Stop reinforcing the status quo inside or outside academia
By Xicana Ph.D.
The ivory tower as a whole doesn’t uplift anything, but those who reinforce it. It reinforces existing power. The status quo. A lot of folks within it do too. A lot of people who preach social justice do it every single day.
Let’s stop pretending.
How many times have you intentionally or perhaps unintentionally wielded your power and privilege only to use it to silence so you hold on to your own existing power and privilege?
How many times have you supported colleagues (if you even see us as that) not on a tenure track? How many times have you yourself called us not academic enough? Put us down? Stole our ideas and words then claim you are working for social justice and to give voice to the voiceless? To the oppressed and so called powerless? How many times have you gone into community, claimed community only to use it to get that next publication without building sustainable and truly respectful relationships?
How many times have you said we must work to give a voice to the voiceless? No one in this society is “voiceless” what we lack is access to resources. To means. Privilege and power is a resource the academy grants to a select few, the chosen ones who either take on that as part of their identity or thing they must protect (gatekeepers) or they could use their roles to challenge it. That challenging doesn’t come with words or quantified by how many times you can say social justice in a presentation or paper, but what you really do to dismantle it.
I came to college as a student who is like many students I have taught. A student who wasn’t thought “smart enough” to go to college, a working class student. I was almost kicked out of high school my senior year and ended up on academic probation and dismissal my first year of college. Yes I was kicked out of community college. I lacked information, support, and resources and as someone who has so-called “successfully” navigating “higher education” to become part of the .01 percent of Chicana/os with a Ph.D. I continue to ask myself what that means as myself and many of my friends who “made it” continue to lack all that this path sold us or we are now indebted and told to be grateful for. Many of us learn to blame ourselves. Internalize that we have failed somehow when the system itself was never made for all of us to succeed. It is working exactly as it should. There is no meritocracy, this is not about how hard you worked or didn’t. It is working exactly as it should. This is a funnel. Few make it. It is working exactly as it should. Pipelines don’t end when you finish degrees or don’t. This is the U.S. where oppression from the state and systems including the education system works exactly as it should.
It is not just the hope of those with degrees/adjuncts to have some stability, decent health care, and a living wage. That should be the hope for all of us to have for each other-to live with dignity and respect.
I myself and know many who continue to lack support and resources that I realize now perhaps we never really had in the academy. We came to the academy lacking in those resources and left lacking. I wrote about some of it last year here. We end up on welfare. We end up as adjuncts. We end up disposable not only to the system, but to old “friends and colleagues”. It is isolating, but there is hope, in speaking, in continuing to write, you find some who will hear you, who know that these issues aren’t limited to the only world this system wants you to see. This is bigger than the academy.
I grew up working class, daughter of two Mexican/Chicano parents born and raised in East LA. I was one of 7 children. Since leaving home at age 18, I have been in poverty, working poor and working class. My status changes sometimes year by year, even now as a teacher with some instability and no guarantees this upcoming school year my status has changed month by month, working three jobs so far within this year, but nonetheless I somehow keep moving, like many people, I have to. I keep working for social justice, for a better world for my son, especially because there continues to be much at stake. Choice is a luxury some of us don’t have.
The ivory tower is not everything in this world. There are many more of us who exist outside of it then in it. There are many who are there and do practice what they preach and really that is what inspired this post. Yesterday I was invited to sit around a table to hear professors talk about taking action to guarantee the doors of opportunity aren’t shut not just to their students who want Ethnic Studies, but to save the jobs of their colleagues who are adjuncts. It inspired me. It gave me hope. There are some with power and privilege who continue to use it to speak truth to this system. I am careful not to generalize especially when I see individuals taking action, but sitting and hearing these professors reminded me we are stronger together.
I recall a time when I went to a lot of protests from M.E.Ch.A. in community college, to becoming a member of the autonomous chapter of the Watsonville Brown Berets when I transferred to continuing to be an activist even after a grad school professor advised me it was a phase and I should stop. I obviously didn’t listen. I accepted in that moment during my first year that there would be penalties for not reinforcing the status quo in academia.
There was. There still is. I don’t regret it.