Dear Friends & Colleagues,

As some of you already know, I am leaving the University of San Diego at the end of the Spring Semester. I’ve lost track of who I’ve told, and who I haven’t, so please forgive the rather generic way I’ve posted this information.

This summer, I will move to Los Angeles and work as a Consultant with The INNOVA Group, Inc. This firm specializes in community based research, strategic planning, and non-profit capacity building –among a myriad of other things. I will work on projects including but not limited to higher education, immigrant civic engagement, homelessness, and community access to health resources. The opportunity to work on these issues in substantive and meaningful ways excites me and opens up numerous possibilities for me.

It has been an honor and privilege to work with all of you —and I want to especially thank my colleagues in the Department of Sociology and Ethnic Studies for the unwavering support. I’ve had an amazing opportunity to work with fantastic colleagues, and some pretty terrific students. All of you remind me that individual effort, tenacity, ingenuity, and innovation, can overcome individuals, environments and institutions that fail to make meaningful commitments to social change and diversity. As I move forward in my personal and professional journey, I feel empowered by the amazing work my colleagues and I have done, and hopeful about the future because of the really phenomenal things I’m watching my former and current students do with their lives. Although I’m moving to new things, I will no doubt make an appearance or two around USD –particularly during women’s basketball season, so perhaps I’ll see a few of you around the JCP.

While change is inevitable, I think it’s important to look towards the future and not live in the past. I am focused on setting goals, making moves, creating new paths, and being open to new opportunities and possibilities.
With love and admiration,

Belinda

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When you choose a career as a professional sociologist that studies race and ethnicity, immigration, and organized labor –you know you are signing up for a career where you try and teach students and those around you that: 1) Inequality Matters; and, 2) there are a multitude of ways that inequalities based on race, class, gender, and sexuality manifest themselves in everyday life.  On good days, you’re grateful when the majority of your students “get it.”  You relish those moments when your students aren’t trying to “please” you by trying to simply give answers that they think you want to hear –and instead they get real and say what they truly think and start true and meaningful dialogues, regardless of how uncomfortable people may feel.  These lessons and meaningful discussions, however, are often tempered by the realities that lie just outside the doorway to your classroom.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself astounded by the ridiculous amounts of tokenism that permeate the academy.  As many of you have already seen in the pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education –Naomi Shaefer Riley a journalist affiliated with the neo-conservative “think tank” (I use this term loosely) the Institute for American Values attacked Black Studies and 3 specific graduate students after simply reading their dissertation titles. She provides no empirical evidence for her assertions, and fails to offer any type of substantive critique based in empirical research.  Furthermore, she asserts in a second blog post that because she is a JOURNALIST she doesn’t need to read or provide evidence before writing a 500 word essay.  I’d argue that this type of arrogance that has lead to the downfall of journalism as we know it.  The very simple fact that the Chronicle of Higher Education gives space to racist blog posts with no empirical basis, and written for the sole purpose of spreading vitriol and demeaning a program that’s desperately needed in order to diversify the academy –should make all of us question whether the Chronicle of Higher Education should legitimately be considered the standard bearer for higher education news.

The real danger, however, is that this type of unfounded and uninformed opinion has become the accepted norm.  Instead of actually looking at the realities that surround us everyday, we allow institutions and people to believe that race (or any axes of difference really) doesn’t matter anymore.  That somehow the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 magically ‘fixed’ all racial inequalities and we no longer need to pay  attention to the persistence of race based inequalities in health, housing, incarceration, and housing (to name a few.)  People point to individuals (e.g. President Obama) as proof that success has happened for minorities –but fail to look at the system and the ways it needs to change.  These attitudes permeate all areas of higher education where adminstrators, professors, and institutions see no problem in tokenizing students or professors and using them as proof of ‘what a good job they’re doing” —when in fact they’re simply reproducing the racist, sexist, homophobic mores that historically have gone unquestioned in the halls of academia.

For more years than I can count, I’ve been haunted by the fact that I’ve had the same conversation with a multitude of students of color around this time every year.  Student X comes to my office, they’re unhappy and want to leave.  They’re seeking support, affirmation that their feelings are important, and want some advice.  Unfortunately, after five years, I’m all too familiar with the sources of the unhappiness, and the importance of the student being able to exert some semblance of control over their reality.  At some point in the conversation, they talk about how angry, mad, stressed, and confused they are by how they’re being treated by others in the university.  The student will say something like, “When I told Administrator Y that I wanted to leave, they immediately started lecturing me on why I should stay.” Or, “Administrator Z keeps cornering me and pressuring me telling me I need to make a decision and that they think I should stay.”  In almost every single instance, the student ends by saying, “It’s funny that now that I want to leave –people want to “help” but they are still doing the same thing they always do –talking over me and not listening to me. “

Imagine what life would be like if we listened more and talked less.  Instead, we’ve created a culture in higher education (and broader society really) that privileges the promotion of unfounded accusation and self interest without regard to empirical real world experience.  In higher education, we become so focused on tokenizing people of color that we encourage a culture that lets people care more about numbers and window dressing, than we do about substantive engagement and contribution.  This type of culture allows for the persistence and legitimation of unfounded attacks that lack any real substance or merit.  In addition, it promotes the idea that the way to diversify education is by investing in the ‘claiming’ of students rather than true engagement and conversation with students.  In the end, this type of tokenization leads to anger, resentment, and the transferring of talented and amazing students who could have enriched our university

For those wishing to support USD students, please see the following website:  https://sites.google.com/site/ausd4everyone/

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I turned on the news two nights ago and found myself listening to a San Diego 7 News report titled, “A Campus Divided” (click here)  that reported on the supposed division among students on the PRIDE groups’ decision to sponsor a Drag show designed to educate the campus community about trans community and gender identity.  PRIDE has worked diligently to navigate the considerable number of bureaucratic hoops and hurdles placed in front of them.   The irony of this report is that it constructs upheaval among students, when in fact, it’s off campus individuals and organizations creating the upheaval through their hate infused messages and harassment.

The response from those ‘concerned’ about “Catholic Identity” has been a litany of hate mail directed at the students, their organization, and University administration.    While part of me wanted to laugh when I saw that someone said that the University of San Diego stood for “Undeniable Satanic Destruction” –I found myself saddened (not surprised) by the level of intolerance and vitriol aimed at students trying to honor and celebrate individuals who face discrimination and prejudice everyday.  Just as frustrating and saddening is listening to the type of hate being aimed at these college students in the name of religion.  I fully respect the right of every individual to freedom and religion –but wonder what religion, god, gods, goddesses, or deities preach hate as an acceptable form of behavior and social interaction.  It seems antithetical to any form of religion.

Many of us were reminded when reading an autobiographical article written by the late Dr. Joseph Columbo,, who taught in the Theology and Religious Studies Department, that it wasn’t that long ago that this community and their allies had to meet in secret –in fact professors had to keep their gender and sexual identity in the closet.  While the university has come a long way since that time, my hope, is that we remind ourselves that this is not the time to take a step backwards. For five years, I’ve watched as too many students have struggled to live their lives out loud and be respected for who they are regardless of their sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, or class status. The LGBTQQ community has become the target of religious zealots who claim to stand for all Catholics and Christians –when in fact, we know there is great variation in the ways in which different parts of the Catholic Church and denominations within Christianity view same sex partnerships and unions.  In truth, I might have  a lot more respect for those sending hate mail,  emails, and comments on Facebook pages and blogs if they stepped out from behind their keyboards and actually opened themselves up to a public and meaningful conversations.  Hate thrives in silence and anonymity –so it’s time for us to combat this bigotry by taking a stand against homophobia and hate.

I stand with PRIDE and celebrate the strength, tenacity, and perseverance of the students who are working hard to educate the campus community and combat hate.  I thank USD for standing behind them too.

For those needing a refresher on Asian American Studies 101, let me set the groundwork. The idea that Asians are the “model minority” is a myth. For reasons too numerous to count, this stereotype has contributed to the false and racist belief that Asian Americans, collectively, have overcome past discrimination and ‘made it’ (Tuan 2004). While some want to celebrate the over-generalized stereotype of Asian American success, popular media also portrays a sense of impending doom due to the “Asian Invasion” of the United States. Historically, this “yellow peril” portrayed Asians as a threat to the U.S. educational, economic, and labor systems (Frank, 1999, Nakanishi and Lai 2003). Politicians, media, and pundits utilize yellow peril to perpetuate a culture of fear (Glassner 1999) in order to create the perception that the imminent threat will necessarily lead to detrimental outcomes for the public. These contradicting narratives simultaneously racialize Asians as both foreign threat and proof that adherence to meritocracy makes the effects of discrimination temporary. The catch is that even though the ideal of meritocracy is central to US construction of success, that when non-whites –and in this case Asians, achieve success they are still viewed as threats to the power paradigm that promotes white exceptionalism.

This past week, sports enthusiasts were introduced to Asian American basketball phenomena, Jeremy Lin. The hoopster from Harvard was thrown into the national spotlight when the 4th string point guard reinvigorated a beleaguered New York Knicks team that was falling apart due to injuries and a series of off court tragedies and problems. “Linsantity” brings to the forefront both the economic potential of the Asian American market (See Espn’s Report on Lin’s Impact) but also, the not so subtle racism and prejudice Asian American athletes face in collegiate and professional sports. While his accomplishments on the court this past week have been nothing short of spectacular, one must ask –why all the hype? If Jeremy were white or black, would the accomplishments be treated with such extreme fanfare? In fact, just yesterday, Floyd Mayweather provided his own opinion on this –arguing that African Americans do this everyday and that Lin’s viewed as special because he’s Asian American. My answer is a bit more nuanced. I think Mayweather has a legitimate point when saying that a lot of the hype is because Lin is Asian American. I think we’re lying if we don’t admit this fact. But the sad but harsh truth is that Jeremy Lin’s rise to stardom this week points to the ongoing racism Asian American’s face. Underlying all the hype is the fundamental prejudice, held by the public, which says Asian Americans can’t play. When trying to rationalize why Lin’s performing so well –the sports commentators calling games repeatedly talk about what a ‘smart’ player Lin is –referencing both court decisions and his economics degree from Harvard. It’s not to say that he isn’t smart –but that this narrative is the only one proposed for this week’s success. Equally disturbing are the “debates” asking if “J-Lin is Legit?” The debate, in and of itself, would be unproblematic if it was simply about his skills –because it’s essentially a wait and see situation. Give Lin the opportunity to play and see how he performs. The problem stems from the unspoken implied question. If J-Lin is in fact ‘legit’ how does this change our understandings of the racial politics of sports in the United States that encodes meanings on racialized bodies? What does it mean if race is the reason that, Jeremy Lin, as Kenny Smith from ESPN said, was overlooked because it was a “severe misjudgment of talent?” If media coverage of ‘Linsanity’ is correct, then you will see an Asian invasion of the NBA because of the ‘marketability’ of Lin to the Asian international and domestic markets. What I find interesting is the fact that the NBA values this ‘infusion’ of Asian interest as part of market growth, while sports media struggles to comprehend the possibility of Asian American success in sports. Not surprisingly, however, is that the wedge politics of race that often comes along with challenges to the status quo. The new yellow peril, in the form of Jeremy Lin, focuses on the possibility that now that we might be willing to acknowledge the racism Asian American sports stars face, is that it necessarily means potential threats to blackness and whiteness in sports. As exemplified by the Mayweather critique, is that the focus on Lin inevitably means racism against African Americans. Or, if we pay attention to the undercurrent of sports commentators –if we have more ‘smart’ players entering the leagues, what does it mean to the white power structure?

Juxtapose the media hype surrounding Jeremy Lin with the recent ad run by Pete Hoekstra, a candidate running to represent Michigan in the Senate during the Superbowl. For those of you who have not seen the controversial ad , it depicts an Asian woman with a supposed Chinese accent in ‘traditional’ attire riding through a rice paddy. The audience is warned of the specter of socialism, and the impending economic takeover of the US economy by China if we didn’t focus on government spending. This advertisement plays into claims of Obama and his supporters’ promotion of ‘socialism’ and the rise of China as a global force. These racist depictions recycle yellow peril fear mongering present in World War II advertising (Hamamoto, 1994). Both the construction of race and ethnicity, and the racist depiction of Chinese culture evokes the a culture of fear based on economic nationalism. Not unlike what Dana Frank, discusses in Buy American (2000) audiences are expected to fear the loss of American exceptionalism due to the potential increased success of China in economic markets. These fears are made palatable through generally uninformed analysis that fails to look at the history of foreign economic policies related to Free Trade, lack of diplomacy, and the ways in which the financial industry remained largely unregulated by both Republican and Democratic legislatures and administrations. Instead of looking internally, the media –and in this case Hoekstra scapegoats the foreign other –making China the enemy and by association his Democratic opponent that he contends, is to blame for the current state of the economy. The sad fact is that Hoekstra’s campaign is racist, unimaginative, and nothing new. This case of yellow peril is just part of a larger campaign promoting hate and economic nationalism.

Yellow Peril Version 2.0 (or maybe it’s version 3.0 or 4.0 I’ve lost count) works to reinscribe the idea that anything Asian is the other –whether it’s related to sports or the economy. Acquainting ourselves with the historical discourse on Asian American experiences in the United States allows us to understand that the racial politics embedded in the coverage of Jeremy Lin, or in overtly racist ads likes Hoekstra serve to reinforce powerful and demeaning stereotypes of Asian Americans. Don’t get me wrong –these cases are vastly different, but the potential for expanding and promoting stereotypes is very present and extremely dangerous. The real question is whether or not we’re willing to see past the hype, and begin to educate ourselves about Asian American history. Because as Walt Kelly once noted, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Some self-reflexivity and perspective is needed in order to truly understand that we don’t need to create a new yellow peril –instead we need to study and examine the racist beliefs and socialization that constructed a reality where the athletic success of Jeremy Lin is not considered within the realm of possibility.

That said, when asked by friends if I’ve subscribed to the “Linsanity” –my answer’s simple. ABSOLUTELY. Because guess what –Asian Men CAN jump.

References

Frank, D. (2000.) Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism. Beacon Press

Glassner, B. (2010) The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things: Crime, Drugs, Minorities, Teen Moms, Killer Kids, Mutant Microbes, Plane Crashes, Road Rage, & So Much More. 2nd Edition. Basic Books Press.

Hamamoto, D. (1994.) Monitored Peril: Asian Americans and the Politics of TV Representation. University of Minnesota Press.

Okihiro, G. (1994.) Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture. University of Washington Press

Tuan, M. (1999.) Forever Foreigners or onorary Whites: The Asian Ethnic Experience Today. Rutgers University Press

Posted: February 15, 2012 in Contemporary Politics, Immigration
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This blog installment is written by Guest Blogger: Dr. Nicole Guidotti Hernandez, Associate Professor of American Studies  from the University of Texas, Austin.  Enjoy!!

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I just began teaching Juliana Barr’s book Peace Came in the Form of a Woman in my Feminist Borderlands History course at UT Austin. The book brilliantly details the gendered nature of diplomatic relations between the Spanish and Texas Indigenous tribes such as the Comanche, Caddo and Kiowa in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It details how Native women became the arbiters of peace and negotiation processes during this epoch in Spanish America. My students had a hard time dislodging the idea of diplomacy from the empire. In other words, they couldn’t imagine that Indian nations had sophisticated systems of decorum and processes  that involved women where the Spanish had to obey to survive and pass through the region. At one point in my lecture I asked, “When Obama gets off a plane, people don’t get up in his face and say ‘what’s up homie?’ ” As the students chuckled I continued, “no, we see that there is a particular set of cultural rules that one must follow in addressing heads of state today, just like with Indigenous communities who controlled Texas before the Spanish and American presences became dominant in the nineteenth century.” It was as if I were psychic, because, literally, while I was delivering my lecture, someone did get up in Obama’s face.

On January 25th, Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona did something unheard of. She literally and aggressively waved her finger in President Obama’s face as if chastising a school aged child for behaving badly. While there are several angles one could pursue in interpreting this event, I want to talk about it in terms of race, gender, and immigration.

It still makes me laugh that Brewer and Arizona Republicans want to incarcerate all immigrants and essentially run all brown and black people out of the state, calling for stricter immigration policy at the federal level even though more and more people are dying crossing the border, being intercepted in Arizona and being deported at record rates. Nonetheless, as a Latina feminist, I can’t say that I’m thrilled with Obama’s immigration policy, especially given the increase in deportations under his tenure as President. But as a former resident of Arizona, I can assure that my frustration with Obama is nothing compared to the ire that I feel for Brewer and her posse of neocon henchmen (or is it the other way around?) who in a matter of two years have outlawed Ethnic Studies in Arizona high schools because they are supposedly biased and promote overthrow of the US government, banned books because they incite racial separatism, and passed one of the most stringent anti-immigrant laws in all of the United States.

On to the finger pointing… Some might use gendered stereotypes to narrate Brewer as a pathological, out of control, raving white woman, who insulted the President. Brewer has characterized her finger waving as a normal and moral response, for “she’s always been expressive with her hands and didn’t mean any disrespect.”[i] Enter the politics of race and gender. Would Brewer have waved her finger involuntarily had she been talking with another white woman or a white man who was the President? Or is it that Brewer subconsciously, as many Americans do, see Black men as worthy of disrespect because of their race and gender, irrelevant of the decorum of diplomacy mandated by the power structure? My guess is that this might not have played out the same way had the conditions of race and gender been different. If Brewer were a man, would the media have pathologized her behavior similarly? I doubt it.

While Obama laughingly told Diane Sawyer “I’m usually accused of not being intense enough, right,” his flat affect signaled something also about the politics of race, gender and diplomacy that demand he be anything other than too relaxed.[ii] His job and credibility depend upon this. So while the flat response to Brewer’s finger shows that Obama, like the Comanche in Texas in the eighteenth century have a sophisticated sense of diplomacy in the face of an immigration crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, what we see in that involuntary finger pointing is that bullying has arrived as a normalized practice, however “involuntary,” even by women.

This post is the introduction to a paper I delivered as part of a series of talks culminating an immersion trip to Italy sponsored by the USD Francis Harpst  Center for Catholic Thought & Culture.  Today, in honor of the legacy of the work that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr did during his lifetime, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and why I believe we all must commit ourselves to continuing the work of Dr. King.

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“ We are not only living in a time of cataclysmic change; we live in an era in which human rights is the central world issue”  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963, 94)

    On October 23, 1963, amidst a year-long campaign advocating for President John F. Kennedy to issue a second “Emancipation Proclamation” that enforced civil rights and voting rights via executive order (ibid 87), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered an address to the members of District 65 Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to commemorate their 30th anniversary. His speech highlighted the idea that the disempowered could fight economic and political power structures to achieve victory by engaging in a social movement so powerful that it enabled workers to “wrest some tokens of dignity from unwilling hands” (1963, 90).   The struggle for dignity, according to King, was an experience shared by unionists and African Americans and served as common ground that made the groups, allies in a broader struggle that linked labor rights to economic justice.  King acknowledged however, that numerous obstacles and barriers including racism within unions and society at large impeded social change. While unions were winning battles,  King warned that  even as those in power made concessions to unions, they would ‘give to us with one hand and snatch back with the other, every gain we make” (ibid). Achieving social justice meant acknowledging, “that mankind through the ages has been in a ceaseless struggle to give dignity and meaning to human life” (ibid).   Dr. King’s words and social analysis are equally important today as they were almost fifty years ago. The struggle for economic and racial justice remains at the forefront of political mobilization and action. Workers, particularly in the public sector, find themselves fighting their state governments for benefits, collective bargaining rights, and retirement. The civil sector, in an era of globalization, was once considered a safe haven for middle class jobs and lifestyles, now find their livelihoods in jeopardy.  Recent legislation enacted in Wisconsin and Ohio, and proposed changes in twenty-four other states, most notably Indiana, directly attack the collective bargaining rights of unionized public employees.  Additionally, there is anti-immigration legislation similar to Arizona’s SB1070, proposed in 24 states. These initiatives bring to the forefront the struggles facing both immigrant and non-immigrant workers across the country.  Funded and backed by a broad array of socially conservative politicians and think tanks, as well as corporate libertarians like the Koch brothers[1], these new initiatives attack the stability of government sector jobs and stealthily disguise moves toward privatization in the public sector including the prison, medical, and finance systems that need lower wages and non-union shops for corporations to profit.[2]The fight for economic justice and the recognition of the contributions of all workers regardless of race, gender, and citizenship is needed just as much now as it was when Dr. King addressed District 65.  More insidious, however, is the vitriolic public discourse that fails to disguise the hate, racism, xenophobia and anger directed at immigrants and the working class –both of who are integral to sustaining the US economy.  For example, Sheriff Joseph Arpaio announced that Maricopa county plans to launch ‘Operation Desert Sky.’ a program “staffed by citizen vigilantes and deputies from human smuggling and drug enforcement units” that will deploy 30 pilots into the air with M-16’s to hunt border crossers.   While these examples are extreme, they push us to question the motives behind, and the public response to these initiatives. Why do individuals feel threatened by workers receiving living wage, pensions, and benefits? Why are people threatened by providing immigrants access to decent, albeit low paying, jobs? Why do politicians and members of the citizenry at large feel compelled to turn to misinformation, lies, or worse –violence as a “solution” to perceived immigration or worker problems?  These attacks on worker and immigrant rights confront us with difficult dilemmas about the divisive way in which politics intersect with identity, difference, and privilege.  As educators focusing on social justice and equality, we must grapple with the complex reality that the challenges and changes we want our students to see depends on a reconfiguration of the social, ethical, and moral infrastructure that frames how work, organized labor, and immigration are viewed by students and society. _______ In the full version of this paper written in conjunction with a Catholic Social Teaching (CST) Immersion seminar sponsored by the Francis Harpst Center for CatholicThought and Culture, I discuss the potential for utilizing the CST principles of Dignity of Work and the Preferential Option for the Poor and sociological research on  stratification and privilege to help teach the importance of advocating for workers and immigrants in the modern era.


[1] Hamburger, Hennessey, and Banerjee. (2011). “Koch Brothers Now at the Heart of GOP Power” in February 6, 2011 Los Angeles Times.
[2] Handley, J. (2011).  “Divesting from Private Prisons” in July 16, 2011 , In These Times. http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/11623/divesting_from_private_prisons

New Year, New Photography

Posted: January 14, 2012 in Personal

For the past six months I’ve been working on improving my photography skills.   Some of you saw the ‘Curves’ 30 day project that I posted on facebook.  I also put part of it here.

Santa –(also known as my family) helped me improve my collection of lenses. After chatting with Mark Woodrow –one of the many wonderful parents that I know from the USD Women’s Basketball team –I did some research on prime lenses (lenses that take pictures as faster speed but do not zoom) and purchased two new lenses.  I’m excited to learn more about the possibilities of what I can capture!  I thought I’d share with a few of my favorite January shots.  You’ll notice two themes –Sunsets and USD Women’s Basketball.  I’ve always loved the colors of sunset.  Those who know me –you know I love USD Women’s Basketball (want proof, see this: http://cot.ag/A5HMOU) .  I decided I would spend some time working on my sunset pictures and my action photography.  Here are my five favorite pictures that I’ve taken with my new lenses:

1) I took this picture at Sunset right behind the San Diego County Building in Little Italy.  I like the sky and light in this picture.

2) Ok, I have to admit that I like this second picture because of the expression on Amy Kame’s face.  She’s about to run into a screen. In the background, you see a very intense Felicia Wijenberg who’s probably guarding her own player, but it looks as if she’s studying the potential collision.

3) One of my favorite places to visit when I’m home in San Francisco is Ocean Beach. What most people don’t realize is that the best time to catch clear, crisp sunsets is during the winter.  Other times of the year, you often get a lot of fog.  I like the light, the colors, ad the reflection off the water.

4 & 5) These final two pictures are linked. Dominique Connors dishes the ball to Felicia Wijenberg during the game.  I liked that the basketball wasn’t blurry and that you could see their facial expressions very clearly.