Sunday, November 4, 2012

In Oklahoma You're Not a Chicana, You're A Dirty Mexican

I was catching up with a friend this past week over the phone. We hadn't spoken in about 12 years or so, and through a mutual friend we were able to reconnect. The discussion was about where we had been, and where we were at the moment. As it turned out she had attended graduate school out in Oklahoma. Well it didn't take long for her to reveal the trauma she had experienced there. The things she told me she had to expereince always bring to mind the utter fucking ignorance and disrespect, that continues to exist for Chicanos/as in and outside of academia, but especially in states that aren't very "progressive" or that continue to have that "We're white and therefore better than you, no matter what"-attitude. Here's a few of the things she relayed to me:

-She ended up working on campus, and although she is a light skinned Chicana, with pecas, her long black hair must have given her away, because eventually she was getting notes left on her door disparaging her ethnicity, such as your garden variety: "Dirty Mexican."

-I believe it was at this same job, during an ice breaker type activity, a fellow employee, glanced her arm, and then proceeded to wipe his arm, going as far as to say, "I don't want to get dirty." Later my friend would communicate this story to her supervisor, who wanted to have a group discussion where she would address the incident. Understandably, my friend did not want to have a large group discussion, she feared for her safety, especially since she was already getting notes left on her office door, and she very much could feel the disapproval of her Mexicanidad. Unlike California, here she felt very much the minority, and feared what would happen to her physically, let alone what was already occurring to her mentally and emotionally. Well apparently her boss, didn't get the whole safety thing, and instead became upset, and wrote up my friend for not agreeing to participate in a diversity building activity.

-She had applied for a job with a local politician. The politician, a white woman, called her in for an interview, but during the interview everything revolved around my friend's ethnicity. The woman asked: "So you're Mexican?" To which my friend replied "Yes." The woman let her know "I have a Mexican girl that comes to take care of my kids, and gives us Spanish lessons." As if that wasn't enough, apparently the politician took offense to my friend's regional origin, California, because the politician then said: "Oh, you're from California?" Again, my friend replied, "Yes." To which the politician said, "You know, we don't believe in gay marriages here." My friend said that she tried her best to steer the conversation back toward her qualifications for the job, although one would imagine why she would bother by this point, but apparently my friend's tolerance for ignorance was larger than the politician's tolerance for diversity. As any Chicano/a would expect, my friend was not hired.

-Her and some other Chicano/Latino students tried to create a graduate student support group, geared specifically toward them. At first they had the support of some faculty members, and they filed the necessary paperwork. However as tends to happen the university's bureaucracy gave them the run around, and eventually I'm guessing some verbal strong arming by those in power might have taken place, because little by little the faculty members who were giving their support, eventually started to renege on their support, giving a variety of bullshit excuses. A reason, for not wanting to allow the Chicano/Latino grad students to not have a support group all their own, was said to be, because it promoted divisiveness. Sound familiar?

More interestingly was what my friend told me about feeling like she would lose her identity if she didn't leave Oklahoma soon after graduating, because she felt that if she wanted to get by, she might have to assimilate, and eventually become a "coconut," not so much to fit in, but to survive. My friend attended UC Santa Cruz, a very diverse school, so it becomes understandable why what occurred above wasn't just culture shock, but led to the fear of her own mental and physical safety. Needless to say, my friend graduated successfully from her program, was able to return to California and is happily employed at a university with a diverse and liberal student body. However she did tell me that she still gets calls and e-mails from the alumni association in Oklahoma, asking her for donations, to which of course she doesn't reply. A good way to hit them is in the pocket, after all.

Following the above conversation, my friend advised, that as I look to make my way out into the job market, that I need to be prepared, especially if I end up in Oklahoma, in the bible belt, or in any conservative state. I was thinking, really this is what I'll face if I end up in any state where the majority are white, which tends to be just about everywhere. The unfortunate thing, as my friend and I continued our conversation, I let her know, well, it's sad, but I have not experienced incidents as she has, however I have experienced our raza in academia, becoming vendidos and turning on their own, because they chose to obey. I've had my own trauma in this sense which I might get into in future posts.

Aside from this, I know that even in a "progressive" state such as California, I've faced resistance from white students, who although sit in Chicano/a Studies courses refuse to learn. I've heard an incident where a professor, not in California, is being sued by students on campus, and a piece of evidence being used against her is a list of ethnic authors, that didn't include any white/Anglo authors. Mind you, they asked her for this list, because they wanted to incorporate more "ethnic authors" into their library collection. I can't help but to think that the white conservative people are an endangered species, and they know it, therefore they respond as they have in Arizona or as they are doing to this professor with the ethnic authors list. You know what's worst though? It's worst when I hear friends teaching Chicano/a Studies who tell me that the majority of the Mexican-American students in their classes feel Chicano/a Studies is unpatriotic and racist. (That is a head shaking moment). Apparently the white conservatives aren't so endangered after all, because there will be plenty of brown/Mexican-American conservatives to replace them.


1 comment:

  1. One thing I've learned in my life is that none of us are the same. We might have similar ideas but we're all "Chicano/a" in our own way, which gives rise to the "state of mind" argument.

    I've never met another Chicano exactly like myself in my Chicanismo. I don't run across too many brothers who are Chicano with an X, atheist, socialist and don't hold any allegiance to Mexico AND are troublemakers to boot!

    But this is why I identify with being Xicano so strongly - I am always between two cultures...sometimes three. No matter where I am, I am always a stranger in a strange land.

    I don't hold any illusions about Mexico. I'm not from there. When I’ve been there I am not treated as a prodigal son - quite the opposite. I get called Pocho and so on. – American, Pinche Chicano...

    So I look at the Chicanos who wrap themselves in the Mexican flag with a side eye because there ain't no love there…At least, not in my experience.

    I equally shake my head the Chicanos who wrap themselves in the American flag...and I'm sure that's self-explanatory.

    I have my own reasons for spelling Xicano with an X. I tattooed it down my arm. I identify with it very strongly because I am not of the 70's movement. I am not a member of Mecha. My Spanish sucks and I do not look at Mexico as the "motherland". I don't have a motherland. Nepantla if anything. I live "on the hyphen" as they say.

    No matter where I've been, I have been the outsider - the one without a homeland looking for the mythical "Aztlan"...not realizing that Aztlan exists in our hearts and minds and never under foot.

    I hail from the homeland of Corky Gonzalez - yet felt alienated there. I live in Florida now and I am a stranger in a strange land to the 10th degree here! I've visited Tejas and Califas and what is most interesting to me about those places is that we tend to cannibalize our own kind when and where we are the so-called majority.

    Like they say, never brown enough for the Mexicans, never white enough for the whites and never Chicano enough for the Chicanos.

    Coast to coast we run into racism, hatred, scorn and ostracizing - especially from our own kind.

    So, don't fear venturing out into other places that some might consider "hostile". Because everywhere is hostile, trust me. Some places more than others but still...

    I look at entering some places/institutions/jobs/places to live/schools etc. where Chicanos are NOT well-represented as revolutionary in its own right. But that's me...and trust me, you won't find another Chicano just like me. Lol.

    Aztlan is within our hearts and minds. Never underfoot. The enemy will never understand that and I don't think many of us ever will either...

    Just my 2 Xicano cents, which, consequentially, ain't good at most establishments. ;)

    - S|J|R