Institutions and identities…


Over the last week, every aspect of my identity  has undergone some sort of institutional attack by the Trump administration.  What’s even more saddening is that so many more people; friends, family, and strangers (fellow countrymen and fellow global citizens) have experienced the same attacks and yet have had to feel them on much deeper levels. To realize this suddenly Saturday morning with my children, while attempting to shake off the remnants of a difficult work week by reading a friend’s tweet… it is all surreal. 

My identity as the child of an immigrant mother who came to this country at 19, newly married to my father… a soldier in a semi occupying army in her native land, this part of me is under an old but vigorously renewed assault by the same country that welcomed my mother with open arms. I’ve always had to deal with prejudice and misunderstandings of one of my home cultures.  It is hard to read stories like this and not feel the impact at the core of your soul when you juxtapose those with the memories of waiting anxiously outside of customs to be reunited with your family once again.  Being a Panamian – American is not as hard perhaps as some other minority bi-cultural groups, but that identity is questioned and challenged for basic legitimacy and dignity nonetheless.  As is my Mexican heritage.  How should one respond to the building of a wall to keep separate the people on the other side you call Tio and primo?  I have a few choice responses swimming around my mind right now. 

As a husband to my wife, a woman who’s entire family lineage is born of a Muslim land where people are currently being barred from entry to the country we both call home… the attack is real. Like me, she can vividly recall the beginnings and endings of summer travel to our other homelands at the Tom Bradley international terminal… immerging from the tunnel to warm smiles greeting us. Attempting to imagine what other have been greeted with as of yesterday’s America is traumatizing. 

I’m infuriated by the attacks on women in general, as a father of two young girls who will be growing up in a “democratic” society that attempts to legislate and politicize their own bodies. Incensed by the economic and social inequities imposed and emboldened by this administration’s view on a women’s worth in the work place.  I’m sick to my stomach. 

I’ve already lamented about the attacks on my profession in recent posts. But I found this UCLA interview with public education champion Pedro Noguera to be informative and semi hopeful. Yet it is clear that Inand others will have to fight for the very right to envision our work through the lens of justice. 

And what of our work?  And that of others. While this new administration, like those of the past, asserts that they prioritize job creation and expansion of the middle class, they are about to enact policies that will completely decimate it. At the same time, they are drastically attempting to limit the power of labor organizing, lying to union leaders, placating them with overinflated estimates of infrastructure jobs to be created and squeezing out any real sense of union strength that will be necessary to preserve the working class. 

These are some of the identities that make up my daily existence.  And while I won’t quite adhere to the sentiment that my existence is being completely challenged… I know enough about history and contemporary society to understand that many people are feeling the pressure of these encroachments by the political apparatus in a way that brings on a type of existential and identity crisis that typically results in two outcomes: 

 1.  You become paralyzed with fear, afraid of the possibility that your existence is no longer welcome or sanctioned by the state… and you conform, playing along with the insanity in the hopes that you will get by until the next “transition of power” wishfully thinking it may be more merciful in the future. This option unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately is only viable for a few. 

2. You fight. Fight like hell to be recognized, never apologizing for who you are and where you are from. Because your whole life you’ve known to one extent or another that your identities, complex as humanity, were never fully accepted by the state. Your existence has always been challenged one way or another. 

It is the fight that has become unclear to many. And for those who are coming out of the privileged consciousness of false peace, it’s quite a cognitive dissonance to make the leap into war, even if that war is to be waged for your own self preservation. Because you have never really had to fight. But for those who have lived their whole lives under attack, there is nothing else but the fight. 

To be clear, if we are going to come out on the other side of this ok, we are going to need both types of folks. And the fight can take on many tactical variations and iterations. But fight we must. These words are one extent to the fight I will continue to be, for these words are me. And my government has not stolen them from me. Not yet… 

What will we do tomorrow? 

To be part of today, part of history… the amount of people and all our collective resistance, humanity… it was amazing. Here in Los Angeles, 750,000 were estimated to have turned out for the Women’s March. Those estimates are not over inflated (take note Trump.) 
And yet, even as the high of participating slowly drains from my body… my mind wrestles with a question. What will we all do tomorrow? And the next day? It is this question that I know matters even more to the Resistance movement. 

It is without question that we must continue to organize and push. But what does that mean? I know for me throughout the years it has meant being part of an organization, a community of people working to improve the world we inhabit in some meaningful way. There were so many of these types of communities that were present today, unified in our message of Resistance. And yet I know there were so many people there who came just as families or as groups of friends. And that is a wonderful sign of things to come, of what could be possible when folks organize themselves and build broad based coalitions of overlapping and supportive work under a framework of social justice and humanity. And it all begins with building relationships. But it also means extending yourself into the realms of real and often uncomfortable work of organizing. It is a sacrifice, but it is one born out of shared community and struggle.

It is this shared community that has been our struggle in the past. The factioning and fracturing off of many “left” and “progressive” and even “radical” causes who stay strong and continue to push for demands of equality, justice, and even reparations… but who do not stand united everytime. Today, for whatever reason it felt… different. Have we finally realized how to stand together? For more than one day?

As we take the fire of inspiration that many of us were a part of lighting today, let’s be clear of the commitment to action we are taking. Tomorrow, we should rest… and reflect. Pick up a book that helps prepare you for the fight that is necessary for the movement to succeed. Read or re-read some of the history that has gotten us to this point. Call someone and invite them to read these with you. Form a reading/study circle, or seek one out to be a part of… and rest. Monday, become an official member of an organization for the first time. Support public media with a donation, however small. God PLEASE support our public media outlets. Sign a couple of petitions online but then really research what those causes are all about… and then JOIN those organizations that are fighting for change. Call one of your representatives, just one and give them hell. Remind them that you were in the streets… and they may have been in the streets. Remind them that they work for us, and this is what we want.

We. Want. Change.

And. We. Will. Fight.

What will you do tomorrow?

So let’s review…

She can’t commit to not privatizing public education 

She cannot be sure if, as the chief education enforcement officer in the land, she will hold educational institutions accountable to the same standard whether they are public, publically funded and privately managed, virtual or otherwise

She won’t uphold federal law to ensure equity or equality for students with disabilities 

She doesn’t fundamentally understand the important debate around authentically and accurately assessing student learning

She believes that public dollars should be allowed to go to religious education, despite that going against our nations first constitutional amendment 

She doesn’t have an opinion on how the second amendment should be interpreted to protect our schools 

She has no public educational experience whatsoever (k-12 or higher ed)

She has not been cleared by the Office of Ethics 

She lied to congress in her confirmation hearing

Her brother founded one of the most successful and dangerous companies on the planet with a business model that essentially removes public and governmental oversight of the military 

TODAY’s POP QUIZ:
Is Betsy Devos qualified to lead and improve our nation’s PUBLIC education system?

Are you Hearing this Hearing?

It’s better than watching it perhaps, it depends on if you prefer your eyes and ears to bleed or just your ears, but in this era of ridiculous danger, we must all subject ourselves to this type of abuse lest we suffer more later not having known what to expect. With Betsy DeVos we can expect not a whole lot of substance or transparency when it comes education policy supporting America’s PUBLIC school system.
See below.

There were many more exchanges of course and not one of those led to an actual answer of the question posed, which is not surprising in the political sphere but DAMN it is annoying. Her exchange about guns in schools was too infuriating to post here. But it was pretty clear that she will indeed push a privatized agenda. To be clear… here is what she will do away with and here is how we will let her… unless we fight.

Rediscovery of Self Determination…

2016 Black Comix Festival: MLK Monday – SF

“Daddy…”
“Yes dear?”
“Can you snuggle with me?”
“Of course.”
“Daddy but first let me tell you something. Do you know before you were alive that Martin Luther King was alive and that they had separate restaurants for black people? And they called them colored? And they had separate bathrooms?
Is that right?”
“No…”
“Does the color of our skin matter?”
“No… ”
“Whats is really important?”
(pause) “Who you are inside.”
“Thats right.”
“But they had drinking fountains for white people and some for black people? And they tried to call the police but they didn’t move.”
“Many people, black, brown, and white organized together to change that. When people come together and work together and they know something’s not right they can fix it.”
“What can I fix?”
“Whatever you see is wrong. If you see something you know is not right, you can always try and fix it.”

…echo
… echo in my head
… let me please remember this moment. and follow up with these lessons revisited. for myself. for my children. for my students.

there are so many complexities to this. as a parent, how do you balance developmentally appropriate with historical accuracy? or contemporary reality? i didn’t have the heart to tell her that skin color still matters, to a lot of people. that systemic oppression exists, that it is real. that racial, class, and gender warfare are real and that these are some things that she should prepare to fix. but she’s 6.
6 years old. and i am so proud to be her father. proud and excited to see what little corner of the world she finds and dedicates herself to helping make better.

Re-entry… 2017

2016 didn’t see a lot of public writing from me. The various factors adding up to the sum total of struggle. Last year was definitely challenging on many fronts. As an educator (shout out to Katie Nisa), a parent (shout out to my wife Parisa) and as an overall human being (shout out to all of those who acknowledged on a level greater that their previous level of consciousness that humanity has a lot of work still to do.) From the deaths of iconic childhood figures, to the vitriol obsessed media coverage of just about everything horrible, suffice to say it was hard for me to focus on reflective writing.

This post, and hopefully others to come symbolize my re-commitment to this very important practice. I didn’t realize how important it actually was until I was presented with the possibility of losing all of my past entries, over a decade of reflections written down, in moments of pondering, responding, and at times reacting to the world around me as well as the one within.

As far what else this year and the near future have in store for all of us working towards education for change, I think it is safe to say that we have a serious fight on our hands. Last year around this time, one of my only posts to begin the new year was welcoming my last born child and only son into this world. I did so with a mixture of joy, concern, and uncertainty. A year has brought us closer to some of those concerns and has definitely presented us with much uncertainty in many different realms. One of the driving questions that has been occupying much space in my mind as of late is the question of action. What will be my course of action? How will others around me organize ourselves towards action? While many different people involved with many different organizations ask themselves different variations of this same question, for my own part I feel it important to reconnect with the practice of studying. Attempting to make more time for reading and hopefully discussing with others ideas that will help us face whatever uncertainty with dignity and action.

As we begin the next phase of American democracy and the educational system that has been an integral part of both sustaining and repressing democratic principles and practices, I keep my mind set on these few things:

Reading
Reflecting
Writing
Discussing
Dignity
Action

2017, here we go…