Category Archives: resistance

Seven Words of Christmas

Word ArtThe news have reported that the current White House administration instructed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from using seven words on their budget documents. With seven days left for Christmas, I decided to take the time to write a piece each day highlighting one of the seven words.

In the Christian tradition there is the sharing of the Seven Words. These are phrases that Jesus shared while being crucified. Many Christian churches share and preach on these Seven Words during their Good Friday liturgies. The Seven Words are the climax of what Christian theology calls “the story of salvation.” The last words that Jesus shares are: “it is finished” (John 19.30) and “into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23.46.) After these words, Jesus expires.

According to the timeline of events, after Jesus expires on the cross he is placed into the tomb and on the third day he is resurrected. This is the hope of the Christian person: no matter how difficult the journey is, no matter how painful the culmination of life is, there is always the hope of resurrection. This is the message of Holy Week.

Why am I writing about Holy Week on the season of Advent leading into Christmas? Because the Seven Banned Words of the CDC are a mirror of those other Seven Words of Holy Week.

The current federal administration has been crucifying the remnants of the facsimile of democracy that the United States had. With each carefully orchestrated move, the current administration tries to diminish the people’s confidence and trust on institutions serve the country. They are intentional in the use of words to describe the institutions that keep some resemblance of democracy. The administration’s furious attack on the free press, their obsession with political rallies a year after elections, their systemic appointment of people completely unprepared and unqualified to lead the agencies they are appointed to oversee, their deliberate construction of lies disguised as truth, the unashamed use of FOX News as state propaganda television, and a myriad other big and small actions that undermine democratic processes are just the tip of the iceberg. The United States democracy is being crucified.

Diversity

Fetus

Transgender

Vulnerable

Entitlement

Science-based

Evidence-based

These words represent all that society stands for when they are on their way to progress. French philosopher and founder of Sociology, Auguste Comte, wrote about the stages of human progress. In Comte’s theory, societies move towards progress. There are three stages of society: theological, metaphysical, and positivist. A theological society looks at an unknown occurrence and places all responsibility on unseen beings that control our destinies. Any possibility of progress is thwarted by the society’s fear of angering their mythological beings. A metaphysical society is in the middle stage. Societies in this stage begin to understand that there are certain things that have an explanation. The understanding of actions and their consequences are part and parcel of this society’s natural development. Neither one of these two types of societies is inherently corrupt or ignorant. You cannot know what you do not know. However, these are not ideal societies. The ideal society is one in which members are exposed to a systemic way of understanding truth. To this Comte called a “positivist society.”

Although Auguste Comte’s positivist approach to explaining society is not ideal, it does have merit, especially taking into consideration the banning of words in certain official documents by the current administration. A positivist society understands that humanity is on a journey forward. This journey cannot be contained, no matter how much the powers that be may try to stop it. Resurrection is the conclusion to the crucifixion. Progress is the conclusion to temporary repression.

Democracies are vulnerable entities. They can suffer from the ego of leaders who place power over service. Interestingly, Christmas is the time of vulnerability. In the Christian tradition, Christmas commemorates the birth of a vulnerable child, from a vulnerable family, who was threatened, even as a fetus, with destruction by its enemies – political, economic, societal, cultural, and religious, among others. Christianity proclaims that this child that was born transcended what humanity understood at that moment about the relationship between humanity and its divine sovereign. Some theologians propose that this transcending experience of God made Sophia, the common image of God as Wisdom, take the form of Christ in the person of Jesus, thus making God a transgender reality showing humanity how close the Divinity is to all of humanity. The diversity of opinions that ages of science-based social studies and evidence-based conclusions have shown us, is evidence that societies do tend to move forward towards progress and positivism. It is our responsibility, our duty, and even out entitlement as engaged members of a functional society, to be in solidarity with the vulnerable democracy that we are so desperately trying to save. Resurrection is the conclusion of crucifixion, even during the time of Advent and Christmas.

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Filed under Academy, Creativity, Culture, discrimination, Human Rights, Identity, LGBTQ, Philosophy, Queer, resistance, Sociology, Theology, trans, transgender, United States, USA

The Lazy Spic

10400503_18166125619_9115_nYesterday I worked a twelve-hour workday. The day before I had worked for thirteen hours straight. The day before was nine hours. I had taken exactly two days off in four months since I started my new job. I have worked on weekends and even when I have given my staff a day off, I have gone to the office or worked from home to finish a project or start a new one. My staff is always supportive and they have, on more than one occasion, asked me to take it slow, to pace down, and even encouraged me to take a day off. The Board of Directors of my organization expects me to work hard, but they have also encouraged me to practice self-care, to take time off, and to work at a healthy pace. I can show you emails, texts, and social media messages I have gotten from staff and Board members encouraging me and reminding me of practicing self-care. Yet, I continue to work.

Why do I do this? Sure, I love what I do. I thoroughly enjoy administration, management, strategic planning, and all that comes with this. But there’s a second, equally important reason why I work so much… and it is not because I am a workaholic.

The first new world in learned when I moved to New York City in 2000 was “spic.” There was a definition attached to this term. The spic is a lazy person; they live off of government handouts, they despise work, they are irresponsible, the have moved in droves to New York City and had made the space less livable, less desirable, less safe. The spic didn’t speak English and didn’t want to assimilate to the evidently superior “American” culture.

People – especially USAmericans – have been enraged with President Trump’s comments about how Puerto Ricans have not done enough to help ourselves in light of the major natural disaster we have just experienced. For Trump, we are lazy people who do not want to work collaboratively. This is what he was taught about our community in the New York City of his early childhood. For the USAmerican public, for the most part, these are atrocious accusations. For the Puerto Rican community, these are just the same comments we’ve been hearing since our community started migrating to the mainland in the 1950s.

Although I commend and welcome the rage that Trump’s comments have sparked among my USAmerican friends, you must understand that his comments are not made in a vacuum. Trump is talking about the lazy spic that I have been told I am.

As a Puerto Rican living in exile, you are taught that you are part of a group of people who are, at once, “job stealers” and “lazy people.” How is it possible that we steal “American” jobs and don’t work enough at the same time, I have no idea.

Perhaps for many of you it was a surprise that the President of the United States depicted the people of Puerto Rico as lazy people who do not help ourselves. However, this is what we have heard as a community since the 1950s when our people started migrating in droves to the USA due to the economic realities of the Island cause, precisely, by the USA’s policies towards its colonies. It is this message the one that is still ingrained in my head, to the point that I work and work and work, lest someone accuse me of being lazy and not doing enough.

This is not something I am making up. Neither is this something that happened a while ago and certainly not in so-called “progressive” spaces. On the contrary. This thinking that Puerto Ricans, and Latino people in general, are lazy is still alive. Take, for instance, what happened to me for four years while I served a progressive congregation in one of the most so-called progressive cities in the USA. A woman who self-appointed as the leader of the church would call my office at random hours of the day, just to check that I was there, just to make sure I had come to the office that day. She wouldn’t want to talk to me. She just wanted to make sure that I was there. Her excuse was that she had heard I had not been active in the community, or doing enough home visits to the folk in the congregation. She used her self-appointed status as a leader of the church to let me know that “there were concerns” in the church that I wasn’t being effective. Of course, like any good oppressor, she couldn’t notice the flaw in her argument: I had to be in the office so I could demonstrate that I was doing my job of being in the community and visiting folk.

When you are confronted with this reality every day, you learn to navigate the system. You know that you must be perfect, perform beyond what people’s perceptions of your abilities are, and work twice as hard as anybody else. No wonder the great Nuyorican poet Pedro Pietri wrote about our community:

They worked
They were always on time
They were never late
They never spoke back
when they were insulted
They worked
They never took days off
that were not on the calendar
They never went on strike

without permission
They worked
ten days a week
and were only paid for five
They worked
They worked
They worked
and they died
They died broke
They died owing
They died never knowing
what the front entrance
of the first national city bank looks like

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow…[1]

[1] Pedro Pietri, Puerto Rican Obituary, 1969

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Filed under Culture, ethnicity, Heritage, Hispanics, Hispanos, Human Rights, Identity, justice, Puerto Rico, race, racism, resistance, Sociology, United States, USA

I March For My Niece

My niece, Emely, is nine years old. She is bright, and funny, and loves to read, and loves math, and wants to become a singer and actress. A couple of years ago she had a list of books she wanted me to buy for her. Of course, as a bibliophile, I complied and bought all the books she asked me for and more. When I visited her again, she told me about one of the books I had given her.img_7249

I still remember when Emely started school. Since Emely grew up in a Spanish-speaking household, when she started school she didn’t speak English. She learned the language from her teachers and her classmates. On one occasion, when I asked her to speak Spanish with us and use English for other conversations in order to help her stay bilingual, she said something that shook me to my core. “Spanish is UUUUGLY!” she said. With a heavy heart, I asked her why she said that. She said that everyone in school said it. Spanish is ugly. English is beautiful.

I have talked with Emely about the importance of learning as many languages as she can. I have told her about the importance of using both English and Spanish to communicate, and to take any opportunity she might have in the future at school to learn other languages. I have told her how proud we are of her. I have continued to make sure that she is proud of her Mexican heritage and that she understands what it means to be a USAmerican too. I have shared with her my own Puerto Rican culture and heritage and have encouraged her to adopt what she might want to adopt from it. I have shared with her how wonderful it is to have a non-traditional family, and what a blessing it is that she has a wonderful, supportive, caring mother, and two dads, and so many uncles and aunts, and siblings who live in different homes, and a madrina and a padrino who care deeply for her.

img_7149Today, as a white supremacist, xenophobe, and sexual predator took the oath of office as President, I worry about Emely and her future as a Latina woman growing up in the USA. I know I cannot protect Emely or her brother all the time. I also know that her parents’ immigration status prevents them from providing all the protections that she – both of them, my niece and my nephew – deserve. But there are some things I can do. I can join the RESISTANCE and stand up for my niece.

And so, Emely, I will march tomorrow, Saturday, January 21st. Emely, I will answer the invitation from other women around the USA and the world to stand up to injustices against women. Even though you might be too young to understand, I will march because I love you, because I respect you, and because I believe in you as a woman.

There are also other reasons why I march in solidarity with my niece tomorrow. These are not the only ones, but here are some reasons to march:

I march because I believe that my niece Emely’s brown body is hers and only hers. No one, no matter what position of authority they might have, even if it’s the Presidency of the USA, has the right to touch your brown body, let alone grab it violently and without permission.

I march because I believe that you have the right to education, and that you have the right to make choices as to how far you want to take your education and what profession to pursue or not pursue. You have the right to access a job that is suitable to your abilities and your passions, and to be paid fairly and at the same rate than any male who will do the same job.img_9337

I march because, when the time comes for you to make choices about your body, it should be you, and only you, who make those decisions. Because your brown body is yours and deserves to be respected and honored. Because your brown skin is beautiful, and normal, and is neither “exotic” nor a stereotype to be paraded at the whim of those with power.

I march because I know that your parents can’t be exposed to deportation and because I want to continue being your uncle, not having to be your foster parent should something were to happen to my brother- and sister-in-law.

I march because I believe that, although you have been raised Roman Catholic, you should have the right to make the decision that makes YOU comfortable. I march because, if in the future you want to wear a hijab, you should be able to do it without fear of intimidation. I march because if in the future you choose not to believe in anything, you should not be punished for having no religion.

I march because I believe that you should feel safe in wearing whatever the hell you want to wear in public. I march because I believe that you should feel safe walking down the street and that no one should be cat-calling you, or intimidating you, or threatening your life and safety.

I march because I believe that you should be free to choose to love whomever you want to love, just as I love your uncle who gave me the blessing of being welcomed by this wonderful family that now both you and I, as outsiders, call “nuestra familia.” I march because I believe that you should love as many people as you wish to love and not being condemn for it.

I march because, if I march today, I know… I know… that by the time your Quinceañera comes, this will be a safer place for you and all your loved ones.

I could continue listing reasons to march, Emely, but I can’t. My eyes are filled with tears – you know how much I cry – and I can’t write anymore. But be sure, sobrina, I will march for you. I march for you, mi querida sobrina. I march because I know that staying home is not an option.

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