Untitled Indio and V. Cholo 1975 3281 Olympic Blvd. (walkway) Acrylic on stucco, 32′ x 24′ Leopard crouching in a tree.
Schools instill policies and practices that are designed to divest Latino students of their culture and language, and a key consequence of these subtractive elements of schooling is the erosion of students’ social capital evident in the presence and absence of academically oriented networks among immigrant and U.S born youth, respectively.
Latino males are effectively vanishing from the institution of higher education in America. Even as the number of Latina/os attending college has increased steadily over the past few decades, the proportional representation of Latino males continues to slide relative to their female counterparts. The discourse on this topic, which is rather diminutive, I argue, has been focused on looking at the structural problems that Latino men are subject to (unequal access to education, poverty, nativism, racism, et al) and cultural problems (demands and expectations brought on by their patriarchal and cultural norms). In an attempt to find a genealogy on why the Latino male is vanishing from higher education, it has become all too common to see many authorities on the subject proffer a solution: the reformation of the institution. Yet what is often missing from the dialogue is whether the true problem lies with the traditional academic structure itself: conventional norms of academic success have not worked for most men of color.
Rather than find an enrapturing experience in educational institutions, people of color frequently experience ridicule, exile, and peril. When referring to Latino students, one finds that they are ill-served by an entrenched educational system that does not acknowledge-much less honor-their unique cultural heritage and distinct ways of knowing about the world. As noted by Jason Osborne, professor of Educational Psychology, “The stigma of acting White among minority males, is ultimately a reflection of their lack of identification with traditional norms of academic success, which ultimately results in their devaluing of academics and education in the traditional sense.”
In an attempt to find a long term solution for the problem of the vanishing Latino male in higher education, the reader will not find methods on altering or deconstructing the traditional institutions. Rather, what will be proffered is the need to create separate institutions, void of the dominant culture, with access to the same resources allocated to the Dominant culture. As noted by Fanon, in his essay “On the Fact of Blackness”, Blacks find themselves in an odd predicament: their entire ontology has been constructed by the gaze of the Other, demarcations have been imposed. Building on Fanon’s point, it is of primary importance that People of Color reconstruct themselves, establish a locality for themselves, and in doing so, make it void of the Dominant group. The Latino male finds himself in a world where, as, Maria Lugones notes, he is constructed as an outsider8. The need for a separate, non-exclusionary institution is of vital importance.
The envisioning of a separate institution comes at a time when the roles of higher education are being brought into question. The status of the institution is altered as societies as well as cultures enter into a new saga9 of human development, or as is more commonly known “the postindustrial age”10. The focus, then, is on the “nature” and “status” of knowledge: what knowledge is, and how it is generated, organized, and employed in contemporary societies, in short, the ways in which advanced societies treat education, science, and technology, research, and development11.Most importantly, the focus is on who or what determines and controls the flow of knowledge, and how it shapes our lives and experiences of the world12.
The attention is then diverted to the university, for is it not the role of the academy13 to shape the lives of students in an enrapturing, positive way? Sadly, to the disbelief of many the answer is no. Just because you have colleges and universities does not mean that you have an education. The colleges and universities in the American educational system are skillfully used to mis-educate14. Essential to its livelihood is securing and protecting the system that has served and prospered the sovereign well, refusing to change it for the worse on the pretext of its imperfection15. This lesson is doubtless one of the hardest to translate into a language that public opinion will accept; the best of all possible systems of education is indeed imperfect. Such ideological acknowledgement also exemplifies Badiou’s formula of the basic paradox of enemy propaganda: it fights something of which it is itself not aware, something for which it is structurally blind – not the actual counterforce’s (political opponents), but the possibility (the utopian revolutionary-emancipatory potential) which is immanent to the situation16.
What then become’s of interest is not the possibilities that have been erased, but rather the ways in which these possibilities are erased. These questions are then best addressed by thinking about space as an institutional phenomenan17. Foucault had characterized ‘disciplinary societies’ as those in which the management of inclusion and exclusion was accomplished by an archipelago of disciplinary institutions dotted across the social field – asylums, factories, schools, hospitals, universities-each seeking to implant a mode of conduct into the body and its correlate soul18. Today, noted Deleuze, control was not confined within such institutions; rather it was immanent in the flexible, fluid and fluctuating networks of existence itself19. This idea is then taken up by Hardt and Negri when they suggest that biopolitics20 is a form of power expressed as a control that extends throughout the depths of the consciousness and bodies of the population21. It comes as no surprise then that Latino males spend enormous amounts of time in the physical space of their school. Though rather than prepare them to imagine different possibilities; schools are largely designed to train students to fit into what already exists.
Though it is important to note that the colonization of space is not just an institutional phenomenon that exists in the academy, rather it is a phenomenon that exists in the entire architecture of western civilization. The contours of leisure, noted David Buckingham, have shifted for children in the last decades. Not only have merchandisers targeted children, but due to increased affluence and anxiety about external dangers, “the principle location of children’s leisure has moved from public spaces (such as the street) to private spaces (the bedroom) 22. Outside experiences have been steadily displaced by domestic entertainment (particularly via television and computers) 23.
In a fifty-year period, the time children spend before television screens and computers has jumped from zero to at least three or four hours daily24. During the same stretch, the budget on advertising has escalated from zero to billions. This targeting has brought about what has come to be known as the “reshaping” or “commodification” of childhood25. In the same way that people do not naturally work and must be encouraged or compelled to do so, people do not naturally engage in consumerism without prompting. Media is essential in stimulating this kind of consumerism26. Interestingly, as more children live by schedules and play in schools, the notion of space also undergoes a constant change27. Spaces that once were associated with the concept of “public” are now being transformed into “private” spaces. The authorities “invade” parks and organize play areas, resulting in the cutting down of trees, the leveling of the ground, a stream canalized, and the area flooded with asphalt28.
It is for this reason upon which one can no longer think in terms of reform, for the entire architecture of the academy serves as a tool of colonization. Latino male students finds themselves located in spaces that strips them of their cultural way of knowing the world, as well as removing any experiences with the natural world around them. The capacity to slough of the “self” (which has been socially formed) along with the spacious comforts of civilization cannot be accomplished through the structure of Western Civilization, which upon the academy is modeled. If unstructured childhood sustains imagination, and imagination sustains utopian thinking, then the eclipse of the first entails the weakening of the last – utopian thinking29.
The ruling reactionary circle, through the consequence of being imperialists, transformed the world into what Huey called “Reactionary Intercommunalism”. They laid siege upon all the communities of the world, dominating the institutions to such an extent that the people were not served by the institutions in their own land30. This is important to note, for as Dussel made aware, the phenomena of modernity is exclusively European; that is, it develops from out of the Middle Ages and later diffuses itself throughout the entire world31. Philosophically, no one else better than Hegel expresses this thesis of Modernity:
The German spirit is the spirit of the new world. Its aim is the realization of absolute Truth as the unlimited self-determination of freedom – that freedom which has its own absolute form itself as its purport32.
Yet it does not end at that point. European Modernity is not an independent, autopoietic, self-referential system, but, instead, it is “part” of a “world system”: its center33. The centrality of Europe in the world system was not the soul fruit of an internal superiority amassed during the European Middle Ages over against other cultures. Instead it is also the effect of the simple fact of the discovery, conquest, colonization, and subsumption of the Americas34. Modernity then, must not be viewed as a phenomenon of Europe as an independent system, but rather ofEurope as “center”.
It is on this paradigm that an agreement could be made with Agamben, upon which he claims that Holocaust is not an exceptional moment of throwback to a singular barbarianism, but an enduring possibility intrinsic to the very project of civilization and the law35. Agamben here though, is in need of a bit of correction; holocaust is intrinsic to the very project of western civilization and western law36. Continuing on Agamben, he argues that power rests ultimately on the ability of one to take the life of another – it is a power over life grounded in the possibility of enforcing death37. For Agamben the ultimate grasp of the sovereign of the state over the lives of subjects is exemplified in the concentration camps, labor camps and death camps of the Nazis: sovereign states depend on their capacity to create states of exemption. Such states may be exceptional, but are nonetheless immanent in modernity itself – a fourth space added to that of state, nation, and land in which inhabitants are stripped of everything but their bare life, which is placed without recourse in the hands of power38.
The project of modernity then is alive and well in the project of the institution. Today the state of exemption is found in the academy, which is structured to strip the bare life of its inhabitants. Though, as was noted earlier, the center of empire is located in the imperial world, the Latino male is situated upon the periphery, so it comes as no surprise then the Latino male is subject to the enforcing of death; having to take upon a new identity, that is socially formed, whereupon by the end of the term a degree is a recognition of his assimilation.
The function of the academy then is to serve those forces of power that have become the impetus force of history39. Competitiveness and profitability are valued as much as, if not more than, impartial inquiry and public knowledge. Teaching resources in subject areas that have no direct commercial potential have been slashed, and students are encouraged to adopt a consumer mentality in shopping for an education that can readily be transformed into market value40º.
The basic role and function of the institution, and why they are supported, is to provide an ideological service41: the structure of the academy becomes so much like the structure of work organizations and capitalist society as a whole that it serves to stabilize the system and promote the interest of people who are in positions of power42. It comes as no surprise then that universities support and encourage people to occupy themselves with irrelevant and innocuous work. 43
Such a premise that presupposes that the values of the institution are to endorse a political ideology seems more like an abstraction given the rise in activist scholarship that proposes to do the opposite: subvert the hegemonic structures of power. It would appear odd for an institution to maintain a scholarship that would expose its imperialistic leanings. Yet given the rise in much of the literature in this field, through close examination one can easily see that this form of scholarship in turn is imperialistic and places a select few in the role of tutelary.
An example can be seen in Beverly Lindsay’s work, which concludes that “dependency relationships, based upon races, sex, and class are being perpetuated through social, educational, and economic institutions. These are the linkages among third world women”44 Here, as in other places, Lindsay implies that third world women constitute an identifiable group purely on the basis of shared dependencies45. If shared dependencies were all that was needed to bind third world women together as a group, they would always be seen as an apolitical group with no subject status46 . Lindsay also states that their exist cultural and linguistic differences among third world woman, such as those between a Vietnamese women, and an African American woman but “both groups are victims of race, sex and class”47. Women then become characterized by their victim status. This form of essentialism freezes the marginalized in time, space, and history, making them objects in need of a white savior (read:male).
When one projects on a marginalized individual a victim identity because they believe it to bring the concerns of the marginalized into greater visibility, they are acting in complicity with an assaultive structure of racist domination in which they invest in the absence of agency; to name someone a victim is to deny their agency48. It is no accident that the voice that speaks loudest against the calling forth of a framework of victimization is most often the one that focuses on the need for racial separatism, for people of color to assume total responsibility for improving their lot 49. A renewed struggle for self determination is needed to shift the focus from a framework of victimization to one of accountability50. It is such a discourse that allows people of color to recognize their complicity, their need for an ongoing process of decolonization and radical politicization, while remaining steadfastly clear about the primary role the vast majority of White Americans play in perpetuating and maintaining white supremacy51.
Segregation in Americaenabled African Americans to maintain oppositional worldviews and standpoints to counter the effects of racism and to nurture resistance52. The effectiveness of those survival strategies was made evident by both civil rights movements and the militant resistance that followed in their wake53. Exemplified in this was the Black Church, which has always been a place in the United States where African Americans have learned oppositional ways of thinking that enhanced their capacity to survive and flourish54. The insistence on the limitations of humans, a crucial concept of Black Liberation Theology, was crucial for African Americans suffering at the hands of white oppressors and/or exploiters55. The assumption the white power structure was limited, subject to forces beyond control, even a belief in the miraculous, was an empowering worldview running counter to the teachings of white colonizing forces56.
The resistance to colonialism was so fierce that a new strategy was required to maintain and perpetuate white supremacy. Racial integration became that strategy. Placed in positions of authority in educational structures and on the job, whites could oversee and eradicate organized resistance. The new neo-colonial environment gave whites even greater access and control over the mind of the marginalized57. Integrated educational structures were the locations where whites could best colonize the minds of people of color. It is for this very reason that the need for a separate institution is of vital importance. Latino males find themselves in a location where they are stripped of their specific cultural ways of looking at the world. Many are forced to adopt a “cool pose”- a ritualized approach to masculinity that allows them to cope and survive in an environment of social oppression and racism, including that found within U.S Schools58. Gradually, as time persists they become constructed as an outsider, removing any form of identification with academics59.
What then becomes vital is an institution that has a profound respect for the cultural identity of the Latino male- a cultural identity that implies respect for the language of the other, the color of the other, the gender of the other, the class of the other, the sexual orientation of the other, the intellectual capacity of the other; that implies the ability to stimulate the creativity of the other60. It becomes vital that these institutions are entirely free of charge, given that many Latino males come from lower family income levels and parental education. It is also important to note that oppressed communities find themselves always living as the detachable appendages of other people’s dreams and desires61. It seems that the dreams of the poor are always dreamt for them by distant others who are removed from the daily struggles of the working class and are either unable or unwilling to recognize the dreams that burned in the habitats of their hearts62. This is why it is important to make sure that these institutions are led by, and controlled by the community.
These institutions would enable the Latino male to analyze his location within the privileging hierarchy of capitalist society and engage in attempts to dislocate themselves from existing cycles of social reproduction. By doing so, the Latino male situates himself in the ability to retain a concept of the political beyond a consumer identity constructed from the panoply of market logics63. Though in order for an educational change of this caliber to occur it must be accompanied by significant changes in the social and political structure in which education takes place64. Here one can incorporate the Pan-African ideals of DuBois that argued that people of color do have a responsibility to Africa, Latin America, and Asia not by virtue of a biological connection or racial link, but by virtue of a political identification that is forged in struggle. We should be attentative to Latin America and Africa not simply because this country is populated by Latinos and Blacks, we trace our origins to Latin America and Africa, but primarily because Latin America and Africa have been and continues to be a major target of colonialism and imperialism. In this way the Latino male can come to identify with the academic structure he finds himself situated in.
The official culture, notes Said, is that of priests, academies, and the state. It provides definitions of patriotism, loyalty, boundaries, and what Said calls belonging. It is this official culture that speaks in the name of the whole and that tries to express the general will, the general ethos, and idea which inclusively holds in the official past, the founding fathers and texts, the pantheon of heroes and villains, and excludes what is foreign or different or undesirable in the past65. It is for this reason that there exists a vanishing Latino male in higher education. The Latino male has become excluded from culture, denied alternative belief systems, and has come to believe in his second class citizenship.
In an attempt to fix this pandemic that is circulating all over the country, as well as reconstruct the ontology that has been imposed by the Gaze of the Other, the Latino male is in need of a separate institution. The traditional forms of education have come to fail the Latino male. Rather than give them the tools to identify with academics, as well as acknowledge their cultural ways of knowing, and liberating themselves, the institution rather has come to serve the will of those in power: creating a stable labor force.