Utah and the Union’s Same-Sex-Unions Controversy

Marriage, Missionaries, Mercenaries, Millenia, Millenial Machismo & Me

Coming Soon!

I have not been compelled to write about a specific topic as fuerte as I am about the one at hand for quite some time and it is reinvigorating. I chose this topic as I am afforded a distinct and reflexive positionality from which to critically and analytically deconstruct the competing ideologies and put in conversation with the technical knowledge and current “gay marriage” legal battle in Utah.

It is my contention that the LGBT community SHOULD NOT have the legal right to marriage in the state of Utah as it is not a human right and should respect that the people of Utah have spoken through majority vote to mandate marriage as between a biological male and female. I further contend that LGBT equality is not a “Civil Rights” issue and their fight for equality is only negatively impacting my microcosm.

As a gay Chicano, I will draw from my own experiential knowledge, ideological underpinnings and personal epistemology and highlight how these either converge or diverge from either side’s (pro-gay marriage/anti-gay marriage) positionalities.

I will touch on my own identity formation and how I made cognizant modifications therein in order to ensure, preserve and nurture my personal relationships (i.e. my father, brother and other male relatives) as their value was, for me, greater than that of self-expression or liberation. I will put my identity formation in conversation with academic research on the topic.

I will use my brother, a straight Chicano, and his struggles with oppression to compare with the oppression of privileged gay men analyzing where I believe them to converge and diverge and my critique of equating LGBT equality rights to the “Civil Rights” of Americans who are “protected classes”.

I will use my parent’s struggle with marriage recognition to exemplify the negative impacts and the multiplied effects the same sex union legal battle has on the lives of millions of traditional couples and their families. I will close by touching on the legal precedent that Utah’s “gay marriage” battle will have on the nation and legal marriage as an American institution.

Lines of poetry which I chose to rhyme with ‘Tattoos by Xoil’

They planted the seeds, forced us to tend the soil
Its cash crop demands water, its consumers oil
To their borders and ideals all must prove loyal
Defectors are banished, reminded our roots, hardly royal
Non-critical assimilation uproots unwarranted toil
Our right of passage, when war, to shed this mortal coil
Words incongruous with action, shocking like Susan Boyle
Issues left on the back burner to tinderbox boil
Mythic colorblind meritocracy, elusive yet no critic can foil
Colonials as cunning as the antagonist of Sir Arthur Connan Doyle
Pushing a coveted status like that of the ancient mohle
Non-fiction narratives, sad like the blockbuster Lorenzo’s Oil
Emancipation so precious, thoughts of which make us goil
Crushed by promises as invented as the verb ‘to joil’
Counterfeit treaties remain tenable like the word ‘koil’

This is an inspiring and amazing critical analysis of how the (neo)colonial project’s ingenious assimilationist agenda and white nationalism are cloaked as transformative and emancipatory racial/ethnic progress and how el movimiento has been hijacked and diluted as to defuse its original vision for equitable outcomes and upward social mobility for xicana/os.

Xicano’s Blog on the semantics and identity politics of Chicano vs. Latino vs. Hispanic

This is the latest edit of the “Xicano’s Blog” post “Chicano vs. Latino vs. Hispanic” from October 2011

Chicanismo, and the ethnonym chicano, derives it’s origins in the united states socio-political movement widely known as the chicano movement or el movimiento which sought, among many things, to answer the age-old existential questions: Where did we come from? How did we get here? Where are we going? for and by those known as the “brown mennace”.

In a (eurocentric) lexicological context chicano derives its etymology from the mexica tribe (the nahuatl autonym which in english is pronounced Meh~sheek~ah). An autonym or endonym is the name which a group calls its own self whereas an exonym/xenonym is the name which it is given or referred to by another group. The exonym dominates, most often, when it is that which is given to a colonized group by the colonizer. Case in point, we refer to the indigenous ‘mesoamericans’, particularly of contemporary mexico, as aztecas or the aztecs versus mexicas (much like dine is what the u.s. indigenous tribe known as navajos call themselves).  Note: the aztecas did not have a written language which makes this analysis eurocentric insofar as it relies upon transcribed nahuatl translated into spanish and english for contextualization.  The term mexica, according to folklore, was used to name mexico (mah~sheek~oh/meh~sheek~oh) and those who reside there mexicanos (meh~sheek~ah~noze).   The autonym chicano(s) was derived from mexicanos which was shortened to xicanos but spelled chicanos (she~cahn~ohs) which as you may note was spelled phonetically using spanish pronunciation; that is the ‘x’ (which in nahuatl produces the ‘shee’ sound) was replaced with ‘ch’ because it is what produces the ‘shh’ sound in spanish whereas the ‘x’ produces a ‘hee’ sound (mexico=meh~heek~oh).  As a way of symantic decolinzation, that is honoring nahuatl phonics which , again, would produce the same pronunciation (sheek~ahh~noze) but spelled “xicanos” many chicano activists took a anti-colonial stance by using ‘x’ in place of ‘ch’ to spell the autonym as to honor it’s pre-colonial semantics.  This is also done for the spelling of names, i.e. Xris, again, as a form of decolonization.  Also, to honor the chicana feminist movement, i would add the queer aztlan movement, it is common to employ the spelling chican@s (chicanas/os), as to disrupt the misogynistic undertone of spanish grammar which privileges males in that to use the ethnonym as an adjective (i.e. chicano community) or to describe a co-ed group of individuals identified as chicanos and chicanas you would use the masculine form of the ethnonym xicano(s)/chicano(s)/latino(s)/hispano(s), etc.  Those who wish to employ a more gramaticaly correct or technical way to disrupt this grammatical misogyny use the suffixes -a/o or -as/os (@/@s) instead of -o/os.  Further disrupting the intrinsic patriarchy of written spanish it is a strategic practice to place the feminine before the masculine whereas it is grammatically incorrect to do so: see below.  In spanish the ending -o is the masculine suffix for words whereas the ending -a is the feminine ending.  If speaking about both genders or in general one traditionally ends the word with -o/os in spanish which, again, privileges the masculine over the feminine.  My apologies for reifying this. 

chicano has transcended the original ethnonym which is widely accepted was a racial pejorative of describing an american-born individual with mexican-born parents or parent who would be labeled a mexican american for all intents and purposes.   chicanismo, for some, is not an ethnic/racial category or essence such as “blackness,” rather it is a social and political consciousness attached to the chicano movement (see MEChA founding documents El Plan de Santa Barbara/El Plan Espiritual) defined as pledging allegience to the common goal of pursuing or advocating for the social-, economic-, political-, and educational-rights and equality for all chicanos or la raza citizens of the united states but particularly, for those from the southwest united states, an area long believed to be the mexica homeland known as “aztlan” or the ancestral homelands of the aztecas (the sw united states holds great significance for chicanos as it is the vast area of land conceeded to the united states by mexico at the culmination of the mexican-american war ca. 1848 [treaty of guadalupe hidalgo] for which no compensation was given its inhabitants and for which false promises of equal rights and recognition were given by the united states to mexico).  chicanismo, and moreso the ethnic identity chicano should not, for many commited to la causa, be extended to those outsde of la raza (those who share indigenous/spanish heritage or as described below, mestizos).  However, bestowing honorary chicano membership to allies of any/all racial/ethnic backgrounds is more accepted today with the wide popularity of post-racial ideologies, the ubiquidous rhetoric of ethnic/racial inclusion, race-neutrality/colorblindness and american multiculturalism.

It is commonly held that “latino” it is short for “latinoamericano" or "americano latino" both spanish ethnonyms which in english are both latin american.. "latino", as an ethnic identity, is preferred by the majority of latin americans who come from the regions outside of north america (albeit mexico).  Many who do not self-identify with chicano or hispanic (see below for my analysis of the identity politics)  prefer "latino".  "latino" is widely held to be a european social-construct-that is a creation of european thinkers devised to categorize or classify humans into groups based upon linguistic heritage-and pays homage, for lack of a better term, to the fact that most "latinos" have spanish ancestry or genes (spanish being a latin-based language).  "latino" like "hispanic" is widely viewed as making invisible [Thank you Lisa Bradley http://cafenowhere.livejournal.com/305784.html] or erasing one’s indigenous ancestry.  In identity politics when having to choose between the lesser of two evils, per se, the preference for “latino” has become widely popular among american mestizos (see below for definition) as to avoid using “hispanic” to self-identify, reasons for which I expand upon below. On the same token many mestizos or raza avoid using chicano because of its orthodox connotation of having mexican/mexican american ancestry (again which is why it is widely held to be a pajorative) or due to its association with chicanismo.  chicanismo ideology has been critiqued as being anti-american, anarchical, pro-seccesionist, extremist, radical, violent and even reverse-racist.  Let me take a moment to acknowledge that “la raza” is also a contested ethnic identity.  Many dwell on the literal translation-the race-and note that this term also essentializes many peoples in a very reductionist fashion. 

Mestizaje or having spanish and indigenous ancestry is the trait which is held as binding la raza but which is not shared, nor affirmed, by all individuals viewed as belonging to la raza.  Note that not all individuals, whether self-identified as chicano, latino or hispanic accept the use of the term la raza as an alternative or neutral ethnonym for a myriad of reasons.  I use the term as a “catch-all” ethnonym. Most of those considered members of la raza are biologically/genetically “mestizo” or hybrids resultant of colonialism. mestizo, yet another european construct, is generally used to describe individuals with indigenous ( mesoamerican/pre-colonial/pre-columbian) and spanish genes and/or biological essence (this includes many contemporary native americans or genizaros).  The first documented mestizo was the child of Doña Marina degradingly known as “La Malinche” or “La chingada madre” or who was known as Malinalli Malintzin. This central figure to the narrative of la conquista was a nahua/aztec/mexica woman who married the spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and for this reason is cast as a traitor to whom all mestizos owe their existence.  

 It is not well documented where the term “hispanic” originated but most attribute its etymology to “hispania” or the Iberian peninsula not “hispaniola” which is a caribbean island. However, it is also believed that the term may derive from espanola, new mexico which was, ironically, translated back into english to hispanola then into hispanic as to make it an ethnonym. Regardless the origin, it is widely held as making invincible the indiginous side of the  hybridity which resulted from spanish conquest, colonization and inter-breeding.  Most agree that “hispanic” is not interchangeable with “spanish”-the latter is ithe term used to describe those who come from the iberian pennisula the former used to describe american-born or naturalized members of la raza.  However, many mexican americans—particularly those with deep roots in aztlan— self-identify as “spanish,” which I claim is a distancing strategy which came out of the hostile racial climate of mid-twentieth century american society used to avoid being identified as mexican or mexican american due to the negative connotation of the pejorative and the reality of being marginalize/disenfranchized, especially for thos of la raza who were marked as “other” by skin color, language, culture, etc.  Those marked as outsiders were oppressed/denigrated as to maintain white supremacy.  This resulted in many brown americans being forced to endure oppression of all sorts: physical brutality (including lynchings), segregation (residential/educational), enslavement (indentured servitude/exploitation), regimes of assimilation/cultural genocide (i.e. punitive assimilation/acculturation), unequal enforcement of legal sanctions, racial/ethnic profiling, state surveillance, etc.  Due to the pervasiveness of racism, colorism, and “racist enthnocentrism” in american society many raza  vehemently defended their pure “spanish” heritage, and still do today, through narratives and documentation.  I’ll expand on this more below.

It is widely accepted that “hispanic” as an ethnic category was created by the american government to distinguish european “whites” (anglo-saxon/european/”honorary” whites) from mestizos and even spanish americans or criollos/creoles. In the first half of the 20th Century many mexican americans, mestizos and spaniards were categorized as “white” on census records and vital statistic documents (i.e. birth cirtificates).  This did not translate into the possession of “whiteness” however.  Because spaniards are, for all intents and purposes, white europeans and more so due to the material benefits/privileges gained by the “possesive investement” of whiteness many raza sought to declare/defend their spanish or white heritage through producing birth certificates/census records of an ancestor which clearly states their race as “white”/”spanish”. 

Socially speaking, mexican americans wanted to be “white” or in possession whiteness as to enjoy the material benefits which came along with “whiteness” also known as white privilege.  Legally, “white” americans could easily maintain their hegemonic status as long as mestizos were legally “white”.  Discursively, if mexican americans were legally “white” then they could not be considered to be socially/politically disadvantaged or oppressed by white americans and ethnic/racial stratification could be explained by cultural differences versus white nationalistic/supremacist ideology or politics. The american racial hierarchy-with biological whites at the top-is preserved when claims of racial prejudice/discrimination are contextualized within race-neutral, colorblind, equal protection and post-racial paradigms.   Furthermore, if mexican americans were legally “white” they could not bring litigation against institutional whiteness and were exempt from equal protection/opportunity. protected status as american citizens

After the supreme court case Hernandez v. Texas (1954), mexican americans became a “race-apart” (see the PBS documentary “A Race Apart”) and a protected class under the 14th Amendment.  This meant that mexican americans and other members of the “brown mennace” needed to be legally defined. 

It is claimed that the ethnic category “hispanic” did not appear in U.S. Census or government documents until the 1970’s.  The categories which are employed today are “White-non-Hispanic” or white Americans, “White-Hispanic” or “criollos” (whites from Latin America i.e. those of German descent who come from Argentina) and “Hispanic-non-White” or mestizos.  These categories butress the pervasive colorism which persists among la raza which unabashadly divides latin americans into phenotypic castes with lighter skin signifiying stronger spanish biology/genetics which is seen as intrinsically more valuable or superior in latin american societies.  Further complicating the issue, many “coyotes” (black, native, spanish), “mullatos” (black and Spanish: NOT PC), afro-cubans, brazilians, portuguese, haitians, domincans, belizians, etc. do not self identify with being “hispanic”, “latino”, or “chicano” despite being externally ascribed the ethnic identity “hispanic”. 

All these terms are problematized, especially by critical theory, as treating la raza as essentially monolithic and criticized as being unable to account for the many overt and subtle differences which exist within and between the various “hispanic/latino” sub-groups.  Similarly post-colonial theory holds that these racial/ethnic categories are remnants of the colonial project which, among many things, was designed to divide, label, categorize, differentiate, essentialize and “other” la raza.  Many post-structuralists see race as socially constructed subjectivities/positionalities versus biological/genetic essences or independent variables.  The widely adhered-to colonial era ethnic categories, which are uni-ethnic also do not acknowledge the existence of bi/poly-racial individuals or those who wish to affirm a raceless persona (i,e. american versus mexican american).  Social science, and the like, tend to treat these racial/ethnic categories as independent variables which can easily be plugged into structural equations for quantitative data extraction and/or analysis.  This for, critical theorists, reifies the racial hierarchy because quantitiative racial/ethnic data is commonly used to compare la raza with other racial/ethnic groups but particularly white americans who define whiteness but whom do not soley possess, or invest in it. whiteness is usually placed at the center of data analysis and untilized as the norm or benchmark of normativity. For example, when talking about the “achievement gap” it is meant the difference or gap between any ethnic/racial group’s academic measure (i.e. test scores) and their white counterparts (until recently the data for whites was more “ideal” or reflective of better academic performance. 

These racial/ethnic categories described above can be “externally ascribed”, meaning people are placed into these categories by decoding markers of difference such as skin color, language/accent, cultural expressions/aesthetics, etc. by means of what many call the “normative gaze”.  “Externally ascribed” identities are widely seen as complicating an individual’s “internally ascribed”, or self-reported/self-determined, racial/ethnic identity.  The way in which someone comes to determine their “internally ascribed” racial/ethnic identity is explained/detailed through racial/ethnic identity formation models (Erickson, Helms, Phinney).   These models are usually linear and sequential as to suggest that one progresses along a continuum, starting with childhood, eventually “arriving” at an “authentic” racial/ethnic identity.  These models also suggest that an individual progresses forward through stages of identity formation and do not allow for identity regression, for example, meaning once you’ve passed through the “immersion/emersion” stage (Helms) or racial/ethnic identity formation, for example, you will never return or go back through it or the preceeding “disintegration” (Helms) stage.  

So what does this say about racial/ethnic identity politics in america?: that so much social value is given to race/ethnicity in america that much is at stake in affirming an “internally ascribed” identity which may or may not trump any “externally ascribed” identity especially if the “externally ascribed” identity is stigmatized.  Socially speaking, so much is attached to racial signifiers like ethnic/racial categories that we will deny or avoid affirming our “true” (not with a capital T as this is all subjective and socially constructed) racial/ethnic heritage and arm ourselves with a less-denigrating identity, i.e. “spanish”.  This is one conundrum that biological “whites” don’t have to navigate and even enjoy the ability to appropriate other racial/ethnic identities without reprisal: proof positive of “white privilege”.  Ironically, white americans do avoid affirming a “racist white” identity and can “other” such whites.

Most young americans of color wish to be socially defined in colorblind or raceless terms in order to be emancipated from having assumptions made about their intrinsic character, abilities and worth based upon their externally ascribed race/ethnicity (usually determined by phenotypic traits).  While it may be a reality that american society is no longer overtly racist, cultural reproduction persists.  The american (neo)liberal notion that we are a post-racial society defined by equal opportunity (aka colorblind meritocracy) discursively denies the pervasiveness of racism/racial discrimination and makes invincible the taken-for-granted racial hierarchy that stratifies americans.  This leads many to the “culture of poverty” paradigm or discursively attributing the many social/political/economic disparities which occur along lines of race/ethnicity in america (again as compared to their white counterparts) to the cultural deficiencies of the subjugated racial/ethnic minority groups versus white privilege, white nationalism and white ethnocentrism and racism.  

A post-colonial poem by a neo-colonial nobody

Pioneering post-colonial parties and their bounty
Encounter pre-colonial predispositions, cautious and weary
Imperial impasses remain triangulated, few can see

Markers of difference revealed by the normative gaze
Ethnic essences reduced to expressions saved for token holidays
Affirmative action did under by neo-Social Darwinists’ nays
A better argument for reverse racism no counter-story can raise
Post-racial civil rights makes new-world-order martyrs out of the gays

National territories remain perpetually foreign to the aboriginal heathen
Whose salvation and sanity is contingent upon hegemonic Reason
Focauldian analyses represented as mutinous treason

Apartheid msafiris and modern-era mistrals defined by global-citizen ethnographies
Intellectual traditions of the west afford the subaltern with upward social mobility, sponsored is popular thought
To colonize the hybridity hilltops, primitive poles or abstract amazons; circumnavigating decolonizing deserts
The superior scale multicultural mountain peaks and escape urban jungles for serene inclusion islands
Most ascribe to Ontological Geographic but never read about Fanon’s frontiers or Said’s Oriental tropes

Designer moral compasses made in china impart imperial subjectivities
Whether hierarchical heirlooms, white-privilege pillages, or indigenous thought
Epistemological maps are the cartographies laid out in academic disserts
Authentic topography renders the world round, political maps carve states from those lands
Racialized-resistance critiques the comodification of socialist hopes

Lest we forget from whence we came, we remain static in an age-antebellum
Pillars of progress buttress the discoveries of european explorers like Magellan
Not the benevolent’s bad if out of necessity the ‘other’ becomes a felon

Eurocentric enclaves into the heart of darkness result in legacies with the luxury of electricity’s light
Nativism is a spectacle sport, underdogs made for museums, placards of plight
Bi-polar opponents debate map makings’ future, wrong versus right
Dare to dream like an impossible-imperial, you just might take flight
Dream that you dare the imperial impossible, lest we forget not fight

Q’ Viva Dia De Los Muertos new edit Nov 2012

Q’ Viva Día De Los Muertos

Eres piel moreno, that cancion was da shit
Brown is beautiful except if you’re too brown inside or out
besides I’m peddled vows that “I don’t see people in terms of color so sit”
I think to myself “ain’t that some bull shit,” so I shout

q’ viva día de los muertos

the living dead run the streets por la madrugada
preyed upon by the balla balla saving up for his miata
whatever happened to the boy who had no fada?

q’ viva día de los muertos

I drive the streets and think, “Oh what a man am I”
Ay there’s the rub… that’s some guy named Shakespeare
The rub… LOL… rubba dub dub I once was told they clean meth in a tub
many rubs later I’d be reviled or revered for being an aztlan queer

q’ viva día de los muertos

The envious living live their lives and cheat on their wives
vowing to chase the American dream; “Life is but a dream.”
you’re feeling sleepy, the technocrat hypnotists prioritize our lives
Those oppressed in their waking lives dare not dream so they scream

q’ viva día de los muertos

I pray to El santo nino
with dirty thoughts of some vato named Nino
Singing “I’m too sexii for this shirt”
Scared?… then go to church while I do my dirt

q’ viva día de los muertos

they stone me as a damned cultural catholic
they stoned my pa a lazy no good spic
maybe what I need is an ol’ fashion ass kick

q’ viva día de los muertos

a life lived on one’s rodillas, says Pancho Villa, isn’t worth our time mi raza
stil we mimic the powers that be and take our turn preaching del bully pulpit
shouting over the huddled bottom who whisper to one another “Ain’t dat some bullshit”
slumbering nightmares and waking dreams of tamales q’ no son de pura masa

q’ viva día de los muertos

La Llorona del Longoria Affair haunts the vaulted halls of Yale so we yell
“Wait a cotton picking minute, all is well at Yale so please don’t yell.
P.S. you beaners smell,” dice el gringo guey

q’ viva día de los muertos

Assimilation conquered away mis antepasados culture-of-poverty fears
neo-social Darwinists of today whisper sweet nothings in their ears
a sacred procession of hitos march hacia la pinta, violating rears
too many beers begets sixty years and tattood tears

q’viva día de los muertos


Colorblind Meritocracy or (neo)Social Darwinism?

The majority of Americans, regardless of racial/ethnic identity, associate the election of President Obama with the fulfillment of “the Dream”—articulated by Martin Luther King, Jr. and fought for during the Civil Rights Movement—that any American will be afforded equal opportunity to climb the meritocratic ladder and achieve upward social mobility unfettered by their race or ethnicity. That is to say liberated from assumptions being made about one’s character, cognitive or physical ability, integrity, worth and/or potential based upon their externally-ascribed ethnic/racial identity. A disturbing, yet widely embraced, trend is sweeping through institutions of higher education and the entire K-16 continuum which is transitioning from, what is seen as outdated, diversity language to that of inclusion with some adding the term to become diversity and inclusion. Roberson in her analysis of the convergences and divergences of the diversity paradigm and the inclusion paradigm entitled “Disentangling the Meanings of Diversity and Inclusion” concludes that we have a limited understanding of whether it represents a material change in organizational actions and outcomes, or simply a change of phrasing to reduce backlash against the same initiatives (Linnehan & Konrad, 1999” (p. 4). Roberson attributes our lack of understanding whether shifts to a paradigm of inclusion represents material change for equitable outcomes for underrepresented students to the fact that we do not have a consensus of what exactly are the indicators of inclusion and what measures should be assessed when gauging its effectiveness .So then if inclusion, as the term suggests entails the mere inclusion of all students than this is easily achieved and how this leads to equitable outcomes seems to rest upon the individual academic performance. This perspective tends to ignore the impacts of school culture or other ecological and social psychological factors on the academic performance of underrepresented students. Students of color—now framed as underrepresented students as to bring the label(s) into line with the “rhetoric of inclusion” 1 —aspire to be defined in terms which do not question their academic efficacy or merit nor which undermines their contributions to academia or respective campus community due to the generations of tokenism which preceded them. I contend that the externally ascribed ethnic/racial identity of a student—that which someone bases upon phenotype— trumps any internally ascribed ethnic/racial identity so then the decoding of markers of difference—i.e. skin color 2 , accent, cultural expression, citizenship status—would be more pertinent to my analysis than the ethnic/racial identities which one claims to be. If a professor, academic advisor, admissions office or administrator can claim to be colorblind than no such semiotic approach could be claimed in the assessment of actions and the disparate impact of race-neutral policies could be framed as being the result of things other than white privilege or white nationalism. Americans are socialized to take it as granted that racial and ethnic minorities are no longer as socially paralyzed—if at all—by racism as in the past and can reasonably aspire to ascend to the highest levels of the academic continuum, faculty position and/or administrative position; this is interpreted as proof that the glass ceiling has now been removed. This discursively substantiates the widely held notion that we are a post-racial society free from overt structural or institutional racist ethnocentrism despite few instances of individual racism existing and never are actions expressed as intentionally racist or discriminatory. Students lacking the social or cultural capital required to navigate institutional bureaucracies or western academia, especially at large universities, are put at an academic disadvantage compared to their white counterparts, consideration for which is slowly but surely diminishing. Any race conscious undertaking, particularly admissions and recruitment, are seen as unnecessary relics of the Civil Rights Era, and unjust in their application while academic departments, student leadership groups and pre-professional enclaves which remain homogenous in their make-up (read: white) despite always being inclusive are allowed to remain homogenous without interrogation and unproblematized. 3 Educators and many educational researchers will use ethnic/racial categories as to study the achievement gap which reifies the American racial hierarchy with whites at the top serving as the benchmark of success or normativity while disavowing white privilege or white racism while teaching an Eurocentric core-curriculum which racialized underrepresented students to develop an “oppositional culture” (Fordham & Ogbu 1986) or a low academic self-esteem/efficacy/disposition which translates into a low level of academic performance and/or career aspirations. There are countless anecdotes of poor white professionals who digress that they had to work to put themselves through college—while ethnic/racial minorities got scholarships or Pell Grants—and represent what America is all about: hard work to advance up the meritocratic ladder.

Socioeconomic status is widely employed as a proxy for race as this is colorblind and allows many more whites to be considered academically disadvantaged for being from a low SES or rural region. Studies like those led by Somnoth Saha 4 show that SES alone is not a good predictor of future physician practice patterns whereas race/ethnicity are good predictor of future physician practice patterns showing that a physicians of color (of a particular specialty) from all SES backgrounds serve a greater proportion of indigent, medically underserved, and racial/ethnic minority patients than their white counterparts. The (neo)liberal logic follows that the aforementioned equal opportunity, for all intents and purposes, should translate into equitable outcomes for racial/ethnic minority groups: this is academically proven through empirical research, politically legislated through race-neutral policies which have co-opted equal opportunity language, legally mandated through laws restricting special benefits based on race/ethnicity and socially through neo-liberal ideology or neo-Social Darwinism and collectively embraced for the most part. Therefore the educational, socio-economic and health disparities which occur along lines of race and ethnicity are thought to be caused not by structural, institutional, or even individual racism rather attributable to the cultural-ecological deficiencies or the natural order of things (read: neo-Social Darwinism and “culture of poverty” 5 ideologies). Despite claims at being colorblind, admissions policies (i.e. holistic reviews or top ten percent rules) and student recruitment or retention programming (the all inclusive academic affairs/outreach) are resulting in more racially/ethnically stratified student bodies.

Using culture and environment to explain differences is more detrimental to the cause of social justice in education than biology because culture and environment are framed using positivistic lenses or seen as strictly dependent variables which is to say within the realm of human agency to transform, modify or exhibit control over. This makes the causal relationship one for which individuals are deemed to be accountable for and seen as rectifiable through intervention or prevention. Therefore, as eluded to earlier, explanations of things like the achievement gap, higher incidences of delinquency, lower levels of educational attainment, and higher sense of academic apathy are culturally explained and linked to sociological concepts like Oscar Lewis’ “the culture of poverty” 6 and it is the individual agency that is at fault. This effectively allows people to write-out things like institutionalized white privilege or racism as causative of disparate distribution of information, social capital, power and wealth. The claim that we are not different biologically (i.e. cognitively) or legally and subsequently socially is persuasive. It allows for institutions to be framed using (re)presentations such as a “stock story” as benevolently meritocratic and colorblind institutions. 7 It perpetuates the fallacy that there is symmetry between the social attitudes and beliefs of whites and non-whites. It holds that there is symmetry in the impact of those attitudes and beliefs as well. This would allow for “reverse-discrimination” and the phenomenon of homophily to be seen as natural for whites (i.e. undergraduate fraternal social organizations) but as self-segregation for non-whites (i.e. MEChA).

This I posit constitutes neo-Social Darwinism 8 and any attempt to ameliorate the past oppression—which have no contemporary impact—of racial/ethnic minorities through targeted academic outreach, for example, constitutes reverse discrimination or extending what are seen as special benefits—such as race-specific scholarships, internships or academic enrichment—to one or more students from an historically oppressed group comes at the expense of the collective but particularly the white public. Diversity initiatives within institutions of higher education across the nation have been scaled back, framed as unnecessary budget busters, all together eliminated or rearticulated using colorblind meritocratic language informed by “the rhetoric of inclusion”. The post-Obama principle of Inclusion, according to popular belief, I posit, is defined as remedying the adverse effects of Affirmative Action (read: reverse discrimination/racism) in the compelling interest of the collective public. This colorblind meritocracy is in direct opposition to notions of color-conscious policies and practices such as ethnic affairs offices, affirmative action admissions, race-specific education or outreach programs or benefits such as scholarships. Many see “inclusion” being contingent upon the absence of exclusion such as a white student being, by virtue of his or her race, excluded from consideration, contention or eligibility. They equate such practices to racist practices or racial/ethnic discrimination of the past decades and contend that whites too can suffer the same alienation at the hands of racial/ethnic minorities in contemporary policies and practices such as educational outreach programming tailored to racial/ethnic minorities and resistance to opening up such efforts to whites is tantamount to reverse discrimination and diversity initiatives are forced to adopt equal opportunity language such as “while these events are tailored to racial/ethnic minority students any student regardless of race is free to attend”.

Colorblind Meritocracy praxis in education

From my personal professional experiences 9 while you don’t want to exclude white students for this would be just as egregious of the exclusion of underrepresented students when white students from the dominant culture attend academic outreach/enrichment programs or presentations—I’m limited to the state of Utah— with a focus on the collective experiences of students of color such as a presentation on Diversity in Medicine white students tend to be more confident than their racial/ethnic minority counterparts and co-opt the attention and neo-colonize the once safe space for racial/ethnic minorities to candidly speak to their collective experiences with racism and microagressions 10 and white students become defensive and deny claims of white privilege and what should have been a productive activity that many racial/ethnic minority students depend on to cope with culture shock or “racial battle fatigue” 11 becomes yet another culture war and this will usually leave a sour taste in the mouths of racial/ethnic minority students while leaving white students feeling attacked or ganged up on. Through such experiences racial/ethnic minority students, staff and faculty learn to silence their frustrations with white privilege in the presence of whites out of fear of alienating white students, staff and/or faculty. I was thrown under the bus as the cause for the University of Utah School of Medicine’s transition from a ethnic/race-centered Office of Diversity and Community Outreach to the Office of Inclusion and Outreach when an e-mail I wrote included the term “racial battle fatigue” was interpreted as encouraging a racial battle as this term was cherry-picked. Racial/ethnic minorities become color-conscious 12 and in the presence of whites avoid being seen as essentializing all whites in a reductionist fashion as the beneficiaries of white privilege or articulating one’s resistance to the pressures to embrace whiteness as to enjoy the benefits of tokenism and the painful fall-out of silencing their racial/ethnic identity as to avoid accentuating our differences which divide us rather than the normative whiteness which unifies us. Racial/ethnic epistemologies are seen as free for the taking or researching from a Eurocentric perspective while policing of the cultural borderlands is frowned upon if it means acting as gatekeepers preventing whites from freely crossing said cultural borderlands. While I would concede that most white students wish to learn to be global citizens and through such interactions be culturally competent professionals I contend that their presence reifies the racial hierarchy and racial/ethnic minority students take a submissive posturing to the more gregarious white students who tend to co-opt the attention of all participants including the presenters or facilitators. The post-Obama principle of inclusion is forced upon historically marginalized, oppressed and disenfranchised groups as the new order of race relations and necessary to sustaining “the Dream” and the definition of diversity has been expanded as to transcend race and ethnicity to include any individual such as a white heterosexual social conservative in Oakland. It is held that since America is post-racial which compounded with the fact that it is illegal to exclude racial/ethnic minorities from participation in any public arena or activity has resulted in the popular belief that it is unnecessary to oversee the enforcement or adherence to anti-racist behavior or ideologies. Structures, institutions or outreach targeted or tailored to one or more racial/ethnic minority group is seen
as detrimental self-segregation or discriminatory towards the white majority. While institutions fervently scramble to dismantle diversity projects there is no analogous efforts to ensure that exclusionary cultures or practices are exposed, interrogated or remedied within historically homogenously white enclaves such as Greek organizations, pre-professional organizations, faculty, administration or leadership. The lack of presence or participation of racial/ethnic minorities is held as resultant of racial/ethnic minority apathy, lack of initiative or agency, and ultimately cultural deficiencies rather than discriminatory patterns or practices. Opportunity is defined along zero-sum lines with equal opportunity seen as unachievable if special attention or benefits are conferred upon any group regardless of their degree of underrepresentation. The well documented consolidation of whiteness is refuted as anecdotes of early immigrants (read: honorary whites) such as the Irish or Italians are touted as proof-positive that a once oppressed group can shake off the shackles of oppression to become socially equal. No credence is given to the role which phenotype compatibility played in this American myth. Inclusion is an ingenious way to cloak complacency with the status quo with whites at the top of the social pyramid and whiteness employed as the benchmark of normativity. Even racial/ethnic minorities are given the bully pulpit to profess the end of racism with themselves serving as testaments to post-racial America. On the same token Affirmative Action is said to undermine the contributions and achievements of racial/ethnic minorities, selling false hope to racial/ethnic minority youth and doing a disservice to those afforded sponsored upward social mobility by setting up said groups up for failure. This is seen as being done at the expense of whites who do not deserve to be held accountable or reminded by sanction of the past infringements and indiscretions of their ancestors against racial/ethnic minorities. Inclusion is, in practice, held as being achieved if no particular group or individual is overtly excluded from enjoying equal opportunity with no need to expend the same or any energy to ensure that a color-conscious invitation is extended to racial/ethnic minorities as to achieve the greatest participation or representation possible of historically oppressed or excluded groups. Advisors see no need to tailor their advising to the specific needs or positionalities of said racial/ethnic minority groups while the responsibility for cultural adjustment or adaptation (read: assimilation) is placed upon the racial/ethnic minority students with no need for structural paradigm shifts or institutionalization of non-normative (read: non-white) cultures, cosmologies/epistemologies, or positionalities. If total assimilation is achieved there is no need to interrogate, research, problematize nor remedy the structural or institutional norms which manifest as exclusionary practices because it is taken for granted that equal opportunity pervades while any exclusion or other actions which results in disparate outcomes for racial/ethnic minorities, should they unlikely occur, are unintentional and the collateral damage of colorblind, race-neutral policies and practices.

The Outlook

Continuing to use race to socially categorize people is a relic of the colonial project’s regime of difference. The colonial project used difference to divide people between “us” (the colonizer) and the “Other” (the colonized). But another thing that plagued colonized peoples was the fact that “confusion and division also characterized the subjugated” (Winant, 2010). This is what can happen in the 21 st Century: divide and conquer. Whites will still maintain their hegemony unless it is disrupted and whiteness looses is social, political, and economic hegemony.

Winant claims that white superiority and its subsequent ideological hegemony has been the common thread throughout the trajectory of white domination from colonial white supremacy to the white privilege of the 20 th Century to the colorblind meritocracy of today and the future. He argues that “[t]he rearticulation of (in)equality in an ostensibly color-blind framework emphasizing individualism and meritocracy, it turns out, preserves the legacy of racial hierarchy far more effectively than its explicit defense (Crenshaw et al. 1995)” (Winant, 2001). And he takes head-on the notion that we have moved “beyond race” or as some refer to it are “post-racial”. The sweeping election of our first African American President (never mind he’s bi-racial, we privilege only his blackness) signals the end of overwhelming racial prejudice in the nation. He calls this and recent leaps and bounds in race relations both domestically and globally a “reordering of world racial dynamics” and that this “does not suggest that we are in anyway ‘beyond race,’ or that comprehensive patterns of racial inequality and injustice are no longer fundamental to the global social structure. It only means—and this is important enough—that world racial formation continues” (Winant, 2001).

My suggestion for a nuanced approach

I suggest using the neo-social-Darwinian concept of “inclusion” to turn the topic on its head. I would shift the demand for the inclusion of ethnic studies as a major to a demand for inclusionary disciplines as to open doors for more co-constructivist, trans-disciplinary and transformative research. This would look something like having an ethnic-specific sub-focus for most if not all the majors. Therefore if I am wanting to write a dissertation on the Hispanic/Chicana/Latina midwifery in the southwest United States than this would be something that the History, Gender Studies, and perhaps School of Nursing would be required to accommodate. Perhaps having a “Chicano Studies” certificate program which predetermined departments would be required to offer courses for. Even perhaps demanding an academic research center/think-tank for social justice where each ethnic group is still represented but following a less ethno-centric/hierarchical model, rather, a co-constructivist, and plenary model. Let’s face it, ethnic studies has not been as transformative and emancipatory as intended and it is time we stay ahead of the neo-liberal ideology’s hallmarks like neo-Social Darwinism, meritocracy, inclusion, colorblindness, and post-race and its attacks and begin work on a more comprehensive plan to become institutionalized to the point that we don’t have to be put on the racial defense team for ethnic studies programs all the while there is no such debate going on about why the already “inclusive”, likely colorblind (self-identified/sanctioned), pre-professional student organizations across the nation are largely dominated by and made accessible (not necessarily LITERALLY) to white-non-Hispanic American students. The prescriptive notion of racial/ethnic “inclusion” is no vaccine against gate-keeping, profiling, fraternization, and preferential treatment based on phenotype or externally-ascribed race/ethnicity.


1 “It [rhetoric of inclusion] might affirm the elitism that lurks in much of academia, surfacing in corridor conversations about how ‘they,’ those underprepared and underrepresented students, do not belong in college anyway. Or a statement might focus on inclusion alone, omitting diversity, thus affirming the mythic American goal of homogeneity, assimilation, the melting pot (Roy 43-44).” (p. 185) “The Grammar and Rhetoric of Inclusion.” Author(s): Alice Roy; Source: College English, Vol. 57, No. 2 (Feb., 1995), pp. 182-195 
2 see Fergus, E. (2009). Understanding Latino Students’ Schooling Experiences: The Relevance of Skin Color Among Mexican American and Puerto Rican High School Students. Teachers College Record, 111(2): 339-375. Teachers College: Columbia University: he contends that “it is not enough to know who is Black, White, and Hispanic; rather who gets [emphasis added] to be Black, White, Hispanic and how such social constructs operate as a lens for setting the conditions for learning, navigating and engaging the school context” (p. 371).
3 “…patterns of separation [exclusion] extend beyond the classroom and show up in those areas of the school where membership is based on voluntary association. Our data showed that nearly every club, sports team, and extracurricular activity offered by the school had a racially exclusive make-up. Even more disturbing was the act that any activity that might be regarded as having the potential to enhance one’s academic performance (e.g., academic clubs and the debating team) was comprised almost exclusively of White students.
…such patterns were rationalized as the product of choices made freely by the students. Some adults at the school condoned these practices as a way of accommodating the diverse cultures and interests present within the school, and they argued that these patterns of separation provided a form of cultural affirmation. However, others saw these voluntary forms of racial separation as a way of disguising the patters that reinforced the racial disparities at the school” (p 72)

4 Saha, S. et al. (2008). Student Body Racial and Ethnic Composition and Diversity-Related Outcomes in US Medical Schools. JAMA 300 (10): 1135-1145 
Saha, S. et al. (2008). Race-Neutral Versus Race-Conscious Workforce Policy to Improve Access to Health Care. Health Affairs 27 (1): 234-245 

5 Lewis, Oscar. Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty (1959) The basic premise outlined by Lewis’ work was that while the low socio-economic status of racial/ethnic minorities may be structurally caused it is the “culture of poverty” which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and are to blame for their own plight: that is for not taking advantage of the endless opportunities American society provides: there is no need to account for things like white privilege for they do not exist.
6 Ibid. many racial/ethnic minorities become indoctrinated by this paradigm and suggest that too often racial/ethnic minorities play the race-card and the victim while taking no accountability for their own lives and “pull themselves up by their boot straps” and adopt a “social racial/ethnic identity avoidance” (Cohen and Garcia “I Am Us”: Negative Stereotypes as Collective Threats 2005) approach as to assimilate into mainstream public opinion.
7 “Deficit-based beliefs” that Latino “families…[are]…a burden for college students” and that “their lack of familiarity with college life and expectations, [coupled with] their insistence on maintaining physically close contact with their children” (Villalpando, 2000, p.15) make Latino culture the reason the “achievement gap” exists. Stories like this serve as the institution’s “stock story—the one the institution collectively forms and tells about itself. … This story…chooses from among the available facts to present a picture [that] emphasizes the school’s benevolent motivation…” (Delgado 1989, p. 259). This paternalistic attitude perpetuates the “inferiority paradigm” that “is built on the belief that people of color are biologically and genetically inferior to Whites” (Tate, 1997, p.199). The “achievement gap,” is often understood as the fact that Latino students are not performing at the same level as their white counterparts. This reifies the racial hierarchy and white supremacy paradigm in that “the White middle-class American (often) serves as the standard against which other groups are compared” (Tate, 1997, p.199).
8 21 st Century American “Social Darwinism” (Graves, 2001) holds that historically oppressed peoples are now legally, biologically and in the 21 st Century socially equal. Therefore there is no need for outdated social policies like affirmative action or targeted academic outreach. And to advocate for programs and scholarships that are targeted or open only to communities historically underrepresented in the sciences for example, is tantamount to reverse discrimination and perpetuates images of exclusion and special interest. What is lost is the fact that historically oppressed people do not share the same social/cultural capital and therefore equal opportunity does not translate into equitable outcomes. We are complacent with using proxies for race that we perceive to be a more “stable referent” (Lopez, 1996)—such as SES and geographical location—and think them better predictors of behavioral traits.
9 I served as the Premedical Program Coordinator for the University of Utah, School of Medicine during the 2008/09, 2009/10 academic school years and traveled to most of the, then eleven, institutions of higher education within the Utah System of Higher Education
10 “Racial microagressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” – Racial Microagressions in Everyday Life
11 Broken Silence: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty and Graduate Students edited by Darrell Cleveland. Chapter 16 – Black Faculty Coping with Racial Battle Fatigue: The Campus Racial Climate in a Post-Civil Rights Era by William A. Smith (2004)
12 Also known as “double-consciousness” or knowing people are assessing/evaluating you based upon your race/ethnicity: Du Bois, W. E. B. “Of Our Spiritual Strivings.” Hayes, Floyd W. A Turbulent Voyage. San Diego: Collegiate Press, 2000. 298-302. related to the concept introduced by Cornel West (1982/2002) in Prophecy Deliverance! known as the “normative gaze” or decoding your markers of difference as they relate to what is socially/culturally normal

Meritocracy.edu/Machismo Machismo: a hetero-normative social construct of the colonial project that adversely impacts latino male academic experiences and outcomes

According to (post)colonial theory part of the colonial projects’ contemporary impact on american society is a nation divided along rigid racial/ethnic lines that are highly policed as to preserve its authenticity and integrity through cultural signifiers or norms/codes. american society remains butressed by a racial/ethnic hierarchy with whiteness (not the biological/gentic essence) serving as the benchmark of normativity and taken-for-granted. Nonconformity with the norms as defined by whiteness is seen as a threat to the preservation of american hegemony and sustainability. Subjugated racial/ethnic identities are cast as deviant and “less-than” hallmarked by cultural deficiencies which translate into inequitable outcomes despite their existing a “level playing field”. Much of our ideological underpinnings come from protestantism (zionism), liberalism, republicanism and capitalism. That is, hard work, superlative cognitive ability and unfettered resolve will translate into upward social mobility through a merit-based reward system with race-neutral/colorblind measures of norms or indicators of individual merit and subsequent accomplishments. Combined these paradigms produce the guiding principles and basic tenets which buttress the social contract we are led to understand as american democracy. Classrooms are not closed boxes free from the negative impact these ideological positionalities can produce such as “culture of poverty” ideolgical underpinnings or neo-Social Darwinsm. Nor are american public K-12 educators and administrators sufficiently trained or equipped with pedogogical tools to prevent american students from being adversely racialized by these ideologies. For example, latino culture in america is informed by the european social construct (or positionality/subjectivity) known as machismo which has adversely impacted young latino men and disenfranchised male queer xicanos. machismo according to the Merrium-Webster Online Dictionary is defined as: “Exaggerated pride in masculinity, perceived as power, often coupled with a minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences. In machismo there is supreme valuation of characteristics culturally associated with the masculine and a denigration of characteristics associated with the feminine. It has for centuries been a strong current in Latin American politics and society.” machismo, particularly in urban metropolitan centers, has been attached to deviant behaviors i.e. gang culture while normative behavior such as educational attainment have been widely attached to marianismo, the antithesis of machismo. This is why I consider such constructs as machismo as disempowering remnants of the colonial project which, among many things, sought to divide and conquer colonial subjects. Before I begin my analysis of machismo and its impact on the academic performance and educational psychology of male latinos I must point out that latinos are a very complex american demographic and one sub-group is often disregarded in academic research and outreach: latino “involuntary minorities.”1 “Involuntary [latino] minorities,” for the most part, are those whose ancestors became naturalized american citizens, albeit second-class, over night after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848 conceeding a vast territory spanning approximately a dozen contemporary U.S. states. The educational experiences of this latino sub-group are in many aspects radically different from other latino sub-groups such as first generation americans or immigrants. Despite this latino sub-groups’ “material investment in whiteness”2 which, through assimilation, over time is taken-for-granted their educational experiences have resulted in disparate educational outcomes with lower educational attainment pervasive. This has translated into the latino community possesing less social capital manifested as little clout or social power and hallmarked by little to no upward social mobility spanning generations. The land which was lost to white american settlers meant that latino non-voluntary minorities had little liquid assets with which to invest in education, community development or business. Through my research I seek to bring this latino sub-group to the foreground as I have found much research on the educational experiences and outcomes of latinos rely on the assumption that all latino students embody the immigrant student (i.e. Suarez-Orozco/Suarez Orozco’s piece Educating Latino Immigrant Students in the Twenty-first Century which as evident in the title supposed to be about latino immigrant students is replete with references to “Latino students” absent the qualifier that their research is focused on latino immigrant students; see also Roland Sintos Coloma’s piece All Immigrants are Mexicans, Only Blacks are Minorities, But some of Us are Brave: Race, Multiculturalism, and Postcolonial Studies in U.S. Education).

The effect that the tendancy to treat latinos as a monolithic group who are perpetually foreigners has had on gender identity/behavioral norms is the wide acceptance that latinos are inherently a y machista cultural group. Because of machismos rigid adhernce to gender roles and definitions within latin american societies it is expected that the same holds true for american latinos whereas white americans are viewed as more open to gender non-normative behavior such as that of metrosexuals. Machismo values that which is associated with masculinity while devaluing that which is associated with femininity. Masculine gender behavioral norms tend to favor haphazardness, highly competative/combative sportsmanship, no holds barred ethos and hyper-masculinity. Machismo is highly hetero-normative and holds little tolerance for gender-variant expression. The binary which seperates male from female behaviors holds that braun is associated with the masculine and brains with that of the feminine. It is also assumed that few latinos have a legacy of higher education and as immigrants occupy the lower levels of socio-economic status and its occupational, political and academic spheres. It is also a pervasive assumption that english is the second language of latino americans affording them little academic efficacy within an english only education system. Another stereotype of latino culture is its adherence to catholic cannon which advocates for starting families early on and restricts abortion while valuing strong family ties requiring collectivism, little individualism or agency and heteronormativity. This has translated into Latino culture having a reputation of having little or no intrinsic value for higher education and due to the aforementioned cultural deficiencies requires the intervention of benevolent institutions and individuals3 (read: those with whiteness) as to get latino students to achieve matriculation into an institution of higher education while aiming to remedy the deficiencies of latino parents such as over-protectiveness, low levels of english proficiency, expectations of financial contribution and over-nurturing.. Corrective academic outreach aimed at latino parents seems to center on showing or teaching parent’s how to suppport their kids as well as how to “be or become involved” in their children’s education (i.e. attend parent-teacher conferences and other normative parent-school interactions. . For example, many programs condescendingly patronize latino parents by explaining to them that they must be invested in their children’s education (as if they are not already) and mustn’t require their child to stay at home (versus staying in dorms or going out of state for school) nor expect their students to work to help support the family while in college. The derogetory connotation is that teachers and administrators, not latino parents, are educational advocates to the latino community and somehow all latino youth strive to be better than their parents and assimilate through educational pursuits. They go so far as to suggest that latino parents aren’t invested in, interested about and/or supportive of their children’s’ education if, for example, the teacher’s attempts to communicate are not reciprocated or latino parents do not attend activities/events tailored to parents. I posit K-12 teachers don’t afford latino parents, many times, a holistic assessment of their percieved level of involvement insofar as it may be the case that many more latino parents must work two or more jobs and subsequently possess less availability for teacher-parent conferencing or communication (keep in mind they may not possess the english language skills or modes necessary for meaningful communication). In K-12 classrooms the core curriculum is a great racializing force and critical theory posits that a “hidden curriculum” teaches that latinos or mestizos are the descendants of uncivilized, nomadic, non-hygenic„ static and euro-emancipated peoples who exceled in the arts and textile/ceramic production. The impact this has on the academic disposition/performance/self-esteem/self-efficacy of many latino students is that they suffer from “stereotype threat,”4 low completion rates, adopting an “oppositional culture,” and accountable on an individual level due to latino american’s “culture of poverty.”5 Many young latino men, particluarly urban latino male adolescents, are led to believe that there exists primarily two ways in which to achieve the american dream (read: material wealth): becoming a mythical baler through entrepreneurial—albeit illicit—means or being an inherent intellect which affords you the academic efficacy needed for navigating and successfully completing a higher education which will lead to a good paying career. If you are a male latino inherent intellect and pursue higher education you are not chastised as a “sell-out” by your raza, as Ogbu and Fordham suggest happens, rather you are admired and encouraged. However, a latino man’s machismo is adversely percieved when oriented towards the academy and can even be grounds for questioning one’s straightness is unmarried and interested in school in their mid 20’s. Yet, if you are not an inherent intellect it can be expected that you will form an “oppositional identity or culture”6 hallmarked by gang affiliations, womanizing, excessive indulgence and illicit activities. Furthermore, latino youth’s academic self-esteem or self-efficacy may be adversely impacted because It is not taught to latino children in many K-12 classrooms that our indigenous ancestors were scientists, engineers, doctorsor even civilized rather they were primitive, barbarian, human-sacrificers and part of the discovered landscape and saved or brought into the modern world through colonization.

Through my praxis I seek to disrupt the eurocentric and misogynistic underpinnings of the NCLB core curriculum by employing a “culturally relevant pedagogy”7 buttressed by historical revisionism. Later in another posting I will flesh out the concept of historical revisionism, corrective ethnography and subaltern studies as empowering, transformative and/or emancipatory pedagogical tools. Whenever I get the chance I seek to engage those with indigenous roots on the topic of our indignous ancestors’ orientation towards intellectual pursits by posing the rhetorical question: “Did you know that the aztecs had doctors who invented glue sutures/stitches and performed surgery with anesthesiology and had far superior hygenic practices then the conquistadors?” I then go on to explain the scientific advancements of the aztecs and other mesoamerican groups.8 As to disrupt the heteronormativity instilled into most K-12 students, particularly latino males, and taken-as-granted, I pose the rhetorical question: “Did you know that machismo was not part of our indigenous ancestor’s culture; it was brought by the spanish (sometimes I have to remind people that spain IS part of europe and pure spanish blood is not a reality for many latino “involuntary minorities”) and androgynous or masculine females and feminine males were afforded high social standing?” Well I would guesstimate that 9 out of 10 times my question is met with skeptical stares coupled with vehement denial that any such claim has no merit. In fact, I add, the same reverence for “two-spirited people” undergirds many cultures beyond the americas. The PBS program Independent Lens’ website features an awesome interactive map of gender identity traditions around the globe which embrace androgyny or effeminate biological males and masculine biological females (not sure if this includes hybrid sexes i.e. hermaphrodites). Laframboise and Anhorn (2008) define, for the native american, the concept of being “two-spirited” as follows:

“…before the Europeans came to the America’s, “two-spirit” referred to an ancient teaching. This type of cross-gender identity has been documented in over 155 tribes across Native North America (Roscoe 1988).
Our Elders tell us of people who were gifted among all beings because they carried two spirits, that of male and female. It is told that women engaged in tribal warfare and married other women, as there were men who married other men. These individuals were looked upon as a third and fourth gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were honoured and revered. Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, the care givers (Roscoe 1988). They were respected as fundamental components of our ancient culture and societies”.

So contrary to popular belief and contemporary native american and latino culture norms to embody the opposite gender either aesthetically or behaviorally in pre-colonial or mesoamerican cultures did not carry with it the stigma that is does today. Granted with the advent of the “metrosexual” man and attempts to institutionalize post-structuralist paradigms such as “post-race,” adherence to outdated and rigid gender identity and expression norms is less enforced in american society for latinos-thanks to machismo-it is still seen as a disgrace for biological males to blur or disrupt the binary lines which seperate machoness and femininity. From my own experience, I contend that latina biologincal women who express a male essence (if there is such a thing) are widely accepted among biological latino males especially in latino gang culture whereas gender-variant males’ experiences are peppered with bullying, physical and emotional violence and overall “othering” by machismo. Again this is atributable to machismo’s preference for the masculine over feminine and to regress is an aboniation. It is so taboo to be a gender-variant male in machista cultures that great lengths are taken as to avoid “gender-bending” and disrupting machismo’s “normative gaze”9 is not seen as a worthwhile or plausible effort.

There is much reflexivity in my analysis which gives it more authenticity but which does not make it more correct or impactful. I feel in order to truly make transformative and emancipatory progress more so-called “straight” xicano’s should engage in queer aztlan scholarship. I will now offer up a bit of digression and analysis. It took me the better part of 26 years to be able to consolidate my vato identity of my youth with my gay identity as an adult queer xicano. When I first came out I took my identity formation to the extreme and became a part-time drag personality (for me an “oppositional identity”). I completely separated my social life from my family life as to avert being outed so that I could—if only in my mind—avoid being treated differently or judged. I pushed away my family and long-time friends out of fear of condemnation, inacceptance or reprisal. Once I made the conscious decision to combine my externally-ascribed and internally-ascribed gender identity and completely come out of the closet, surprisingly, I gained much respect from my machista homies for keeping it real and being true to myself and others. I quickly found that despite my attempts to cloak my sexuality I was flamboyantly queer and the news came as no surprise to anyone. What made this process meaningful for me was that I was able to embrace who I felt I always was growing up as well as who I had become since deciding to live my life as a gay xicano. I was given respect for my delicately balanced gender expression between not throwing my sexuality in people’s faces and not being fake. That is not to say that reestablishing rapport with my straight homies wasn’t challenging to navigate insofar as at first as we fumbled and stumbled our way through inter-sexuality communication and itneraction.

My experiential knowledge dialectically leads me to disagree with such scholars as Richard T. Rodriguez who suggests in his article Queering the Homeboy Aesthetic that gay men seek to “adopt,” “evoke” or mimic the homeboy aesthetic primarily because “straight-looking” gay homeboys are gay men’s objects of sexual desire and places like Los Angeles’ bar Chico’s are a site for gay male fantasy enactment. I assert that perhaps the homeboy aesthetic is not being (re)produced through conscious efforts rather this is perhaps the true essence of many gay xicanos and it is in places like Los Angeles’ gay bar Chico’s where they can express both identities without fear of reprisal. That is to say perhaps it is more fitting to suggest that what is occuring is a “thugging” of the queer aesthetic. I feel that to suggest that this aesthetic is somehow not intrinsically present and subsequently must be (re)produced (“evoked”) through homeboy signifiers or coaxed to the surface (“adopting”) is to suggest that there exists no possibiltiy as a gay vato or gay latino homeboy and this does little to disrupt the heteronormativity and rigid binary of machismo. He relies on the logic that the connotation is “straigh”t-looking” gay latinos instead of simply gay vatos. This analysis still relies on the binaries gay-straight, puto-vato , macho-maricon and does not lend voice to lesbian or latina gender-variant esas or vatos.. Nonetheless, I commend his attempt to capture the nuances of representing the “bottom” (D. Bell) through Hector Silva’s art which consists of representations of primarily the queer aztlan warriors. through reflexive, transformative, and emancipatoy imagery which Rodriquez labels in a reductionist fashion as “fantasy scenarios” and “homoerotic imagery” Silva’s art transcends the—as Rodriguez might label it—seedy cruising spots like the callejones of East Los. I find Rodriquez’ causal relationship laughable as I know many vatos who are homosexuals on the down low living an aesthetically heterosexual life. I seek to critique Rodriguez’ analysis as to advance the scholastic dialogue I seek to interrogate some of the assumptions buttressing the structure of the theory as to engage Rodriquez rather than intellectually attack him.

You would think that my later experiences at a Research 1 institution with scholars from all over the globe would entail meaningful interactions with fellow students able and/or willing to engage the topic of gender (non)normative individuals but outside the small Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA), particularly the MEChistas, gender identity politics was but a mere footnote to the american stock story centered on the struggle of early white european immigrants who pulled themselves up from their bootstraps (no need to critique that many latino “involuntary minorities” had no bootstraps to begin with) and assimilated into american society (no need to account for phenotype compatibility since we are colorblind) and subsequently achieved the “American Dream”. We indeed are living in a “dream world”10 and rely on myths and legends in order to remedy the contradictions between the colorblind meritocratic ideology and the collective experiential knowledge and material existence of many groups expressed or represented in academic research, particularly ethnographies and other qualitative research.

The latino community at large and at the micro-level must identify and nurture the strengths which can be mobilized and built upon in order to develop and sustain the cultural and social capital which will lead to more upward social mobility and transformation. latinos posses a hard work ethic which coupled with our resilience and ingenuity have afforded many latinos a meaningful metaphysical existence despite being suppressed into a context of little material wealth. marianismo, the antithesis of machismo, affords us an internally- and externally-ascribed sense of virtue and makes our familial ties strong and lasting. This is a great support network which many latino’s tap into as to cope with the stresses of balancing college life, work and family. We have a legacy of intellectual pursuits which rival any of the great western civilizations (which are taught in college classrooms but those of the new world are not) known to have existed and this can empower latino youth into feeling that orienting ourselves towards academia is not “acting white” or “selling out.”11 Our collective and individual material lived experiences make us well-rounded leaders from young ages and foster more self-aware students who are able to step outside their comfort zones. Our altruistic values are compatible with such professions as doctor or politician (yet, we are ushered or tracked towards lower-level careers such as CNA’s or dental hygenist). The aforementioned resilience and ingenuity translate into coping mechanisms and skill-sets which are needed to navigate foreign institutions like places of higher education.

latino youth are expected to adapt to and assimilate into the dominant culture of any institution of higher learning whereas the institution is accountable for little to no such responsiveness or adaptation. Academic advising, a vital resource for retention and degree attainment is as variable in style and quality as the latino community. Research shows that latino students particularly benefit from advising models such as “developmental”12 or “strengths-based”13 advising yet many institutions of higher education due to limited resources and personel employ an “informational” advising model (merely providing the students with the information needed for degree attainment with a sink-or-swim culture) and ALL students must tap into their social capital in order to persist to degree attainment (this is one of the few areas where all students, regardless of race/ethnicity, SES, gender identity etc. are on equal footing). Subaltern students are condemned for seeking out or prefereing same-group affiliations such as MEChA for being exclusionary or reverse discriminatory while no such effort by institutions of higher education is put into interrogating why already racial/ethnically inclusive student groups such as pre-professional and greek organizations remain homogenously white. machismo influences the academic and professional aspirations and informed decisions of latino youth which, I content, results in more latinas pursuing effeminate careers in teaching, gender/LGBTQ studies and more male latinos entering masculine careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) areas or aspiring to the highest-paid and therefore most academically demanding majors while remaining relatively unprepared academically. The lack of staright biological male latino K-12 teachers (let’s face it teaching is seen as an effeminate career due to machismo) exacerbates the “oppositional identity” development of latino men. The lack of role models, especially in academia, due to male latino professors and professionals being stretched too thin (as there are so few) results in their lack of visibilty or accesibility. Furthermore, due to ” racial/ethnic microagressions”14, I posit, the academic disposition, self-esteem and self-efficacy of male latino youth is negatively impacted and expressed.. Machismo leads many urban latino men down the path of teen pregnancy and this non-traditional student retention is low as it is widely held that men are to provide for and the women are to care for the family. Machismo coupled with american individualism results in latino men unwilling or unable to tap into support networks outside such places as diversity offices. In addition to homophily or the natural tendency of in-group cohorts trailblazing latino straight men who step outside of their comfort zones are rare as machistas won’t often stand for the tokenism and condescending overtone thrown at latino students within academia. Academia’s focus on latino pillars of racial/ethnic progress like Cesar Chavez, Jaime Escalante or Sonya Soto-Mayor cast a huge shadow over our raza youth and sets such a high benchmark of success that many latino youth don’t dare to even attempt to match. This perpetuates a low level of academic self-esteem/efficacy amongst latinos which afflicts a large portion of our urban youth. Hyper-sensationalized latino icons are also tauted as proff-oositive that we enjoy a colorblind meritocratic society. I feel that our overwhelmingly large number of latino male youth in juvenile correction facilities stems from machismo’s impact on the racialization of latino male youth which glorifies deviant behavior and devalues the docile, complacency and thoughtfulness. That is to say no machista in his right mind resolves conflict with words or let’s poverty keep them from pursuing the markers of success such as nice cloths and cars. Those heterosexual latinos who make it into higher education are nudged by machismo to compensate for their orientation towards the academy by conquering more women than books and steer clear of majors and careers which blur latino gender norms. Informed career exploration and development is lacking for latino men which results in misguided and uninformed career decisions. Again, this perpetuates the lack of positive male latino role models and deepens the stereotypes of machista men making good blue-collar workers.

All in all, machismo has become an inseparable part of latino culture and must be nurtured as to develop it into a truly transformative and emancipatory cultural cornerstone. Machismo is percieved as and can be better at representing a source of pride and honor for latino men by reconceptualizing what it means to be a 21st century machista. Thi includes a move to (re)define machismo through honoring our ancestor’s broader conceptualization and acceptance of gender identity and reorienting machismos relation to academia, through historical revisionism, Educators and administrators through pedagogical and advising models can empower latino male youth to embrace academia.as part of their heritage. Institutions of higher education should seek to institutionalize data-driven inquiries into best-practices which result in equitable educational outcomes for latino men such as moving away from colorblind to color-conscious admissions, advising, and outreach. We must focus on latino cultural strengths versus deficiencies as to remedy the low level of matriculation, retention and degree attainment. Most pressing is the need for academic outreach and enrichment programs focused on latino K-12 students to shift from a “white savior” paradigm which relies on deficit discourse and employ a co-constructivst model (working with latino parents, students, communities and other stake-holders) of seeking out partnerships, collaborative initiatives and developing pipeline programs and academic enrichment/outreach/recruitment/research which is community-based and culturally significant/relevant.


1. J. Ogbu
2. Lipsitz
3. “white savior complex” (T. Cole) and “white man’s burden” (Kipling)
4. see C. Steele, or Cohen et al’s concept of “collective stereotype threat”
5. Oscar Lewis
6. Ogbu & Fordham
7. Gloria Ladson-Billings
8. the aztecs had invented a way to treat open wounds which began with sterilizing the wound with urine (the spanish conquistadors washed their mouths with their urine as aztecs used a ash-based toothpaste: see Clean Aztecs Dirty Spaniards by Katherine Ashenburg ) then covered the wound with a leaf treated with either herbs or other disinfecting agent and sealed with agave sap or that of another tree or plant see Mexicolore.com article at http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/index.php?one=azt&two=hea mayan mathematics: concept of zero, Inca astronomy: most complex astronomical solar-lunar calendar known to man
9. Cornel West
10. Aborigine concept
11. Ogbu & Fordham
12. M. King http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/advisingissues/dev_adv.htm
13. Schreiner http://www.apu.edu/strengthsacademy/pdfs/strengths_based_advising_article.pdf
14. D. W. Sue & Microagressions project

My latest project: Meritocracy.edu/

• So it’s been a minute since I last delved into an organized research project so I decided to get the ball rolling with an attempt to organize my thoughts and insights in the research areas of Sociology of Education, Educational Psychology, Whiteness Theory, Critical Race Theory in Education, and (Post)Colonial Theory.

• I am pleased to announce my latest project:


• A series of thoughts and insights focusing on the topic of how the intersection of race/ethnicity, culture, gender identity, and socio-economic status (SES) impact the individual and collective experiences of traditionally oppressed groups throughout the entire academic continuum with particular focus on the high school through professional school pipeline.

o Note: I will not focus on SES alone which I regard as an attempt to cast a wider net and capture a greater diversity of study subjects as to lessen the visibility of the disparate educational outcomes which occur along lines of race and ethnicity within academia.
 The inclusion of SES as a variable has been hijacked in academia as to serve as a proxy for race/ethnicity.

 Studies like those led by S. Saha (see below) show that SES alone is not a good predictor of future physician practice-patterns whereas race/ethnicity ARE good predicitors of future physician practice patterns showing that physicians of color (of a particular specialty) from all SES backgrounds serve a greater proportion of indigent, medically underserved, and racial/ethnic minority patients than their white counterparts. Saha et al showed that even among the highest SES bracket this was shown to be the case; that is even racial/ethnic minorities from the highest SES bracket served or intended to serve more indigent, medically underserved and racial/ethnic minority communities than caucasian physicians from the lowest SES.

 I will however examine the dispirate educational outcomes which result from the intersection of SES with such variables as race/ethnicity which exacerbate the academic disenfranchisement of oppressed groups, particularly Latinos.

• Topics will range from broad topics such as colorblindness to specific topics such as diversity and the medical education continuum.
o Below is how the topics will be titled which I feel will appeal to the millenial as they are very culturally significant.

 Meritocracy.edu/Machismo
 Meritocracy.edu/Colorblindness
 Meritocracy.edu/Whiteness-Theory
 Meritocracy.edu/Historical-Revisionism
 Meritocracy.edu/Tokenism
 Meritocracy.edu/(Neo)Social-Darwinism
 Meritocracy.edu/Non-voluntary-Minorities
 Meritocracy.edu/Diversity-and-the-Medical-Education-Continuum

Saha, S. et al. (2008). Student Body Racial and Ethnic Composition and Diversity-Related Outcomes in US Medicl Schools. JAMA 300 (10): 1135-1145

Saha, S. et al. (2008). Race-Neutral Versus Race-Conscious Workforce Policy to Improve Access to Health Care. Health Affairs 27 (1): 234-245

My research on successful health sciences pipeline programming aimed at increasing diversity in the health sciences professions.

Collaboration seems to be a common theme among trailblazing health sciences center outreach programs aimed at increasing the student diversity in the health sciences and/or the diversity of the applicant pool for professional health sciences programs (i.e. medicine/pharmacy). For James et al who detail the Eastern Area Health Education Center (EAHEC or Eastern AHEC) which is housed at East Carolina University (ECU) “[a] key component of this form of collaboration is that together the agencies can overcome some obstacle or challenge that the individual agencies could not accomplish independently” (p. 33). Most programs I researched felt that their collaborations not only benefited teachers and students but also the outreach efforts themselves by expanding their capacity to reach more students. For the University of Hawaii this means that “any [K-12] school in Hawaii that requests involvement is visited” (p. 47) by the outreach program. This would be a good point to highlight that any proposed health sciences outreach program should be designed to have different levels of partnerships spanning from one-time campus visits (either at school or college campus) to formalized, on-going partnerships with state education offices, local school districts, schools or individual classrooms. The third outreach pipeline program is Project BioEYES at the University of Pennsylvania. The fourth is the nearly 20 year-old Partners is Health Sciences program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

Due to the fact that any such collaborative initiative will face challenges and barriers from the onset I will discuss those now. Knowing common challenges and barriers during the planning and implementation phases will aid in avoiding any such pitfalls. For James et al it is vital to begin developing health sciences outreach programming (East Carolina University) with the premise that “collaboration should not be expected to produce immediate successes due to the time it takes to build a faithful relationship” (p. 33). They go on to summarize the work of Russell & Flynn (2000) and Thorkilsdon & Stein (1996) to make the following suggestions:

(a) the collaborations are [designed to be] sustainable [especially in schools with high teacher turnover]; (b) all agencies have an optimistic outlook; (c) all partners are given uniform voice and vote; and (d) [agreement that] common goals are achieved more efficiently through the partnership [rather] than individually. …partner commitment to participation, time, outside support for the program, distribution of information, and the presence of continuous assessment were also characteristics in successful collaborations" (p. 33).

Other barriers identified in other articles include the following: the objectives/outcomes must be clearly defined for all involved in the collaborative initiative; power relationships among core partners must be equalized (this can be difficult to achieve especially if one partner is a Research 1 institution’s teaching hospital or health sciences center); some resources [i.e. meeting space, presentation materials, evaluation tools] will need to be shared; restructuring of responsibilities may be required [i.e. writing the collaborative initiative into requisitions/job descriptions]; effective and flexible communication strategies across partnerships must be implemented; there must be sufficient resources: particularly time and money; poorly designed and implemented activities will have less impact on participants and therefore should be avoided; and the implementation of activities which are theoretically detached from the desired results of the collaborative initiative must be avoided. (Epstein & Sanders, 2000; Anderson et al., 2006; McLaughlin & Black-Hawkins, 2007). For example if you have a mission statement that identifies increasing diversity as part of an outreach office yet the events, programming and/or office personnel are informed by the guiding principles of colorblind meritocracy or neo-Social Darwinism this results in outreach that is theoretically detached from the mission statement.

The implementation of any advisory committee should be modeled on the concept of “horizontal expertise”. According to Anagnostopoulos et al horizontal expertise is necessary because:

[a]chieving common goals requires professionals to cross organizational boundaries and combine the resources, norms, and values from their respective settings into new, hybrid solutions. Horizontal expertise emerges from these boundary crossings as professionals from different domains enrich and expand their practices through working together to recognize relations and coordinate their work" (p. 139).

For example, it would be vital to bring various units or stakeholders to the table like college prep programs, college/university recruitment/orientation, STEM advisors/professors, diversity offices, and even outreach programs in allied fields i.e. service learning. This might require, for example, health care practitioners stepping into the role of co-teacher/presenter for the outreach programming. Ideally, an advisory entity would identify any missing partners/stakeholders and be charged with overseeing the community asset-based assessment of the target communities as they relate to successfully navigating the health sciences preprofessional pipeline. While I am not a fan of traditional needs assessments because they are generally informed by deficit discourse in that the entire premise assumes that there is indeed a need or deficiency—in this case among communities who are underrepresented in the health sciences—and that the benevolent institution has the expertise and answers to remedy any identified needs while the target community is seen as lacking the wherewithal and agency to address the said needs without outside assistance (i.e. from the institution of higher education).

Community asset-based assessments borrow the concept of asset-mapping from Kretzman and McKnight and apply it to academic outreach/enrichment efforts. A community asset refers to something that makes a neighborhood/community/region a better place in which to live and learn. These can be tangible in nature such as individuals, organizations, businesses, and school or intangible such as social/cultural capital, culture, diversity, and close-knit interpersonal relationships. Kretzman and McKnight (1993) describe “asset mapping” as an:

approach to community development … that work[s] from the principle that a community can be built only by focusing on the strengths and capacities of the citizens and associations that call a neighborhood, community or county ‘home.’

I would also deploy this methodology to investigate the assets of underrepresented communities as to identify their self-identified assets versus their percieved deficiencie. The input of community-based organizations, K-12 schools and college/university units is paramount to creating and implementing well-planned health sciences outreach programming. I suggest employing an expanded definition of assets to include such things as programming, personnel, meeting space, office & A/V equipment, programming, students, networks/affiliations, and any other in-kind assets which can be mobilized to meet the shared goals of the pipeline program. The expected outcome would be to identify the target community’s strengths first and then weaknesses or barriers. Ideally, the advisory committee would also serve as a think tank that is convened to develop strategies to overcome the weaknesses and/or barriers by mobilizing the strengths or assets discovered through the asset-mapping process. In place of traditional needs assessments which ask-“What are you’re needs?”-I suggest employing a hybrid of surveys, focus groups, and interviews in order to assess the common barriers/community weaknesses preventing underrepresented students from attaining a higher education particularly in the health sciences. This might be accomplished by building upon or revisiting past community-based asset mapping or research pertinent to school-university-community partnerships focused on the target communities and its residents.

While it would be ideal to adhere to a co-constructivist model-where all key stakeholders have input into the construction of programming and/or prorgram ideology-throughout the planning and implementation stage I feel that it would be much more efficient to research the “best practices” of current outreach efforts of health sciences centers within institutions of higher education. I will offer up the common themes that are present in four nationally recognized health sciences outreach programs that share the common goal of increasing diversity in the health sciences professions. From my research I contend that the overarching shared goal of increasing diversity in the health sciences seems to be buttressed by other shared goals of providing: curriculum-based and age-appropriate outreach, teacher development, health sciences student training, and improved health care delivery in medically undeserved areas. While the geographic outreach boundaries would be a decision for the advisory committee I would contend that any such efforts focused on the Salt Lake Vally should be focused on the West Side of incorporated Salt Lake City which is extremely medically undeserved and offers a unique interest convergence in that they could be afforded access to diverse communities. Through this unique patient/community exposure health sciences students can become better trained to work with individuals and/or communities outside their comfort zone which would ideally translate into more culturally competent health care practitioners. It is important that this interest convergence not be exploited which can result in an unbalanced power dynamic and can create a sense of a community being used as a real-life research site/laboratory or its residents being seen as holders of cultural knowledge to be co-opted and translated versus viable research partners.

In order to implement the outreach which would be informed by the advisory committee it would be vital to organize a core health sciences outreach team charged with the coordinating the pipeline programing. This would most likely be limited to an entity within the partnering institutuion of higher educaton. It would be ideal if an office like that which was the University of Utah School of Medicine Diversity and Community Outreach could house and administer the program. It would also be ideal if each college, department or academic program of the partnering institution of higher education had a staff representative or liaison on the advisory committee of the health sciences outreach. This core group would focus on the shared goals of recruiting more diverse students into their academic programs and offering their current health professional students with access to diverse communities where they will be able to develop into culturally competent health care practitioners or researchers. The University of Hawaii encourages all their health professions students and social work students “to participate in rural training experiences either individually or as part of an interdisciplinary team.” It is not only important to provide health professional student training but professional development for in-service teachers as well.

All health science outreach programs which I examined have a K-12 teacher-development component. Through this teacher development the goal of offering age-appropriate, curriculum-based outreach is accomplished through close coordination with school administration and faculty. To supplement the input of teachers some health science outreach programs will need to specifically bring in school districts to be a core partner. For example, at East Carolina University “departmental faculty members also work with local school systems science coordinators to choose and align curriculum and plan professional development workshops to address the needs of the respective teachers” (p. 35). Again it would seem that you would have a core and periphery team dedicated to developing how this would be accomplished across the continuum. In Utah this would mean that the vested-interest and participation of the Utah State Office of Education, Health Science Education Specialist in the Career and Technical Education Office would be vital to the efforts outlined in this essay. I contend that yet another community asset-based assessment-again coupled with surveys, focus groups, and interviews-would be vital to achieve co-constructivism among key stakeholders and allow for input from the target communities.

Teacher development seemed to be the main focus of the successful outreach programs and the sole focus of one. While teacher development seems to be a small focus at the University of Hawaii, they do offer “teacher training in health education, [such as] how to make anatomy and microbiology fun [offered] to 200 teachers a year” (p. 47). For Project BioEYES the teacher development is coupled with co-teaching experiences with “trained university science consultants (Outreach Educators)” (p. 134). I feel this is a great way to prevent over-burdening both K-12 teachers and health science faculty, especially faculty of color who are generally more stretched thin than their white counterparts. For Project BioEYES this collaboration is achieved by having teachers attend “a half-day workshop held at one of our partner universities” in order to allow teachers to be “introduced to the curriculum by directly experiencing it” and when ready:

The teacher then schedules co-teaching experiences with Project BioEYES Outreach Educators, collaborates with BioEYES staff to customize the unit for his/her individual class culture, and explores strategies to foster cooperative student research.”

Again you have a collaboration that naturally lends itself to the development of age-and-culturally-appropriate curriculum by utilizing the teachers as a resource for reciprocal benefit. Project BioEYES adopted an already-developed curriculum utilizing a zebra fish laboratory. See the Resources section for a link to this curriculum. This is a very inexpensive program that any teacher can implement without the need for extensive collaboration.

At East Carolina University in North Carolina they too use co-teaching experiences where “[d]epartmental faculty members also visit classrooms to assist or to model teaching science topics using an inquiry science approach” (p. 35). Such an approach here in Utah would enable any such program to meet the Utah Core Curriculum requirements. Within “these classroom lessons, university faculty members teach a portion of a grade level content goal” again making it pertinent to the core curriculum in North Carolina. Their professional development is also closely coordinated with local school districts. They are guided by the following principle: “Professional development for teachers is important for several reasons. One is that teachers are life-long learners, not only for certification requirements, but more importantly for expanding their own knowledge” (p. 36). Professional development for them not only includes teacher workshops but offering in-kind donations of equipment and personnel as to enhance or augment the equipment already available to teachers and students through the local schools. All the programs I researched maintain some inventory of equipment, tool-kits or the like which are provided to the program partners for check-out. One program makes in-kind donations and overall teacher professional development its primary modus operandi.

The nearly 20 year-old Partners is Health Sciences program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is entirely based on the teacher development philosophy coupled with a Public Health emphasis designed to ensure their health professions students are culturally compitent practitioners through enriching their technical knowledge with experiential knowledge: teaching students about the national health concerns articulated by Healthy People 2010 to give them “a better understanding of those factors that favor personal and, therefore, national health” (p. 181) coupled with exposure to patients and communities that are medically underserved and/or impacted by health disparities. They feel that the lack of understanding of these issues and their impact on society “effects the quantity and quality of students selecting a career in science or medicine” (p. 181). They focus on teacher development because they see their work as a responsibility to remedying the current problems with K-12 science teacher pre-service education and professional development which includes:

(1) the barriers between schools of education and science on the same or dissimilar campuses (Summerfield, 1996), (2) the low quality of the teaching of science (Weaver, 1984) and (3) the low quantity of well-trained science teachers (Hudson, 1996). … Training (pre-service) and/or re-training (in-service) of the nation’s science teachers is an effective approach to solving this problem" (p. 182).

Any such programming in Utah, I contend, would require adopting a similar philosophy which would open doors for cross-disciplinary collaboration such as between the School of Medicine and the College of Education. However, the reasoning for the need of such cross-disciplenary collaboration given above seems to be a very condescending message to K-12 science teachers so I would suggest modifying how this is articulated. This UAMS outreach program also conducted a traditional needs assessment of Arkansas K-12 science teachers. Program administrators felt that the input of K-12 science teachers was vital “because K-12 teachers are (1) professionally trained educators; (2) well-versed in local, state, and national ‘standards/frameworks’ and (3) trained to design and implement lesson plans in the K-12 classroom” (p. 183). They offer teachers “a cafeteria of mini courses” lasting anywhere from one to three days, “telecommunication outreach for students” utilizing the UAMS “telemedicine network,” “computer-assisted instruction” modules; a science night at the “local science magnet high school” which they “adopted”; hosting “student field trips to the UAMS campus”; “community-requested presentations by program faculty”; and “college credit for participating pre-service and in-service teachers”. One area were this and the other aforementioned programs could improve is with their focus on health science/professional career exploration.

Career exploration should be an undergirding objective in most, if not all, the activities, events and programming of health science outreach designed to increase the diversity of the applicants in health sciences pipeline. Career exploration would be coupled with sending positive reinforcing messages to students underepresented in the health sciences as to counter any racialization or racial/ethnic academic stratification. This would be accomplished in many ways some of which are historical revisionism which disrupts the eurocentricism inherent in the STEM core curriculum. That is by revising the racial master narrative that indigineous groups are primitive and backwards with no contemporary connection to modern science with narratives of such things as Aztec surgeons and botonists or Mayan mathmaticians as to send the message that intellectual pursuits in the STEM subjects is part of underrepresented students’ history. This could possibly have a positive impact on underrepresented students’ academic self-esteem, self-efficacy, disposition and performance. It has been shown that there is a positive relationship between career development and educational development. According to a review of the literature concerning career/educational development conducted by Dr. David Blustein the popular discourse on the subject holds that:

In sum, the findings that have been presented here provide empirical support for the proposition that students who are able to internalize the connection between school and career will be better prepared psychologically to engage fully in their educational lives" (no pg. #).

I contend that the same holds true if underrepresented students are also able to internalize the connection between their racial/ethnic identity and their career choice. Subsequently, the career exploration implemented must be buttressed by positive, reinforcing messages from people who can serve as positive role models and mentors. A cascading mentorship program might serve the purpose of positive reinforcement and enable the health science outreach program to send this message of historical revisionism and empowerment with some cohesion.

The model for career development would be that of “informed and considered career decision” development versus traditional career exploration. This will prevent the participants from being short-changed and enable students to make “informed and considered career” decisions. According to Gillie and Isenhour (2003):

informed and considered career decisions are the product of a career development process that includes: creating awareness of options; exploring possible career pathways; reviewing available information; clarifying interests, values and skills through assessment; reflecting upon experiences; relating education and training options to occupational goals; experimenting through work sampling, volunteering or employment; consulting with knowledgeable people in the field of interest; formulating plans for education, training, career entry, and retraining; making decisions and refining plans, and; applying the career development process throughout the lifespan" (p. 2).

The authors point out that “[n]ot all people will engage in all steps and the sequence may vary” but this will most likely manifest or result in “informed and considered career decisions” for the target audience or students underrepresented in the health sciences. This will hopefully leave no allusions as to what health sciences careers (i.e. medicine) are all about. This will prevent students from making straw-man statements like, “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor since I was five” rather make statements like “Medicine is for me because since I was five I wanted to be a doctor and through this program I have informed my decision to pursue medicine with informed career development and fully understand what it will take for me to become a future physician.”

The limitations to a proposed collaborative initiative like this are great. I have already outlined some of the most prevalent structural, ideological and administrative barriers. I will now discuss the financial limitations. Most of the programs I examined were not institutionally funded, rather grant funded. While there are millions of grant funds available to start and sustain such aforementioned collaborative initiatives, the grant writing, application and reporting process is very labor-intensive and not a secure source of funding. An upside to such funding is that the ideological differences with the parent institution can usually be circum-navigated because they are not holding and manipulating the purse strings. Institutionally funded programs like the former University of Utah School of Medicine Office of Diversity and Community Outreach are subject to institutional reform which usually leans towards, race-neutral, equal opportunity philosophy.

Another limitation is what the institution is willing to provide in-kind. While this endeavor could be undertaken without institutional backing it would be hard to make inroads without being institutionally mandated or grounded. For some programs I have heard that the institution provides support in name only and all the rest is the responsibility of the program. Southern Utah University’s Rural Health Scholars is one such program. The best way to get a program like this in place would be to make it legislatively mandated. However, few states like Utah would back this with the current wave of anti-affirmative action legislation, cloaked as equal opportunity legislation, coming out of the Utah State Legislature.

Of course the ongoing evaluation and assessment of any such programming is essential to its sustainability. The impact of the programming and its perceived quality are vital to any outreach programming. What follows are my recommendations for program evaluation.
Pre-post surveys administered as to measure the following:

Participants/Students should be measured on the following:
Anticipated and actual satisfaction
change in attitudes towards health sciences/ health sciences careers
change in motivation to pursue a higher education and/or health sciences career
change in level of understanding of pathway to one or more health professions
change in understanding of the primary personal characteristics/attributes of a helath practitioner
change in career goals (either health sciences-specific or in general)
change in perception of the feasibility of becoming a health practitioner
change in academic self-esteem; academic performance; academic self-efficacy; academic disposition
change in knowledge of any specific health profession or health sciences in general

Methodology of assessment/evaluation
Paper or computer-based surveys distributed to target group wich employ a combination of Likert scale (i.e 1-5), True-False, and multiple choice questions. Surveys should be given out to as many participants before and after any event, program, school year etc. Avoid surveys which have leading questions or no room for clarification of answers. Also, the methodology should be culturally congruent, short and simple. Any statistical analysis should be handled by a third party (any college student looking to bolster resume could serve as a great low-cost or free resource).

Other recommendations for assessments/evaluations:

Evaluations should be program/event-specific and collected as close to actual program/event as possible
Evaluations should be age-appropriate as well as culturally and linguistically apporpriate
Different measures should be included in the surveys for teachers/counselors/staff/parents

In closing, I have provided my research which was conducted for a graduate course but which was initiated during my time working at the University of Utah School of Medicine which at the time included a collaborative initiative aimed at widening the pool of diverse students entering the health science professions. This blog post has been informed by much research into such programming. I have shown that multi-disciplinary collaboration is key to developing a program that seeks to provide age-appropriate, curriculum-based outreach to K-12 students and teacher development for K-12 educators. Career development would also be a key component of this outreach. I have discussed the barriers, the basic planning/implementation process, and overall outreach structure butressed by existing “best practices” at leading institutions of higher education. NOTE: IT IS MY PERSONAL BELIEF THAT “DIVERSITY” IS NOT A MEASURABLE OUTCOME (I.E. NUMBERS) OR AN END IN ITSELF, RATHER, A PROCESS BY WHICH MARGINALIZED AND DISENFRANCHIZED COMMUNITIES BECOME A LASTING/SUSTAINABLE PART OF AN INSTITUTION (I.E. HELATH SCIENCES). THE FOCUS SHOULD NOT BE ON DEMOGRAPHICS, RATHER, ON EQUITABLE OUTCOMES FOR ALL STUDENTS.

Resources on the web for K-12 teachers and/or health sciences outreach:
• Zebrafish in the classroom: http://www.zfic.org/index.html
• University of Texas, Teacher Enrichment Initiative’s Health Care Unit/Curriculum: http://teachhealthk-12.uthscsa.edu/curriculum/healthcare/healthcare.asp
• Kids Health Games Closet: http://kidshealth.org/kid/closet/?gclid=CLPt7f3V5aUCFQN7gwodIjyt2g
• NIH Curriculum Supplement Series: http://science-education.nih.gov/customers.nsf/WebPages/CSHome

Works Cited

Anderson, C. et al. (2006). Science Center Partnership: Outreach to Students and Teachers. The Rural Educator, Fall 2006 pp. 33-39.

Blustein, D. The Relationship between Career Development and Educational Development: A Selected Review of the Literature. Accessed on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website www.pacareerstandards.com/documents/RA-3_Career_Development.pdf on various dates.

Burns, E. R. (2002). Anatomy of a Successful K-12 Educational Outreach Program in the Health Sciences: Eleven Years Experience at One Medical Sciences Campus. The Anatomical Record (New Anat.), 269, pp. 183-193.

Epstein, J. and Mavis Sanders. (2000). Connecting Home, School, and Community: New Directions for Social Research. In Handbook of the Sociology of Education, Maureen T. Hallinan, ed. Academic/Plenum Publishers:New York.

James, L. et al. (2006). Science Center Partnership: Outreach to Students and Teachers. The Rural Educator, pp. 33-39.

McLachlan, J. (2005). Outreach is better than selection for increasing diversity. Medical Education, 39(2005), pp. 872-875.

McLaughlin, C. and Kristine Black-Hawkins. (2007). School-university partnerships for educational research—distinctions, dilemmas and challenges. The Curriculum Journal, 18(3), pp. 327-341.

Shuda, J. and Kearns-Sixsmith, D. (2009). Outreach: Empowering Students and Teachers to Fish Outside the Box. Zebrafish, 6(2), pp. 133-138.

Withy, K. M et al. (2006). Community Outreach, Training, and Research: The Hawai’i/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center of the University of Hawai’i, John A. Burns School of Medicine. Hawai’i Medical Journal, 65(2006), pp. 46-49.

"Slowly I began to understand fully that there was no place in academe for folks from working-class backgrounds who did not wish to leave the past behind. That was the price of the ticket. Poor students would be welcome at the best institutions of higher learning only if they were willing to surrender memory, to forget the past and claim the assimilated present as the only worthwhile and meaningful reality."

bell hooks (via wretchedoftheearth)

And if you don’t abide by this, you basically get the cold shoulder from academia. You have to fight to defend your work more than the average student because your perspective as a marginalized person is one that was meant for a study, a dissertation, or some other academic publication. It’s not so appealing when the subject of the study is giving you their perspective firsthand instead of having it pre-chewed and spoon-fed to you by someone who will never fully understand what you’ve been through because they’ve most likely never been there to begin with. 

(via sinidentidades)

Not just academia, but any sort of higher class field. If you aren’t abandoning any and all of your “ghetto” (read: Poor and anything dealing with Blackness, LGBTness, etc) past behind. And if you mess up, then your past WILL be used against you.

(via sourcedumal)

Xicano’s Blog:

Yet another ideological connundrum arose for me when deconstructing the meaning being produced by the above quotes.  I immediately thought of Spivak and Ogbu & Fordham and the notion of “subaltern intellectuals” (Spivak) and “oppositional culture” (Ogbu & Fordham).  As a “subaltern intellectual” I initially resented Spivak’s assertion that because I was part of the “subaltern elite” due to my academic background that my subsequent privilege was also my loss.  That is to say that I am so invested in “whiteness” that my consciousness was too far removed from “the bottom” (Bell) to speak with any authenticity or authority for the truly “subaltern” who by definition lack the capacity to define and speak for themselves.  Spivak asserts that my attempts to speak from “the bottom” would inevitably result in an essentialization of “the bottom” and suggests that I “must avoid reconstructing the subaltern as merely another unproblematic field of knowing”, limiting the impact of such reflexive scholarship to the ivory tower of academia.  I claim that the “subaltern intellectual” can maintain a positionality and subjectivity which is close enough to “the bottom” that any reflexive scholarship with the subaltern community as subject could avoid loosing its “authenticity of voice”.  I do like the claim made by (post)colonial theory that the (pre)colonial, subaltern consciousness is irretrievable insofar as the colonial project has anhialated and redefined said consciousness to the point of no return.  Therefore, attempts at retrieving one’s indigineity is futile. 

As for the claim of Ogbu and Fordham that due to the racailization (racial stratification) of American students of color that the academy is a white space which connotes white superiority that American students of color tend to adopt an “oppositional culture” which is the polar opposite of the academy.  Furthermore, they contend that to embrace the academy, for students of color, becomes a sign for “selling out” or “acting white”.  I disagree and contend that it IS our culture to strive for excellence in academia (eurocentric)  allbeit the pursuit of knowledge took a different shape.  I would contend that students of color who embrace the academy and excel therein are uplifted and heralded for their perceived uniqueness and emancipatory potential. 

(via soundiswhatfoundus)


Summary of Whiteness Theory
Audrey Thompson

Whiteness theory treats whiteness not as a biological category but as a social construction. Insofar as whiteness is thought of as “natural,” it is understood in essentialized terms — either as a personal attribute or as a scientific category. Yet who counts as white depends on what is at stake. CRT scholar Cheryl Harris suggests that whiteness is best thought of as a form of property. Conceived of as legal or cultural property, whiteness can be seen to provide material and symbolic privilege to whites, those passing as white, and sometimes honorary whites. Examples of material privilege would include better access to higher education or a choice of safe neighborhoods in which to live; symbolic white privilege includes conceptions of beauty or intelligence that not only are tied to whiteness but that implicitly exclude blackness or brownness.

It should be noted that the patterns of whiteness uncovered by whiteness theories may in some cases include individuals who identify as (and are identified by others as) brown or black. This is because whiteness does not refer to a biological but to a socially constructed category. For example, black or brown academics who internalize white-privileging institutional norms may be said to benefit from and participate in the promotion of institutional whiteness. Insofar as African Americans, Latina/os, and other non-whites aspire to material privileges that are coded as white and insofar as they see that material well-being as earned through individual merit (rather than through a system that excludes all but a few people of color), they may be said to participate in material whiteness.
Discursive theories of whiteness analyze the ways in which language, mass media, discourses, and symbols organize meaning so that whiteness is framed as both the preferred and the normal state of being. Discursive theories often identify binaries that treat blackness or brownness as the foil (or dramatic “other”) for whiteness, allowing whiteness to emerge as special and rare. They also point to the meta-narratives implicit in our mainstream discussions of race. (Just as “boy meets girl” is a staple narrative of movies, the idea that the history of racism in the U.S. is a history of “progress” is a staple of discussions of race in documentaries and news stories). The focus of discursive theories is on the way that taken-for-granted perception is organized and shaped by manipulations of symbols and binaries (e.g., white=light=good vs. black=dark=evil). The dichotomies involved in much of the organization of white-privileging perception insure that such perception is hierarchically organized: not only is one set of characteristics better than but it specifically excludes the other. Just as “reason” gains its superiority in part by excluding “emotion,” images of white innocence gain their power in part from the contrast with images of black or brown menace. (To some extent, post-structural, post-colonial, and cultural studies analyses that focus on race may overlap with discursive theories of whiteness.)



Who’s Heritage?: discursive whiteness and

Utah’s liberal environmentalist movement

Utah has been ground-zero for many land-use and land-conservation/preservation culture wars.  The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has proposed that Utah wilderness north of the Diné Reservation be designated as a wilderness area while the Utah Diné community “is proposing the creation of the Diné Bikéyah National Conservation Area extending north along the border of the Navajo Reservation” (www.DinéBikéyah.org). 

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has recently initiated a media campaign on television consisting of several public service announcements within which the mantra is “Our Heritage. Worth Protecting.”  In this paper I will deconstruct the media campaign and the SUWA website both of which are replete with discursive whiteness. I will inform my critical analysis with whiteness theory, semiotics[1] and (post)colonial theory.  The purpose of this paper is to show how the environmentalist discourse of white liberals, particularly that of the SUWA, is grounded in discursive whiteness[2] which uses—among other things— triangulation to create a binary opposition between the SUWA/the white public and Native American community. 

According to George Lipsitz in Chapter One (The Possessive Investment in Whiteness) of his book, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit From Identity Politics (1998) material whiteness[3] has been established since the colonial era in the United States to present “through a possessive investment in whiteness for European Americans” (p. 2).  Lipsitz also discusses how white American hegemony is maintained by racism—which takes on many forms—through temporal space and contends that “[c]ontemporary racism has been created anew…by the putatively race-neutral, liberal, social democratic reforms…,” and that “the racialized nature of social policy in the United States since the Great Depression has actually increased the possessive investment in whiteness among European Americans” (p. 5).  I contend that the white, liberal environmentalist platform is part of this contemporary racism, which, while race-neutral at face-value, produces a racialized “preferred meaning” (Hall, 1997) of the indigenous Native American community. 

Using a linguistic semiotic approach to connect the language to the dominant environmentalist discourse within the context of Utah’s green movement it is clear that the SUWA and it’s rhetoric of conservation is producing a “preferred meaning” of white American exceptionalism and superiority in the environmental protection/conservation realm.  The early white-liberal environmentalist community “found inspiration in the Native American actions and attitudes” and circulated “stereotypes of Indians as beings who left no mark on the land, essentially denying them their humanity, culture, history and modernity” (Lewis, 2000).  Generations of white settlers who exploited, polluted, and plundered the natural resources of Native American reservations and white nationalistic policies effectively stripped tribal communities of truly transformative, emancipatory sovereignty.[4]  As a result many Native American reservations underwent tribal development paradigm shifts and tribal governments began, what white liberals labeled, “placing needs over older cultural regulatory patterns” (Lewis, 2000).  The Diné Nation has been reviled by white-liberal environmentalists for allowing coal and uranium mining on their land which has “destroyed large areas of land, polluted water and air, and caused untold long-term health problems. … …casting a haze over the Grand Canyon and Four Corners region. … …[and] scares thousands of acres of Indian lands” (Lewis, 2000). 

Through discursive whiteness, the white nationalistic policies coupled with the environmental disregard for native lands in the name of progress, namely white American expansion, are made invincible by emphasizing the binary opposition between white liberal environmentalists and Native American tribes.  I contend that this binary opposition creates what Lipsitz terms a “countersubversive consensus”[5] among white liberals.  Lipsitz shows how despite evidence that FHA policies, urban renewal projects and the “War on Drugs” have disparately impacted black Americans, particularly urban blacks, black culture is seen as the root of black plight in the United States by subscribing to myths like colorblind meritocracy which, over time, become part of the “regime of truth” (Hall, 1998).  Lipsitz claims that this is achieved through discursive whiteness in that white “Americans produce largely cultural explanations for structural social problems” which results in “a discourse that demonize[s] people of color for being victimized by…[white nationalistic policies]…while hiding the privileges of whiteness…they enjoy through their possessive investment in whiteness” (p. 18).  Informed by the racial master narrative, or what Lipsitz calls “cultural stories,” that Native Americans are backward, primitive, static people and recent Native American resistance to white nationalism through tribal development policies adopted under duress and desperation produced by white nationalistic policies, white-liberal environmental organizations like the             SUWA cast natives as a threat to Utah’s wilderness.  What is silenced is the fact that white nationalistic policies have created the context of this binary opposition.

I contend that the same “othering” process, or discursive whiteness, which St. George Tucker used—branding African American chattel slaves as less-than in order to justify his flip-flopping on the issue of manumission—is being utilized by the SUWA.  Hamilton fleshes out the white conundrum of whether or not to support African American slave manumission if that compromises their heritage and/or material whiteness (economic and social).  In a similar fashion the SUWA’s white conundrum, or what Hamilton calls “conflicting loyalties,” is whether or not to uphold the liberal doctrine of natural rights for Native American’s—namely their unalienable right Utah wilderness as Utah’s first inhabitants—if  that means threatening the white liberal conservation/preservation of said lands. 

Bennett (1964) contends that white liberals use, discursive whiteness, or what he calls the “ritual phrases of liberalism” to maintain white hegemony.  I contend that the SUWA utilizes the exact same modus operandi.  The SUWA defines wilderness as proscribed by The Wilderness Act of 1964 as “‘an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain…’” (SUWA website, 2011).  They further contend that designating The San Juan Region-Canyonland Region as wilderness would protect “the last of our nation’s wild country” and afford all with opportunities for “primitive recreation”.  They characterize this area as “unfettered by any significant human development” (SUWA website, 2011).  The fact that no Native Americans are visually represented creates a “preferred meaning” insofar as “they are present through a kind of substitution. … …their ‘absence’ is represented” (Hall, p. 59).  I contend that the preferred meaning is that Utah wilderness belongs exclusively to white Americans and Native Americans are a remnants of the colonial era with no contemporary connection to Utah wilderness. 

Their media vignettes use visual and linguistic affirmations of discursive whiteness through (re)presentations of all white actors utilizing Utah wilderness for recreation (“in a place with no distractions” ), strengthening family bonds (“just a chance for us to reconnect”), and “discovering something timeless.” (SUWA website). 

These taken-for-granted notions are buttressed by the cultural stories inherent in discursive whiteness that the American West, particularly Southern Utah, at the time of its discovery by whites was a vast, available landscape due to the Native American’s lack of cultural knowledge of how to effectively and efficiently utilize Utah wilderness for maximum production.  The discursive whiteness of Utah History uses the master narrative or cultural story that Southern Utah was a threatening environment peppered by savages upon Mormon Pioneer arrival and both the land and its inhabitants branded as primitive, wild with the land, post-statehood, belonging to the Utah white public.  Subsequently white Utahans become solidified as the divinely ordained inheritors of Utah wilderness and, through indigenization[6], deny the Native American’s their “natural rights” as Utah’s first peoples.  One video vignette uses a white elderly man with his granddaughter standing above the Colorado River with a voice over which says, “Some ask why should we protect Utah wilderness?  Well there’s lots of reasons, our heritage, the importance of wilderness to our economy… and to preserving our way of life” (SUWA website).  I contend that making such statements are not seen as offensive by whites because of discursive whiteness which intersects the personal/relational whiteness manifested as white ignorance/complacence (Hamilton).   The connotation is that it is white American heritage, not that of Native Americans, is superior and therefore worth protecting. 

In closing, I have shown through using whiteness theory, coupled with semiotics and (post)colonial theory how the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliances media campaign and website are replete with discursive whiteness which serves to justify material whiteness and I would add institutional whiteness.  The discursive whiteness the SUWA employs draws from racial stereotypes of Native Americans and makes invincible the white nationalistic policies which have oppressed and subjugated Native Americans to the point of allowing tribal development which includes corporate waste production and disposal.  Also, through the “othering” process inherent in discursive whiteness, white liberal environmentalists, in this case the SUWA, are cast as better stewards of Utah wilderness which is taken-for-granted as being part of white Utahans “…heritage.  Worth protecting.”



[1] Semiotics is the study of how broader meaning than that which Is literal is produced by coded language and representations

[2] Discursive Whiteness: this is essentially the semiotics of whiteness theory with the “preferred meaning” being that whiteness is the preferred and normal state of being and that and anything else is abnormal, less than, and “other”. For a great summary of whiteness see my blog post which is an exerpt from the work of Dr. Audrey Thompson  

[3] Material whiteness is defined as “measurable & objective forms of power and privilege”: class hand-out Racism(s) in Your Context: Mapping Whiteness Today from Dr. Audrey Thompson University of Utah Education, Culture and Society Department

[4]  See Lewis (2000)

[5] Lipsitz  (1998) contends this operates by disguising “the social disintegration brought about by neoconservativism itself as the fault of ‘inferior’ social groups, and…builds a sense of righteous indignation…” (p. 16).

[6] Goldie (1989) defines indigenization as white settlers’ (colonists) “need to become ‘native,’ to belong here… the impossible necessity of becoming indigenous.” (p. 234)

Works Cited

Bennett, L.  (1964).  Tea and Sympathy: Liberals and Other White Hopes.  In, The Black Mood and Other Essays.  USA: pp. 75-104


Goldie, T.  (1989).  The Representation of the Indigenie.  Fear and Temptation: The Image of the Indigene in Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Literatures Kingston:  McGill-Queens University Press.  In The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. Bill Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G. and Tiffin, H. Routlege 1989.


Hall, S.  (1997).  The Work of Representation.  In S. Hall (Ed.).  Representation: Cultural Representation and Signifying Practices.  pp. 15-67.  London: Sage. 

Hall, S.  (1997).  The Spectacle of the ‘Other’.  In S. Hall (Ed.).  Representation: Cultural Representation and Signifying Practices.  pp. 225-280. 


Hamilton, P.  (1998).  Revolutionary Principles and Family Loyalties: Slavery’s Transformation in the St. GeorgeTucker Household of Early National Virginia.  The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Oct., 1998), pp. 531-556.   Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture http://www.jstor.org/stable/2674444


Lewis, D.  (2000).  Essay on Native American Environmental Issues.  Native America in the Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia accessed at http://www.cnie.org/nae/docs/intro.html


Lipsitz, G.  (1998).  Chapter 1: The Possessive Investment in Whiteness.  In, The Possesisive Investment in Whiteness: How white people profit from identity politics.  Phillidephia, PA: Temple University Press, pp. 1-23


Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  (2012).  Utah Wilderness. http://www.utahwilderness.org/


Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance youtube channel. http://www.youtube.com/user/UtahWilderness


Diné Bikéyah website.  (2012).  http://www.utahdinebikeyah.org/



As Cornel West put it… “the repressive apparatus of the nation state” (see below for source) is force, sanction and surveillance and punitive assimilation…

As Cornel West put it… “the repressive apparatus of the nation state” (see below for source) is force, sanction and surveillance and punitive assimilation…

Playing the devil’s advocate when debating the lesser of two evils: the sanctioned assimilation of academia or the over-inflation of pillars of racial/ethnic progress.

A rather unsettling conundrum arose for me when I discursively began analyzing the debate over ethnocentric academic departments like Chicano Studies. 

I agree with some of the main points of many non-supporters of ethnocentric pedagogy, curriculum and academic research. Don’t get me wrong I see much transformative and emancipatory potential in such intellectual pursuits especially in homogenous/colorblind institutions of higher education which generally translates into a subvert hostile environment for non-whites.  I feel that much knowledge is gained and preserved by such departments and that such departments are more than mere remnants of the Civil Rights Era.  I feel that attacks on such departments as self-seggregationist, reverse-discriminatory or “un-American” rely on the discursive whiteness fallacy that, socially speaking, the impact of the ideas and actions of non-whites are perfectly symmetrical with those of whites.  Some argue that this marginalizes white students as there is no such “White Studies” program.  This is the most trivial counter-argument ever as any non-white who has had to endure it knows, there IS such an academic niche: IT’S CALLED AMERICAN HISTORY wherein the contributions and achievements of non-whites are relegated to a unit or sub-unit of an entire textbook. 

On the other had I have heard some argue, in a rather nuanced manner, that such academic disciplines help to maintain white hegemony by over-inflating the contributions and achievements of a handful of individuals per racial/ethnic category.  This hyper-sensationalized focus becomes projected as mythical, legendary, even imaginary and the benchmark becomes set so high that generations of non-whites seem to fall short of glory.  Also there is something to be said about the potential of radicalizing the ethnic studies disciplines to the point of no return.  This marginalizes many non-whites from the discipline in that professors, students and contributing intellectuals work as proxy gatekeepers, policing the cultural/academic borderlands.  This pits non-white against non-white as prescribed by the colonial project: divide and conquer.  In 21st Century America the notions of race and ethnicity are such contested notions that perhaps a nuanced approach is needed. 

I suggest using the neo-social-Darwinian concept of “inclusion” to turn the topic on its head.  I would shift the demand for the inclusion of ethnic studies as a major to a demand for inclusionary disciplines as to open doors for more co-constructivist, trans-disciplinary and transformative research.  This would look something like having an ethnic-specific sub-focus for most if not all the majors.  Therefore if I am wanting to write a dissertation on the Hispanic/Chicana/Latina midwifery in the southwest United States than this would be something that the History, Gender Studies, and perhaps School of Nursing would be required to accommodate.  Perhaps having a “Chicano Studies” certificate program which predetermined departments would be required to offer courses for.  Even perhaps demanding an academic research center/think-tank for social justice where each ethnic group is still represented but following a less ethno-centric/hierarchical model, rather, a co-constructivist, plenary model.  Let’s face it, ethnic studies has not been as transformative and emancipatory as intended and it is time we stay ahead of the neo-liberal ideology’s hallmarks like neo-Social Darwinism, meritocracy, inclusion, colorblindness, and post-race and its attacks and begin work on a more comprehensive plan to become institutionalized to the point that we don’t have to be put on the racial defense team for ethnic studies programs all the while there is no such debate going on about why the already “inclusive”, likely colorblind (self-identified/sanctioned), pre-professional student organizations across the nation are largely dominated by and made accessible (not necessarily LITERALLY) to white-non-hispanic (LOL) American students.  The prescriptive notion of racial/ethnic “inclusion” is no vaccine against gate-keeping, profiling, fraternization, and preferential treatment based on phenotype or externally-ascribed race/ethnicity.