Friday, March 27, 2015

#EthnicBullies and #GateKeepers in Academia and Education

"Cahir Castle Portcullis by Kevin King" by Kevin King from Pensacola, FL, US of A - Ireland 2009, Cahir Castle PortcullisUploaded by guillom. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

On a web site I frequent someone recently posted a photo from an article on the san Francisco police giving some books to children.  Here is the link to the article: Article

I commented on the site that “I hope they gave the kids some books on how to survive a confrontation with the pigs.”  I said this in all seriousness because the police routinely kill people of color in the US.  In fact, citizen survival tactics during interactions with police should be programming in libraries. Using the term pig is English in origin and has also been used to describe police since 1851.

Apart from the police brutality based on race there was also some POC on POC bullying going on in this exchange on the board.

Immediately, the person who posted the article (a professional in the same profession as me) told me that I should act professional--”Aren’t you a professional Max--we should behave as professionals!”

I’m used to getting the “professional” ad hominem from discussions with White people who will attack me with this when I say something that challenges the established White-supremacist system.  Most often, these White people are ‘liberals,’ who claim to be on my side and to not be prejudiced.  #microaggressions

This comment was more insidious though.  This comment made me realize that this person is a gatekeeper/driver.  I use these terms because people who have benefited from Affirmative Action in the past--most of them older, mentors to the newer generations--are used as gate keepers and drivers.  

Slave Driver
They discourage and actively fight against advancement of those who could create change that would challenge the White racist power structure.  This is threatening to those who have achieved ‘professional’ positions, whose expertise would no longer be needed if the White-supremacist educational/professional system were dismantled and replaced with something civilized.  .  

These drivers I describe teach young people how to be successful in the current system that is dominated by outright racists and unconsciously biased people of all colors.  They also chastise, blackball and otherwise condemn those who don’t conform to the racist system of education.  #SlaveDrivers

Locked in a box of no opportunities
One reason there has not been any progress in education, economics and against the school to prison pipeline is insidious.  It isn't because of White racists alone.  It is because people who benefited from Affirmative Action are too scared and comfortable to create the needed change for those who were left behind in the barrio and ghettos.  They are in denial about the system and their place in the system of oppression.

These gatekeepers will focus on ‘civility’ and ‘professionalism.’  They will say a POC is uncivil if they speak in a manner that challenges the White-racist power structure.  Somewhere along the line, being civil and being professional became synonyms for servility, obedience, subservience and getting along within the status quo.  

This is not the definition of civil.  The English Word Civil comes from the Latin word civi--or city--being civil is the ability to get along and live with a variety of people, opinions, attitudes, etc...that come with living in the city.  It is the set of skills that allows one to live among the diversity of characters in the city.

These gatekeepers are guilty of complicity and abetting the White racist power structure.  They are also guilty or ruining good people’s chances at creating real change.  I say this because these drivers cut people out of the mix when it comes to opportunity.  They also help label good people as “angry,” “unprofessional,” and “uncivil.”  This keeps them out of professional positions, where they could create some real change.  

Not being angry, being professional and being civil are all requirements of a job in academia and anywhere else for that matter.  This is a main reason why we have not had any change as a result of affirmative action.  We are training people to be successful cogs in a system that despises us, is uncivil in a myriad of ways toward us, and murders us on a regular basis.  We need to train them and educate them to be leaders for change NOT leaders within this pathological system.  

Destroy the Ivory Tower!
Education should be liberating.  It shouldn't just lead to a comfortable life, jet-setting around the country and the world to conferences for intellectual posturing that creates no real change.  So, don’t lecture me about being professional--you all should be professional and challenge the system that oppresses your people so violently and so openly.  But then again, you may live up in the hills somewhere where you don’t have to deal with harassment by the police, or worse--violence-- like most of your people do.  When people work in the system of the status quo, they need to remember where they came from and that their attainment means much more than material success.


ramontrane said...

Unfortunately, most librarians don't think critically of injustice if it's directed towards minorities or the Other. They prefer to be oblivious than to offend the force of repression.
"Today Officer Smith will read to the children during storytime". A uniformed person? What kind of message we're giving to our children? Have we ever thought of inviting somebody who have been unjustfied in jail or prison? What about a homeless person? These are real examples for kids to know that the world is not rose, and to teach them to think critically.

Anonymous said...

This is so very thought provoking. It is a sad and disgusting truth that I find myself in on an almost daily basis. My ability to communicate with our Spanish speaking patrons is appreciated but my ideas to provide programming that will encourage our people to feel welcomed and comfortable, not so much.

Max Macias said...

Thanks so much for reading and sharing! We are often pigeon holed. When I tell people I am Chicano and don't speak Spanish--you should see the looks on their faces! Then I am also guaranteed no opportunities--because I'm useless without Spanish. What utter BS!

Max Macias said...

@Ramontrane Thanks so much for reading this! It comes from the negligible treatment of these issues (Social Justice, Diversity, Equity, Racism, Colonialism and more) combined with the unconscious White-supremacy ingrained in our culture.

Yes, I know--uniforms indeedI wonder how many of these kids have already had a negative experience with the puercos? In my case, some of my earliest memories are of being instructed about how to survive the police.

In that case, they may be fearful and may be actually getting turned off to books and libraries with the juxtaposition of the police and books.

Shaun said...

I think whites believed that through affirmative action we would see enough POC enter various workplaces and that increase alone would be enough to change the culture - you know, without actually having difficult conversations or taking serious action around issues of race. I think it's pretty clear that's not what happened -- especially in the library, which remains one of the whitest, middleclassist, Christianist workplaces there is.

Max Macias said...

@ Shaun--I don't think it was just White people who believed this Shaun. There is a very clear limit on what the politics or representation can achieve. We need people who can create change--not people who are successful in a pathological system that needs change. Success in this system=failure...

Mike said...

Or you could just replace the word pigs with police in your comment. Then maybe people will take you seriously and think you want to do more than write an angry blog post in response to someone thinking you're an ass.

Max Macias said...

Angry blog post? Please?

I'm pointing out something very real.

I'm sorry you didn't get that from reading the post. Perhaps you should read it again, but you still might not get it.

Puercos suck--said in an un-angry,rational self-defense kind of way.

Your comment is a good example of a passive aggressive microaggression that complains that I am angry, when I'm self-defending. But self-defense is only for the so-called dominant culture-right? Fuck that. Thanks for your comment and the example holmes.

Anonymous said...

Hi Max,

You'll note that I am commenting anonymously. This is because of all the reasons you list here in this and other blog posts. I can't speak for others, but I can share that my experience is similar to what you describe in your posts. Some of us do "everything right" to make it and then hit a wall. For me, this has been a wall I can only describe as "being too brown" to fit in. Maybe it is being "too ethnic" for the current cultural dynamic. Maybe some of it is just not sharing the same cultural experiences to begin with. i.e. some of us didn't go to Europe, to Disneyland, or even to the local park for Senior Trip and some of us didn't have the luxury or opportunity to build relationships with professors while at university. In many cases we are talking about socio-economic and racial structures that created these barriers.

Yeah, I know, I know, someone out there is gonna say, "there are many brown people in professional positions". They are there somewhere, right? But, there are unspoken and unwritten rules of engagement that don't get passed along and certainly are not inclusive. I am at a location that shouts from the mountain top that diversity is key, and yet the status quo is white-Eurocentric "middle America". Diversity here means, as you mention in this post, going to meetings and sharing thoughts on diversity but not actually doing anything about cultural intelligence, opening opportunities, or changing the system. As for the diverse and successful professionals, I have yet to have anyone reach out and say, "How can I help you?" or "This is how can be done".

So, why post anonymously? Because, as you have discovered, speaking up and speaking out means being singled out. In two different organizations I became known for being bitter about race/ethnicity and angry about the system. Hell yeah I was angry. And guess who was first to go when budgets were cut, despite having a proven record of increasing enrollment and new programs? But, learning from those experiences means that I no longer speak out, because when it comes right down to it I have to pay rent.

So, if "Success in this system=failure..." then that makes many of us failures instead of professionals working to better the world. I am only half successful in my attempt to achieve a position that allows me to make change and pay rent at the same time.

What can we do?


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