The reading that inspired this post:
Cruz, Cindy. “Toward an Epistemology of a Brown Body.” Chicanca/Latina Education in Everyday Life: Feminista Perspective on Pedagogy and Epistemology, edited by Dolores Delgado Bernal, C. Alejandra Elenes, Francisca E. Godines, and Sofia Villenas, State University of New York Press, 2006, pp. 59-75.
Since first joining the conversation, I always rejected the notion of objectivity, as well as the rationality/feelings dichotomy–“by inviting feeling one does not automatically leave out the thought process.” As I continue to read Chicana feminist work and reflect on my experiences as a student and my teacher identity, I realize there is more to this rejection than a simple stance I took years ago (and found white authors to cite accordingly).
I think my move from South Texas to Oklahoma awoke me–the ache of wanting to be surrounded by people who just get it. This displacement/dismemberment from my culture isn’t the first; it’s just another, further leap into success that made it undoubtedly clear how my “brown body, in its migrations between first and third worlds, act and is acted on by the political and economic forces of globalization” (Cruz 62). The move was a shift in current, and I could not articulate, but I could feel being swept into the Dominant waves of Terry Eagleton’s Westward voyage (Cruz 62), and for many years, it is the direction in which I aimed to travel. It is the direction we are taught to desire though West is given other names like “college degree” and “social mobility.” For many of us, a college degree is how we achieve social mobility. But no one ever tells you what you are giving up, that those goals aren’t just about attaining good jobs that pay better; they are about accumulating whiteness, and in that process, rejecting our Otherness.
I’ve read scholarship that has the audacity to claim that deciding to pursue a college education is a commitment to the subjection of, in my words, whiteness. But what that scholarship conveniently ignores is that the people of the working classes, especially the people of color from the working classes are constantly bombarded with messages our entire lives that tell us who we are is not good enough, not enough to succeed. Eagerly, from the combination of seeing our families struggle and seeing ourselves as inadequate, we accept the terms and conditions of whiteness. Some of us reject it. Some of us push through it. Some of us live in the continual flux of acceptance, rejections, and pushing through it.
Talk to me about retention, and I can tell you about what I’ve read, but mostly, I’ll want to talk about what I saw and experienced as a FYS instructor. In academia, I am taught that the scholarship trumps my experience every time, as contradictory, as inefficiently practiced that scholarship is, it wins. Academia tells me that empiricism matters more than my experiences. Academia tells me that I cannot be trusted, that I should not trust myself. But if I happen to read something in a journal that supports my experience, well then, that’s a different story. How does the brown body know in academia? It doesn’t, so it’s given “objective tools,” “logic,” and “reason” created by and reproduced for white bodies.
I have never and still don’t desire to publish anything I write for class, as much as my professors attempt to have us write publishable papers or conference presentations. I never really knew why, but I always said told myself it is because I don’t take class work as seriously as I would my own work. As I am working on my first publication (as a co-author), I get to see, feel, and hear my true voice. At the end of this semester, I began reading Chicana feminist work to recover from another semester in a PhD program. I was shocked with what I discovered. I read people who sound like me (use a personal voice), who use two languages like I do, people who reject dualism and the dichotomy between emotion and reason…I share this with the Chicana feminists I have never read before from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
I felt that the further along in academia I tread, the more disconnected I become from my cultural identity, the more I reject myself.
Brown bodies are still being colonized. As a result, our bodies accumulate similar needs and wounds, although though separate in time and space.
The brown body knows lived theory.