BECOMING LATIN@: How we see ourselves in history & relation to how others see us
The term Hispanic – Latino/a - La Raza – Chicano/a – Xicano/a – Boriqua - Puerto-Rican – Brown – Mestizo/a - Country-hyphenated-American, etc. Latinx is the latest term but a concept that began in 1492 and has continued to evolve ever since the birth of the first child in the Americas among the fusion of Europeans, Africans, Asians, Native peoples. There is so much pride and astounding contributions from the people who identify with these names. Yet, this concept is also a direct result of the brutal pillage of our indigenous communities, rape of our mother’s mother, torture of our father’s father.
Instead of focusing on solely the historical trauma, my goal is to embrace this history by realizing that each of us is trying to resolve this by becoming more humane. Life is about regaining our humanity in the journey that it takes us on in order to become our fullest selves. The human spirit outweighs any oppressive system and the energy of love heals any wound. I encourage us to embrace the journey of creating a sustainable & equitable environment. We protest both covert & silent as well as overt & loud while creating a collective voice. As humans, we all try to connect which is why we look for diversity because we want to know if we are really there for each other as humans. This is solidarity, this is what we are searching for, this is what love is all about, seeking profound intimate human connection.
The word “Latin@” is spelled using the ampersand to replace the letter “a” or “o.” Pizarro, Montoya, Nañez, Chavez, & Bermudez (2002) are Latin@ educators who formed Maestr@s, a group which contended that the Spanish language is imbedded with a male-gendered perspective and coined the use of the ampersand in response:
We deliberately created this term Maestr@s to name our group because it is a visual intervention and a re-coding of information. We seek to augment the visual cues to the reader to illustrate that we are moving between different linguistic, epistemological and ideological systems. (p. 290)
Latinx is a term being used in 2016 to create a more gender inclusive concept. X is also symbolic to the belief of Nation of Islam that it sheds the slave master's name since those from African origin lost their tribal name due to the Atlantic Slave Trade. I propose that the X in Latinx expands the notion of gender inclusiveness and lost African origins such that the X is symbolic the term Latin@s because of the additional acknowledgement that our personal history is interconnected to our collective history. One cannot have educational excellence without equity. While oppression manifests uniquely in each community, do not mistaken that oppression is interconnected globally. This means that our liberation is in the global connections. What if we could co-create language for our liberation?
Identity development is not restricted to adolescence, but is a lifelong process of construction and transformation (Phelan & Davidson, 1993). According to Phelan and Davidson (1993), young people must cross real and imagined borders as they define their own identity. However, individuals of color are often impacted by the social domination of race, class and gender (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). In addition, as the Suarez-Orozco team (2001) noted, immigrant children are especially affected by what society mirrors back to them regardless of their own established identity.
One of the most problematic issues of racial identity is with the level of rigidity of contemporary racial classifications (Cross, 1991; Wijeyesinghe & Jackson, 1996; Phinney, 1996). As Omi & Winant (1986) point out, “race is often treated as an objective fact: one simply is one’s race; in the contemporary U.S. if we discard euphemisms, we have five color-based racial categories: black, white, brown, yellow, and red” (p. 6). As racial identity has expanded globally, many people do not fit in these categories such as Arabs, Brazilians, Southeast Asians (Davis, 1991; Harris, 1964). Hence, traditional racial categorization is problematic on several levels in the construction of race.
Among all the multiple racial identity development theories, perhaps none are as complex as the theories addressing Latin@ identity formation (Alba; 1990; Anzaldúa, 1987; Ferdman & Gallegos 2001; Quinones-Rosado, 1998). Ferdman & Gallegos (2001) declared “much of the thinking on race in the United States stems from the history of Blacks and Whites and their relationship” (p.33). Latin@s’ sense of identity development is based upon a complexity of issues including, one’s skin phenotype, citizenship, and class (Rosaldo & Flores, 1993). Latin@s who do not fit any racial category, but are racialized, often belong to several racial categories (Bejarano, 2005; Quinones-Rosado, 1998). Utilizing current racial categories, being a Latin@ in the United States is a complex identification that transcends many traditional boundaries. Ferdman & Gallegos (2001) argued the complexity in the identity of Latin@s challenge the established racial order in the United States.
I propose that the concept Latin@ is a evolutionary process that is very broad based on the culmination of all these experiences mentioned above transcending race, language, country, etc. where the illusive bond is our critical consciousness awareness. This means for the first time in human civilization and since 1492 those of us who resides in the American continent is “becoming Latin@”. This concept includes all of our diversity, and fortifies our solidarity with one another because we acknowledge the healing process from our collective historical trauma of colonization. We all look for this connection and diversity is the fuel that makes the journey continue. The balance is being aware of one’s fear of the unknown and engaging in the belief that we are all trying to connect.
Unfortunately, the reality of defining Latin@ is often based on the normative assumptions of White Supremacy that is a selection process of elimination of how this group is socially defined. Originally, this group was defined on birth location and racial classification that later blurred into country of origin. Eventually, the term transformed into a U.S.-centric perspective that is either the colonized term Hispanic or political term Latino/a. Unlike African-Americans whose primary criterion is skin tone or Native American whose proof is bloodline, being Hispanic/Latinos can be claimed by almost anyone. Yet, there seems to be a socially acceptable definition for fitting into this category that is as follows:
Context: Culture is dynamic and society has a tremendous influence on defining the parameters for cultural groups. At the same time, individuals are empowered when they claim their own identity. Hence, when individuals collectively define themselves as culture in a critical conscious manner and not allow labels to define them, they in term define the labels.
matter if others do) 4 (Yes I do & I sometimes correct others) 5 (Yes I do & most identify me this way)
1 strongly disagree 2 disagree 3 neutral 4 agree 5 strong agree
The hypothesis spectrum of Latin@ Identity based on Ferdman & Gallegos Model
Latin@ as other
Self-identify based on race
Self-identify as a group relative to the norm often Hispanic
Identify as Hispanic/Latino accepting what society has given
Self-identify as country of origin or hyphenated
Self-identify as Latin@
Self-identify as broad, dynamic, complex Latin@ness
Influenced by targets of oppression
Non-target of race, class but target of immigrant
Non-target of race, class, education, but target of immigrant
Target of geography, immigration Grew up in environment where obvious Latin@ pop.
Non-target of race, class if adult immigrant target of Immigrant or 1st generation
Target of Immigrant to country or 1st generation & critically educated
Critically educated or Informed on Latin@ Critical Race Theory
White & norm ed.
Alba, R. (1990). Ethnic identity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands/la frontera: The new mestiza (Rev. ed.). San Francisco: Aunt Lute
Bejarano, C. (2005). Que onda?: Urban youth culture and border identity. Tucson, AZ: The University
of Arizona Press.
Cross, W.E. Jr. (1991). Shades of Black: Diversity in African-American identity. Philadelphia: Temple
Davis, F.J. (1991). Who is Black: One nation’s definition. University Park, Pennsylvania State. PA:
Ferdman, B., & Gallegos, P. (2001). Racial identity development and Latinos in the United States. In C. Wijeyesinghe, & B. Jackson III, (Eds.), New perspectives on racial identity development (pp. 32-36). New York: New York University Press.
Harris, W. (1964). Patterns of race in the Americas. New York: Norton.
Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education, Teachers College
Record, 97, 47-68.
Omi, M., & Winant, H. (1986). Racial formation in the United States: From the 1960’s to the 1980s (2nd
ed.). New York: Routledge.
Phelan, P., & Davidson, A. (1993). Renegotiating cultural diversity in American schools. New York:
Teachers College Press.
Phelan, P., Davidson, A., & Yu, H. (1998). Adolescents’ worlds: Negotiating family, peers, and school.
New York: Teachers College Press.
Phinney, J. (1996). When we talk about American ethnic groups, what do we mean? American
Psychologist, 51(9), 918 – 927.
Pizarro, M., Montoya, M., Nanez, M., Chavez, R., & Bermudez, N., (2002). Seeking educational self
determination: Raza studies for revolution. Equity & Excellence in Education. 35(3), 276 –
Quinones-Rosado, R. (1998). Hispanic or Latino? The struggle for identity in a race-based society.
Diversity Factor, 6(4), 20 – 25.
Rosaldo, R., & Flores, W. (1993). Identity, conflict and evolving Latino communities: Cultural citizenship in Jose, California. Research report No. G5-90-5, Fund for research on resolution, National institute for dispute resolution. Washington DC.
Suarez-Orozco, C., & Suarez-Orozco, M. (2001). Children of immigration. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Wijeyesinghe, C., & Jackson III, B. (2001). New perspectives on racial identity
development: A theoretical and practical anthology. New York: New York University Press.
E3: Education, Excellence & Equity is going international as I have been invited to participate as a "Featured Voice" in the Global Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil from August 23-27, 2016! This unprecedented opportunity is yet another point of validation of how the simple concept of using an equity lens to translate one’s life experience into life skills in a way that illuminates everyone’s strengths is possible.
Since I cannot bring the entire E3 network with me, my goal is to highlight a few key relationships that I have established. My request is if I can bring your name and our past work to share with the world. In a pragmatic sense, this means that I will have a slide with your name and our working relationship. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I share this with obvious excitement and a stronger conviction that the message of E3 continues to gain momentum. I realize that this is my passion and expertise but without your support, this work since 2008 could not exist. Therefore, I am asking if you can FORWARD AND SHARE this email with your network as we never know whose lives we will touch. I have learned from our millennials that this is what it means to go viral - so let's have the message of E3 go viral: One cannot have educational excellence without equity!
HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE OPTION ONE:
I AM THRILLED TO ANNOUNCE E3’S FIRST DEMONSTRATION SCHOOL SITE THAT HAS TAKEN THE CONCEPT OF CULTURAL RESILIENCE OF 5 SKILLS TO FIT THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY. SAINT RAPHAEL SCHOOL IS A (PRE-)K-8 CATHOLIC SCHOOL, LOCATED IN SAN RAFAEL, CALIFORNIA. SAINT RAPHAEL SCHOOL FOSTERS A CATHOLIC FAITH AND PROMOTES ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE AND LEADERSHIP SKILLS. SAINT RAPHAEL SCHOOL'S VERITAS PROGRAM HELPS STUDENTS IDENTIFY AND DEVELOP THE UNIQUE STRENGTHS THAT GOD HAS GIVEN THEM, SO THAT THEY CAN BUILD SELF-CONFIDENCE AND PURSUE THEIR HIGHEST LEVEL OF ACADEMIC SUCCESS. STUDENTS LEARN TO CULTIVATE FIVE 21ST CENTURY SKILLS FOR SUCCESS: INNOVATION, ADAPTABILITY, CRITICAL ANALYSIS, CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATION, AND TEAMWORK. STUDENTS THEN HAVE THE ACADEMIC PREPARATION, LIFE SKILLS, AND CONFIDENCE TO FOLLOW THE SCHOOL MOTTO: "BE WHO GOD MEANT YOU TO BE AND YOU WILL SET THE WORLD ON FIRE." ~SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA THE SCHOOL DEMONSTRATES THE VERITAS PROGRAM IN A VARIETY OF WAYS. TEACHERS INTEGRATE THE FIVE SKILLS INTO THEIR DAILY CURRICULUM, ALLOWING STUDENTS TO USE THE SKILLS TO INCREASE THEIR ACADEMIC SUCCESS. THE PRINCIPAL SHARES HOW THESE SKILLS ARE MANIFESTED AT SCHOOL THROUGH A MONTHLY NEWSLETTER. IN ADDITION, EACH FAMILIES USES A VERITAS HOME KIT TO DEVELOP AND RECOGNIZE WHEN THEY ARE USING THESE SKILLS AT HOME. EVERY QUARTER, FAMILIES HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO FURTHER STRENGTHEN THESE SKILLS AT HOME THROUGH HOME CHALLENGES.