The De-Humanizing of BC | A Cautionary Tale of Our Troubled Youth in Oxnard




By Armando Vazquez, Founding member of CORE  & the Acuna Art Gallery and Community Collective

In dealing with serious and long term community solutions and interventions to youth pathology and dysfunction we must first honestly recognize and deal with the brutally harsh punitive and negligent indifferent societal environment that helped, to a large degree, create the unique American “gang” youth problem in the first place.  How can anyone deny that the world is a violent and turbulent maelstrom of racism, sexism, religious fanaticism bordering on the worship of insanity, hatred and intolerance?  All this violence created almost exclusively by men, young and old, all over the world, including Oxnard.

Some two years ago a high school kid that we will call BC, as in “Born into a Crazy World” revealed to me and others that a gun had been pulled on him at a local Oxnard high school.  The gun was pointed at BC’s gut.  Then the chilling demand was uttered by the kid with the gun “Where you from fool?”.  BC, the kid on the wrong side of the gun, was frozen in terror.

This loud mouth kid has lost his ability “to talk mess” for the first time in his short acutely troubled life.  Luck saves the kid from being shot or worse; a school security golf cart is rapidly approaching so all the kids “on the right side of the gun that live forever” as poet Kendrick Lamar tells us, scramble like inhumane violent mutants seeking the innocuous cover of the lunch crowd.  The adrenaline kicks in and BC bolts to the administration office seeking sanctuary.  In the office in front of school officials and Oxnard cops the kid starts talking; rather he is spinning a tale of lies, denial and manipulation.  That is all the kid knows what to do, “talk mad s__t”

BC is incapable of speaking the truth and he doesn’t even know it!  BC is now letting his mouth potentially help him dig his own grave.  He is ratting out the “enemy”.  In a potentially suicidal panic BC is violating the gangster cardinal rule number one: “Keep your stupid mouth shut and don’t rat”.  How many times does this gun, violence and tribal insanity occur on our high school of Oxnard?

I suggest that if you are really interested in knowing the truth you avoid the cops, the school and local officials and you go directly to the kids and ask them.  They will tell you.  BC confessed to me that in a two week period he saw guns in the hands of kids on school grounds on two or three different occasions.  All the kids know what is going on at the local school.  The smart ones know how to navigate and mostly avoid the danger.  The knuckleheads are drawn to the trouble, and kids the like BC, who are neither smart nor knuckleheads, are usually caught in the middle.

BC was born into a troubled and dysfunctional runaway circular roller coaster world that always retuned him back to tragic and dysfunctional experiences; always accompanied by violence, abandonment and fear.  All BC knows is drama, as in talking mess and doing whatever twisted action and deed is necessary to survive.  In his world BC learned to lie and manipulate very early in his childhood “development”.  He is now a master in the art of deception and drama at the tender age of 16.  The likelihood that the “enlightened” side of BC is going to magically appear today is very remote, but it is not impossible.

In the brilliant book The Biology of Desire, by Marc Lewis, Ph.D., he reveals a compelling thesis that any “addiction is an unintended consequence of the (hard wired) brain doing what it is supposed to do – seek pleasure and relief – in a world that’s not cooperating”.

That is what BC does time and again, he seeks out relief and twisted pleasure (taunting the gangsters, the cops, the school officials, his mom, and anyone who crosses his path) and in return BC always receives painful, very bad and highly predictable consequences.  BC tells me he loves pain, so he will continue to taunt the devil.  He can’t help it.  I concur with Lewis.  BC’s brain and the brains of all our dysfunctional and troubled hardwired youth must be rewired through longterm love.  Oxnard must no longer fight a brutal tough and failed war on crime waged on the bodies and minds of our youth.  We must release love from our pained and troubled hearts in a mercy mission of longterm intervention of science, common sense and psychology, driven by unconditional love.  This how we help a troubled youth turn his/her life around.


Anthropologist João Biehl and his theory of social abandonment, in his ground-breaking book entitled Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment, maps the process in Brazilian society, of social abandonment and the path that is systemically paved toward social ostracism and exclusion for marginalized individuals (like BC) and groups (like gangs).  Central to Biehl’s theory is the idea that a status of “ex-humanness” is prevalent in ostracized groups,” a state of non-personhood and invisibility must be reached in order for society to dehumanize, easily discard and abandon a group or individual.  Ominously Biehl adds that the processes of social change constantly offers new, creative and altered ways in which a person can lose his/her perceived ”humanness”.  In other words, the privileged policy makers of our society are always scheming to find new policies and laws to further alienate and dispose more effectively, those impotent and disenfranchised “ex-human” individuals and group populations in the community.

That BC is seriously losing his grip on “humanness” is a gross understatement.  All the while the surrounding local “human” society is furiously kicking BC (and his de-humanized kind) down the proverbial black hole into further inhumanity by brutal and systemic design.  In dehumanizing the lowest members (the BCs of the local society and of the world) of the perceived marginalized group or race is how a bigoted or racist society completes the ostracism of the undesirables.  To hammer the nail on the “ex-humans” coffin of ostracism, the prevailing systemic racism always manages to infect policies to further marginalize or criminalize these “ex-humans”. This is how we dehumanize and criminalize our individual youth and create gangs in this country.

In the 1990s sensational concocted racist lies and myths about crack babies and their drug-addicted “welfare queen” mothers and other “ex-human animals” seized the American national consciousness.  It was during this very critical period of the national war on crime and drugs that criminologist James A. Fox and political scientist John J. DiIulio Jr. shamelessly promoted the concept of the “super-predator”.  The evil racist creations by these two eminent sociologists were typically a Brown or Black poor slum youth whose primal anger and chemically altered impulse control threatened to spark waves of violent crime on an unsuspecting public.  This racist stereotypical myth gave police the cover to follow New York Police commissioner Bill Bratton’s “broken windows” policing concept, accelerating the pace at which already over-policed communities of color were systemically rounded and herded “like animals, super-predators, terrorists, rapists and killers” into the penal system.  It gave disingenuous politicians perfect winning, emotionally charged propaganda and it helped turn lawmakers over to their most reactionary “tough law and order” impulses.  On a national level we began to see draconian law enforcement policies such as the drafting of mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the “three strikes” law and civil gang injunctions policies designed to keep our nation’s prisons filled.  This eternally keeps men of color insidiously in the vice-grip of law enforcement supervisions and control.


In Erich Fromm’s wondrous work on love entitled, The Art of Loving, he writes, “The deepest need of man, is the need to overcome his separateness, to leave the prison of his loneliness. The absolute failure to achieve this aim means insanity, because the panic of complete isolation can be overcome only by such a radical withdrawal from the world outside the feeling of separation disappears—because the world outside, from which is separated, has disappeared”.  This is where we meet most of our troubled youth lashing out at a cold, often violent, cruel and indifferent world.  For many of the youth their separation from a foreboding and foreign world is further complicated by abusing alcohol and drugs; involvement in promiscuous sex, gangs or violent and abusive relationships.  Others will somehow, almost miraculously, manage to find a way to live a “normal” life.  What all these precious troubled youth are looking for is love.  It has been our experience that an incredible transformation and empowerment can take place in all who are touched by the power of love.  So what do we mean by the power of love and it transformative essence?

Eric Fromm explains it this way, ”Love is activity, not a passive affect: it is “standing in”, not a “falling for” In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily of giving, not receiving…  Beyond the element of giving, the active character of love becomes evident in the fact that it always implies certain basic elements, common to all forms of love.  These are care, responsibility, respect and knowledge”

The transformative work of truly helping a troubled youth (any soul) begins with the activity of giving love.  We agree with Fromm’s assessment of love in working with dysfunctional youth.  We must make a bold commitment to love, we must care to love and meet the youth where he/she is; love requires that we be responsible and knowledgeable about taking on the daunting longterm task of working with the troubled youth.  And finally, love demands that we have respect for the sanctity and sacred value of all life.  In active love we can then plunge into the abyss that is home to many of our most at-risk youth knowing that love will find a way to the most troubled hearts and souls.


In the three decades of work that Dr Deborah De Vries and I have done through the KEYS Leadership Academy at the Acuna Art Collective in Oxnard we have worked with many of the most at-risk and active troubled youth and their families in the community.  Most of the pathological, troubled, and often lost youth we work with are terrified and looking for their lost childhood — looking for love, often in the wrong places, always in desperation. 

This is the unconditional love commitment that we share with each and every one of the youth that we “stand in” love with:

  1. Unconditional love is unconditional acceptance of the person asking for a helping hand. Unconditional acceptance does not make demands on the individual.  We accept the obvious fact that the individual youth has perhaps lost the road map to life (or perhaps just taken a wrong turn); either way, unconditional love will eventually redirect the individual.
  2. Unconditional love produces loving individuals, and then everything in a person’s life is possible. All the behaviors demanded, such as personal accountability, responsibility and resourcefulness that the individual could never master before, will eventually be a natural byproduct of unconditional love.
  3. Unconditional love is action-driven. It requires the servant to provide individualized services to the youth.  The servant cannot deliver unconditional love with empty hands; the servant must engage community, power and institutions so goods and services are made available, unconditionally.
  4. Unconditional love will eventually inoculate even the most troubled youth, transforming the youth into the servant.
  5. Unconditional love is fearless. Even when the task seems impossible, love will find a way.
  6. Unconditional love is forever. There are no time frames, schedules or deadlines.  The servant understands a youth may backslide a few times or a hundred times.  It does not matter.  Eventually, unconditional love will liberate this youth.
  7. Unconditional love is available to each of us, and we can all practice it, but first we must learn to “stand in” love and lead with the heart and soul.

The KEYS Leadership Academy of Oxnard is a program that has, for over three decades, worked with the most troubled and dysfunctional youth and their families in all of greater Oxnard.  Our work is not easy, and never driven by political sloganeering, traditional law and order directives, or institutional standards of measurement.  Our motto is “LOVE IS THE KEY” and we never waiver from that foundation.  We have worked with thousands of acutely troubled and marginalized youths in Oxnard, and we can tell you that we have never witnessed a youth, no matter how tough or broken he/she is, who does not respond to care, responsibility, respect, knowledge, social and restorative justice, and love.

The historical “problem” with our KEYS Leadership Academy program is that it is not designed, and never will be geared to give the cops, the probation department, the school and local elected officials, neatly packaged “success numbers” every quarter. Rather The KEYS Leadership Academy provides individualized and unique award winning effective educational and community services, vocational transformative programing of spiritual, scientific and psychological empowerment drive by love.

 For one of our most pathological broken youth who we are still working with, it has taken 20 “stand in” love years (and counting) to help her to “rewire her brain and heart”.  Today she is a miracle in action as one of the most dedicated, effective and hardworking community servants in all of Oxnard.  We are still working with her.  It will take many years for BC working with us to “rewire” his brain and resuscitate his heart and soul, but we will be there with him every step of the way.  This is how we do it at the KEYS Leadership Academy of Oxnard: one brain, one heart, one soul, and one youth at a time for as long as it takes.  Love is KEY!

Armando Vazquez

Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.  is Executive Director of  Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition

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One Response to The De-Humanizing of BC | A Cautionary Tale of Our Troubled Youth in Oxnard

  1. Mark Savalla August 9, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Mildly interesting. The entire article is a set up for his commercial interest in the project. It takes caring parents, and a good hard working police Department to decrease the influence of gangs. Without Consequences to bad behavior all you have is baseless platitudes.


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