Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez not AOC

I have tried to repeatedly argue with friends, as I am known to do, that we need to say Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez not AOC. To use #AOC is helpful in places like twitter with a word limit, but monolingual English speaking newscasters in the United States will say “AOC” because it is easier than stumbling over any part of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  However, they are seem able to easily say “Schwarzenegger” .

It also upsets met when newscasters only say “Cortez”—that isn’t how surnames work in Spanish. You know Spanish, that language that has more speakers in the USA than in Spain?  In Spanish, if you were to only use one surname it would be the surname Ocasio.

Newscasters need to try harder.  The exact opposite of what they are doing, for example here where the newscasters mock Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for saying her own name correctly:

‘She does the Latina thing where she does her, you know, ’Anastasio Ocasio-Cortez,’ diGenova said, using an exaggerated accent and misstating the lawmaker’s name, He then said his own name with an exaggerated Italian pronunciation. –  From Huffington Post.

Let’s demand people say our names fully and correctly.  Otherwise their raciolinguistics is showing.

Latinidad

I took my candidacy exams a few weeks ago. I cannot stop thinking about a softball question I got on Latinidad that I fumbled through. It was what makes Latinidad—and I kept focusing on the lack of actually Latinidad from a linguistics approach. This is to say, Latinidad I argued, was encompassed not in our uniformity but our lack of it, for example in language. From the historical genocide of our people who included the stripping of our languages from the Philippines to Hispaniola, to all of the Americas. That Latinidad is found in the current repatriated people living in Mexico who now aren’t accepted for their Spanish or English varieties.   My answer was problematic for lots of reasons, including the fact that it didn’t focus on any theories regarding race (although I did discuss raciolinguistics) gender, sexuality, religious, culinary, or health care.  Instead I focused on language and our inability to be umbrellaed yet some how still taking shade underneath Spanish.

I should have answered on a variety of theories, I didn’t, but it is okay I passed and I somewhat have moved on.

However, I am still left thinking about how my department has turned me more into a linguist than I realized—as I focus so much on language identity and development.

My Spanish department is split into two programs “Hispanic Linguistics” and “Cultural and Literary Studies”. I am the first and I believe, still the only student, to take-up a new path in our department “Inter-Specialization Program” which combines both Linguistics and Cultural Studies. I am still at a loss at why the divide exists.  How can you study language and not study people?  Linguistics is cultural studies.

At a Linguistics conference I listened in on a panel that included a lobbyist (who knew linguists had lobbyists?) who said when talking to politicians they focused on language because if you focus on who speaks Spanish, for example, then politicians shut down, but if you can just focus on language than politicians are more apt to listen. I asked “How do you separate language from people?” The lobbyist responded that one could do so by asking the politician about their study abroad experiences. That most politicians had been to Europe during High School, and could connect in this way. I was stunned it was the most white-washing of language. Europe is okay, language is okay, but imagining actually Spanish speakers in the US was a turn off.  I wanted to follow-up with another question “How do you negotiate perpetuation of raciolinguistics?” but I didn’t, as I am still too shy and awkward at conferences.

painful or lazy

I had a great moment of clarity, a realization, that I physically push myself too much.  As I shared this realization with a few close people in my life they all looked at me as if this was glaringly evident to all but me.

I came to the realization that I wasn’t in tune to my body while in yoga.  After a surgery I had a few months ago limited my exercise greatly, I  increased the amount of yoga I am doing.
We were instructed in yoga to not push ourselves if we found the position painful—but I couldn’t determine if my discomfort was physical pain or laziness.  I found myself thinking of how I ended up here in the first place, and realized I don’t listen to my pain out of fear of laziness.

A few months ago, I was on the treadmill, my short run felt more difficult than usual, and I began to have tremendous pain in my lower abdomen. I thought to myself “you hurt because you want to quit, you want to be lazy, you need to push through”. I pushed through, grabbed my side and tried to keep running, until i felt I was going to pass out. I laid down in the women’s locker room, without the strength to stand, afraid that at any moment I’d pass out.  The pain continued throughout the night and my partner asked if we should go to the hospital. I said no, that it could wait until morning, I needed to suck it up.  I would later find out that my fallopian tube had ruptured on the treadmill and that I had stupidly “powered through”.

During a 1/2 Ironman ( 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride, 21.1km run)  I also felt abdominal pain, but I kept telling myself that I clearly hadn’t trained enough and needed to power through. I had completed the swim, and bike, and was at about mile 7 (11km) when I decided to go ahead and stop and check myself in the bathroom. I pulled down my shorts to find my shammy (the cushion part of bike shorts) was no longer able to contain all the blood I was losing and had overflowed and collected in the lining of my spandex shorts.  I had miscarried during the race, and realized it at that moment, and contemplated whether I should continue, and run the last 6 mi (10km).  I still am slightly disappointed with myself that I didn’t finish the race, and at the same time, I logically know that was best.  I went to the medical tent where a doctor scolded me that I had miscarried, had a blood disorder and was “clearly dehydrated” (his words) and needed to go to an emergency room immediately. I lied through my teeth and convinced the doctor I was fine, and just needed some aspirin and promised I would go to an emergency room closer to home (I was about an hour away) where I knew my insurance would work. I got a ride home from a friend and slept and hydrated.

I thought of these two stories during yoga, and realized I need to just accept the fact that things hurt and it isn’t out of laziness or not trying.  Does this mean I am a type A personality? That make me so sad if I am.

Disrupter not Imposter

Academics have a term “imposter syndrome”

…a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.[1}  wikipedia 

or more simply from Merriam Webster

Imposter one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception

I don’t believe in imposter syndrome, for people of color.
Am I, are you, are we, imagining that we don’t fit-in and to boot overcame all the obstacles that were created to keep people like you, like me, out?  If we wonder how we despite it all, still were able to  “make it”, I am not sure this is part of an imagined idea that we weren’t made for this space—let me be clear, we were not made for this space. This space was not designed for us, much less for us to succeed.

We are in a system that was created to exclude us and yet we made it in?  Were we allowed in not necessarily via a false identity but an “acceptable identity” to academia? I play a role in academics, where I cannot be too angry, not articulate enough, not too articulate, not a lot of things. I cannot be me without consequence.  A consequence white people don’t face in the same way, and never have.

I dislike the idea of imposter syndrome because it is the idea that I’ve imagined I don’t belong, it is gas-lighting my experience.

Why would I belong to an institution that is built on both the exclusion and exploitation of my people?  Why do I belong in a place where I have to ask if we can learn any theory at all not from a white person, especially when I am in a field that studies Black and Brown bodies?

How can I acknowledge white supremacy and at the same time be told that I do belong to this institution, that any feelings I have of not belonging are fraudulent? I don’t belong in academia as it was and is. It wasn’t made for me, and it wasn’t designed for me to achieve greatness.

And yet I do succeed, we do succeed!  That is the amazing part! We exist in a space that attempts to strip us of our humanity. We aren’t suffering in delusion that maybe we don’t belong or this place isn’t’ for us.  It wasn’t made for us–we exist in the margins.  I can go weeks on my campus never seeing a Latinx man, or a Black woman, why is that? Why has it been like that?

Instead of imposters, I’d like to think of us as disrupters. We don’t suffer from imposter syndrome. We triumph while swimming in their white supremacy. We succeed and create paths via our disruption.  We didn’t come here to repeat their roles, to belong to their colonized theories, we came to agitate, and take up space; we are disruptors. I am a disruptor.

skinnier is not healthier

Today I was told “You’ve lost weight! You look good! You can see your face now.” To which I responded “I’ve always had a face, I was born with a face maybe you just didn’t observe it before.” 
 
I have lost a lot of weight. Mostly because I’ve been too ill to eat and partly because for a few days I wasn’t allowed to eat before and post-op.
 
The weight will come back.
 
I am now allowed to eat but still can’t exercise. Which means even though I’ve lost weight, I am actually much less healthy. I miss running and lifting weights. I can’t wait to get back to working out.
 
Anyway, my weight loss is not a positive. Just a heads-up.

Fear

The biggest thing that has kept me from blogging is fear.

What if I write something and later I disagree with it.  What if I write something controversial and it keeps me from getting hired, or furthering my academic career.

Then I think what are my controversial ideas? That education should be accessible, that women should control their own bodies, that Black Lives Matter, that the Ivory Tower was made to keep education in the hands of elites and to empower white supremacy.  But are those really that controversial?

If I am to go into academia, shouldn’t I be the person loudly starting those conversations?
I think about people like Jonathan Rosa and Nelson Flores both of whom have a strong online presence. They call out white supremacy ALL THE TIME. And if it weren’t for their online presence, I am not sure I would know about them, which means they wouldn’t have been as fundamental in my dissertation work as they are.
They give me hope, I can win at academia and crush white supremacy without having to water myself down.

So yeah, almost all my classes, classmates and professors have perpetuated white supremacy. My elevator introduction, is “I study the languages and cultures of mi gente, as taught by white people in the midwest”.   And that’s why I have to speak up I guess, because I am the only US Latina in my cohort. Of those with PhDs in the US less than 2% are Chicanas.  I need to be less fearful so that I can make room for voices like mine, just as Dr. Rosa and Dr. Nelson have made a path for people like me.