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

noThe 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.

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.

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.

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.