Photo courtesy of cindylu/Flickr (Creative Commons)
As part of a series of tweets related to slain journalist Ruben Salazar, killed August 29, 1970 while covering a violent Vietnam War protest in East Los Angeles, @LAHistory has posted a link on Twitter to the last piece he wrote. It was published the day before a stray tear gas canister fired by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy flew into the bar where Salazar was taking a breather from the riot, fatally striking him in the head.
The piece, titled "The Mexican-Americans NEDA Much Better School System," is critical of then-vice president Spiro Agnew's announcement of a new national organization called the National Economic Development Association, or NEDA, to promote business development opportunities among Latinos. In the piece, Salazar made the point that educational opportunities were more sorely needed:
NEDA, as good a concept as it is, will invariably help only those who have already made it—those who are in business or ready to go into business. This is hardly the "starting line" for the Mexican-American in this country.
The following has been said and written many times but it has yet to effectively penetrate the minds of our national leaders: The Mexican-American has the lowest educational level, below either black or Anglo; the highest dropout rate; and the highest illiteracy rate.
Yet, bilingual education was one of the items President Nixon vetoed in the educational bill. The veto was overridden but the veto indicates a strange definition the Administration has about where the "starting line" is.
The piece is taken from the book "Border Correspondent," a collection of selected writings from Salazar between 1955 and 1970. Salazar worked as a Los Angeles Times columnist and as news director for KMEX-TV. In recent months, the LAT has sought records from the Sheriff's Department that could shed more light on Salazar's death; Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca recently agreed to turn over thousands of pages to a civilian watchdog group.
I found it interesting approach toward commemorating the death of a journalist: What was the last story he wrote? At the same time, it's a little uncomfortable to think about what it could be like for others. Speaking just from a news industry point of view, what if our final piece of work is, say, a contrived Sunday feature or worse, a series of cops briefs from the night shift?
But Salazar's last piece was a good one, making some important points that, sadly, still hold true today.