I Am A Woman Of No Consequence

Inspired by Teresa Córdova’s “Power and Knowledge: Colonialism in the Academy” in Living Chicana Theory (1998) edited by Carla Trujillo.

As a first-generation college student, and working-class Xicana in a doctoral program, se que soy una mujer cualquiera. I write this for the fact that it is, and in this moment, I am in the process of re-calibrating my goals and healing from a traumatic semester as a graduate student. You see, I get lost from time to time because of the pressure I feel to leave my less powerful self behind in order to become a Great Academic. You know, the kind that is head-hunted by universities and whose work is scheduled reading in course calendars across the nation as a must.

But, let’s face it; that will never be me. Soy una mujer cualquiera, and as such, those are not nor have ever been my dreams. I decided to pursue a doctoral degree some years ago because I wanted to help my community, because as much as comp-rhet people have considered and written about POC in their classrooms, I dare say they still don’t understand. Or maybe they do, but they still believe their way of knowing is the only way to succeed.

I care, learn, and write in a brown body. I care about, learn about, and write about people in brown and colored bodies. Y por eso soy una mujer cualquiera. My work will be considered, if ever considered at all, work from the margins. You know, optional readings or the readings scheduled at the end of the semester because whiteness comes first then issues of “diversity.”

Soy una mujer cualquiera. I can state the problems I see, but I can never name them problems unless I use a white way of knowing to point them out and discuss them. Soy una mujer cualquiera.

Becoming Unbecoming

I am feeling things today.

**

Stop collapsing all POC into one homogeneous group. Stop ignoring the hierarchy set in place according to the color line.

**

I’ve read so many opinions on this, and it’s astounding how hard it is for people to realize that the POC category does not automatically lead to peace, harmony, and understanding; we are not all the same, and we do not all experience prejudice or racism in the same way. Comments like, “Surely a Latino in the US knows what it is like to experience prejudice, so why?” or “the cop was not white” completely flatten the issue and erases the fact that, while Latinx people are, for the most part, POC, there is always a certain amount of privilege that comes along with having lighter skin in the Americas because of European colonization. It doesn’t mean we are loved and accepted, but it does mean something.

**

Almost ALL retention/student success initiatives! [find “solutions” for gaps that don’t fight systemic inequalities]

**

High impact practices, where discussions of “study away” rather than “study abroad” are seen as inclusive. Retrofitting practices that “work” for white middle-class students is not inclusion. But it is evidence of the exclusionary practices of today.

**

Academia isn’t worth it. Writing about things people only care about in theory isn’t worth it. Doing things in the community; that’s where I need to be.

**

I need to reject the colonialist epistemology in order to talk about the things I need to talk about. But, let’s be real. Using brown scholars others my work. It puts it in the margins. In the optional readings. Who am I writing for anyway?

**

I think about my friends, mentors, and professors here. I think about how well I perform middle-class whiteness.  How many of them know that I am my mother’s 8th child (out of a total of 9)? How many know that I grew up poor, that my (paternal) grandmother bought my father’s children 5 outfits for school each summer, that I grew up on government assistance and medicaid? That I have been to the dentist only a handful of times in my life, and 3 were this past year? How many of them know what I mean when I say “I grew up migrant,” that during hot as hell summers my immediate family and extended members of my family would travel to chop the weeds in cotton fields, that when I was too young to help I sat and played in the dirt and took them water? How many of them know that my mother only has an 8th grade special ed education? How many other them know that my (maternal) grandfather was illiterate? How many of them know how unlikely it is that I am even here?

If they don’t, do they know me?

That part of me is not welcomed, and even if it was, it wouldn’t really be understood, so why waste my time?

**

Becoming unbecoming means, simply, being myself, not preforming middle-class whiteness. It means embracing an epistemology and rejecting another. It means choosing to speak and write as an Other to Others. But that’s not becoming. Because what happens when white and whiteness is not centered? How can they make sense of me?

“How does a brown body know?” A reflection

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Resistance and Healing?

Resistance and healing are key to my continual progress and success generally, but especially at a predominantly white institution (PWI). Of course, I wouldn’t know this until being knee-deep in the pain of it all–until I first picked up Gloria Anzaldúa’s La Frontera, read the first few sentences and I started to cry. Lloré.

Healing is painful, especially the needed healing you have learned to repress in order to succeed–the visibility and validation you have had to learn to live without, learned never to expect.

I still can’t just read xicana works. I still cry.  Pero, “no hay tiempo ni espacio para llorar”–Si, el dicho that serves as the title of the intro de Chicana Sin Vergüenza, because it is true that “it hints at the urgency of working toward change” (Torres 3) and “also implies that we might have to work through some pain in order to accomplish effective relationships” (Torres 3).

Academic papers for class, scholarly proposals and articles must be written. Work must be done.

**

Writing traditional academic papers as a ventriloquist is not my goal. My voice, I have decided, because of who I am and what I want to accomplish in this world, must be more. As I began to read xicana works, I realized that I have never been alone in this thought. Many before me have felt and believed as I do. Many continue.

As I sit here at home and write, I see that acts of resistance such as this feel empowering. But, I know that is only half true. Acts of resistance are also damaging because it is painful to challenge the Dominant. This is true because my culture is, in Anzaldúa’s words, “es una herida abierta  where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country–a border culture” (25).

I am not an either/or. I am an and living in situations that call for more or less of what surrounds my coordinating conjunction.

PhD Progress: 2 Years Completed

The first career I ever dreamed of was singing. In fact, I wanted to be “a singer like Selena.” Currently, it’s a writing center director (like Michele), but eventually I want to be an Associate Vice President for Student Success (like Nancy). From Tejano singer to higher ed administrator. I am not sure which, statistically, would have been more probable considering my background is more like Selena’s than Michele’s or Nancy’s, and more like Michele’s than Nancy’s. Both are, most likely, highly improbable outcomes for their own reasons.

“Amor prohibido murmuran por las calles
Porque somos de distintas sociedades
Amor prohibido nos dice todo el mundo”[1]

Alas, here I am. Two years into a 5 year PhD program. I’ll be starting my third this fall.

Two years. Almost halfway.  Ya mero.

“Carcacha, paso a pasito
No dejes de tambalear
Carcacha, poco a poquito”[2]

Estoy mintiendo. Nunca se acabará.

Mis obligaciones son para siempre. Cada momento. Cada palabra que leyo. Cada palabra que escribo.  Lo siento.

“Aaaayyy! Cómo me duele”[3]

La realidad de ser Xicana caminando por este camino me daña y a veces pienso que . . .

“No me queda más
Que perderme en un abismo
De tristeza y lágrimas”[4]

Pensando en las injusticias, la discriminación y las perjudicas que nuestra comunidad ha sufrido

“[Ha] llenado de luto mi vida
Abriendo una herida en mi corazón
. . . [y] . . .
[Es] causa de todo mi llanto
De mi desencanto y desesperación”[5]

Pero yo sé que lo que hago no es para mí. El cambio es necesario. Tengo que continuar, luchar. ¿Si no yo, quien?

“Y se emociona (y se emociona)
Ya no razona
Y me empieza a cantar (cantar)
Me canta así así
Bidi bidi bom bom”[6]

Y la verdad es que es un ciclo de sentimientos y experiencias—hope, passion, strength, contentment, surety, tolerance, isolation, powerlessness, homesickness, intolerance, apathy, sadness, rinse and repeat. I do my best to stay within the good feelings. No doubt the wonderful people I have met on this journey help curb some of the bad feelings. But sometimes, it’s the Tower, the “peer” in class, the feeling of being the token, the ache for family, for my (Other) culture, that gets me, the tug-o-war of the us or them when I just want to be me.

“Amigo, no soy una muñeca
Que le das cuerda cuando quieres”[7]

It’s the resistance, for me, that leads to persistence. Knowing que hay algo en el otro lado de esto para mí, algo más que yo, que me da motivo para continuar, aunque no me quieran aquí, aunque creían que no merezco estar aquí, o aunque no soy la clase de persona que típicamente perciben poderosa o inteligente, no concederé. A todos que me duden:

“Quiero verte hasta sudar”[8]

  Yo voy hacer yo y . . .

“Si en mi no encontraste felicidad
Tal vez alguien más te la dará”[9]

Por supuesto es difícil, pero

“Ya me cansé de escuchar
Oh excusas y más mentiras”[10]


[1] Selena. “Amor Prohibido.” Amor Prohibido, EMI Latin, 1994.

[2] Selena. “La Carcacha.” Entre Mi Mundo, EMI Latin, 1992.

[3] Selena. “Como la Flor.” Entre Mi Mundo, EMI Latin, 1992

[4] Selena. “No Me Queda Más.” Amor Prohibido, EMI Latin, 1994.

[5] Selena. “Tú Solo Tú.” Dreaming of You, EMI Latin, 1995.

[6] Selena. “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” Amor Prohibido, EMI Latin, 1994.

[7] Selena. “No Debes Jugar.” Selena Live!, EMI Latin, 1993.

[8] Selena. “Techno cumbia.” Amor Prohibido, EMI Latin, 1994.

[9] Selena. “Como la Flor.” Entre Mi Mundo, EMI Latin, 1992.

[10] Selena. “La Llamada.” Selena Live!, EMI Latin, 1993.