, but very unlikely, so they can take comfort in defending something that they know they’re never going to be subjected to, which is fucked up.
Totally agreed, even though I know that I fall under the “not-likely-to -be-subjected to it” column.
Yeah, but you’re not going to be one of those people sitting there, lining up excuses for when you see something that’s a blatant abuse of power, and violence towards people who didn’t do anything to deserve that. I mean, people will make excuses over, and I’ve seen this in multiple instances, like a 13-year-old black girl getting body slammed, or getting thrown out of her desk, for nothing. And people fucking making excuses for that. I’m like, “Okay, if this were Chelsea? Your daughter Chelsea? On video, being done this way? Would you be scrambling, and breaking a sweat trying to make an excuse for a cop doing that to your daughter?” Fuck no! No patience for that, no patience for that at all.
To play devil’s advocate, which I hate doing, they’re dealing with people who were born, and raised, and taught to trust law enforcement. Realizing that they’re (the police) not trust-worthy is scary as hell, and it’s a lot easier to decide that somebody that you weren’t raised to trust is the untrustworthy one.
Well, I can tell you what a big part of that it is, too. This country has a big aversion to admitting it’s own history, because a lot of certain groups’ self-identity, and self image, are built on that fake history. So, if you’re a person that wants to think “Well, these minorities are in the situation they are because they just don’t have the same gumption that white people have, or hard work ethic, that’s why they’re in the situation they’re in.” If that’s what you want to believe, then you can’t acknowledge the fact that there are systematic inequalities in the different ways people are treated. If you have to admit that a black person, or a brown person, is more likely to be in prison for something that you’ve done as well, or they’re more likely to be treated violently for something that doesn’t warrant it, if you have to acknowledge that as a fact, the next thought in your head is, “Well, what benefits do I get that aren’t deserved, because of who I am?” And that sends you down a path that undermines the whole thing of “bootstraps,” and “We’re just superior,” and “These people get what they get because they deserve it.” Because then, you have to start making lists of the things you possibly don’t deserve, and then the whole history you want to believe starts to unravel, and what you’re left with is the reality of how things got to where they are. And that’s not to say that America isn’t capable of great things. America is a very fascinating country, in the sense that it can be self-correcting, which is one of the beautiful things about it. But we have taken the path that we’ve taken to get to where we are today, and there are undeniable things that have been done along that path – genocide and slavery, just to name two – and there is also undeniable help that has been given to certain groups above other groups. If people even stopped to think about the G.I. Bill, the help done through the New Deal, all these foundational things, you know – nationalized home loans, post-WWII, that created the white middle class. If they really stopped to look into that, they’d be like, “Oh shit, we only got prosperous because of big government help.” So naturally, the moment that government help was extended to other groups, that’s when you start to get “small-government conservatism.” And that’s why it’s so dangerous to start acknowledging what’s right in front of your face, because if the subtext of what’s right in front of your face is, “Well, that person will get mistreated in a way that I won’t get mistreated,” that subtext leads to a lot of other realizations that I think lot of people are very resistant to absorbing. And it’s almost like a – I call it an “elective learning disability,” because some people have genuine learning disabilities that they’re born with, but people like this choose to create a blind spot in their brain for those kinds of facts. They’re afraid of the repercussions of dealing with those facts. It’s very personal. It has to do with peoples’ self-image, how they like to think of themselves. It’s very precious, and I can understand the resistance to it, but it still prevents other people from having reasonable conversations with them. They’re excluding a whole mound of reality when forming their opinions, so it’s difficult, and that’s sort of why we’re at where we are right now: The willful ignorance has hit a tipping point.