Thursday, May 31, 2007

wonder years

we used to watch the wonder years religiously in my household. perhaps the reason i enjoyed it so much was because i was in junior high around that same time, experiencing all the same pre-adolescent angst as kevin.

during one episode of the wonder years, kevin participated in a walk out to protest the vietnam war. it made your heart swell to see the students stand up in the middle of their classes, march to the fictitious football field, and begin to sing, "give peace a chance." i wanted to be that kind of american. to stand up for something righteous like peace.

peace was the last thing that we experienced on our junior high playground. there were fights. mexican boys who were bused in from the neighborhoods where my cousins lived. white boys who lived in my neighborhood. there would be a sudden rush of bodies running, trampling toward the scuffle. their fists--brown and white--would fly until some adult caught up, intervened. broke it up.

one morning shorlty after i arrived at school, my cheerleader friend, amee, rushed over to meet me.

"jennifer," she said. "are you going to participate in the walk out?"

"walk out?"

amee excitedly explained to me that monica was organizing a walkout. everyone was talking about it.

"what are we protesting?" i asked. (after seeing the wonder years, i knew that a walk out had to hold some higher purpose than just ditching).

"i don't know," she confessed. "let's ask monica."

monica was surrounded by curious junior highers. we made our way into her innercircle, and amee asked what we would be protesting.

monica informed us that thursday at 10AM we were all going to get up out of our seats, walk out of our classrooms, and proceed to the empty field across the street from the school. we were going to stay there until "they made the mexicans go back to where they belong."

i turned away, stunned, while monica remained to instruct her eager disciples. amee followed me, put her hand on my shoulder and said, "she didn't mean you, jennifer."

"i know she didn't mean me."

"so are you doing to go?"


that week it was somehow permissible for all of my white friends to say incredibly racist things in our casual conversations. walking home from school one day, josh says the group, "why can't those mexicans just go back to where they came from?"

"josh!" i said, "i'm mexican!"

"but you're not THAT kind of mexican."

that kind of mexican. i knew what he meant. he meant that i wasn't a working class mexican. i didn't take the bus from the other side of town. i didn't dress like them. i didn't talk like them. but if i wasn't that kind of mexican, certainly my cousins were. certainly my parents used to be. my family. and they are part of me.

the walk out never happened. the rumors made their way to the administration, and they called a meeting of student "leaders" (e.g., student council members, football players, cheerleaders) to ask us not to participate. they made public warnings that any students who participated would be punished.

a newscrew showed up on the day that it was supposed to occur. but there was nothing. the evening news showed footage of an empty and silent schoolyard. an interview with a red-faced prinicpal wringing his hands, saying, "we do not have a race problem here."


i've told this story countless times over the past twenty years. most recently, i recounted it to a woman who is writing her dissertation about the educational experiences of chicana ph.d.s. i'm not sure if she'll find that i'm similar to or different from the other women in her sample. i think this story shows that i grew up mexican and middle class, which placed me in the sometimes uncomfortable space between "white middle class" and "mexican working class."

honestly, it's an identity that i've struggled with for years. and it's motivated most of my educational and professional endeavors. to research and write about mexican/mexican american experiences in the united states. it doesn't always make my heart swell, but it's an endeavor that i am proud of.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

the "i am" meme

pete tagged me with this one. i was counting how many sentences i have to begin with "i am," and notice that each person i've read who has done this meme has done a different number. that makes me a little crazy. i need a template, people!

i am sitting on my very comfortable red couch, feet propped up on the coffee table that my brother donated to me, listening to the evening traffic rumble along outside my window.

i am, according to pete, la cantante maravillosa. when i saw that he was tagging "la cantante maravillosa," i wondered, "who's she?" thanks, pete. it was a great party.

i am waiting for joseph to iron his clothes, so that we can have our evening chat. these are our rituals. :)

i am promising myself that i will get up early and go to the gym tomorrow morning. i have washed all of my athletic apparel, so i have no excuses.

i am going to read the articles that i assigned to my class tonight, so that i don't have to have as stressful a wednesday as i usually do. students are not the only ones who procrastinate.

i am sad that it is tuesday, and there will be no new episode of the gilmore girls. ever again.

i am glad that i've been able to spend each weekend of the past month with family and friends in bakersfield, austin, and LA!

i am looking forward to the end of the quarter. very much.

i am looking forward to going to cancun in a few weeks.

i am a bad blogger. i think i'm averaging two posts a month these days (including memes!).

i am also turning out to be a bad writer (in terms of academic writing). but hopefully i can turn that around this summer.

i am not going to tag anyone else!


Thursday, May 10, 2007


last time i wrote i was poised to begin the quarter; now i'm muddling through the middle. when i say "muddling," i can point to the fact that i have twelve student papers in bag, begging to be graded. *sigh* and then there are the student emergencies and excuses--so many in such a short period of time! i'm still trying to figure out how to be compassionate and also fair.

fortunately, there are some better aspects of being a professor. tonight, for example, i was invited to be a judge for a chicano/a talent show. it was great to see a different aspect of the students' lives. some performed spoken word poetry, others performed music that they had composed; there were dancers and singers. i was happy to have a part in it, though it was difficult to judge!

in any event, i am five weeks away from the end of my first year as a professor. so far i've managed to keep my head above water. next year i hope to progress from treading water to swimming. even if it's just dog paddling. ;)