Sociologist Manuel Pastor is the director of the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity and co-director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at USC. Before participating in a panel on L.A. after immigration reform, he confessed in the Zócalo green room that he will always choose fries over onion rings, and that while he hates the 405, unlike Elon Musk, he’s not willing to pay to ease its traffic.
What’s your least favorite thing about the Internet?
The way which it siloes information so people can only hear what they want to hear and not really have to enter the public square—so it becomes even more fragmented. Plus I don’t like phishing.
Who was your childhood hero?
Where do you go to be alone?
A couple places. The gym. My office. Water—any place with water.
What is the last habit you tried to kick?
I like most of my habits.
What’s your least favorite freeway?
The 405. It’s the rough equivalent of a slow death.
How much would you pay to make the 405 easier to drive on?
I would pay very little. I live on the Eastside because I don’t want to be near it. I would pay a lot of money to put mass transit into Los Angeles. It’s been tremendous, the transformation of L.A. with the arrival of the Gold Line and the Expo Line and the subway, and I’m incredibly optimistic that eventually the 405 will be passable because people won’t be driving.
Which of your friends, family members, or colleagues tells the best jokes?
That’s a great question. I think my friend Marqueece Harris-Dawson is pretty funny. He’s the head of the Community Coalition, which is an organizing group in South L.A.
If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?
The ability to be calm at all times. I think that might be within our reach, not just a superpower.
What advice do you give students who are considering going into academia?
To pay very little attention to the advice people are giving them, partially because most of that advice is about getting ahead, and your best bet for “getting ahead” is to find something you love, to do it exquisitely well, and everything else follows. I think sometimes people choose a career because they’re thinking about the reward rather than thinking about the mission. If you choose the mission the rewards will come.
French fries or onion rings?
French fries. But only infrequently.