As a scholar and Afro-descendant, I cannot help but ask, “What can I do to help the cause of Black people in this country?” As a good scholar, I will write about it. However, do such manifestos even work? Before I start, I would like to clarify that I am using the most generic terms to refer to race because I want the terms “White” and “Black” to include both U.S. Americans and Non-U.S. Americans. Therefore, when I refer to Black, I am referencing both African Americans and Afro-descendants; when I refer to White, I include White Latinos—or, how we lovingly call them, “Whitinos.”
Owning My Story
For multiple years, I have been sounding the alarm to my fellow scholars that the lack of inclusion of people of color in both higher education programs and the media was very concerning and kept cultural biases alive. They replied, “Dr. Rodriguez, we need to change that,” and they did absolutely nothing. To keep things real, I have been applying to be a full-time professor for over 10 years, and I have landed an astounding number of 0 jobs. You would ask, “Where did he apply?” Well, literally, everywhere. Even the iconic ELAC (East Los Angeles College). ELAC is so iconic, it is featured in Netflix’s “Gentefied” and Starz’s “Vida.”
It serves a population of around 80 percent Latinx students, yet its theatre department in the last academic year was composed entirely of White professors. At ELAC, I lobbied for a professorship in earnest. I emailed and called everyone I knew with any connection to the campus. In the end, HR would not even grant me an interview. Why do I tell you this? I tell you because there is a very consistent false narrative that Black and Brown people lack education or that our education is lesser than our White peers’. However, the reality is that most educational institutions are dominated by Whites, and they are not letting Black and Brown people in.
Therefore, if we are barred from accessing the prestigious academic echelons we seek, we cannot be faulted for then not producing them on our CVs. The greatest irony is that one of my doctoral professors kept telling me that I would have “no problem getting a job.” She was under the impression that they were “always looking for diverse candidates” (ouch). I do not think that she lied; I think that she did not know any better. The most heartbreaking reality is that the two (White) colleagues who graduated with me both have secured tenured (lifetime, permanent) appointments…while I sit working on more applications.
Foretelling Experience of Higher
To be completely honest, part of me knew that things would not be as easy for me upon the completion of my doctorate. I obtained my doctorate from Texas Tech University. If you look it up, you will find a university situated in a “big small town” in Texas, close to absolutely nothing, with the nearest big cities at least six hours away. The whole experience was very damaging for me. I went through it so fast—it was like running through an overgrown sugar cane field. I finished Texas Tech full of cuts and bruises. Everything that you may have heard Black/Brown people experience in higher education I experienced as well—from the ridiculous (when a professor said, “This is the most diverse doctoral class we ever had” while there were 23 White students and only one Black student and me)—to the plain unexplainable (like my never receiving a teaching assistantship appointment in 5 years).
My attitude was that eventually I would leave and find a school that was not as racist. To my surprise, everywhere I have applied, the Theatre Departments all look the same: a lot of White people, with few people of color or none at all. Most alarming is that these departments had no plan, commitment, or awareness to address their lack of inclusion. In consequence, I became an unemployed professor. I actually tried to put “unemployed professor” as my affiliation on my badge in a conference I attended, but the registration clerk would not let me. He said, “How about ‘independent scholar’?” I replied, “I love it! Let’s do it!” What can I say? White people do have the answer, sometimes.
On the Latinx and Hispanic
As an Afro-Latinx man, I find
myself caught between two worlds. I am angry at the Latinx/Hispanic community
as a whole. For too long we have been denying and erasing our Black stories.
For too long we have hidden the Black stories in our Afro-Latinidad. For too
long we have waved our countries’ flags with one hand while we cover our
Blackness with the other. It is time to stop denying our Blackness and join the
Black movement for inclusion and equality. It is time to stop with our “better
the race” nasty remarks. Cultural racism should no longer be acceptable or
funny. If we do not embrace the full spectrum of our stories and address the
racism within our own cultures, we are doomed. If we do not stand for justice,
we too are accessories to murder.
The pivotal question is this: Why
has the Latinx/Hispanic community not come to the aid of the Black people? The
answer is easy: We have not addressed our own cultures, our own xenophobia, our
own racism, and our own classism. The solution is harder because there is a lot
of work to be done. This is the time for us to embrace our Blackness and build
a strong allyship to better the world. The systemic problems are, in part, our
fault as well.
On the LGBTQ+ Communities
The LGBTQ+ part of my identity at this time is very uncomfortable. We can’t stand in this fight unsoiled. Way too many Grindr profiles stipulate “No Blacks” or “Whites Only,” and we do not see that as problematic. We have embraced the same systemic, racist problems in our spaces. We not only avoid addressing them—sometimes we even celebrate them. Now is the time for the queer community to come together in the aid of the Black community. No more acceptance of racism; this is our fight too. No more letting White Cis-gay men tell the stories of Trans Black/Brown brothers’ and sisters’ fights as if they were their own. If we do not join this fight, we also are accessories to murder. The rise of the death rates of Black and Brown Trans people is not a coincidence—it is part of this violence. We need to stand and fight. We must do it in a louder and more-purposeful manner. The Queer Nation cannot be part of the White Silence.
On White Silence, White Privilege,
and White Silencing
We all have fallen victim to White Silence. It is frustrating to sit right next to a person who witnesses a situation and says nothing. It has happened to all of us many times. White Silence often is accompanied by White Silencing. When you are White Silenced, you are told to be quiet, that nothing happened, or that you are being overly sensitive. It is time to end White Silence and White Silencing. It is time for White people to help us build the world that we ALL dreamed of. A world where we are valued as Black people. A world where we have the same opportunities. A world where we are not silenced, muted, erased, and tossed out. It is important to acknowledge the existence of White privilege.
When Amy Cooper called the cops on Christian Cooper (no relation), we finally captured what we have been talking about for so long. White people know that they have privilege, White people are willing to use their privilege, and White people know how to use their privilege. We cannot accept any more lies about “privilege unawareness.” You are killing us, and not just physically. Every time you ask us to be quiet, you kill us. Every time you ask us to not protest, you kill us. Every time you deny us our right to protest, you kill us. Every time you do not listen, you kill us. If you do not wake up, you are an accessory to murder.
Now I question: Where are the White Saviors? They are wanted. It seems that White Savior movies are well-liked; however, are the White Saviors ready for the real thing? The time for White people to stand firm against violence is now. It is time for White people to stand in favor of inclusion and equality. Equality cannot be conditioned this time. It is time for White people to stand for reparations. Why are we declining to hear the cries of our own people because we do not like the protests? Can you imagine if our own children came screaming and crying to us and we replied, “I understand you are hurt, but the manner in which you communicated to me is not right; therefore, your claims are no longer valid”? We need to wake up; people have been hurting for centuries! I know that in the Latinx/Hispanic communities and the White communities things are better, but better has not been enough. We are still dying.
We are Accessories
As all of this develops, I sit in my privileged middle-class apartment and hear helicopters and police alarms going off all day. I pray for no more deaths. However, how can I be against the protests? Protests made it possible for me to even exist. Without the Stonewall riots, the desegregation rules, the Civil Rights protests, and many other fights, an Afro-Latinx LGBT+ scholar is simply not possible. My research is focused on inclusion and equality in the media. I consult entities that want to address their diversity and inclusion efforts. Did we forget that works on social justice once were illegal? Still, I sit here with no platform and a big dream of equality. Will I be able to help end the Black violence? Their inequality? Their underrepresentation? I do not know if my work will help, but I do know that I will do it until my last breath.
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