Waking Up Is Hard to Do

Waking up is hard to do.

I awoke from a seminarian nightmare. Perhaps it was simply a school nightmare. I dreamed that I needed to finish four classes to complete my b.a. in order to complete my divinity degree. Thus I was back at the university. The campus resembled my high school in Arizona, or a high school of my dreams. It was familiar. I was involved with a group of Latino students for which I was the only one qualified to be the treasurer, an anxiety in itself. Running from that meeting I missed the scholarship deadline that would pay tuition. The registration lines were so long, I was reduced to searching through the school looking for a teacher, any teacher, to sign my registration form. I finally found an old wood shop teacher to sign the paper even though the classes were Mexican studies. He made a joke about being his signing of the form being providential, and I revealed that I was taking these classes to complete my m.div.

Frankly, blogging about identity this week made me nervous. Some of the identity issues had been addressed last year on the blog. I planned to write one last blog explaining why I call myself UUGreenBeaner on Twitter, then move on to posts about bullying, a topic that weighs heavy on my heart. But, so too, the Arizona ban on ethnic studies has profoundly disturbed me. I was born in Phoenix. The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly will be there in just over two months. I have not returned to Arizona since my paternal grandmother's funeral in 2008, before the draconian SB 1070 passed. Surgery prevented me from going to protest with other Unitarian Universalists the summer in 2010 when it was implemented.

There were only two children in my grandmother's generation. My grandmother was born one hundred years ago this past November, three months before Arizona was admitted as a state. My grandmother's younger brother moved to California during the Great Depression, while grandmother and grandfather stayed in Arizona. They lost their first born to dysentery in the poverty of those times. My grandparent's goal for their children was assimilation because racism was so strong in Arizona. The California relatives speak Spanish, the Arizona relatives did not learn until adulthood, if at all.  I began to piece the story together as my grandmother began to tell me stories when I became an adult, and my mother and my mother's cousin, told me stories about my grandmother.

I was unable to fully appreciate the magnitude of my grandparent's choice for assimilation, however, until the passing of SB1070. An English-only law passed in Arizona in my early adulthood. Although I voted against it, I was ignorant about the deeper ramifications of racism. Upon moving to California, I distanced myself from Arizona intellectually and politically. Unconsciously, though, the state government's fall from merely unequal to openly hostile to the indigenous, the native born and immigrant Hispanic/Latino population has haunted me.

Time to wake up.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Government Surveys Part 2

Update tweet, later on April 4: Nearly 40 years after the government defined #Hispanic and #Latino, Hispanics still have not fully embraced the terms http://t.co/cex9SDCc via @PewHispanic

I find this tweet very interesting. My question to this statement is why should Central and South American people adhere to the U.S. government imposed labels, let alone embrace them? I just realized that use of those terms give credit to Spanish colonialism. However, a colonialism discussion is far beyond the scope of this blog post. Food for thought.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Government Surveys

Tweet of the Day: When Labels Don’t Fit: #Hispanics and Their Views of Identity #latinos http://t.co/Ugav1WeY

My relationship with government surveys is complicated at best. Pew Research tweeted a report on the Latinos yesterday comparing 2010 census data to their own survey. The census, more than anything, reveals the social construction of race in this country. Starting with the 2000 survey, the government made the act of pigeonholing oneself even more convoluted. There are now fifteen racial categories in the census.

Latino or Hispanic? White or ?

As I grew up, virtually every survey that asked about race used "White (Not Hispanic)" for the white category. My Arizona birth certificate declares that I'm white, since at the time separating white from black was most important. My grandfather was more indigenous than European, but how does one categorize that as race when only "American Indian" is an option. In my undergraduate career, I learned that, in California since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in the nineteenth century, Mexicans were considered white. Except when they were more often not. Politics in the state of California are nothing, if not fickle. 

Fast forward to 2000 when race and culture were mixed up in the census. The census report and the subsequent news coverage focused on the fact that a large percentage of Latinos consider themselves white. The media also conveyed a good deal of surprise. My reaction to the news was anger. How are people supposed to categorize themselves? When asked by Pew research this time around if Hispanic or Latino is a preferred term, Hispanic was chosen more frequently. After thirty to forty years of "White (Not Hispanic)," Hispanic would be a logical choice for most.

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