Life is a Dance and Everyone Wants to Cut a Rug on the Dance Floor

by on November 23, 2010 · 13 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Education, From the Soul

With all the negative vibes flowing through Arizona regarding Latinos I’m reminded that it wasn’t so long ago, around 1994, that this state passed Proposition 187. I remember it especially because it demanded that I play a sinister little game wherein I was supposed to check on the status of the Latino students at my school – and that was a game I, along with four other school principals, including Ocean Beach’s Dennis Doyle, would not play.

Somebody said to me, at the time: “Oh, Ernie, what you’re doing takes so much courage.” Not really. Courage, for me was driving my skinny self in the lane against Darnall Haney of Phoenix Union High, a dude who ate scrawny basketball players for lunch. Standing up for what’s just and right is something I just can’t help doing. It’s in my DNA.

I mean, hey, what would it be like for me, a black man who grew up in a “We don’t serve nigras here” world to try to lord it over somebody?

There’s just no way on this green earth that I could ever treat fellow human beings with such disrespect that I would ask them to prove to me their right to be in this corner of the world, like I’m La migra or somebody. Come on, life is a dance and everyone wants to cut a rug on the dance floor. Don’t they?

Besides, what was I, as a principal, to say to a family with whom I had bonded, who just happened to be here “illegally?” Was I to smile and say: “Adios, it’s been good to know you”?

Was I to look a little child in the face and say: “I really appreciate how you’ve improved in your school work and how you’ve been such a good citizen on campus, but I’m going to have to turn you in. It’s nothing personal, you understand. Te amo, mijo/mija. Just remember all the high fives and hugs we gave each other every day and all the wonderful conversations we had along the way and if you’re ever in Guadalajara could you say hello to some friends of mine?”

A parent asked me, in that way adults who have no decent core values would: “What are the children supposed to think if their principal breaks the law?” I told him I felt that the law is immoral, and I would have absolutely no problem explaining to a child why I couldn’t honor an immoral law. For, a moment, I thought I might have to practice what little CPR I knew on the dude.

And I guess that’s what’s missing in this anti-Latino environment that’s coloring our nation right now: a set of core values that would allow us to see our brown brothers and sisters as human beings who just want to move and groove to the music of life.

Such thinking occurred to me when a friend of mine, Willie Horton, said, in part, in a reply to “Knowledge is Power,” a piece I wrote recently: “Many people actually believe that different groups-races, particularly -are of different species… Individuals cooperate with individuals with whom they identify; and they compete with outsiders.”

Such a premise, I think, is right on and it allows us to hate and live in fear of people who are unlike ourselves. But, oh, what a beautiful world we could have if we could cease pinning names on each other like illegal immigrants and accept deep in our hearts and consciences that all people deserve to live in peace and dignity in a just world and then pursue, via all the avenues at our disposal, making such a reality come true.

Well, the words I’ve shared in this piece is part of my contributions to such a notion of love and understanding. It was something I just had to do as I cannot take part in the destruction of people’s hopes and dreams.

As far as I’m concerned there’s a lot of room on the dance floor and the music is jamming – and I, particularly dig me some: cha cha cha and mambo and meringue and salsa…

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

I Remember November 23, 2010 at 9:20 am

I remember Prop 187.

I went on the walk out with the 18th street members. That was the first time I saw the Gangs unite.

Even Newhall 13 and VVP (Val Verde Parke) were united, dispite their hate for one another.


Beek Badger November 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Right on Ernie… I am sure thankful we did not have prop 187 back in ’64 when mi esposa strolled across the border at El Paso with her good lookn’ sisters for the express purpose of making a good wife for some hard working goringa… Old fashion values and a good work ethic were built in attributes and these ladies have done well and given back much more than they have ever taken… Now, all US Citizens, they have taught me a thing or two about how to treat my country of choice through service and generosity…
‘Died and gone to Heaven’ in
Spring Valley…: )


Ernie McCray November 23, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Service and generosity. Now that’s a nice approach to life, homie. You rock. Like a Tucson High Badger. And, by the way, our 55th is October 15th of 2011. We are two old a__ badgers, huh?


Lowell November 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Hi Ernie:
Always love reading your thoughtful and heartfelt pieces.

What is the story of the great illustration for you column today?



Ernie McCray November 23, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Thanks. Found the illustration on the internet. Couldn’t take my eyes off it. It is great. I’ve seen a similar scene so many times in my life, people “doing it,” as my crowd used to say, “on the good foot.”


Lynda Sterns November 24, 2010 at 9:11 am

When I take time to slow down my busy life, to listen and observe what others are saying and doing, I am reminded that each and everyone of us matters…..we simply evolve at our own pace. As a community we can embrace the richness and wholeness of each and every human being. Sometimes it is hard because it is much easier to find fault, to hate or fear. Worst of all is to allow the political process to make a new law restricting human dignity. We can and will make a difference though positive actions of standing up and speaking out for others. The age old value of living by example. I have hope…..let’s keep trying. Thanks Ernie for being so energetic with your words and sharing with all of us.


Ernie McCray November 24, 2010 at 11:16 am

Hey, Riverlee, I’m just perpetuating the number one item on my bucket list: trying to turn this old world around.


Frank Gormlie November 27, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Ernie, once again you’ve on top of it. We love to dance here at the OB Rag centro. And to top it all off, Californian tea partiers will be trying to get us to sign up for a similar law that Arizona has.


Ernie McCray November 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm

They never stop.


Shirley Robinson Sprinkles November 30, 2010 at 8:53 am

From one “old a– Badger” who writes, to another: I couldna’ said it better myself!


Ernie McCray November 30, 2010 at 11:38 am

Knowing you, though, you might coulda’.


Sean Arce November 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Mr. McCray,

Really good to read your insightful writing. Very Inspirational! You may know my father, Edmund Arce, a THS Badger… I am writing to thank you on your pro Ethnic Studies piece. I am one of 11 of the plaintiffs who filed in federal court against the draconian HB 2281, the anti-Ethnic Studies law. As part of the Save Ethnic Studies organization, we have been touring the nation and raising consciousness and monies for the defense fund. We will be returning to the San Diego area in the Spring and would be honored to speak with you.
Also, you might remember that we collaborated on a Zapatista project/tour back in the 90s when I was teaching at Chicanos Por La Causa???
Our web site is and my personal e-mail is

We hope to hear from you soon

Paz y Dignidad

Sean Arce


Ernie McCray December 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Hey, Sean, good to hear from you and read about your stand on Wow, man, your dad was in my class at Tucson High. I remember him well. I, also, remember the Zapatista project/tour plans as I didn’t make the trip. Playing “Old Antonio,” the wise one, has been some of the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. I’d love to stay in contact. Take care. Viva la Raza.


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