You the Educators…
By Irene Sanchez
After Corky Gonzales
You the Xicana/o/x educators… We have the responsibility of educating our young people and setting an example not just to them, but to each other, our families, and our communities. We need to know and realize that the young people are always watching. That begins at the basic level of honoring our families, and our communities, but in all that it means honoring our palabra.
As Chicano activist Rodolofo “Corky” Gonzales said on teachers:
“Your responsibility is one of the most important in the movement, to you lies the great task of teaching the truth about our history, our culture, our values, and our contributions to mankind. You, the Chicano educator, must encourage and develop confidence in our children and teach our young people the history of our colonization and oppression, and you must in all honesty instruct and direct them to a sound political action that inspires them to commit themselves to the progress of our people and of all humanity. The schools are tools of the power structure that blind and sentence our youth to a life of confusion and hypocrisy, one that preaches assimilation and practices institutional racism. You, the educators, have to rise above this to be the urban missionary, to be the beleiver in the advancement of our youth to a new and progressive society, and to be totally dedicated to mold minds to learn to know their fulture role as builders, teachers, and leaders. The progress of a people is judged by their educational attainment. Yours is the responsibility of truly educating our youth to the ideals of character, principle, and complete liberation. A teacher who loves to teach, loves people, and a person who loves, teaches the truth and stands by the students”.
If conditions are not in line and people are not acting with love for the people and our students and instead focuses on love for their ego, for their recognition, or to silence others in order to uplift their own voice, or any other selfish priority, that person is not fulfilling their goal as a Xicana/o/x educator. If they promote and uplift people who engage in those behaviors, the same can also be said. There are many seeking to silence others, to “call out” in order to be heard, to make blanket accusations, to distort truth in order to uplift themselves, but those people are not leaders and shouldn’t be looked to as such.
Paulo Freire said, “Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.”
How can we then say we are truly fulfilling our goals as Xicana/o/x educators if we are opressing others, shaming them, or not meeting people where they are if they are new to the movement? We should be welcoming them. That is our responsibility to each other and to the next generation.
If people in our communities allow oppression or at worse engage in it actively (especially in presence of/or directed towards children) and if we were to stand along side and selectively turn eyes and hearts away from serious harm just because a person is “our friend” or because “We don’t like them”, “We don’t like her” or because “we are the downest orgnaizers” or because a person has some other personal agenda, I wonder how are you a person that is acting in ways that liberate? Audre Lorde said, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change”. We can not change society if we engage in the same oppressive behaviors and assume our children and the next generation isn’t watching. Accountability is necessary, but so is self reflection and giving space and room for people’s capacity to change. We try to guide our students in this process as Xicana/o/x educators so we must be able to engage in that process as well. As Xicano educator Sean Arce stated in his essay “Xicana/o Indigenous Epistemologies: Toward a Decolonizing and Liberatory Education for Xicana/o Youth” in the book White Washing American Education, “Engaging in Tezkatlipoka as epistemology and as a pedagogical tool allows for Xicana/o youth to critically examine themselves, their familias, and their communities, which constitute revolutionary acts, for to fully know oneself through self-analysis and within the colonial context of schooling that discourages Xicana/o youth from doing so is a liberatory process”.
We make the road by walking and if it is to be a revolutionary road we must engage in self-reflection to be better educators and people serving our gente.
In this current struggle for Ethnic Studies in the state of California with AB331, we must recognize and acknowledge and teach about the struggles that came before that allow us to even be Xicana/o/x folks with degrees, with acccess to college, and the ability to become teachers. If we don’t know about these struggles and those outside of Xicana/o/x studies, it is our duty to uncover, to read, to learn, to engage with other educators, to dialouge and to share resources. It is also our duty to realize that no we do not know everything and know that there is something always to learn. As Myles Horton states, “…that you have the responsibility, if you have some knowledge or some insight, to share that with people. If you have a conviction, you have a responsibility to act on that conviction where you can, and if you’re doing education, you act on that in an educational context”.
One cannot simply erase history to fit a personal agenda or act as if ALL began with them, ideas have roots and if we fail to acknlowedge all that has come before that has allowed our ideas to bloom well then we act in ways of the oppressor by using their tools in an attempt to re-write history to center alternative narratives.
We as Xicana/o/x educators have a responsibility to situate our experiences in a larger context (personal as political) for example there were struggles in my hometown of Jurupa Valley, CA in the mid-90s I am working on researching. I wonder what occurred prior to my own enrollment in the first Chicano Studies class in the Jurupa Unified School District. To learn more I have been doing a content analysis of school board meeting minutes. I know the history of that struggle does not begin in my personal experience being one of the first students in that class, but it is a point to depart from to learn more about who were the people who made it possible for us to have that space in a post Prop 187 environment? Why do we not know their names? Why did they do what they did?
We as Xicana/o/x educators have the responsibility to teach about the truth and another more obvious example is teaching about the struggle for Mexican American Studies in Tucson Unified School District that occurred almost a decade ago when the program was banned with the State of Arizona’s passage of HB 2281. Many Ethnic Studies programs in K-12 across the country now are based off this program (where Arce was formerly the director). The impact that the fight in TUSD with MAS had on the country and current struggle in California is undeniable (although some seek to erase/re-write/and dismiss MAS and TUSD). The case Arce v Douglas is further proof of the impact of MAS and TUSD. To deny any of this is to deny us and to deny our students the education they deserve to be inspired to change the world.
People often say the personal is political, but it wasn’t meant to mean that every personal issue is political or every political issue is personal, it meant that if there are personal issues (that when this term was popularized during the second wave feminist movement-personal issues brought up) such as violence in the home or division of labor, then that person is not alone and that the personal issue is part of a systemic issue.
These systemic types of oppression are not limited to only existing in the Xicana/o/x community, but also other groups and overall in the larger society we live in. Personal issues impacting our community hit me everyday as an educator because I knew my students were not alone, I know I am not either, and in order to be a strong Xicana maestra who can do all the things we are responsible for according to Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales we have to first know our responsibility, be dedicated to our students and our communities in order to create ideal conditions for our collective liberation.
We as Xicana/o/x educators can not replicate the ways of the oppressor. I know that for me when things have been difficult, as they have been more lately, I know I am not alone. I have my family, my students, my friends/loved ones who I can turn to. These are the people who love me and I love them. We need each other to continue doing the work inside and outside the school system in order to fulfill our responsibilities as Xicana/o/x educators as Corky Gonzales highlighted. If the progress of our people is at least in part judged by our educational attainment, we as Xicana/o/x educators understand that after decades our communities educational levels remain among some of the lowest in the U.S. If we also understand our communities progress is also situated within a larger context of capitalism and oppression where we need to address urgent matters such as racism, discrimination, incarceration/detention of our gente/relatives, violence in our communities, the need for opportunities for youth, along with our educational attainement levels, then we know we all still have a lot of work left to do…