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.
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.
1. If it weren’t for affirmative action I would never have attended university.
2. You don’t get scholarships “just because you are X minority”. Seriously tell me about one—because I haven’t seen it ever. Even with private scholarships like HSF you need to be accepted/enrolled in a university, and meet GPA, essay, and recommendation requirements, you didn’t just show up and say “Hey, I am brown give me money”.
3. Admissions, for example at Ohio State University, ranks GPAs differently based on the community you are coming from. For example, if you go to Columbus Public Schools and get a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average(GPA), but go to white suburban New Albany and get a 3.5GPA ––your GPAs are weighted differently because New Albany is considered more rigorous. That student of color in the city school did everything and excelled as much as possible and yet won’t compete with the mediocre suburban school white kid.
4. Admissions are based on GPA and ACT/SAT scores (no the holistic stuff really isn’t reviewed at places like OSU–they say they do, it is a lie). Every study has shown that standardized tests are more likely to predict race and ethnicity of the student than their family income, or education and much less their ability to succeed. Look it up there are tons of studies on it. We base our admissions to a university on a standardized test that is systematically racist. (Aside, I was shocked by the research that race beat out income in determinant of the standardized test).
5. Schools like OSU do not represent the population of their state nor the nation. 5.5% African American undergrads at OSU while the state population is 14%. Latinos the State population is a little over 3% and the university population is 4% BUT the demographics for Latinos are not represented in the college age population in Ohio are about 10% of the population.
6. Then there are the little things like the fact admissions labeled ALL of my Latinx high school students and one African-American student, as international and didn’t correct it until all institutional aid had been allocated. This is not necessarily systematic as the ones above but it gets thrown into the pot of racism that keeps students of color out of school.
7. What used to be called the “Minority Scholarship Program” at OSU and is now called the “M0rrill Scholars Program” is open to white students. Of the 300+ essays I read for that scholarship, maybe 10 were from students of color.
I am so humbled and excited that I got invited to be a part of conversation with two men I admire very much. They are intellectuals, activists, pensive with an acumen that I aspire to have. I hope you enjoy listening to this with half of the enjoyment I had being a part of the conversation. Activism Within the Academy
There is a phrase in German, I absolutely love, “Ich habe die Qual der Wahl” it would somewhat equate to “I am being tortured by the choices I have”.
I am very thankful that I have two great opportunities one professionally and one personally but Ich habe die Qual der Wahl. I am unsure which to choose, and I must choose as they are happening on the same date. I have the opportunity to travel to South Carolina and compete in triathlon at the USAT Collegiate Nationals with the OSU team, which I have never done before and may never have the opportunity to do so again. I also have the opportunity to create a summer program for Latino high school students on heritage language development in the medical fields that will give these students access to college credit and exposure to a university campus, and as part of this program am being invited by my department, expenses paid, to the “Midwest Heritage Language Summit: Fostering the Languages of Your Community” conference in Michigan.
Both the triathlon and conference are on Saturday, April 23rd—Ich habe die Qual der Wahl. Yesterday, after talking to my friend I had decided I didn’t want to die having missed out on the opportunity to go to nationals but I am totally okay dying and not having made it to another academic conference. Then today, after talking to my academic mentor I felt I should go to the conference. The conference will have direct impact on the work I want to do not just in the next 3 months but the next ten years.
I am trying very hard to be thankful that I have both professional and personal opportunities but this decision is torture.
I’m not sure succeed is the word…as more so persevere. I have to persevere through graduate school. I am enjoying it but it is sometimes frustrating, difficult, structured in ways I have difficulties understanding and navigating.
My friend 光 visited me the past few days and I was tempted to skip class (something I don’t do—seriously I went the first four years of undergrad never missing a class) so I could spend the day with him. But he reminded me of this:
“Out of 100 Chicano/a elementary school students, 44 will graduate from high school, 26 will enroll in either a community college or four-year university, but only 7 will graduate with a bachelors degree; only 2 will complete a professional or graduate degree and 0.2 will earn a doctorate.
…At full professor level, Latinas made up 1,254 of those positions…and white women held almost 40,000 full professorships.”
(Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac, 2009 )
And yes, he did remind me of those exact numbers as we read from “ ‘I don’t belong here’: Chicanas/Latinas at a Hispanic serving Institution Creating Community Through Muxerista Mentoring“. He scolded me “If ya don’t go you are going to fuck up the statistics, it is vital you go”.
If I don’t go class, my chances of becoming that 0.2 that earn a doctorate is threatened. I have already defied some odds; I am the first woman on either side of my family to graduate high school (first person–male or female– on my mom’s side), I am the first person on either side of my family to graduate from university, I am the first in my family to attend graduate school…and damn it has been a long winding road.
I want to be part of that 0.2% of Latinas that earn a doctorate. When 1 out 4 students in K-12 in this country is now Latino and yet they aren’t represented in academia, and I have the opportunity and privilege to be in that role, it isn’t just something I have to do for me, but for my community. So, yeah I went to class and class was a lot of fun and super stimulating…now if I can just preserver for a few more years.