grad school theorizing

in grad school, in class, i’m discussing visual theory, the same as it is always discussed: what is visual, what is reality, what is memory, is photography a science or an art?  it is a circle jerk of supposed intellectual stimulation with no moment of climax.

we never discuss how is image used against people. we never discuss why is it that our language department is so large (the colonization of people by the Spanish) and yet we have so few US Latinx in our program—and me the only one from ohio — at a state school.
we never discuss how the police use photography or video, against the descendants of colonized people who are so huge in numbers that they drive a capitalist market for our academic department, while we are still able to keep said subjugated people out.
what does it mean when a white professor, doesn’t know who eric garner is, yet wouldn’t have their position if it weren’t for the subjugation of black and brown lives?
i don’t want to discuss what do Descartes and Freidburg think of optics and windows, or what do any other dead white men think. i want to hear the voices of those that don’t look like my classmates. i want us to be expected to know the politics of those that make us rich in academic capitalism but are controlled by image and excluded from our discussions.
instead, of looking at the society we live in, we continue with the banality of postulating what Walter Benjamin would think about reality versus nostalgia in images followed by patting ourselves on the back for reading and regurgitating selected chapters of books.

Coates

None of us are perfect, and those in public, those we have made leaders, deserve constructive, truthful criticisms. Truth is Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a leader (whether he wants to be or not) and he is being admonished for not being critical of Obama.  This is just untrue—and we need to be truthful and constructive of our criticisms of our brothers and our sisters, who have a platform. I have made a short list of articles in which Coates was critical of Obama.

(I was able to compile this list while, chatting with a friend online, playing with a 12 year-old-birthday girl, and drinking my coffee, so I hope the rest of you will add to the list.)

The Enduring Solidarity of Whiteness

Black poverty is fundamentally distinct from white poverty—and so cannot be addressed without grappling with racism.

At every step, “universalist” social programs have been hampered by the idea of becoming, and remaining, forever white. So it was with the New DealSo it is with Obamacare.

The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration

American politicians are now eager to disown a failed criminal-justice system that’s left the U.S. with the largest incarcerated population in the world. But they’ve failed to reckon with history. Fifty years after Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report “The Negro Family” tragically helped create this system, it’s time to reclaim his original intent.

 In their efforts to strengthen the black family, Clinton and Moynihan—and Obama, too—aspired to combine government social programs with cultural critiques of ghetto pathology (the “both/and” notion, as Obama has termed it), and they believed that Americans were capable of taking in critiques of black culture and white racism at once. But this underestimated the weight of the country’s history.

 

Color-Blind Policy, Color-Conscious Morality

Addressing the moral failings of black people while ignoring the centuries-old failings of their governments amounts to a bait and switch.

I have never been among those who thought President Obama should “say more” about Ferguson, because I don’t believe most of the people who elected him actually want to “hear more.” What these people have never tired of hearing is another discourse on the lack of black morality or on the failings of black culture. It saddens me to see the president so sincerely oblige.

 

Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid

Violence works. Nonviolence does too.

On Monday night, watching Obama both be black and speak for the state was torturous. One got the sense of a man fatigued by people demanding he say something both eminently profound and only partially true. This must be tiring.

 

Black Pathology and the Closing of the Progressive Mind

How Jonathan Chait and other Obama-era liberals misunderstand the role of white supremacy in America’s history and present

Obama-era progressives view white supremacy as something awful that happened in the past and the historical vestiges of which still afflict black people today. They believe we need policies—though not race-specific policies—that address the affliction. I view white supremacy as one of the central organizing forces in American life, whose vestiges and practices afflicted black people in the past, continue to afflict black people today, and will likely afflict black people until this country passes into the dust.

The Secret Lives of Inner-City Black Males

Paul Ryan’s explanation for urban poverty isn’t much different from Barack Obama’s. Why did it make liberals so angry?

Cousin Pookie and Uncle Jethro voted at higher rates than any other ethnic group in the country. They voted for Barack Obama. Our politics have not changed. Neither has Barack Obama’s rhetoric. Facts can only get in the way of a good story. It was sort of stunning to see the president give a speech on the fate of young black boys and not mention the word racism once. It was sort of stunning to see the president salute the father of Trayvon Martin and the father of Jordan Davis and then claim, “Nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life.”

 

The Champion Barack Obama

How Black America talks to the White House

An appeal to authority—even the authority of our dead—doesn’t make Barack Obama any more right. On the contrary, it shows how wrong he is. I can’t think of a single credible historian of our 500-year tenure here who has concluded that our problem was a lack of “personal responsibility.” The analysis is as old as it is flawed, and that is because it isn’t analysis at all but something altogether different.

 

‘Immorality’ and Obamacare, Cont.

Why arguing that we should have a health-care expansion for the most vulnerable or no health-care expansion at all is ultimately wrong

There are many good critiques of myowncritiques of Obamacare.

 

Osama Bin Laden Is Dead; Long Live Osama

We are six years into the Obama administration and with each report of profiling, with each report of unaccountability, with the scuttling of the Democrats 2008 national security platform, the horrific success and mad genius of 9/11 becomes clearer.

 

Dumb Into Damascus

Is this any way to go to war?

But when you have majorities in your own country opposing a war, when the president can’t convince his own party, when alleged allies in the region and your strongest ally in the world oppose war, then it’s time to rethink.

 

On the Death of Dreams

If we are honest with ourselves we will see a president who believes in particular black morality, but eschews particular black policy.

Indeed, if we are—as the president asks us to be—honest with ourselves, we will see that we have elected a president who claims to oppose racial profiling one minute, and then flirts with inaugurating the country’s greatest racial profiler the next. If we are honest with ourselves we will see that we have a president who can condemn the riots as “self-defeating,” but can’t see his way clear to enforce the fair housing law that came out of them.

 

Great Allegheny Passage

For years now I’ve wanted to bike from Pittsburgh to Washington DC.  I asked David if he’d like to do it for Thanksgiving break and he was down.  David’s a great biking partner, has lots of experience and has biked from Canada to Florida, and the West Coast of the US, multiple times.  He knows how to self-support tour, and bike maintenance– two things I don’t have.  I have ridden tours before but never carried my own gear.   It felt good to know I had a strong and experienced rider with me, as well as the best company.
We set out to do the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) and C&O but only did the GAP–and thank goodness for that.
If it hadn’t been for David encouraging that we (me) take our time, and enjoy the ride without worrying about the destination it would have been a less pleasurable ride.  We did
the hardest part of the ride (the GAP is uphill, the C&O is downhill) and still got to enjoy it.

David and Elena bike the GAP

We started in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and biked out with our final ostentation being Cumberland, Maryland.
We had our first hiccup before we’d even made it out of the parking lot when David’s chain broke.  We got a new chain in the strip mall near the path and off we went again. A few miles in, David’s derailer cracked and fell off.  Within the first 15 miles of our ride we got to stop for two mechanicals.  After that we didn’t have any mechanical issues until about mile 140 of the GAP when I got a flat.  In total we did about 160 miles.  I am looking forward to doing it again but when the weather is warm.

Day 1
Munhall, PA to Connellsville, PA (approximately 52 miles)
-uphill, in freshly laid wet sand—slowed us down more than we’d anticipated.  Camped in Connellsville at a free site with an adirondack.  Fires weren’t permitted and the weather hovered in the low thirties.  Had pizza for dinner in Connellsville.

Day 2
Connellsville, PA to Rockwood, PA (approximately 46 miles)
-uphill no more wet sand–thank goodness! Weather was warm in the mid 50s, we even stopped at around 20 miles to take a walk down a foot path with a directional arrow that said “Gorge”.
Slept in a campground in Rockwood that charged $10 per person, provided firewood and newspaper as an igniter…but man it was freezing, in the twenties.   This was the night we realized that my sleeping bag was not for cold weather.

Day 3
Rockwood, PA to Cumberland, MD (approximately 45 miles)
Mostly uphill.  Got a flat tire and had to walk 5 miles before I got to a bike pump.
Got lost in Frostburg but also had the best meal of the trip at a little place David found, called SHiFT.  You can now see a pic of the two of us on their wall of cyclists.
From Frostburg to the Cumberland Amtrak was a super speedy downhill ride.

Day 4
Amtrak Station in Pittsburgh to Munhall, PA (approximately 10 miles)
I am not sure about calling this a full day, as we arrived at the station a little before midnight at the end of day 3 and only rode 10 miles to the car/where we started on the GAP.  It was an easy ride from station to car, although difficult to get on to the path from the station and we got a bit lost, the darkness and exhaustion also added to the adventure.

it’s not about you

In short what I really want to say is:  “Dear Becky, HL and Code switching isn’t about you. That’s cool your great-great-great grandmother was Dutch and you studied in Guatemala for a semester, but you are neither a HL learner nor are you code switching.  Instead Becky, take a seat and think about how you are perpetuating white supremacy.” —

I am getting my doctorate in Spanish linguistics / Latinx cultural studies.  It is strange to study with people who grew-up in the midwest, studied abroad and decided “Oh the Spanish language is so beautiful, the people are so nice, I want to study it.”  That isn’t how it works for me.
My Spanish comes from colonialism. My Spanish is seen as inferior and discouraged in public spaces. My English is viewed as inferior because of the influence of my Spanish. My Spanish made me a “high risk” student. My Spanish is now mocked as inferior to the variety spoken in Spain. My Spanish is resilience, and despite being discouraged from using it in this country, the fact I have maintained any of it should be applauded for my resistance–yet white people get applauded for learning it.  It frustrates me when my classmates and instructors don’t understand their privilege and their own white supremacy–but why would they ever stop to understand it?
For example, we were discussing Heritage Language (HL) learners, a term often used to describe those who speak a language that is the non-dominant language of the culture within which they live.  I dislike the term “heritage” because it connotes something archaic when really for example Spanish speakers in the US are vibrant and dynamic.  How can we call something a “heritage language” when there are more Spanish speakers in the US than there are in Spain or Colombia or Venezuela?
Anyway, when looking at the broad definition of “heritage language learners” which includes anyone with any ethnic ties to a language, my classmates started listing off Western European countries of which they too like me were HL learners because they were 5th generation Dutch for example.  This was frustrating as it minimized the racialization that happens with language, no one expects you to actually speak Dutch but people feel very comfortable asking a 5th generation Chinese-American “Why don’t you speak Chinese?” or asking a Chicano “Why did you get a B in Spanish?”  there is a racialized expectation of language that white people don’t face.
This lack of understanding in a how the term is used to describe resilience isn’t just found when white people choose to describe themselves in the broadest definition of a HL but also with the term code-switching.  When for example, a white person, who studied in Spain for six months, describes their speaking in class as “code-switching”, it is a complete lack of understanding of who actually uses code switching.  Having two items, two sets of ideas, two languages, two of anything and going back and forth doesn’t mean you are code switching and it is insulting to those that use code switching as a racilaized form of survival.

From the article Future Educators’ Perceptions of African American Vernacular English (AAVE):

In spite of such research, the language that African American children speak in the classroom is devalued in the school setting because of its lack of conformity with the teachers’ language and language expectations.”

If a child is devalued for their language which is associated with their race, and then chooses to use the more prestigious variety of English (that spoken by white people) their resilience in finding a way to implement code switching to maneuver language as survival should not be minimized by white academic elitists who want to pretend they are code switching too.  The same goes for the use of Spanish and English—combining the two or using a word in English while you speak in Spanish does not mean you are code switching.  Code Switching has structure and necessity.  Code switching springs to life as a beautiful form of resilience and everytime someone misuses the term in failing to recognize the power of the language tool that has been developed by disenfranchisment, they minimize the people and the necessity from which code switching evolved.

TL DR. Dear Becky, take a seat.

But do you feel what you say?

“If one looks at the bilingual speaker holistically…Phenomena such as interference, mixing and switching become the subject of analysis, helping us to discover patterns and relationships with other features of speech. A non-native accent and the choice of a wrong word (perhaps a loan translation from the other language) are more likely to be detected in bilinguals…” (Hoffman 1991)

I disagree with the above quote.  It isn’t an interference, or a lack of transfer (both pejorative and prescriptivist terms), it is that we bilinguals have more tools in our tool box. We have more language to pull from and as such our language is more dynamic.  I sometimes purposefully and sometimes unconsciously move syntax, use vocabulary that “doesn’t belong” for a monolingual speaker—but to me does. I express myself as best I can, and feel my language, the ethos of my language, which cannot be taught.  Who gets to decide what is native and that it is my ideal is to be a “native”—what does that even mean? My language isn’t a set standard nor do I desire it to be.

I have been very frustrated and impatient the last few months as the man I am dating learns Spanish.  I use Spanish as my language of love and affection, while I use English as a bureaucratic tool to maneuver a white society (not that Spanish isn’t also imperialistic–it just manifests differently in my daily life).  As such when my gentleman speaks to me in Spanish, a language he is learning as an adult I swoon, but I know he doesn’t feel what he is saying.  As in he is in such an early stage of language development that he doesn’t feel the spirit of the language yet.  He says things in Spanish, I am almost certain he would never say in English, they are sweet things but he doesn’t understand the impact his words have on me. The translation is not one-to-one because the literal definition does not include emotional interpretation.

I imagine him reaching a high level of fluency before he gains the ideology, the mentality of the language. I imagine it happening in the marketplace somewhere in Spanish speaking Mesoamerica, him realizing that he has been speaking without understanding the emotion and realizing that his language abilities are not what he believes. That he will come home and tell me the story of how he realized he hadn’t felt a word, felt the emotion of the word, until the context thrusted itself on him.  It is at this moment of language insecurity where his capabilities will actually be at their highest.  The bilingual speaker is always in that flux of wondering “how can I use all my tools to fully express myself with all the accurate emotion that is available at my disposal”.
The moment he realizes, that he hasn’t mastered the ethos yet and wonders if he is ever capable of it (as I wonder it myself daily and try to manipulate language to communicate and connect) is when I will trust what he says even more fully.

waves of motivation

Waves of motivation.

I miss blogging. I miss spilling out the truth until it no longer burned inside of me and the sting had been released.
I miss connecting with amazing people doing amazing things.

I have been scared before about writing publicly and the academic impact it might have.  I realize though that blogging helped me get into graduate school.  It was blogtitlan that encouraged me to apply, it was members of blogtitlan who looked over my applications and essays.  They have given me much guidance and I am now shocked to look around and see how many of us from early blogtitlan went into academia.  I wonder how we ended up here.

David always talked about us as being the flowers in the cracks of sidewalks, we found ways to flourish were there weren’t others.  We also however, found each other.

I am feeling more motivated to write for multiple reasons.  The burning inside is getting to be too much.  As I assimilate more and more with academia I find myself unhappier and disconnected from reality.  And while fear kept me from writing before, I now recognize the support team I have that understands I am more than someone creating a space in academia.  There is more too me than what academia acknowledges.  That more is what makes me a different academic and different human.

It is not just the fact that I am Chicana and there are are so few of us, but also because I am unapologetic in my boisterous presence, in my womaness, in my political being, in my engaging in many fashions including blogging.

Here is my gentle wave back into the ocean of blogging, that I deserve and hope to grow from.