Sunday, May 12, 2013

Xicano/a Studies and "The Truths" or Transparency

One of the better things about Dead College Town during the summer is that coffee shops that would normally be packed by the time I get there, are now emptier than the parking lot at a Woolworth's. Do those even exist anymore? Well sorry for my failed attempt at trying to be funny.

When I woke up this morning, I actually almost forgot today was my blog post day. Probably cause those pitchers of beer from friday followed by the few beers at a Quinceñera had my body hating me as it tried to reject the alcohol from my system. It had been a while since I had drank that heavily, and Saturday even though I limited myself, my body was still saying "fuck you for doing this to me, Mexican."

I'm trying to think about a topic to write about. Simplest would be a compare and contrast about the Quinceñera I attended and reminiscing about the Quinceñeras I attended back in the day. Not much that I can think to write about there. Pretty typical stuff if anybody has ever attended their fair share of Quinceñeras. Nothing really outrageous or scandalous happened there, other than the usual, at least one fight would break because of Quinceñera crashers. Nor are there any sexcapades there to discuss, nothing worthy of a Xicano American Pie. Jesus fucken Christ, now that I think about it, my teen years were quite boring, even when attending the Quinceñeras or bodas; I probably needed alcohol, drugs, and sex on the daily so they could have been more interesting. Meh. Besides comparing and contrasting would bring about a dullness into my world that the weather is already offering me.

Heeeeeerrre we go, I've written myself into a topic. I've had this topic for a bit on my mind, but I've been avoiding it because I want to write about it in a more thorough manner. You see, I struggle with "the truth," not as in I have a hard time saying the truth, but as in I want to expose the truth, or maybe a better way to put it, is that I'm pro transparency in Chicano/a Studies. I'm going to try avoiding going too much in depth, because like I said, I want to write about this topic at a lengthier extent in the future, so I'm going to try to focus on one specific example of this and just give my point of view, so that I can leave something to say about it in the future when I'm ready to write about it the way I want to write about it.

I met with a professor on my committee. We got into a discussion about my dissertation and something he said about it being my duty to bring certain injustices to light, and expose the truth to those who choose to ignore it or don't know it. Somehow this led into a conversation about a book my professor wrote on labor and some things he writes about Cesar Chavez. You see the thing of it is, is that he explained that he uncovered some things about Chavez, but he chose not to write about it until recently, because he didn't want to tarnish Chavez. His rationale was that there were other people trying to do that at the time, mainly of the white and anti-union persuasion who were trying to diminish the character of Chavez for their own political agenda or ideology. Even with this explanation I bluntly asked, "How could you live with yourself though?" Not that that what he was going to write about Chavez was world shattering and altering, but for me, the question came about, because as an educator, I had to ask how could you keep the truth or transparency from the classes you teach? He continued to say that, he was going to let all the other people write whatever vitriol they wanted to say about Chavez, and he personally would bide his time. All these years later, and my professor has finally written, and I get that his intent is not to tarnish nor take away from Chavez. But my response would have been, wouldn't it have been better to write about Chavez all those years ago? Because my professor would have been a Xicano voice speaking onto the truths or being transparent, in other words being honest with US the Xicano/a community. In doing so one can say look, I see the mistakes or pitfalls of this person, and I'm writing about them, but I'm writing about them because it is about learning from both the good and bad of our figureheads or leaders, and he could have been a voice in direct opposition to those other voices whose main goal was to take down the credibility of a leader who didn't fit the mold of the typical Anglo American Leader.

I had a similar conversation with a colleague, herself a historian. She explained the way historians look at "the truth." And the way I understood it, is that the truth for us, or one person, does not necessarily make it the "the truth," for the other parties involved, because the "the truth" is open to interpretation. Aside from this, her approach to teaching is similar to my professor above, she feels that the accomplishments of a someone like Chavez should be taught, and that maybe the controversy around him should be omitted or at least kept to a minimum, mainly because according to her, trying to teach students in the midwest about Xicano/a Studies is already difficult as it is, without us having to add more to their arsenal of anti-Xicano/a weapons. I can't help but agree with both her and my professor. But there is that part of me that is conflicted. I know that teaching the controversy around Chavez or any topic in Chicano studies can lead to some confusion, even in myself. I struggle with this.

I get frustrated about this even more, when it comes to the struggle that my friends in my program were involved in. I know that the party that was opposed is out there giving it's interpretation of the truth. And that party is painting itself as the victim, erasing it's own hand in the events that led to the struggle for our program or conveniently readjusting them. And there are people taking that party's side, because of the sob story that is being sold. The cliche "There are two sides to every story" -line applies here. And some people have listened to both sides, and they have chosen our side or they have sided with the opposing party. This doesn't only apply to our struggle, but you can even read The Making of Chicana/o Studies by Rodolfo Acuña to see how it applies to a situation he was in (and to a certain extent is currently still in [it's funny what you hear said at NACCS by opposing parties]). As I said I struggle with this, maybe because I saw what my friends went through and I know that there are 2 stories being told, but personally I feel that I know the truth, and that truth is not being made transparent by the other party.

Again, I agree with both my professor and my friend about the approach to teaching Xicano/a Studies. But a big part of my conflict comes by way of the fact that Chicano/a Studies was created to tell our story, the story that U.S. History courses were keeping from us. I see Chicano/a Studies as a way to expose truths or to give transparency to an aspect of history that U.S. history courses and professors wouldn't conveniently ignore, try to forget or keep from us. Now if we begin to mimic those teaching patterns, where we deny our own truths, to ourselves, doesn't that make us just as bad as the U.S. History courses and professors Chicano/a Studies sought to respond to and oppose? Again, I agree that Chicano/a studies should be about the accomplishments of Chicanos/as and tell the story of our struggle that U.S. history has tried to sweep under the rug. That should undoubtedly be the focus, since that was the central focus to begin with, giving us a voice and space in U.S. History.

I also want to make it clear, when I think about the truths of some of our figureheads or history, I'm not thinking about the chismes. I don't care about who had an affair with who, or who made whatever snide remark about someone else's fashions sense. I'm thinking about the truths about decisions that are made or things that help shape and mold what is currently Chicano/a Studies. I know people will debate, about that one Chicano/a professor that had an affair, and questions his or her moral integrity, and how even that impacted Chicano/a Studies or even history to a certain degree. And there is validity in that, but if we focus on that too much, we're no better than the run of the mill politicians and policy makers.

If anyone wants to offer their thoughts or insight, please do so. Maybe I just need to stop reading Lies My Teacher Told Me.

I'm not sure how to end this post, because there is so much more I can say or more thoughts I have about this topic, but as I mentioned I want to do an extended post in the future. Hell, writing this post, I probably already bring about the ire of some of the fellow Xicano/a studies community, because how dare I think such things, especially out loud. But this is what I look like right now in response to that:
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ¯\(°_o)/¯


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