Madrid, Arturo. - Missing People and Others

Madrid, Arturo. - Missing People and Others -...

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Unformatted text preview: 'anSquPEoPLEANDOTrrERs 5 ~ _ I. joining Together to Expand the Circle Arturo Madrid I I I I I am a citizen of the United States, as are my parents and as were their par- I ents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. My ancestors" presence in what is ' now the United States antedates PlymOuth Rock, even without talng into ac—' ' count any American Indian heritage I might have. i i ' I do not, however, fit those mental sets that define America and Americans. My physiCal appearance, my speech patterns, my name, my profession (a pro- fessor of Spanish) create a text that confuses the reader. My normal experience is to be asked, “And where are you from?” ' ' ' ' ' My response depends on my mood. Passive—aggressive, I answer, “From here." Aggressive-passive, I ask1 “Do you mean where am I originally from?” But ultimately my answer to those follow—up questions that ask about origins will be that we have always been from here. i I ' _Overcomin'g my resentment I will try to educate, knowing that nine times out of ten my words fall on inattentive ears. I. have spent most of my adult life" explaining who I am not. I am exotic, but—as Richard Rodriguez of Hunger, , ofMemorjy fame so painfully found outwnot exotic'enough . . . not Peruvian, or Pakistani, or Persian, or whatever. ' I ' I'am, however, very clearly the other, if only your everyday, garden—- » variety, domestic other. I’ve always known that I was the other, even before I lmew‘the vocabulary or understood the significance of being the other. i , - I grew up in an isolated and historically marginal part of the United States, a small mountain village in the state of New Mexico,‘the eldest child of From Cbangc 2'0 Way/Junc’1988): 55—59. Reprinted. by permission. Madrid, Arturo, (2004). Missing People and Others: Joining Together to Expand the Circle. Pp. 2328. In RE; Class and Gender: An Anthology. Fifth Edition Belmont. CA: Wadsworth. ’ ' 24 S'ng we Cam parent's native to that region and whose ancestors had always lived there. In those vast and empty spaces, pe'ople who look like me, speak as I do, and have names like mine predominate. But the minimum lived among us: the descen- dants of these nineteenth-century immigrants who dispossessed ‘us of our . lands; missionaries who 'came to-c'onvert us and stayed to live among us; artists who became enchanted with our land and humanseape and . went native; refugees from unhealthy climes,’ crowded spaces, unpleasant circumstances;- and, of course, the inhabitants of Los Alamos, Whose socio-cultural distance ' from us was moreover accentuated by the fact that they odcu'pied a space re— .moved from and proscribed to us. More importantly-IliOWever, they—la: ameficdnox—were omnipresent (and almost excluSively so) in newspapers, newsmagazines, books, on radio, in movies and, ultimately, on television. Despite the operating myth of the day, school did not erase my otherness. - It did to deny it, and in doing '50 Only aCCentuated it. To'this day, school- ing is more socialization than education, but when I was in elementary school~—and given where I was—socialization Was everything. Schdol was where one became an American. Because there Was a pervasive and‘systematic denial by the society that surrounded that we were Arnericans. That denial I .-was bethexplicit and implicit. My earlieSt memory of the former was that there were two .kinds of churches: theirs and 'ours. The more was the'im- ‘ plicit denial, our absence: from the larger economic, political and'soé 'cial spaces—the one that reminded us constantly that we were the otIier.‘And I school was where we felt it most acutely. - _ - Quite beyOnd saluting the flag and pledging allegianCe toit (a very in— tense and meaningful action, given that the US. Was involved in‘a and our brothers, cousins, uncles, and fathers were. on the front lines) becoming American was learning English and its corollary—not spealcing'Spanish. Un- ~ very recently ours was a proscribed languageé- either .de jure (by. rule, by 5 policy, by law) or de (by practice, implicitly if nOt explicitly; through so— cial and political and economi'c-preSSure). I do nOt argue that learning English Was not appropriate; On the contrary. Like it or not, and We had no basis to make any judgmens on that matter, we were Ainericans by virtue of having been born Americans, and English was the common language of Arnericans. ‘ And there was a myth, apervasive myth, that said that if we only learned to speak English well—and particularly without an accenté—we would be wel— comed into the American fellowship. Senator 8am Hayakawa notwithstanding, the true text was not our Speech, but rather our names and our-appearance, for We would always have an accent, however perfect our pronunciation, however excellent our enunci- ation, however divine'our diction. That-accent Would be heard in our pig- mentation, our physiognomy, our names. We were,in short, 'th other. Being the other means feeling different; is awareness of being discinct; is conSciOusn'ess of being dissimilar. It means being outside the game, outside Artum 114441173 25 the circle, outside the set. It means being on the edges, on the margins, on the periphery. Otherness. means feeling excluded, closed out, precluded,'even disdained. andscorned. It produces a' sense of isolation, of'apartness, of dis- , connectedness, of alienation. V ' . . _ Being the other invOlves a contradictory phenomenon On the one hand being'tbelotber frequently means being invisible. Ralph Ellison wrote elo? quently'about that experience in magisterial novel The-Iflvifibk Man. On - 7 _ the other hand, being tbca'otber sometimes'involves sticking out like a sore thumb. What is she/he doing here? - ' I I i ‘- If one is tbe other, one inevitably be perceived miidirnensionally; will be seen stereotypically; will be defined and'delimited by mental sets that may not hear much relation to existing realities.- There is a darker side to otherness as 'well. The otber diSturbs, disquiets, discomfom. It provokes distrust and sus— _ ‘picion. Tbs other makes people feel anxious, nervous, apprehensive, even fear- ful. Tbe other frightens, scares. ' ~ I ’ i _ _ ' For some ofus'being tbs other is only annoying; for others it is debilitat— ing; for still others it is damning. try to‘flee otherness bytaking on'pro— .- tective- colorations that provide invisibility, ' whether of dress or speech or - manner or name. Only a fortunate few succeed.'For the majority, otherness is permanently sealed by physical-appearance'For the rest, otherness is betrayed by ways of being, speaking or of doing. ' ' i I spent the first half of my life downplaying the significance and conse— quences of otherness. The second half has seen me wrestling to understand its complex and deeply ingrained realities; striving to fathom why otherness de- nies us a voice or visibility or validity in American society and its institutions; struggling to make otherness familiar, reasonable, even normal to my fellow I Americans. * I I ‘ I am also a missing person. Growing up in northern New Mexico I had only a slight sense of our being missing persons. Hispanos', as we called (and call) ourselves in New Mexico, were very much a part of the fabric of the so- ciety and"_there_ were Hispano professionals everywhere about me: doctors, ‘ lawyers, school teachers, and administrators. My people owned businesses, ’- ran organizations and were both appointed and elected public officials. To be. sure, we did not own the larger businesses, nor‘at the time were we permitted to be part of the banking world. Other than that, however, people who looked like me, spoke like me, and had names like mine, predominated. There'was, to be sure, Los Alamos, but as I have said,-it was removed‘frorn our realities. ' My awareness of our absence from the larger institutional life of society I became-sharper when went off to college, but even then it was attenuated by the circumstances of history and geography. The demography of Albuquerque still strongly reflected its historical and cultural origins, despite the influx of Midwesterners and Easterners. Moreover, many of my 'classmates at the 76 26 . SbiftrrxgtbeCentcr’ University of New Mexicoin Albuquerque were Hispanos, and even some of . my professors were. ' I ‘ I I _ I thought that would obtain at UCLA, where I began graduate studies in 1960. Los Angeles already had a very large Mexican population, and that pop-' ‘-iulati’on was visible evenin and around Westwood and on the campus. Many of the groundskeepers and food-service personnel at UCLA were Mexican. - * ButMexican—American students were few and mostly invisible, and I do‘ not recall seeing or knowing a single Mexican‘American (or, for that matter, black, Asian, or American. Indian) professional on the staff or faculty of that institution the five years I was there. - _ - - ' Needless to say, persons like me were not present in any capacity at Dart- mouth College4—the site of rriy first teaching appointment——'and, of course, were not even part of the institutional or individual mind-set; I knew then that we—a “we”. that had come to encompass American Indians, Asian Americans, black Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Women—were truly missing persons in American institutional life. - I _ . - . , . ‘ . . ' Over the past three‘decades, the dejure and-defacto segregations that have historically characterized American institutions have been under assault. As a 4 consequence, minorities and women have become part of American institu— tional life, and although there are still many areas where we are nOt to be found, the missing persons phenomenon is not as pervasive as it oncewas. However, the presence of the other, particularly minorities, in institutions and in institutional life, is, as we 'say in Spanish, 4 flor de tierra; spare plants Whose roots do not go deep, a surface phenomenon, vulnerable to inclemen- cies of an economic, political, or social nature. I ' ' Our entrance into and our status in institutional life is not unlike a'sce— ' nario set forth by my grandmother's pastor when she informed him that she ‘ and her family were leaving their mopntain village to-relocate in the Rio Gllrande Valley. When he asked her. to promise that shewould remain true to the faith and continueto involve herself in the life of the church, she assured / him that she would and asked. him Why he thought she would do otherwise. “Dona Trinidad,” he told her, “in the Valley there is no Spanish churchf There is only an American church," “But,” she protested, “I read and speak. ,_ English and would be able to worship there.” Her pastor’s response was; _“It is possible that they will not admit you, and even if they do, they might not ac- cept you. And that is why I want you to promise me that you are going to go 'to church. Because if they don’t let you in through the front door, I wantyOu .to go in through the back door. And ifyou can’t get in, through the back door, go in the side door. And if you are unable to enter through the side door I want you to go in through the window. What is important is that you enter and that you stay.” : ' _ _ ' Some of us entered institutional life through the front door; others . through the back door; and still others through side doors. Many, ifnot most 77 ‘ . ArturoMadrid ~ 27 0f us, came in through windows and continue to come in through Windows. . Of those who entered through the front door, some never made it past the .lobby; others were ushered into corners and niches. Those who entered through back and side doors inevitably have remained in back and side rooms. And those who entered through windows found enclosures built around them. For despite the lip service given to the goal of the integration of mi— norities into institutional life, what has occurred instead is ghettoization, mar- ginalization, isolation. ‘ . . ' Not only have the entry points been limited: in addition, the dynamics ' have been singularly conflictive. Gaining entry and its corollary—gaining space—have frequently corneas a consequence of demands made on institu- tions and institutional oflicers. Rather than entering institutions more or less passively, minorities have, of necessity, entered them actively, even aggresj ' sively. Rather than taking, they have demanded. Institutional relations have thus been adversarial, infused with specific and generalized tensions. . . V . The nature of the entrance and the nature of the space occupied have greatly influenced the view and attitudes of the majority population . those institutions. All of us are put into the same box; that is, no matter what as individual reality, the assessment of the individual is inevitably condi-I 'tioned by a perception that is held of the class. Whatever our history, what— ever our record, Whatever our validations, whatever our accomplishments, by and large we are perceived unidirnensionally and are dealt with accordingly. My most recent experience in this regard is atypical only in its explicit— ness. A few years ago I allowed myself to be persuaded to seek the presidency of a large and prestigious state university. I was invited for an interview and presented myself before the selection, committee, which included members of the board of trustees. The opening quation of the brief but memorable in— terview was directed at me by a' member of that august body. “Dr. Madrid,” ' herasked, “why does a one—dimensional person like you think he can be the president of a multi—dimensional institution like ours?” , I If, as I happen to believe, the well—being of a sdciety is directlyrelated to " . the degree and extent to which all of its citizens participate in its institutions, we have a-challenge before‘us. One of the strengths of our society—perhaps) its main strength—has been a tradition of struggle against clubbishness, ex— clusivity, and restriction. ' , _ ' Today, more than ever, given the extraordinary changes that are-taking place in our society, weneed to take up that struggle again—irritating, grat— ing, troublesome, unfashionable, unpleasant as it is. As educated and educator membersof this society, we have a special responsibility for leading the struggle against marginalization, exclusion, and alienation. Let us worktogether to assure that all American institutions, not just its precollegiate educational and penal institutions, reflect the diversity of our society. Not to do so is to risk greater alienation on the part of a growing 78 '23 Shifting the Center ‘ segment of our society: It is to risk increased social tehsion in an' already conflictive world. And ultimately it is to risk the survival of a range of institu- tions that, for all their defects and deficiencies, permit us thespace, the op- portunity, land the freedom to improve our individual and collective lot; to guide the course of our g0vernment, and to redress whatever gi'ievances we ' have. Let us join together to expand, not to close the circle. ' 79 ...
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This note was uploaded on 05/11/2008 for the course SOC 100 taught by Professor Wong during the Spring '08 term at Syracuse.

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Madrid, Arturo. - Missing People and Others -...

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