Letters to the Editor: Description or diss? Question brings up fascinating local history

Historic photos show some of the people who migrated from Oklahoma to California
Historic photos show some of the people who migrated from Oklahoma to California and lived at a labor camp outside Bakersfield.
(W.C. Stamp)

To the editor: I truly appreciated Gustavo Arellano’s column on the Dust Bowl migrants of the 1930s. Yes, the derogatory term “Okies” is still remembered.

It should be noted that John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” was once banned from all Kern County libraries by the Board of Supervisors. The saga of the Joad family illustrates the prejudice, lack of respect and the negative stereotype against these American migrants here in Kern County back in those days.

There is a small Dust Bowl festival held annually outside Weedpatch, a rural unincorporated community southeast of Bakersfield, and the site of the famous Dust Bowl-era Sunset Labor Camp that housed these hardworking people.


As in Los Angeles County, many of the Dust Bowlers’ enclaves have since become Latino neighborhoods. Kern County now has a 56% majority Latino population.

Mark Salvaggio, Bakersfield


To the editor: The length to which Arellano goes to defend his use of a derogatory descriptor astounds me, since his column is a known pulpit for the celebration of Latinx culture.

As a proud Oklahoman hailing from Pawhuska, I can tell you the term “Okie” is a complicated one and definitely offensive to many, including myself.

Instead of writing a long article in his dubious defense, maybe Arellano should have just apologized.

Scott Javine, Burbank



To the editor: This article reminded me of my good friend Roberta Ralph, whose family traveled to California from Oklahoma. She attended Los Angeles public schools and was one of just a few women at the time accepted to UCLA Law School.

Later, she ran for Los Angeles County Superior Court judge and unseated the man who previously defeated Judge Alfred Gitelson, who had instituted school busing as a way to desegregate Los Angeles schools.

She was resilient and compassionate, and had a sense of humor used to defeat put-down terms, whether for a woman or an “Okie.”

Doris Isolini Nelson, Los Angeles