Author Q&A with Marty Glick
Last month, AFOP had the privilege of connecting with Marty Glick, author of the new book, The Soledad Children (published Sept 30, 2019). In his book, Glick describes Diana v. California Board of Education, the anti-discrimination lawsuit he and Maurice Jourdane, attorneys with California Rural Legal Assistance, brought on behalf of farmworker children in the state of California. Specifically, the lawsuit names nine children from Soledad, CA, who had been shunted into classes for the mentally retarded using culturally-biased I.Q. tests not even administered in their native language. Incredibly, Diana was not an open-and-shut case but dragged on for years, even spawning a sister suit on behalf of African American children. CRLA’s eventual victories in these cases and their related advocacy efforts were key in protecting future generations of farmworker children from the debilitating effects of overt discrimination in the educational system.
Here is a re-cap of our conversation with Marty:
AFOP: In Soledad, you talk about how discriminatory and biased IQ tests were cleaned up as a result of CRLA’s lawsuits and advocacy. But that was in the state of California. Do you know if the practice continues in other states? How are things in California today?
Glick: It’s hard to say. I do know that in Colorado, litigation about IQ tests went the opposite way (getting worse). It’s different across the states; special classes have a variety of different labels and names that make it difficult to track. CRLA advocated for keeping the non-verbal portion of the test in use, because otherwise schools would do whatever they wanted (which could be even more detrimental for marginalized groups), and that resulted in elimination of the issue by 1980.
Larry P. vs. Riles (the lawsuit brought on behalf of African American children in California) resulted in an injunction still in effect. It has been monitored ever since, but it hasn’t been as easy to implement. If you’re taking out kids only to let more come back in, it’s hard to change the numbers. Local parental involvement and home studies… all of that together is what you need to achieve parity.
Basically, any testing is going to be a problem, because not everyone has the same educational opportunities [that will be tested on I.Q. examinations].
AFOP: You mention that you re-connected with some of the Soledad children as part of your research for the book. How are they doing now?
Glick: We are still in touch with many of them. Manuel Reyes is a friend; he has gone on talks with Mo. He’s the retired police officer. Ramon Racio was a long-haul driver of hazardous materials and we spoke with him too. Two or three others have contacted us since the book came out – we are following up with them now. Happily, we were able to transition everyone out of those classes, but they’d already suffered from things like humiliation and self-esteem loss as a result of having ever been placed in the classes to begin with. Even with supplemental help and goodwill, it wasn’t easy. Many dropped out [of school] sooner than we thought. There are success stories, though. For another example, one of the children went on to become a highly placed supervisor and has had a wonderful career.
AFOP: Part of what we loved about the book was how it went into CRLA’s other advocacy efforts that resulted in key victories now enshrined in Latino farmworker history. For example, I’d had no idea that you all were responsible for eliminating the short-handled hoe (“el cortito”).
Glick: When we were first starting, a CRLA community worker Jose Perez asked farmworkers, what can we do [in the courts] that would be the most helpful? They told him, if you want to do something, this is it, el cortito is killing people. We researched it to see what we could do. Mo Jourdane, author of Soledad, was the main litigator and actually wrote a separate book about it called The Struggle for the Health and Legal Protection of Farm Workers: El Cortito.
As part of the case, we had to obtain proof that it was unsafe and that there was a viable alternative. We got copies of X-rays that showed 40-year-olds with 65-70-year-old backs. We surveyed other states and all them were using the long-handed hoe, except in Arizona fields that were owned by California growers. These growers were convinced it was necessary – partly because they could just look out at a field and tell that people were working [because everyone was bent over]. They adamantly opposed any change, fighting to keep using the short hoe to the bitter end.
AFOP: We also found it incredible to learn that CRLA was responsible for ending the Bracero program.
Glick: With that, we weren’t sure what we had really accomplished when we settled the case with the Department of Labor. The way it went down, growers (after the settlement) thought they were dead politically. They weren’t, they just had to make plans that were actually in compliance with the federal rules. But they chose not to.
AFOP: It was really striking to us, how, for multiple issues, CRLA has had to fight from so many different angles to get things outlawed that were obviously so wrong. Even now, after decades of farmworker advocates’ collective efforts, things are far from where they should be.
Glick: Nothing is guaranteed. If you don’t stay on top of issues, then it’ll go back [to the way it was]. For whoever is in power, it’s in their self-interest [to take advantage of other people]. Advocacy requires constant vigilance.
Thank you, Marty, for taking the time to speak with AFOP / Children in the Fields Campaign!
The Soledad Children is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, with links found at Martyglick.com.