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.

Thoughts on Affirmative Action

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.

Ich habe die Qual der Wahl

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.

Why I have to succeed

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.

Not so posh, ni tan fresita

I have an ability to speak a posh standardized form of English when desired but not so much in Spanish.  I have more formal education in English, my Spanish while my first language is very informal, and rather unsophisticated in some circles.   My lack of poshness in Spanish or as we’d say ‘fresita’ has been noted while Felipe has visited the last few days.  Felipe a Colombian friend and I were once skyping and a Mexican friend (who had unlike me attended wealthy prep schools in Mexico) overheard our conversation and when it ended noted that Felipe spoke “muy culto, muy fino” (very cultured, very refined) and then asked how it was he tolerated my country-bumpkin way of speaking.  He wasn’t the last to make note of it and I do in fact speak like someone from the rural mountains of Mexico, or the non-standard/élite form of speaking.  It is odd how self-conscious I have been about the “poshness” of my Spanish, the last few days.  Felipe hasn’t made me feel this way, in fact he has complimented my way of speaking but I know that unlike with English, it is much more difficult for me to have levels of sophistication (for a lack of a better adjective) in Spanish.

elenamary y felipe