More police records released under SB-16, but full transparency is a ways off
S1: Egregious police misconduct revealed in newly released records.
S2: I guess the agencies are following the law , but it doesn't feel like that. We know about all the discrimination that could be going on out there.
S1: I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition. Saturday. Amtrak service is back after repairs on the rail.
S3: The corridor itself has one of the busiest intercity passenger rail corridors of the nation. It's historically been the second busiest intercity passenger rail corridor in the United States.
S1: Good pay , transparency laws , put privacy at risk and how comics and social justice intersect. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Since the beginning of the year , California law enforcement agencies have been required to release records involving police misconduct , specifically discrimination. The state law , SB 16 , went into effect last year , but agencies had a one year grace period. It was designed to make policing in the state more transparent. A story by CBS eight is highlighting some of the most egregious instances of misconduct from newly released records. That includes a San Diego police officer who was caught yelling , quote , I kill in words for a living. I'm a cop. KPBS editor Claire TRAGESER wrote a series of stories last year based on records released under this law that revealed discrimination in the a department. She's also been digging through the SD PD records and joins us now to talk about what she's found. Claire , thanks for being here.
S2: Thank you.
S2: So it's an additional law from State Senator Nancy Skinner that builds off her previous work of requiring records and video of police shootings and use of force incidents where they cause. The definition is great bodily injury. Those have to be released. And now this builds on it to say that records where there's been a sustained finding of discrimination and that can be gender discrimination , racial discrimination , religious , you know , what ? Have you also sustained findings of unlawful arrest or seizure ? So like , if someone , you know , searches a police officer search of someone's car or house or something like that , and they they didn't have legal jurisdiction to do that. So those those have to be released. And then additionally , when there's force use that's deemed to be , you know , unnecessary , and when someone doesn't intervene , when they see a fellow officer using excessive force. So so those are the new records that have to be released , as you said , at the beginning of this year , because the law went into effect , but it gave a one year grace period.
S1: Mm hmm. And as you call through these documents and these records , what type of discrimination are you seeing most ? Sure.
S2: So. So , yeah , we've been going through a lot. The San Diego Sheriff's Department began releasing records right away at the beginning of last year. And so we've gone through everything that that they've released and from the sheriff's department , most of the cases were were more sexual harassment and gender discrimination than racial discrimination. So we saw a few cases of of racist comments in the sheriff's department. But far more sexist comments , sexual harassment , things like that. Oceanside had one case of discrimination , and that was , again , a sexual harassment case. And and that's it. So far , aside from now , the San Diego Police Department has released about 90 records just at the end of last month. So the all the other agencies say that they don't have any records to release. Hmm.
S2: Most agencies here in San Diego County say that they don't have any records to release. They don't have any sustained findings of discrimination. And this is the law. So I guess we we can believe them on that. The question then is , why is it really that there's been no discrimination among those police agencies locally ? Or is it that because it takes a sustained finding for the record to be released , that means that their internal affairs investigations are not coming back with these sustained findings ? Maybe they get a complaint that someone said , you know , an officer said something racist during a traffic stop and they look into it and they decide that that that's unfounded , There isn't enough evidence. And so then we would we just wouldn't know about that case because it didn't result in a sustained finding. Or something that I've reported on a lot previously is there is hesitancy among officers to maybe report on each other. So if they hear someone do do something , they're reluctant to to take it to Internal Affairs or file a report because they're worried about retribution. So , you know , I guess the agencies are following the law , but it doesn't feel like there's , you know , that we know about all the discrimination that could be going on out there.
S1: And this isn't the only law regarding police records. You had the story last week about the release of video showing the San Diego Sheriff's Department. Hazing Joe Young Jr in igniting a lighter in his pocket and then stomping that fire out. This video should have been automatically released , right ? Why wasn't it ? Exactly.
S2: So this is an example of the law is in effect and it says that any time there's been an incident resulting in great bodily injury , those records and video need to be released. And in this case , the sheriff's department said , no , this didn't result in great bodily injury , even though Mr. Young was taken to the hospital and obviously had burns on his body and was , like you said , stomped on by the deputies to try and put the fire out. And so at first they pushed back and they said , we're not going to release this record. And the First Amendment coalition got involved. They're a legal advocacy organization. And then the records were released just last week. So , you know , this is to me , an example of apparently an activist , a San Diego activist , Tasha Williams knew about this case and asked for the records to be released. Then the sheriff's department said no. Then the First Amendment coalition got involved. But if if she hadn't known about it and no one else had known about it and asked for these records , it might have gone unreleased and , you know , hidden from the public forever because no one knew that it happened. And the sheriff's department , you know , wasn't going to release the records until someone's specifically asked. So , you know , I think these new laws are helpful in terms of forcing departments to hand over these records , but they don't go all the way because if there's a case that the departments aren't going to release unless someone knows about , you know , those may never come forth to the public. Hmm.
S1: Hmm. I mean , we have people in the public like Tasha , who shine a light on injustice. And as a journalist , our job is often to shine that light on injustice and misconduct.
S2: I mean , it goes so much further than than what we had before , which was nothing , basically. So , you know , now these sustained findings do have to be brought forward. And , you know , as we're seeing where we're learning about some incidents of discrimination , sexual harassment , excessive use of force , things like that. So definitely the law makes it easier for for journalists to see what's happening in departments. But like I said , I think , you know , it doesn't go all the way.
S1: And CBS Eight reported Friday on some of the discrimination records. They're focusing on highlighting some egregious behavior.
S2: So CBS has gone through all the records that that we have as well , that the police department has released and pulled out some of the examples of specifically of racial discrimination and things that the San Diego , you know , San Diego police officers have done in the past. One of them , which is in their headline was officers were called to the scene of someone who was who was drunk and disorderly. And it turned out that that person was a police officer. I think they didn't know that when they were called to the scene. And then when they got there , you know , he was having a lot of issues with his behavior. He was at a motel and threatening people and , you know , picking fights with people and things like that. And then at one point during the arrest , he said , you know , it's I'm a police officer and I kill black people. But he used a racial slur for black people. So , you know , that's the headline of the CBS story. And that's obviously , you know , that the most egregious example that that's in there. There are other examples where office an officer said something to a Hispanic woman about that his police dog liked dark meat. And there's , you know , various complaints and examples of of other racial discrimination in there as well.
S2: What does that tell us about the department overall , if anything ? Or , you know , and how are officers treated when when these cases happen ? You know , what is the discipline ? You know , what happens to officers and how seriously does the department take these incidents ? So so we're continuing to look at what the discipline is when when things happen like these incidents , whether officers are fired or suspended. Or reprimanded. And that kind of gives an example of how seriously the department takes these incidents. So those are things that we're continuing to go through in our reporting.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS , Claire TRAGESER. Claire , thank you for joining us.
S2: Thank you.
S1: Amtrak weekend service returned on Saturday for the first time since operations were suspended late last year for a stabilization project in San Clemente , while weekday services still remain suspended , the change represents a big step forward in normalizing operations for the second busiest rail corridor in the nation. Joining me now with more on the news is Eric Carpenter , spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority. And Jason Jewel , managing director of the Los Angeles San Diego , San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency. And welcome to you both.
S3: Thank you for having us. Appreciate it. Yes , thank you very much.
S1: So can we start off by putting into context how busy this rail corridor is and how critical it is to transportation in the region.
S3: The corridor itself has one of the busiest intercity passenger rail corridors of the nation. It's historically been the second busiest intercity passenger rail corridor in the United States with nearly 3 million riders on an annual basis , as well as 26 daily trains. And this is pre-COVID. But the corridor itself also plays an important role to freight and commuter rail as well.
S1: And Eric , this announcement marks the return of weekend service , but not during the weekdays.
S3: And that work continues during the week. And because it's such a tight workspace for the safety of everybody. We're continuing to have no rail service , no passenger rail service during the week so we can complete that work.
S1: And Jason , how has commuter service for riders who used the line for work been supplemented in the meantime ? Yeah.
S3: So the Amtrak Pacific Service line , our service has been providing bus bridge service between the Irvine and Oceanside stations. So we're able to provide that vital link for our customers , for the inner city passenger rail service to be able to get down to and from San Diego and the Orange County and L.A. areas. So we have been providing that bus service so that our customers are able to to make their journey down south.
S1: And Eric , can we get an update on the repairs that are currently underway and what these repairs actually look like in the first place ? Sure.
S3: As I mentioned , we've been doing this emergency work since October and the exciting news is that we have finished the first row of ground anchors along this approximately a 700 foot stretch of rail line. And that first row of ground anchors , a little over a hundred has been completed. And the exciting news is that since that's been completed , we've detected no additional movement in the track , which made us feel safe in making the decision to safely restore passenger service through the area. And we're excited about that. As I mentioned , in the meantime , we continue to further work there and installing a second row of ground anchors.
S3: And right now , we're doing that second row of ground anchors. We anticipate that that should be done by the end of March at this point.
S1: You mentioned that freight operations are still ongoing despite the repairs. I imagine they're running at a reduced capacity.
S3: So throughout this entire process , there have been at least one freight train a day running through there at reduced speeds. But because of the work that's been done there , now , we understand that that's picking up to the traditional number of freight trains , which is about three or four a day. And we're excited to see that.
S1: Talking big picture here , concerns over future erosion and the stability of the line aren't going away anytime soon. I'm wondering if I could get your thoughts on the future of this corridor and what kind of infrastructure is going to be needed in the near future.
S3: You know , this is clearly emergency work. We found ourselves in a situation where we needed to repair the line to get it operating normally again. And we feel good about the repairs that are being made. At the same time , we understand that there's a long term solution that we need to look at. And Okta is in the process of starting a study that will work with all of our partners and including the cities along the corridor and our state and federal partners to look at a longer term fix , which we don't know what that will look like at this point , but it could potentially even look at maybe relocating the line. But that fix is clearly years down the line and we need help from. To all of our partners to make that happen.
S3: We there's various right of way track owners along along the entire corridor. But we do support and want to continue to coordinate with our right of way partners and our member agencies , including Orange County Transportation Authority , in their efforts for a longer term solution. And we we do recognize the importance of ensuring corridor wide resiliency. And we are working with our partners and our and our stakeholders , including our member agencies , to look for any and all state and federal funding opportunities that might be available to help support longer term resiliency efforts.
S1: I've been speaking with Eric Carpenter , spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority , and Jason Jewel , managing director for the Los Angeles San Diego , San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency. Thanks to both of you for speaking with us today.
S3: Thank you. Thank you for having us. You.
S1: You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Heineman. California just enacted a law that requires employers to post the pay range of jobs they're seeking applicants for. It's part of a national movement toward pay transparency. But does making salaries public empower low wage workers ? Or does it just put privacy at risk ? KPBS SCI-TECH reporter Thomas Fudge has the story.
S3: On a cool sunny January new. Now our Gustavo arcia is having a lunch to go with his son near the Prado Bridge in Balboa Park. He used to manage a company that worked on government contracts. I asked him whether he thought that making people's salaries public was an invasion of privacy.
S4: I think it's up to people , to people , whether they think that it touches something very personal to them. For me , I don't care.
S3: Public opinion on the subject is definitely mixed. University of San Diego law professor Aurelie Lobell says laws that keep salary information private go too far and they run contrary to the public interest.
S1: We've seen also over the.
S2: Years privacy use not just as the shield , but as a sword to.
S1: Hide from public. Accountability.
S1: Privacy oftentimes serves the more powerful. For example.
S2: The gender and racial pay gaps have been very stagnant because people basically don't know that they're underpaid.
S3: Lobell , author of a book called The Equality Machine , adds that open information allows us to make better and more equitable decisions in workplaces. Elizabeth Lyons is a professor of management at UC San Diego. She has studied the effects of paid transparency on gender based pay gaps , gaps that she says are clearly a problem.
S1: We might think it's unfair , but beyond that , it. Impacts.
S1: Women's kind of willingness to enter and stay in the labor market. So that has implications for the economy as a whole.
S3: Lyons took a look at a situation where women did know they were earning less. A law in the Canadian province of Ontario required all organizations that receive government funding to make public the name , position and salary of those making over $100,000. She told KPBS Midday Edition the law did create more pay equity in the Ontario universities that she examined , raising female pay by about 4%. But not for the reasons they expected. They did not see individual women acting empowered and negotiating for higher pay.
S1: Organizations are proactively reducing gender pay gaps in ways that we think are consistent with kind of reputation management.
S3: In other words , the organizations corrected the pay gaps because they were worried about their public image. Critics of pay transparency say it's fraught with difficulty. Pam Dixon is a privacy advocate and founder of the World Privacy Forum. She says revealing the fact that somebody is paid poorly may hurt them , not empower them. She says if you're classified as poor , it's harder to get good terms when you buy something. And when they apply for a job.
S1: Employers will look at their past pay and say , Oh , well , this was what you were paid in X work. We're going to continue to pay you along these incremental lines. When that's not what's needed , what's needed is real pay equity.
S3: Back in Balboa Park , people I spoke with said when you enter the labor market , you should know what the going rate of pay is. That gives you leverage. Benjamin RCO told me the price of labor should be regarded in the same way as prices of consumer goods. You need transparency to make comparisons. So I think that just as technology increase the transparency in real estate or in other realms , we're just seeing communications technology take place in the labor market as well. Felicia , who didn't give her last name , said she's seen workplaces where knowing the salaries of your fellow workers has led to low morale and hard feelings.
S1: The only people.
S2: That have shared their salary.
S1: With me is if they've already left the company.
S2: I was working with them there at another company.
S1: Then they feel comfortable because it's not as competitive , I guess. Okay.
S3: Studies estimate the American women earn $0.84 for every dollar that a man makes. Thomas Fudge , KPBS News.
S1: When storms battered California last month , the streets of Planalto became rivers. Hundreds of homes flooded and the whole town was evacuated. Now , people in this rural Central Valley community are trying to put their lives back together. But as KQED Vanessa Run Kana reports , many undocumented residents are struggling to access assistance. And a note this story only uses first names for the undocumented people in this story to protect their privacy. Husband and wife , Rufino and Esmeralda came to plunder 50 years ago in search of better opportunities. They worked in the local fields almonds , grapes , pigs , tomatoes. They saved up to start a small business selling popsicles and snacks. The flood took out everything. Their livelihood and much of their home.
S4: Stole their clothing.
S1: Ruffino stands in his driveway , assessing the mold , starting to grow on the still damp seats of his ice cream truck.
S4: All along , this house dragging on the ranch , total lost freezer stone General McKenzie and lost and everything.
S1: He says the water destroyed five commercial freezers full of merchandise , plus the truck around $23,000 in damage. Inside the house is Metallica points out , cabinet drawers warped from the water. I get all the stuff and only I will be gone without , you know , the law. For now , Ruffino and Esmerelda have moved into an apartment at a migrant farm worker housing complex on the edge of the town. They're among 40 families temporarily relocated there. Like many other undocumented immigrants in another , they still haven't gotten significant financial help. Overall , early estimates showed nearly a quarter of the homes here were impacted. All day. People drive down the main street in trucks loaded with beds , cell phones , refrigerators. They unload everything into dumpsters lining the road. All these dumpsters have people's lives in it. From the sidewalk. Longtime resident Alicia Rodriguez looks on. The losses are especially painful for a community where the poverty rate is almost three times the state's. Rodriguez is one of the local volunteers collecting and distributing donations of clothes , socks , shoes. She's running a makeshift resource center out of a vacant commercial space.
S2: Air mattresses for those that are sleeping on the floor. We're going to be doing microwaves.
S1: But the big help , the kind that will rebuild a damaged home and replace its contents , that's left to private insurance or federal disaster assistance from FEMA. And Rodriguez says many residents here can't turn to either. They're slipping through the cracks because to get help from FEMA , you need a Social Security number. And local leaders estimate as many as half of residents in pinata are undocumented. What I see here is that a lot of rot going to get the FEMA because they're not applying. Down the street from Rodriguez's donation center. A weary looking mechanic named Eduardo is crouched beside a car , changing a tire.
S4: We were in a scenario up in the LA Broadway market to allow up.
S1: The house he rents with his wife and five kids is half a block from here and the epicenter of the destruction. During the flood , the water was almost waist high in his house.
S4: As you listen to it.
S1: His family just bought new furniture and appliances six months ago. They don't have insurance.
S4: Nobody got that to look content. This was a compromise.
S1: Eduardo's heard FEMA can help cover these losses , but he figures he's not eligible because he's undocumented.
S4: It's an incomplete commune with nothing.
S1: In Eduardo's case , he could apply through his US born kids. So we strongly encourage those individuals to take advantage of the opportunity and come up with a claim. Sharon Wardell Trejo is a spokesperson for the county who's been trying to get that message out. In the first two days after FEMA opened a recovery center in Planalto. She says a total of 45 households filed claims. She sees that as progress. So we're seeing an incremental increase as probably the word gets out there , that , hey , you know what ? It was okay and they were able to help me. But for some , that help is out of reach. In what's left of Ruffino in his Miranda's living room. They point out their son's high school diploma , one precious possession the floodwaters spared.
S4: Only was there a man's logic. Quite the granite as well.
S1: He's a freshman at UC Berkeley. In many ways , living out the promise that brought them to this country. But their American born son can't help them here because he's no longer at home. They can't use his Social Security number to apply for aid.
S4: But he also comes out and.
S1: Rufino says he's the reason they want support to help him get ahead. They tried multiple times to get help from FEMA in the Small Business Administration , but got turned away for it.
S4: Apparent skills and not the other nine.
S1: For those of us who don't have papers , there's no assistance.
S4: Rufino says the normal good in Miami is there ? But Ramirez was one of the intervening waters.
S1: If they can't get aid , he says , they'll have no choice but to go back to working in the fields.
S4: Some moms go out and.
S1: They'll keep looking for help. They were told to turn to charitable organizations. But so far , he says , all they've gotten is a $250 gift card. That was KQED. Vanessa run reporting from of. Nicholas Saeed was the son of an African general who went on to become a hero in the American Civil War. During the time of Reconstruction. Articles were written about his life , but his name has since been lost in history. San Diego journalist Dean Culbreath was first captivated by Nicholas Side Story while researching the history of Muslims in the United States. Colbert's book , The Sergeant The Incredible Life of Nicholas Sayeed , comes out Tuesday. He spoke with Midday Edition producer Andrew Bracken.
S5: So who is Nicholas ? Said. Tell us about the subject of this book.
S6: Nicholas Sayeed was a sergeant in the Union Army during the Civil War , but had a history like no other sergeant or probably no other soldier had. He was born in the center of Africa. He was born in a thousand year old kingdom called Borno in the center of Africa. His father was a general at this horseback army that would ride into battle with were in cooks of chainmail , wearing steel helmets covered with their turbans and everything. They looked like they were writing out of the Arabian Nights or something. He grew up a pretty privileged life. His father was very wealthy. His father was the governor of six provinces in Borno. He went to school learning Arabic and learning the Koran , and Arabic was the first of nine languages. He learned foreign languages. He ended up speaking , including the two languages his parents spoke. But he ended up after a series of travels that we can talk about. He ended up in the United States right on the eve of the Civil War , and he joined the Union Army almost at the beginning of the time that they first started allowing African American soldiers. And he fought in the Carolinas , stayed in the South after the war , became one of the first black voting registrars in the nation and teaching , reading and writing to the children and freed slaves , and did a lecture tour throughout the South about the achievements that might be accomplished by the Africans , as he put it.
S5: And the story you tell about Nicholas said , It's so rich , you know , it's hard to know where to even start. So I guess I'll turn to your opening words. You write that he was born to be a fighter. Why did you feel that was the best way to introduce him to your readers.
S6: The way he gained his fame ? I think in this country , the first thing that people noticed about him was his joining the Union Army. You know , the day that he became a sergeant , there was a glowing article written in Massachusetts newspapers that ended up going out throughout the world because , again , of his impressive history in Africa. To answer your question , like it to his father was one of the most important generals , the commanding general of the army of Borno , commanding thousands of men. So when he was a kid , he studied how to be a soldier. He played war outside of the gates of Kukawa , which was the capital of Borno , where he lived , unfortunately. Well , his father died. He went to boarding school , and after boarding school he decided to go and celebrate with his friends , went up to the northern part of the country and was captured by slave traders , by touring slave traders from the Sahara who captured him and put him up for sale as a slave to come not to the Americas , but to go first to Libya and then to Turkey before ending up being freed by a Russian ambassador to Turkey. And then for several years , about five or six years , traveling throughout Europe , crossing paths with people like Queen Victoria and Emperor Louis Napoleon.
S6: But its origins started right after 911 when the Union Tribune assigned me to the Middle East to cover Arab reactions to 911. I was talking to some Palestinian students in Bethlehem , Bethlehem University , and I asked them what they felt about 911. They they we had a very good conversation. And then they started asking me questions about how long Muslims have been in the United States. You know what the history of Muslims in the United States was , You know , what pressures they may have face , you know , what success stories there might have been. And when I got home , I started you know , that was a question that I hadn't been prepared for. It's sort of looking it up. And I was very. Amazed to find Muslims going back almost all the way to the Mayflower , back to the 1630s in New Amsterdam , when there were several Moroccan Muslims living in New Amsterdam , now New York. So I was doing searches for the name Muhammad and all these old historical records and ran across Muhammad Ali , been fired , you know , Nicole face. And the more I learned about him , because he had written two versions of his own memoirs , the more I learned about him , the more I was drawn to him. He was a very interesting character with a beautiful background and a beautiful story.
S6: I mean , one of the things that I think it really talks about is the value of immigrants. He came to this country. He had very little money when he arrived. He was almost broke. And he just threw himself into service to teaching and to into the war , into being a registrar for voters. I mean , he just threw himself into serving his fellow Americans , you know , because he became an American. So I think that the story of an immigrant in this country , the story of an African born immigrant , I think is very powerful.
S5: And earlier in your career , you were part of a team of investigative journalists that uncovered a major corruption scandal of former San Diego Congressman Randall Duke Cunningham , which ultimately landed him in prison.
S6: You know , unfortunately , there weren't any living individuals that I could talk to , but there were plenty of newspaper articles , the diaries of government documents , some of the same kind of stuff that we did in the Cunningham case or in any investigative story that we look for. There were there wasn't a human trail of human voices because there all did. But there was a good paper trail and it required some investigative digging. Some of it is documentation. I had to contact archives in Europe to get contact to archives in Russia and Latvia and Amsterdam and London , as well as going personally to places like Alabama , Boston , Michigan , where he actually lived during his stay here and through some of the records of his stay are located.
S5: And in the foreword to the book , you talk a little bit about the process of how to handle racist language you found during your research , particularly the use of the N-word , and you ultimately decide to use that word unredacted.
S6: The N-word is something that I have no tolerance for , no matter how it's used , even when it's used in rap songs. That having been said , I think that , you know , we were tempted to use just dashes and dashes to replace the word. But I think that kind of whitewashes history. I grew to use it as always used then as well. So commonly used , you know , in newspapers and speeches and just common conversation. I think that for an accurate view of history and an accurate view of how visceral some of the racism at that time was , I think that it's it's necessary to remind people it's necessary not to invest the time that it's necessary to to let it be visceral.
S6: You know , during the reconstruction of the South , he actually he went on a lunch tour through the southern states that actually drew a lot of people and got good reviews , both from black and white audiences. But I think that after Reconstruction , the South kind of had this brief flirtation with learning about African history , learning how , you know , learning about the people who had once been their slaves. And that history was very brief. And he sort of his reputation got kind of disappeared in the late 1870s. First right of reconstruction was ending. To the extent that we don't even know how and when he died. It was sometime after 1882 , which is the last record official record that we have , But we don't even know when he died because he just disappeared from view.
S1: That was author Dean Culbreath speaking with Midday Edition producer Andrew Bracken about his new book , The Sergeant The Incredible Life of Nicholas said Colbert is hosting a book launch party tomorrow at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park beginning at 630. For more information , go to KPBS dot org. You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. San Diego State University officially launched its Center for Comic Studies last year. One of its goals is to demonstrate the power of comics to foster diversity and inclusivity and identify social injustice. KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO speaks with University of South Carolina professor Kiana Whitted about a public lecture she'll be giving tomorrow at SDSU. Inspired by her Eisner Award winning book E.C. Comics Race , Shock and Social Protest. Kiana , you are going to be.
S2: Giving a talk at San Diego State University as part of their comics classes.
S1: I love the title of this. I'm just going to give part of it.
S2: But captions and corpses.
S1: So explain what this talk is going to be about. I picked one of my most favorite chapters from my book on E.C. Comics , which is a comic book publisher from New York that produced comics during the 1950s. They weren't as big as what we now know as DC and Marvel or big superhero publishers. They were horror comics and crime comics and science fiction comics. And I'm going to be talking about a chapter from the book on that company and how they used elements of the comics form the actual text and the captions and the dialogue to relay. I'm not going to say substantive messages , but because they were known for severed heads and aliens and all of that , but to relay , let's say , some social and political messaging about racism and anti-Semitism and a lot of other things that were sort of raging around the country in the fifties.
S2: Now , for people who may not be familiar with comics at this time.
S1: Easy comics really.
S2: Stirred some controversy on certain levels because this is around the time of , you know , this kind of obsession.
S1: With juvenile delinquency.
S2: And how comics might.
S1: Affect young brains.
S2: And things like that. So give people kind of a context or a sense of.
S1: What the world was like when E.C. Comics was making these books. That's right. So we're looking at post-World War Two , and superheroes have been big , and they still were during this time in the late forties when he got started. But the company actually started off that easy and the title stood for educational comics. And where the company was owned by Max Gaines , they published titles like Pictures , Stories from American History and Bible Stories and Tiny Talk Comics and Funny Animal Comics. And they were losing a lot of money because they were not selling. And then when Max died , his son , Bill Gaines , took over and the company was in the red. And he and his editor , Al Feldstein , were thinking about what could they do ? And so instead of turning to superheroes or to kids comics , they said , well , we really like the old witching hour radio shows. And they really loved those science fiction magazines and Pulp Fiction that was coming out at the time. And so they said , Well , let's give that a try. And that's where we get the crypt of terror. Later , Tales from the Crypt Vault of Horror. That's where we get Mad magazine. A lot of people know Mad from E.C. Comics that was about satire. They were on the cutting edge , particularly with the scary with the horror comics. Again , when you're competing with hundreds of titles on the stand , the more graphic , the more thrilling , the more sensational the better. And so it ended up getting them in hot water , as you said , And , you know , being called in front of the U.S. Senate will do that as well. So they brought out a psychiatrist , Dr. Frederick Worth. They brought in comic book publishers , including Bill Gaines , the publisher of DC Comics. And so the result of of that scare , if you want to call it that , in 1954 , was that while the hearings didn't result in any particular legislative changes , the comic book companies decided to band together and to come up with an arm of oversight through the Comics magazine Association of America. This is where we get the comics code.
S2: And in your talk.
S1: What are you specifically going to look.
S2: At in terms of that layout and that design and those elements and how that played into , you know , the actual storytelling in these comics.
S1: Called the whipping. When confronted with this , Dr. Wortham went through and pointed out all of the violence in the story , all of the things that he found objectionable , including the fact that there is a racial slur for Mexican Americans mentioned in the comics something like over 14 times. And so Gaines tried to make the case that this is actually a story against prejudice and that teaches kids that it's wrong. He said one of the reasons why I can tell you that , that I know this and that people are getting this message is because our readers know how to read our comics , and they know that if we put the message in the captions that we are speaking directly to them. The fact that Gaines tried to defend himself by saying , We've given children a map to know when to take our comics seriously and how to read them , I thought was really fascinating. And so I talk a little bit about what it means that he tried to sort of separate out the layout of the page and the stories in such a way that the relevant current political messaging would get across. Whereas the mommies and the werewolves would be all in good fun and easy.
S2: Comics is probably best known for doing kind of horror style comics. What is it about the genre of horror that proves particularly appealing to readers and also that allows artists to maybe express things in different ways than maybe. More.
S1: More. Mainstream.
S1: Storytelling or more , you.
S2: Know , or other formats maybe.
S1: Don't allow. Hmm. Yeah , that's a really good question and easy. They weren't the first to do horror comics , but they did them especially well. But they also used their horror and crime comics to a lesser extent , as a way of sort of thinking about what it means to be the other and and othered. A lot of times what would end up happening in those stories is that they would put the reader kind of in a second person perspective. So sometimes they were the monster , or other times it would be a child who sees something , but the adults don't see it sort of using the premise of a horror story to show how kids could be empowered or how it feels to be to have people scream when they see you. So they found all sorts of creative ways. And then I will just say , in terms of the fun of the story , it was known for what they call the sort of they call it the snap ending. They didn't come up with this , but it's very much like Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock , where there would be a sudden twist at the end of the story. So readers love that. They loved it when the culprit got it the way he or she gave it. So they found all sorts of ways to make to surprise readers , to make them work in ways that other comics at the time weren't doing as much. And so I would also just add really quickly that a lot of their readers would go on to create their own comics , mostly in the sixties and seventies. So if he has a lot of influence in that way as well. That was Beth ACCOMANDO speaking with Professor Kianna Whitted. Her public lecture takes place tomorrow at 3 p.m. on the SDSU campus. For more information , you can find it at Comics dot SDSU , dot edu.