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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Too Radical For MEChA

A few years back, there was some upheaval in my department, so undergrad and grad students were coming together in order to organize and strategize. Attending those meetings was inspirational, seeing students actively seeking to have their voice heard over injustices they felt were being perpetrated by their department. I hadn't seen anything like this in some time, possibly since the 4th grade when some students wrote up a petition to get their teacher Mr. Ezekiel removed from school, because from what I understood at the time, he was a douche. Of course the 4th graders petition was ignored, Mr. Ezekiel was kept, and his students didn't have to see him a year later when we took off to junior high.

Anyhow, now there was another contingent of students, the core was made up of current and former MEChistas and another Chicano/Latino based organization. As they sat around trying to come up with a plan of action, it was suggested by a grad student and former MEChista, that we do a sit-in at the Dean's office.

Another MEChista spoke up though, and asked, "A sit-in? . . . Isn't that too radical?"

At that moment, the meeting room in the basement of that campus building began crumbling around me. A nuclear bomb mushroomed behind me. It was like an outer body experience, I could see myself as the whites of my eyes turned yellow and mixed with the red veins, I could feel my heart slowing down, and my left arm going numb. I tried to talk myself down from going into something resembling an epileptic seizure. I couldn't believe what I had just heard come out of this MECHista's mouth. I replayed it in slow motion, just to be sure, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ssssssssssssssssssssssssiiittt-iiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnn ? . . . . Iiisssssssssssssssssssssnnnnnnnnnnnnn'ttttt thhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatt tooooooooooooo rrrraaaaadddiiiiiiicccaaaallllllllllll ?"

Fuck me with the collective vindictive fiery fury of my exes, she HAD said that. (I shake my head even now, as I think back about it). I still sat there in disbelief. I wasn't sure what to think. I thought about the MEChA I had been around back in California, and how quick they were to stand somewhere and shout in protest about some issue or other impacting Chicanos/as on or off campus. Or that one time when a member of MEChA stood up on the stage set up in the free speech area, and denounced whatever racist piece of shit had crossed out "viva", and wrote "muerte" above it, so that a poster made for a MEChA event read "Muerte Viva La Raza!" That MEChista spat out his anger fueled diatribe at the cowardly racist dumbshits on our campus, and he did this during a peak hour, when many of them were walking out of their classes in route to their next class or looked for a spot to sit for their break between classes. That right there, is the MEChA I remembered.

So to hear this MEChista ask that question, took away for a moment some of that radcial aura that for me MEChA was shrouded in. But I returned from my inner thoughts and the building around me quickly reset itself brick by brick, and I was listening to the coversation again, putting aside my trauma for the moment.

Having asked her question, the former MEChista that had suggested doing a sit-in, a member of my grad program, shook his head and replied, "A sit-in isn't radical. Putting a sack over someone's head, threatening to blow their brains out, and filming it; that's radical. A sit-in isn't radical."

Redemption! I grinned, and nodded my head at his response, because I agreed, but also, because I was wrong for thinking that the MECHista on my California campus was a radical on a level with the type just described by my grad school colleague. But if not a sit-in, I was wondering what the current MEChista would've suggested we do? It didn't seem to matter, because she agreed with the former MEChista. She didn't seem to know the history of MEChA on her campus, one that the former MEChista came from. In the 90's his group of MEChistas organized to establish a Chicano/a studies program on their campus, and they tried to get the university to recognize the grape boycott. The former MEChista came from a group of MEChA that had Dolores Huerta show up to a meeting with the Dean, at which she and the MEChA membership exchanged words with the Dean. At that same meeting one member of MEChA had jumped on top of the table they sat around and stomped on some grapes they had tossed in front of the Dean. This was a MEChA that had a couple of members interrupt a the Dean's speech, causing a scene that led to them being escorted out by campus police. That right there is a radical MEChA (in my point of view). So for the current MEChista to ask if a sit-in was radical, let alone too radical for MEChA, just stunned me, taking into consideration the history of MEChA on her campus.

Needless to say it is thought-provoking to see generational ideologies working alongside each other, exchanging ideas on activism, and discussing what is too radical or not radical enough. I know my title says "too radical for MEChA" as if it were the entire MEChA membership that felt as this one member did, but it was really just her. Still, I can't help but to think that up until that point that membership of MEChA had not really faced a struggle where the activism had been kicked up a notch by suggesting a sit-in in the Dean's office. I think that more than anything that is where the questioning came in. There was a fear of fucking with the Dean for fear of being kicked out of campus, suspended, arrested, or expelled. Kinda like not wanting to fuck with the principal, because of the possibility of punishment from the school but also from parents. But I guess it would depend on how the MEChA membership would feel, and what they would be willing to risk to be heard and to make a point. But when my colleague put radicalism in perspective, it was hard not to think, that no, a sit-in in the Dean's office is not radical at all, especially when compared with a videotape of someone making demands while they pointed an automatic rifle at someone with a sack draped over their head. But then again, to others a sit-in in the office of someone with authority, like the Dean is extremely radical. How dare you be so radical?

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