Latino Heritage Month: A History of Citizenship & Education

la-times_february-19-1946_400x450This may be the first time in about 10 years that I am not directly involved with planning some type of Latino Heritage Month activity on a campus I am employed in. While that may sound like a tragedy in some way given my past involvement, It really isn’t. Perhaps because I reside in New York City, where there are literally millions of Latinos, maybe I don’t have that same sense of urgency as I did as Syracuse. I noticed that Barnard College and Columbia University already has established programming for students to take part and that is what makes me smile.

This is not say that the work is done and I am over it but I think that I need to have a different, more personal, approach to Latino Heritage Month. Many times we call for action without reflection. We get angry over things that occur and we tweet about it and post Facebook statuses but then everything sorta dies down after a few days. I do contemplate if that is because we never really take to reflect on what is really happening in the world. We become more reactionary to much of what happens.

Those reactions distracts us from doing what is going on. So I would like to offer a history lesson on how Latinos had to fight for the education we enjoy today. This is part of a graduate paper I wrote last year. Warning – this is lengthy but I do think it’s worth it:

With California and Texas becoming states in the mid-1800s, there was a need for the United States to determine what it was going to do with the Mexican and Native American populations that it acquired with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Mexican population quickly became racialized by the standard of the United States, which meant that light skinned Mexicans were considered Caucasian and darker individuals (such as Native American and Afro-Mexicans) were considered Black.

This is important to recognize because this is where many Mexicans drew the line in the fight for equal opportunity. They felt that they did not fall within the racialized context of black and white. In general, most of the separation from the majority was cultural like many of the other immigrants that came before them. Immigrants from Europe that came to the U.S. earlier the century (Germans, Irish, and Italians) went through a similar plight of dealing with culture and language.  However, European Immigrants never had to fight that hard to become assimilated into the American culture and as a result lost many customs and cultural traditions that Latinos fight hard to maintain.

After the Spanish American War in 1898 resulted in the Treaty of Paris (in which Puerto Rico was acquired along with Guam and the Philippines), the United States maintained the attitude that the Latino population needed to become more Americanized by getting a better education and thus learning English. Mexicans in the west were struggling with equal rights in terms of land ownership, while Puerto Ricans and Cubans were dealing with Americanization in the north east. American politicians felt that Puerto Rico, in particular, would benefit from a better education as long as they learned English first. Cuba also fell within the protection of the United States before Fidel Castro assumed power.

The Mexican Revolutionary War from 1910 to 1920 forced many Mexicans to cross the border into the United States to escape the fighting and the bloodshed. This meant a cheaper workforce with the influx of people, but it also meant an educational challenge for school districts. Many districts in California created spaces in schools just to hold separate Mexican classes to address the needs of this new population. The focus was to Americanize Mexican children while teaching them vocational skills needed to make them a part of the workforce. Despite initial protest from parents, the Santa Ana Board of Education was the first to open a Mexican only school in 1919. The rationale being that this separate facility was in the best interest of the children.

In 1917, the Jones Act was passed that allowed Puerto Ricans to be American Citizens, which led to a large influx of Puerto Ricans into the United States. This declaration of citizenship came after years of political struggle over what exactly Puerto Rico was. While statehood was not granted, Puerto Ricans could still enjoy the status of being an American Citizen even though they are often not treated as such. Here is where many of the political issues for Puerto Ricans and Mexicans differ. Mexicans were fighting hard to cross the boarders to be naturalized to escape a war of revolution while Puerto Ricans slowly losing their ability to self-govern.

When thinking about segregation, cases like Brown v. Board of Education in Topeka Kansas in 1954 were critical. However, in 1946 Mendez v. Westminster in California is a landmark court case that changed the landscape for Latinos in Education and set the stage for the latter court case. The most import part of the fight for social inclusion is that most of the struggles for equality in school are mostly invisible. African Americans struggles for desegregation are well documented and well discussed in the history of the United States; however, Mexican Americans have been fighting the legality of segregation since the 1930s. History largely acknowledges the plight of African Americans making it difficult to really see and understand the roles that Latinos, particularly Mexicans played during the segregation era.

Cases like the Independent School District v. Salvatierra in Texas (1930) showed that segregation of Mexicans was indeed happening because of race. However, school districts could get away with this if the basis of the separation was based on lack of English language proficiency. The issue was that the Texas State constitution, which was ratified in 1876, stated that segregation of Whites and colored children was allowed. However, the term “colored” was only meant for “Negros.” Since Mexicans are not mentioned in the Constitution, the court ruled that Mexicans were considered white and thus segregation against them was illegal. The significance of this case was that the lawyers who defended Salvatierra were from the newly established League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). This case provided them with crucial experience they would need in the upcoming years.

In 1931, the Alvarez v. Lemon Grove School District was held in court in California. This can be argued as being the first real victory against segregation. The Lemon Grove District sought to build a separate school for Mexicans due to overcrowding. The District never informed the parents of this, thus never gained support from the Mexican community. In turn the parents protested and refused to have their children attend this new school that was called La Caballeriza (the stable) by much of the community. These parents wanted to maintain their right to send their children to same schools that Whites sent their children to.

The judge ruled in favor of Alvarez on the basis that the separate school for Mexican children would not be conducive to their Americanization. It was believed that this new school would severely retard their comprehension of the English Language because they would have no one to speak proper English to. He also believed that allowing Spanish speaking children to learn English and mingle with other English speaking students would allow them the best way to be Americanized. In addition, it was also found that California law had no such provisions that allowed for the district to make such a decision.

For years, California was deeply rooted in the idea of segregation. As the Mexican population increased, so was the increased demand of Anglos to create a residential and educational segregation. In 1927 the California Attorney General pushed for Mexicans to be considered as Native Americans whereby placing them under the mandate of de jure segregation. The notion that Mexicans were “colored” and should not have the same equalities as White people seemed to go against the ruling cited in Lemon Grove Case. However, when California Legislature passed a law to segregate Mexicans because they were considered Native Americans, the 1935 School code did not specifically mention them by name:

The governing board of the School district shall have all power to establish separate schools for Indian [sic] children, excepting children who are the wards of the U.S. government and the children of all other Indians who are the descendants of the original American Indians of the U.S, and for the children of Chinese, Japanese, or Mongolian parentage.

Because Mexicans were not mentioned specially, as was the case with other races, school districts in California found it difficult to legally segregate them. Mexicans did not consider themselves Native American, which created a loophole within the legislation.

loc-sticks
A picture of the Zoot Suit Riots

Despite the inequities within the school system and the labor market, World War II was a time in which many Latinos went overseas. It was estimated that over 65,000 Puerto Ricans served in a segregated military. Due to their citizenship, Puerto Rican men were required to register and serve.  Most of them served from the 65th Infantry Regiment. World War II gave many Mexicans pride in their US citizenship. The general number of Mexican Americans that served is unknown because many were counted as White soldiers. However, despite their participation in the war, Mexicans were constantly being linked to issues of crime as much as African Americans were. The zoot suit riots in 1943, where American sailors would drive the streets of Los Angeles looking to strip Mexican youth of their clothing, marked a time of racial tension in California. The battle in the courtroom for equality became even more crucial as racial tensions were mounting outside the classroom.

In 1943, the parents of Silvia Mendez tried to enroll her into Westminster Elementary School in Santa Ana, California, where she was denied enrollment based on her skin color and Spanish surname.  It was lawful at the time for California school districts to segregate all students of color and thus deny them access into schools that were considered all white.  This prompted her father, Gonzalo, to join with other families and file a class action lawsuit against the Orange County School District. LULA took the lead on the case and represented five fathers: Thomas Estrada, Chapo Guzman, Mayo Zambada, Rosame Elcacho, and Gonzalo Mendez.

The basis of the argument was that the school district had violated the 14th Amendment. This is a similar argument made in Brown v. Board of Education that took place seven years later by Thurgood Marshall on behalf of the NAACP.  The Equal Protection Clause within the 14th Amendment states:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;

What led Judge Paul J. McCormick’s ruling in favor of Mendez was not just the violation of the 14th Amendment, but the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that guaranteed Mexicans equal rights in the United States. However, this case would be fought again in the appellate court, where the connection of the two historic court cases is made.

For years, the NAACP has been trying to win the battle of segregation in schools using the 14th Amendment as reason for the law’s is unconstitutionality. Until the Mendez v. Westminster, the standard for segregation in schools was the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896 that upheld that States had the right to separate, provided that they granted equal facilities. The Mendez ruling was the first successful ruling toward segregation in terms of skin color.  For the most part, segregation for Mexicans was based on cultural reasons. These segregation cases really did not change much for African Americans because there was always a loophole regarding that citizenry and language issues of Mexicans in particular.

When it came time to fight the case in the appellate courts, LULAC and the NAACP (along with American Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Congress, and Japanese American Citizens League) came together to successfully argue the case.  Ninth Circuit Judge, Justice Albert Lee Stephens, upheld the ruling April 14, 1947.  The court stated:

By enforcing the segregation of school children of Mexican Decent against their will and contrary to the laws of California, the respondents have violated the federal law as provided in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution by depriving them the equal protections of the laws.

Thurgood Marshall collaborated with David Marcus, who was representing LULAC on this appeal case that provided some of the framework that Marshall would use in the Brown case in 1954.

Two months after the ruling was passed down, Governor Earl Warren signed a bill repealing segregation in California schools, which lead to the closing of Mexican schools across the State.  This marked a second connection to the Brown case. In 1953, President Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren as Chief Justice to the Supreme Court. It was Chief Justice Warren that wrote the final decision in the Brown case that ended segregation in schools across the United States.

What made this ruling so important was that it broke away from the Plessy ruling of the “separate but equal “doctrine.  While African Americans had continued to suffer under segregation in terms of physical and social equality, Mexican Americans were able to fight successfully against the issues because they were routinely seen as more than Black. However, despite the positive ruling from the Mendez case that was supposed to end de jure segregation, evidence indicated that not only did segregation not end, but that it worsened.

In 1947 Minerva Delgado was denied admission to a school in Texas on the sole basis that she was Mexican. Her grandfather sued the Bastrop Independent School District that was later filed as a class action suit on behalf of all Mexican children within the school district. Delgado v. Bastrop was another pre-Brown case that demonstrated that segregation was more customary than law. Many people in Texas had hope that this case would do for Texas what Mendez did for California.

While the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff in 1948, segregation of first graders was allowed if there was a lack of proficiency in English. This lack of proficiency made segregation justifiable in terms of separate classes, or maybe even separate schooling altogether.

Despite the various victories against segregation in various school districts in California and Texas, Mexicans were still dealing with isolation within segregated schools well into the 1950s. It is well documented that many of these school districts did not adhere to many of the court rulings until the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. However, desegregation was becoming law across the country; segregation based on language became more of the practiced custom.

Sources:

  1. Donato, Rubén. The other struggle for equal schools: Mexican Americans during the Civil Rights era. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997. Print.
  2. MacDonald, Victoria. Latino education in the United States: a narrated history from 1513-2000. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print.
  3. Navarro, Sharon Ann, and Armando Xavier Mejia. Latino Americans and political participation: a reference handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Print.
  4. Pedraza, Pedro, and Melissa Rivera. Latino education: an agenda for community action research. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005. Print.
  5. Santiago, Isaura. “Aspira v. Board of Education Revisited.” American Journal of Education 95.1 (1986): 149-199. Print.
  6. Valencia, Richard R.. Chicano school failure and success: past, present, and future. 2nd ed. London: Routledge/Falmer, 2002. Print.

El Cocolo

blacknessI don’t know. Maybe I am getting too old for this. Perhaps I need to dial the rhetoric down a bit. I have always recognized that I see the world from a certain perspective and my views comes from the type of lens crafted through education and experience. I have never expected my views to be universal and as most of you know that I take criticism and critiques very seriously. I just find myself tired of everything that is going on.

Let me preface this by saying that I lead a very happy life. I’m where I want to be with the person I want to be with. I grateful for my job and my family. I have no complaints about my personal life nor my work life. Believe it or not, I love this country. It has it’s faults but I know I would not have this life if were a citizen elsewhere. However, I feel that what comes across in my words on Facebook and on Twitter is a person who complains about everything that is going on. Let us just acknowledge that there is a lot of incredibly messed (note: I kept it clean) things going on in the world.

I can sit here and take a snap shot of the past 2-3 weeks that have included the Zimmerman Acquittal, the killings in Chicago, Riley Cooper, Don Lemon, Stephen A. Smith, the Darius Simmons trial, and a host of other shit (that didn’t last long) that just makes me cringe. Am I getting angrier? Am I changing or is the world around me seem to be more ominous?  Because I often feel like the only Jor-El in a room filled with General Zods.

I guess what I’m really saying is that I grow tired of all of it. While I know that I am not the only one who screams out about inequality of all types, I sometimes get the feeling that I am on an island alone screaming at a ball named Wilson. I know that I could just put my head down and continue writing the novel. I know that I have ability to be completely apathetic about the whole thing and just talk about comic books (although, do not get me started on the lack of Black and Latino writers in Marvel and DC).

Its hard when I have to explain to family about the nature of my blackness. Yes, I am Puerto Rican and Equadorian but what do I look like in the mirror? Moreno? Chocolate? I knew at an early age about how “bad” it was to be dark skinned. My cousins called me Tar Baby and other times I was called a Cocolo (look it up). How I define my blackness is really up to me and I have hard time seeing how being an Afro Latino can be viewed any differently in the eyes of the majority compared to an African American.

So yes, I feel that I fall into the black and white binary that holds America together. I am not in favor of blaming the victims. I am not going to sit here and agree with any notion that because someone like RIley Cooper says the n-word so freely it is because his black teammates say it in front of him and thus it made it easier for him. So does that mean we blame Paula Dean’s cooks for allowing themselves to employed by her? Do we blame Travon Martin for wearing a hoody because that looks thuggish? Do I blame myself for my family calling me Tar Baby?

But, you know what? I complain too much. I am an elitist Latino that couldn’t possibly understand what the world is about. I guess that is the way it is in this Post Racialized society.

We are not Delusional

1045158_10151468822662541_33507666_nThis is, in many ways, is a open letter to my (former) facebook friends who think that race was never a factor in the Zimmerman case. I have had some time reflect on the verdict that was completely unsurprising to me.

We are not delusional. There is no way that anyone can say that the millions of people who are marching and protesting are about the outcome of this trial are delusional. Yet, there are people out there who are celebrating the not guilty verdict. There are people saying that there was a clear case of self defense and that Travyon Martin contributed to his own death. The best part about some of these idiots on Facebook is that I’ve seen them posting articles of crimes that black people have committed against white people. This is when I know we are living in two separate worlds.

We do not live in a post racial America. I wish people would stop saying that America has changed. The fact of the matter is that the value of Black life is not equal but I don’t expect those in the majority to understand. Quite frankly, I am tired of having to explain American History to them. They never had laws created, changed, or amended so that “on paper” they can be considered equals. But, they can get offended easily to the point where they have to question whether the word “cracker” was just as bad as “ni***r” (yet, they know they cannot say the latter of the two words).

There is no delusion in the simple fact that the Stop & Frisk law in NYC as allowed the police to make 533,042 stops in 2012 in which 87 were Black and Latino. But is ok to dismiss our claims of racially biased laws, it is ok to say that we are crazy to believe Travyon Martin received zero justice despite the fact that he was indeed profiled by Zimmerman. So, I suppose it is ok to follow anyone and accost them in the middle of the night and not expect a fight? So it is ok to proclaim self defense when the simple fact is that had Zimmerman listened to instructions by the police to stay in his vehicle, Travyon would be alive today. But, he did nothing wrong, right?

We don’t live in the same world. I know a plethora of parents (who are Black and Latino) who are genuinely scared for their children now. Some have wept about their future and some have wondered how will they explain this to their children. I don’t see that concern coming from the other side. I don’t see any white people (who are celebrating) feel any concern for their kids because they don’t have to. There is no one profiling their children.

Let’s also not pretend that just because Zimmerman is Latino that it is not still racially biased. White Hispanics are just has bad. I have said it time again on this very blog that Latino racism is real and you can tell simple by those who refuse to consider any African influence in their culture. Why do they fight it? Because black has always be considered something bad and that is not a delusion.

I thought that having different opinions coming across my timeline was a good thing. I wanted to see both sides of many issues. But, after this weekend, I just can’t. We just live in two separate worlds. We may have gone to the same high school or grown up in the same areas but I refuse to be associated with anyone that is going to think that we are delusional. Everything is about race, EVERTHING. The fact of matter is that you do not think think about about your whiteness, while we are reminded of our blackness, our immigration status, our language use, our cultures every fucking day. Why? Because it is people like you and the laws that put in place and later amended that remind us of our place in this country.

Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Kimani Gray, Yusef Hawkins, Troy Davis, Luis Ramirez, James Byrd Jr., Willie Edwards, Anastacio Hernandez Rojas, Micheal Donald, Sean Bell, James Chaney, The Central Park 5, John Collado, Darius Simmons, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin. (just to name a few)

We are are not delusional. You are. Get the fuck off my Facebook.

Tainted Victory?

scotus_20120328121519_640_480

Yesterday people (in my circles) were talking about victory. DOMA has been deemed unconstitutional in the states that allow gay marriages and California may be the next state to allow such a law. It is a clear win for those of us who support equal marriages and I am truly happy about that. The problem is that feeling is somehow tainted with the Voting Rights Act being cut down the day prior.

Many people have stated that the Voting Rights Act signed by Lyndon B. Johnson is the corner stone of the Civil Rights Movement. This act made it difficult for southern states within the U.S. to suppress the black vote that has now ultimately turn into the “minority” vote. If anyone has been paying attention over the last four elections, then it should be easy to point out that each year since Gore/Bush the stories of voter suppression has increased.

It was no secret that Republicans were tight when Obama won the first term. This was due to the fact that his grassroots campaign netted a plethora of new voters, young voters, and of course, people of color. We all came out in droves to vote for this man because we were tired of the same old story in Washington. Now, we also know that McCain/Palin also help us by shooting themselves in the foot on multiple occasions.

Since then it was fairly obvious that Republicans wanted to keep Obama as a one term president and those began the open criticisms, the stories of false birth certificates, the rumors of him being Islamic, and just overall fighting of any thing he wanted to do. While I cannot be sure, I am willing to guess that there was some brainiac in the GOP that came up with a bright idea of taking away votes from POTUS during the 2012 election, not to mention they felt they had a winner in Romney/Ryan. Thus, more reports across the country about people not being able to vote.

It was Justice John Roberts that said, “Our country has changed” and my response was and always will be, has it really? At what point do these judges (which includes Clarence Thomas -which doesn’t say much actually) believe that things have gotten better from a racial perspective? Yes, the country has changed decades after the Civil Rights Movement but that does not mean that people will not still use their power to oppress others. In fact, it has become a part of the political game that being played. 

I know that I had deemed last year a banner year for racism and I stick to that. This year makes me wonder how close it will come or if it will even surpass it. Or maybe I should just go ahead and prematurely call it a banner decade. This feeling is way past the political climate but just an overall feeling when I look at what is going on.

The Travon Martin trial is just a shit show being played on stage. The Paula Deen hysteria is drama that is not surprising me at all. The defense of the show Devious Maids is laughable.The NYPD reprimanded one of their officer for speaking Spanish to another  officer (this is a personal gripe of mine but their Stop and Frisk program does violate the rights of thousands of young men and women of color).

This is just huge distraction to keep the dim witted from actually realizing that their righst are slowing being taken away from them (see the Patriot Act and then look at the NSA).

All I’m saying is that I cannot get too happy at a victory because things can change very quickly. I just hope all the people that were celebrating yesterday will also be in the same corner of those fighting hard to stop the disenfranchisement of “minority” voters.

Django – My Unchained Issues

Django-Poster-1Sht_FINAL_rgb

I wasn’t going to do it. I wanted to just let it go away because there is no way that I would ever think I would see a day in which people are just way too complacent to care. First let me preface this to say that I did not see this movie. Django Unchained was never a movie I wanted to venture to see. I can never truly say that I would never watch a movie but I can say that I would never pay for it. Trust me, I would never pay to willingly see this movie. So, if you saw the movie and do not care about my opinion about this…then by all means, this is not the blog post for you.

Understand that there are at least a dozen ways for me to see this movie right now for free and I would not exercise that. Mind you, I love movies and I’m a big believer in paying to see movies. I am not into bootlegs or downloaded copies because nothing beats the theater experience. I need to state this because the idea of me not paying to see this movie is saying something. I am not saying that when it come on HBO that I am all over it either but many people are asking me, “what is the big deal about this movie?, why are you SO against it”

For starters I think there are 3 types of people when it comes to this flick. There are the people who saw it and loved it, the people who saw it and were truly disturbed by it, then there are the people who refuse to see it. I am in the last group. I refuse to see this because there is something not right about all of this. I felt that way when I saw the previews months ago. Fine, it is a slave movie that is fictional. Fine, it a movie made by Quentin Tarantino (who loves the n-word). But, a Christmas movie?

That is my FIRST issue and here is why. When I think about Christmas movies, I think about Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Die Hard, etc. These are movies that are fanatical and sensational. Movies that are meant to entertain or that maybe you can bring your kids to despite the parental ratings it receives. Christmas Premieres are meant to go out to a wide audience. So that means that we are going to exchange gifts in the morning and watch a fictitious slave narrative with my kids in which the N-word is said over 100 times.

Ok, that is fine, let’s just say say I am reaching with that. Let’s just say that I am being foolish. But, I think about the commercialization of slavery. We are now saying that we can make sensational movies about a very sensitive period in American History. Why does it have to be that way? I am sure Tarantino says he wanted to make a film about a Black Hero right? But, I am quite sure there will never be a movie about the first slave rebellion in the Dominican Republic in 1522. I am even more certain that they will never make a movie about Nat Turner’s Rebellion. So what are we talking about here? The Boba Fett of the Antebellum period?

Yes, there were other movies like Roots and Amistad. Neither of them were sensational and both were telling a story about true events. Here is the kicker though, just when anyone could think that this wasn’t about making money over slavery…we have the Action Figures for Django. So now everyone can play with “Slave Master Bill” and relive the glory days of Slavery. See, I compare this to the part in Fight Club when Tyler Durden renders the fat from the rich to create soap in which he sells back to the same rich people.

Many people do not have a problem with this. Most people will watch what they are told to watch and they buy what they are told to buy. Most people are ZOMBIES because all they do is consume in this world of consumerism. We tend to forget about the past and just do shit because the television said so with no regard for actual critical thought. If you think I am wrong, then let me ask you if it is too extreme to make action figures bases on Schindler’s List? I mean, can’t you imagine little boys and girl playing with Nazi dolls? I didn’t think so. They will never commercialize the the Holocaust nor with they sensationalize 9/11. Yes, they are different, but they were all tragedies that we will never forget.

I guess what really gets me is that people are defending the movie. Saying how good it was and they don’t get the big deal. There was one woman who said that the only part she didn’t care for was the fact that Samuel Jackson always seems to play roles in my movies that degrade his people (huh?). What really gets me is how people have been blasting Spike Lee for his comments about not ever seeing the movie because they think he is a hater (really?). So my question to all the Black and Latino people (yes, white people too), are you are really ok with the misrepresentation of your people as long as it is a cool movie?

There seems to be a goal in “Post Racialized” America to make it seem as if racism does not exist, but it does. You can actually buy it for $34.99 on Amazon.

The Grey

Image

It seems like everyday I’m finding another grey hair on my face. Which I suppose I am ok with since I am deciding to grow more facial hair. If I get tired of it, I can just shave. Yet, I look at it as proof that I continue to survive from year to year.

I often joke that each grey hair on my head is assigned to various people in my life both past a present that have left their stressful mark on me. However, the obvious reality is that I am getting older. I would like to think that my graying hair means that I am growing in wisdom, but I am not sure how true that is. I feel that I make enough mistakes to keep me young. Of course making mistakes is what being human is all about but, making mistakes usually means that one is out there doing new things.

For some reason when I think about the eventual salt and pepper look I will get (which will be a LONG time from now), I think about my maternal grandfather. I kind of knew, by my hair type, that I would be dealing with a greyish look. My dad has a different hair structure (I still compare him to Danny Trejo) that is very flowing and South American. Mi abuelito had hair that was more traditional with afro Latino…

{Pause}

I want to take a pause here because I am trying to not laugh…really. I mean, look at me trying to be all politically correct when it comes to the quality of the hair certain family members have. I could be really honest and just categorize it the way most people do. My father has good Latino hair that flows like Jesus and mi abueltio has pelo malo (bad hair) that flows like brillo.

{Un-Pause}

I think that I will eventually go back to the clean shaven look since there seems to less grey on my head than on my face. I’m really not that old. I’m staring at 39 in about six months and I feel like I am about 25. Truth of the matter is that being grey is not so bad. I feel like most of my life has been different shades of grey (which by the way…I hate that the book has coined this phrase).

{Pause}

Now that I think about, those are not grey hairs. They are white. Maybe, they seem grey when compared to the black hair. I find that interesting. I mean, I have been called racist by white people so I wonder if there is this psychological thing that does allow me to call a white hair white. Maybe, I am color blind in the sense and don’t want to recognize the importance of a certain color so I just call it grey. Interesting thought.

{Un-Pause}

It’s all good. I think have the wisdom to get through such trivial things like grey hairs. I am just glad that I still have my health. I just hope that I never get to a point where I consider using products to color my hair back to black. Do not get me wrong, both Clyde Frasier and Keith Hernandez are both legends but I’m not doing that little “touch of grey” thing that they have been promoting for years.

I think that when people get older they need to own up to their age and just face facts. Getting crap like botox or any anti-aging things will only end up making you look plastic. I mean, just imagine how they will look during the zombie apocalypse. No one wont be able to tell if they are alive or dead AND that is a damn shame.

I am owning up to my impending age. I think I look good. I can’t help but laugh at the fact that when I was younger two things occurred. The first was that I always cried about being the shortest and the youngest. I would always look too young or small for anything and I hated it so much, I could not wait be old (when you’re a kid being old is 19). The second was the fact that I looks so damn young and nerdy, women never looked at me.

Well, I think now I have the last laugh on both cases. 🙂

Looking back at MY 2012

“Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path” – Morpheus

I always try to take one look back before I proceed into the future. 2012 has finally come to an end and I cannot help but be amazed of how I ended up exactly where I wanted to be. I will say that as much as I wanted this to be a good year, I wasn’t so confident that it would end that way.

The first thing I decided to so was to take more risks. The truth of the matter was that at this time last year, I knew I needed to change my life before I went spiraling down in a flame of debt and foreclosure. What I learned from my woman was that taking risks shouldn’t always be that scary. After a afternoon of learning how to ice skate –without falling once, I realized that I needed to invest in myself and take those risks that may turn my life around.
At the same time I realized that this blog was becoming a venue for me to complain and talk about things I would love to do but never follow up on. I was done with that. I need to stop talking and just do. The result ultimately ended up with me having less blogs than I anticipated but, the major goals I set were completed. Yet, as a writer, I did get more exposure than I ever thought I would with being selected as blogger for the Huffington Post. Yes, I feel like I keep saying this but I still find this to be amazing.  I wrote 4 articles and acquired a great deal of fans on that site.

Although, there were some bumps along the way, my second blog for the Huffington Post received some comments that I was not excited about. Looking back at it, it wasn’t that big of a deal but, I did feel a certain way about it. I craft my words carefully (which is why I was called a Word Ninja) so that people can understand where I’m coming from. Usually, there are people who take my words to mean something entirely different (I’m still getting used to that). There was also the time in which the Huff denied a post from me. That was particularly hard to swallow, but I got over it.

I still believe that this was a banner year for racism. Despite the fact that Barack Obama won a second term, I believe we have seen so many signs of racism in the country that it is almost laughable if it wasn’t so tragic. The death of Travyon Martin really took its toll on me when it happened. I think there is a lot to be said about the gun laws in this country and while I wrote nothing about Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings…I think eyes need to opened when comes to which populations are being effected by certain laws. I think more importantly it is the perception that people have that really shows how “tolerant” we are of other people. This does not mean I have strong words for just white people….my own people can be ridiculous too.

Of course with the things that I say or do, come people who have either a difference of opinion (which is fine) or people who downright cannot deal with me. This year, I have learned to take the good with the bad. Let those fester in there thoughts while I continue to move forward. I can spend a whole blog post on the telling of stories about people and incidents that happen earlier in the year that will be completely hilarious. However, in doing so, that will make them look bad. I am determined to be the better person always. I think I have succeed in that one thing before I left Syracuse.

There were several proud moments for me this year, but nothing did it more than me getting an A in my graduate course in the spring semester. Another reason for the lack of blog posts was the simple fact that I was taking a class. The reason why this was big for me is because I never got an A in any class in my college career. I think I did pretty good on this.

My, departure from Central New York involved risks has I mention above. I was lucky enough to sell my house and get an apartment for a short amount of time. There was also so much risk in just keeping the faith and hoping that my job search would find me something. I’ll be honest, there was one point where I gave up. With my last job application submitted, I told myself that it was either now or never. If I do not get a job in NYC, I would have looked into Grad School in California. I had schools already picked out when Barnard called for the interview.

I will never forget that afternoon when I was told that I was hired. With my return imminent, I thought about all the things I would do when I got back home. But, I had to ultimately say goodbye to good friend. Yes, it was hard to say my goodbyes to colleagues, friends, and students but it was the hardest to say good bye to Rocky. I still love and miss that dog. He has remained in Syracuse with the x-wife. I still think about him everyday. Sad to say that all good things come to an end…SU will always be in my  heart.

However, I did learn that everything is truly connected. In the wake of my decision to move, my mother suffered a heart attack. This required her to have a quintuple by-pass surgery that we all were very nervous about. Of course, Columbia Presbyterian is one of the best places she could have very gone to, there is was always that horrifyingly small chance that something may go wrong. The good thing is she fully recovered which made my return even more glorious.

The rest of the year was filled with apartment hunting while being broke, Obama was re-elected, Sandy damn near destroyed lower Manhattan, my Macbook broke, and I am near obesity.

I think this was a good year. Very successful. Next year will be better. I will share a toast tonight for my friends, family, and to all of you who continue to follow me. Happy New Year! 

Yes, 4 More Years

You know, I started this blog in 2009 — two days after Barak Obama was inaugurated. I felt so much hope for the country, for my students, and for my own life (which was in turmoil at that time). So I like to think that this blog lives on during his presidency in some small way. It also made me think that I needed to get back to who I am…which is a writer.

That hope that I have for myself and my continuing journey has seen a lot of hardship along the way. I have doubted myself and many times almost succumbed to fear. Yet, I have turned on the television and see the leader of the free world and know that I have to keep working at it. I need to continue to believe in myself. Even more importantly, I think about how many young boys and girls are going to grow up knowing a Black man will be president for 8 years of their life. That stark reality is amazing to me.

Of course, the fact that Obama is getting another 4 years does not excite everyone. This is a deeply divided country, in which, he did win the popular vote but that is just by a little more than 1% more than poor Mitt Romney. While the GOP is reeling, there are tons of unhappy conservatives who are making it known that they do not want a nigger in the White House. These are things that I simply cannot make up and while most of these people may be ignorant, these were the people that also came out in full force against Obama (and not necessarily for Mittens). That is why I had a bad feeling but I suppose I was just being overly cautious.

The truth of the matter is that I said it all along, this is a race issue. When the networks were analyzing the data they came up with some staggering numbers about the white vote. While I may be off in my numbers, the percentage of white votes dropped about 8% from 2008 white Latino voters increased about 10%. When we are talking about millions of people…that is a huge amount. There is no secret that people of color came out in full force. The funny thing is that this is no longer a voting trend. This is a fact that people of color are becoming more dominant in this country and in the political landscape. That is something that the GOP will have to figure out before 2016 because the extreme ideas about immigration and women’s right will not fly anymore and that is not even considering gay marriage.

Times are changing because Latinos will eventually force states like Texas to turn from a red state to a blue state. Gay Marriage is upon us faster than anyone anticipated and I am all for it. There is now even legalized Marijuana in Colorado and while I am against that particular issue, the fact of the matter is that this is what people voted for. These are things I never thought I would see in my life time and that also included the proposition of Puerto Rico to become a the 51st State. I can be very vocal on this issue of Puerto Rico, but I will save it for another time.

All of this makes me think about where I will be in 4 years. While I have pretty much done what I said I was going to do this year, there are still more goals that I have to reach. There are still some plateaus that need to crossed. I know that I can do anything I set my mind to…and when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, all I have to do like that our President and realize that he has accomplished his goals…so that means I can accomplish mine.

The Political Jokes are on US.

Maybe this is what we need…

You know, I laugh because we are indeed at a pinnacle point in our history. Well, at least in the time I have been alive. I can say that because this election is that important. I laugh because it seems like politics have become so extreme. You are either on one side or the other and those sides are so far apart that it makes it hard to really have a critical debate on things. I laugh because people can be married to the lies that are told and are not willing to hear the truth…not matter what that is.

No politician is perfect. No US President has been perfect. Each one of them had chinks in their armor. You can look at Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan, FDR, Bush(s), Clinton, and Nixon as just a few examples of what can be good or bad depending on history or party affiliation. For every good thing they do, the opposing party will give you a list of things they did horribly. In many cases, each party will talk about some of these eras being dark ones and there was a need for America “to get back on track.” Yet, for the most part, the rich remain the rich, the poor are still poor, and the middle class just remains in the middle.

I laugh because there is a joke somewhere in there. A joke that not many of us get and one I may not fully understand myself. Maybe the joke is that nothing really ever gets better perhaps everything is an ebbs and flows. Maybe the joke is that no matter how much we fight, one class of people with get taxed; the middle class or the rich and yet the poor will remain largely ignored. What is almost funny is how the liberals want to help the unfortunate and the conservatives find it unfortunate that people can’t help themselves.

The fact is most people are like sheep because no one really thinks critically anymore. They just assume that if something is said by someone in government then it must be true. If things are in History books than it must be true. There was a time when a politician lied and was proven wrong by a fact checker that this individual would lose points in the polls but we live in a bizaro world where the President is Black and his stature is always questioned. Sure, we all called George W dumb and Bill Clinton a womanizer, but there was a level of respect you gave to the position. Yet, Obama seems to get less respect than either and he is smart and a happily married man!

Sure, one can say that Bush had shoes thrown at him and we giggled, but that was not in America. I can guarantee that all us had at least seen one picture of Barak Obama as a monkey or in a noose. I dare anyone to try to defend that. Yet, that is another joke that conservatives do not get. No matter how hard you work, the color of your skin will always be a factor. I mean, I am sure you can point to Oprah Winfrey and say that she is a success, however she is just one “nigger” slur away from the rest of us.

We are indeed at an interesting time. Am I the only one who has noticed that being poor has been deemed as a burden to the rest of society? Apparently, coming across hard times quickly turns to an unwillingness to work so the they can get free healthcare and food stamps. The best part of this joke is that socialism is constantly being shouted out by people because taxing the rich (plus giving a break to the middle class) and using that money to help others is wrong. But if you use the conservative model of taxing the middle class while giving breaks to the rich to use that money to help others is the correct model!

I am quite sure there conservatives will say that the wealthy getting breaks helps big business create jobs, but the thing is I do not buy that idea because people who have money love to keep money. Yet, governmental programs have to be paid for…who is gonna pay for it? (Hint: You) Either that, or the deficit increases. Notice one really says who we owe money to (besides China).

Finally, I laugh because the joke is really on us. Most of us go through life not paying attention to the things that are happening around us. Most of us are distracted by the house/basketball wise, the jersey shores, the dancing stars, the iphone/ipads, facebook, and fantasy sports to realize that our society is getting dumber, fatter, and sicker. And while all that is happening, you have a political party that trying its hardest to restrict the elderly and the minorities the right to vote in battle ground states. Democrat and Republicans must agree that is wrong.

Maybe…just maybe, the real joke is that we are no longer a society in which race matter maybe it is all about class; about the haves and the have nots.

Word Ninja

People will read and hear what they want to. I have come to the conclusion that many people take the things that I do either too personally or too literal. In either case, that is fine. Last Year, I talked about the slow death of critical thought because I believe that people take everything at face value without thinking about anything deeper. Two Years ago, I wrote about how Everything is about Race and how there is this assumption that I point things out because I want to divide people.Why do these 2 things matter? Let me take you back about 20+ years.

I was walking with a friend of mine from school to the Bx 39 bus stop on White Plains Road in the Bronx. On the way there we were stopped but 4 guys who pretty much ignore me and focus on him. I had always been very good at being aware of my surroundings, but for some reason these particular guys came out of no where. He told me to run but I stood frozen in fear. They jumped him in front of me and amazingly, he took punches and never dropped. The entire incident was less than a minute and I believe they ran way after taking his Walkman (at least I think they did). I cant recall what happened after that but I do remember never being able to apologize enough for not helping or taking some of the beating.

This is something that I have often thought about. Would I let that happen again? How would I feel if I saw other people getting beat up. Fear has away of stopping you in your tracks (yet another topic I have written about). As I’ve gotten older and have come to discover myself through education and other life events, I have come to realize the type of person I am.

Hold that story in your mind and think about the majority of things I write on this blog. Most of which have chronicled my journey from a failed marriage to where I am right now. If you follow me on any of the Social Media outlets then you have a pretty good idea that I do have opinions about the world we live in. I do not consider them radical by any means. I feel that I generally have the same feelings as many people of color in this country when it comes to racism and oppression. I do not talk about how the “man” has me down. In fact, I talk about being able to succeed despite numerous issues that I have created for myself.

I do talk about race a lot. Ask any person of color how they think of themselves. The vast majority will say Black, Asian, Latino, etc. I am also guaranteeing that they are looking at the world and this country through the lens of their color/culture. Why wouldn’t we be? Racial incidences happen all the time but it becomes our fault for pointing it out. We are considered to be complainers when we point out that even though President Obama is getting slammed on the issues…we all know many people in the government and in this country cannot stand him because he is Black. Shit, people still wonder if he is even American! So when I say that everything has to do with race it is because it DOES.

This would also include Black people beating up on white people for no reason. See, the friend of mine that was walking with me was White and the kids who jumped him were Black. I’m not sure why they chose him over me and it could have very well been because he was a white boy. Does this make this correct, not at all. I have often criticized on THIS blog as well as other outlets how dumb Latinos and African Americans can be. We all have our issues because this country is not perfect despite what many people believe.

Which brings me to a video I posted about a show written by fellow SU alum Aaron Sorkin called The Newsroom (see video below). Jeff Daniels goes on this rant about how America is not the greatest country in the world and thus states specific reasons why. I agreed with this assessment because of all the issues that were stated about education, infant mortality rate, and incarceration. I have a right to my opinion, right? I mean, lets look at the Tea Party all the way on the right and how they say incredulous things all time but, they have a right to their opinion no matter how shitty it is.

But apparently, opinions are like assholes everyone has one and thus that old friend of mine insists that I am a bitter person that has been held down by the man. While I am not going to recount the argument that we had on my Facebook wall, I will pull out some things that have made me think about myself and what I do. I am not sure where some people think that my opinions on based on fiction or out of thin air when I read more than most people on my Facebook timeline. I will gladly post a bibliography of everything I have written to prove this. The notion that I speak about race too much is pure absurdity. White people generally do not talk about being white because they do not generally need to, unless they feel they are either being attacked or perhaps feel guilty because of their whiteness.

I love this country plain and simple. I am as American as my dad can raise me. I once had argument with my ex-wife because I would not let her raise a Puerto Rican flag on our lawn without an American Flag next to it. I understand that this friend of mine defended this country and I thank him for it…yet I wonder if he had to go through the racism my father did when he was in the Navy…oh that is right…everything is not about race. However, being called a coward because of something that happened 20 years is probably what hit me the hardest. Sure, I do not go to protests in Arizona or Florida. I have protested here in Syracuse in unison with my students…but I guess that doesn’t count. I guess the fact that I have given money to organizations who need it to fight policies does not count either.

I had to take a hard look at myself and see if I was this “coward.” No, I am not. Not mentally and not physically. Listing instances where I have jumped into situations that could have gotten me killed or seriously hurt is self absorbing because I have nothing to prove to anyone. I will however take one thing to heart and make it my own. I was called a word ninja. I have never heard of this and after talking to someone he came up with a definition. “He meant word-ninja to mean someone who hides in the shadows and fights only with words, I suspect. But I see it as a skilled wordsmith so smooth you can’t even see how he did it” (Thank you, Chris)

I am a Word Ninja.