The Outsiders: Latino Perspectives on Voice, Agency & Leadership

What are the implications for educators?

With Dr. Xaé Alicia Reyes, Professor of Education & Puerto Rican & Latino Studies, University of Connecticut & Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.,  Blogger, Assoc. Editor, @BeingLatino
“The problem is us and how we usually think about ourselves. We have so many positive attributes…but we think they are a negative, because we don’t see it in media, and that knocks you down. And then it’s very hard to get up. Then you start thinking that you’re independent because you have to be, because you’re on the outside. You know what? Change your mind; change your thinking…and realize you’re independent because you want to be. That’s a huge difference. It will give you a lot more confidence when you realize “I’m independent” means “I depend on no one.” That kind of thinking is essential to creating change in the face of adversity. Don’t just accept that we’re not seen as more prevalent in the media. Do something about it.”

If I look back into my numerous journal entries over the years, the outsider theme is threading.  Not like the subtle threading on the hem of pants, more like the thick thread of wool yarn that weaves in and out, across, up and down in an afghan.  In my poetry, the threads are pastel and shimmery, as if the fabric is being held under a soft light.  In the free writing rampage I sometimes call babbling, stitches are blood red, black and blue.
I often think I know everything I need to know about being Latino (it is after all, my life—) but the older I get and my own understanding of identity evolves, I realize I know much less than that.  It’s like being married for twenty years.  You think you know your spouse and then you realize one morning watching from across the bed, that you and he are strangers– two human beings sharing a journey but with a vast mystery between you. The Latino experience is all at once my own and a mystery simultaneously. 
I look over at my coffee table and spot Miradas: Por Los Caminos de Un Pais Oculto— a book of photography by Juan Diego Perez Arias. In English this title means: Insights: From the Backroads of a Hidden Country.  This lovely book was a gift from my Ecuadorian-American friend who went back to her “mother country” not too long ago.  In its entirety, it’s a composite— snapshots of a Latino-ness that is both familiar and foreign to me.  The geography, the food, the facial features of the country’s inhabitants are reflected in this beautifully photographed slice of Latin America and much of it remains outside my scope of experience and understanding.  I flip through the pages and marvel at the diversity.  At first I see the media dominant Indigenous faces, the long black hair in a braid, sun burnt, leathery skin, wide nose, sharp black eyes, thick eyebrows.  But then as I turn the pages I find pictures of fair skinned Ecuadorians, with ruddy complexions and following them are photographs of dark brown Ecuadorians who look like Africans. Each Ecuadorian is depicted wrestling with nature, some barely dressed, others wrapped in thick wool garments.  All of this—the hot and cold, the mountain and the coast, the various shades of fair to tan to dark brown skin is Ecuador.  This is familiar to me.  Absolute diversity is the underbelly of the Latino people and it is under-recognized.
I ask: what unifies me, if anything, to these Ecuadorian people—a woman of Puerto Rican heritage?  Outside of the fact that these are the people of my life-long friend, outside of the fact that they speak Spanish… what do we really have in common?  Is language ancestry enough to create unity? 
Hector Luis Alamo, Jr. (Blogger & Associate Editor @ Being Latino) asks me this very question:  What do you think unites Latinos besides Latin American ancestry?  Is there something (a trait, a political issue, socio-economics) that Latinos can rally behind?  I’m not sure.  If the answer were no, that there is no real Latino community because of the diversity then that would really change things, wouldn’t it?  Maybe it would be a good thing to do that…to dispose of the notion of Latino-ness.  How would each of us define ourselves if we did? 
Then I think— maybe the thing that unites Latinos is the diversity.  Can it be this outsider experience, this intersection of so many variables within ourselves, the multiple “identity” boxes we can check on the census, that can change on any given day, how you wear your hair, what language you choose to speak, what you eat—beans, ceviche or peanut butter and jelly?  It can change politically even, imposed upon you by government or for personal reasons.  Latinos can choose to take a leave of absence, as you will read later on when Dr. Reyes shares her experience as a college professor. Maybe Latino unification stems from this unique outsider/insider understanding, a higher consciousness if you will, that there is impossibility contained within the human labeling experiment, that no person should be identified by a category.  Latinos are so full of nuance–who better understands the concept that “one size does not fit all?” 
I started this dialogue on Latino perspectives with Hector Luis Alamo, Jr. and Dr. Xae Alicia Reyes (Professor of Education & Puerto Rican Studies at University of Connecticut) because I was tired of thinking about these things, talking about them with close friends and family and not making a commitment to a formal public inquiry.  But the final impetus was when my husband and I sat in front of the television watching an all-white cast perform a sitcom.  The lead started talking about cleaning and then within seconds “Maria?  Maria, where are you?”  That’s when my Latina sister came onto the set and my husband and I looked at each other, shook our heads and laughed. “There it is again!”  It’s funny how every single time, no really—every single time, like clockwork, the only Latino face on the screen is the maid, the cleaning lady or the gardener or something.  Latinos are almost always cleaning or housekeeping.  Take a look, it’s a science.  You know when blacks say that they’re the first ones killed in any movie, well, look who comes in, stage right to clean up the brother’s guts?  A Latino.
There were other reasons that propelled me to reach out to Hector and Dr. Reyes.  I had so many questions that I wanted to explore.  Questions like, why are so many Latinos dropping out of school and do Latinos agree with what should be done about it?  Why are there so few Latino scholars, philosophers that I know about, read about, think about? Why would I— a Latina with a PhD in education not be scooped up in a minute by any school, university or educational organization when Latinos are in a serious crisis academically and when there are  so few positive role models out in the field?  Why do I always feel like an outsider even though I’ve been told Latinos are a community?  What does belonging mean to me and is this the same for other Latinos? Why are many Latinos less likely to help their own (as compared to whites or Jews) to secure a job?  Are Latinos secretly petrified that their secret Latino identity will be discovered (White Latinos by white folks, and black Latinos by African Americans) or that they’d be labeled an advocate or even worse—an activist? 
After reaching out to several fellow Latinos, Hector and Dr. Reyes agreed to join me in a conversation; a conversation that is not compensated in any way other than the personal reward of knowing that engaging in dialogue can expand the minds of others.   It takes a lot of time.  See it as a pure act of agency and love for community. 
Hector and Dr. Reyes are both different ages, different genders and are doing very different things for a livelihood. They both answered the same questions. The idea was that if I can juxtapose different perspectives in one on-line discussion, readers would be able to unpack some of the prevalent issues affecting the Latino community today.  It is also my hope that those of you who are teaching and/or working with young people, you can learn something here, expand your craft and have greater compassion in life.
For the most part, I’ve kept what each participant shared in tact with minor editing so that you as a reader can get a feel for the individual voice.  This has made the dialogue quite long, albeit extremely worthwhile.  At the end, I add a few questions for further discussion on the implications for educators. I hope that you appreciate the discourse and feel free to post comments or questions at the end.
Relevant Terminology
Voice: An individual’s unique expression of self, how they communicate with the world and actualize their role within it.
Agency:  An individual’s belief in one’s capacity to make a difference in the world; to be able to change or modify conditions of life for the better.
Leadership: Galvanizing, empowering and organizing others in order to effectively reach a common goal

Persistently, Latinos appear on television and in Hollywood as cleaning ladies, maintenance men and gardeners. Also, characters that are overly sexualized or involved in drug related crimes. What impact do you think this has on Latino youth identity and agency?

Dr. Reyes:  The bigger issue here is developing awareness in our young people regarding media (mis)representations and perpetuation of negative or single story stereotypes.  On one hand we need to educate children, both at home and at school, regarding the pervasive effects of negative images and how we need to question the absence of positive images of Latinos (without devaluing service jobs  where we need to acknowledge a significant presence)  discussions have to include why we are situated in these ways?  How there is an underground economy and why?  The role of education in these dynamics is critical.  Parents need to participate and encourage discussions of these issues when viewing media—even ads have subliminal and pervasive messages about success, and one’s place in society. This entails monitoring what is being viewed and making it a shared activity—often the busyness and multiple demands of our socioeconomic environments make this sharing difficult and children end up watching hours of unsupervised media. This also calls for community conversations that construct the awareness that is often missing in newcomer communities regarding these stereotypes and their impact on our children.
Hector: First, beyond the debate on whether life imitates art or vice versa, I would argue that, especially in today’s society, art influences life.
In the black community, for instance, many black boys grow up thinking that their only doorway out of a bad environment with few prospects is to become either a professional athlete or a hip-hop artist. If you’re raised in place like South Side Chicago, what other role models are there? Sure, there are successful black men and women like Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, the First Family, etc., but young blacks living in impoverished parts of America’s inner cities aren’t bombarded with those images. They’re bombarded with the images of black athletes and rappers, men and women who seem, to these kids, to better represent them and the people in their community.
If you’re a young Latino growing up in America today, what positive role models are you presented with on a regular basis? Few, if any. Most of the Latino portrayals are only caricatures of Latinos. Who does someone like Sofia Vergara – bless her heart – represent? If it weren’t enough that she’s been accused of overdoing her latinidad, not only is she from Colombia (so, technically, is she a Latina?), but she’s also highly sexualized. Latinas are heavily sexualized all over the shop: Eva Mendez, Eva Longoria, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, and the list goes on. These are all talented women, no doubt, but the key ingredient in their fame is their status as sex icons.
On the male side of things, Latino men are constantly emasculated and subordinated, regularly given roles which present Latino men as lowly workers, violent criminals, drug addicts or, on occasion, even objects of sexual gratification.
At the very least, such images in the media leave little or no room for other, more positive role models for Latino kids; at its worst, such images teach kids that they and the members of their community can achieve no more than what’s depicted on TV. No, actually, there is something worse than that: false portrayals have the potential of redefining latinidad by teaching kids that to be Latina is to be sexy and submissive and to be a Latino man is to be deficient and inferior – and/or sexy as well.
What are your thoughts on the relationship between the portrayal of Latinos in the media and the 60% dropout rate of Latinos from high school in urban centers across the US? Do media images also impact educators’ expectations of Latino academic/intellectual performance as a group?
Hector: I believe I touched on the first part of this question in my previous response. But to continue on the subject, it seems obvious to me that a lack of television portrayals depicting Latino educational achievement is likely to lead to lower Latino education achievement in the real world.
People will do what they know. So if a Latino child is not shown Latinos on TV doing something as simple as studying for exams, completing homework, attending class, graduating from high school and going off to college, then Latino kids won’t know that such things should be a part of Latino life. Likewise, if Latino kids are shown Latinos on TV skipping class, failing their courses, not graduating from high school and committing crimes, then Latino kids will be under the wrong impression that such things are part of a prescribed Latino life.
As for educators, Latinos who educate Latino children are in a better position to remove the particular falsehoods of Latino life from a Latino child’s mind. By becoming a teacher, they’ve obviously rejected the mainstream narrative of Latino disability being portrayed by the media – if not wholly, then at least partly. Still, they may harbor their own falsehoods about Latinos and may do nothing when they see that their Latino students share the same beliefs about Latino hopelessness.
For non-Latino educators, if they haven’t been trained on an ethnically-diverse environment, or if they haven’t been trained to be open-minded about the members of other communities, they’re likely to bring the false portrayals of Latino-ness with them into the classroom. As a Latino, how could I blame a non-Latino for thinking that I, as a Puerto Rican man, am probably a womanizer who carries a switchblade, comes from a broken home and cannot be helped because I am unwillingly to think differently about my future? 
Television tells non-Latinos that I am those things, and if they aren’t given any other examples of Latino-ness and puertorriqueñidad to compare with, then non-Latinos cannot know what I’m truly like and are left with only the image they’ve been given with which to judge me by.
Dr. Reyes: In my work I have found that many educators themselves have little to no firsthand knowledge about communities in urban centers.  Their limited understanding of socioeconomic conditions and everyday lives of students in these communities creates challenges when they attempt to connect the materials they are to teach, to students’ circumstances (in order to make them relevant) and furthermore the educators’ own understandings of the communities is influenced by media (mis)representations and sensationalism. Film after film of images of the worst schools populated by mostly Latinos and Blacks—from Lean on Me, Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, Stand and Deliver and many more, even when they are stories of success—still reinforce images of negative behaviors as “the norm” among the urban kids. What do you remember form films about schools and teachers and how did it relate to your educational experiences?
Understanding poverty and poor housing conditions is paramount to understanding the impact of resources, or their lack of, on children’s cultural capital –while after school programs can fill some of the void, funding for these has become scarce.
As you know, school “reform” is on everybody’s mind, especially reform of segregated schools that educate Blacks and Latinos. If you had to wave a magic wand, how would you change the “schooling” experience?
Dr. Reyes: In the ideal world schools would be complementary sites of community life: families would be there after school and on weekends to attend (academic, arts, sports, cultural) events with and by their children, classes would be offered for parents to improve and gain educational skills; health and civic events would be offered to improve the quality of life for all. All children should be provided with opportunities to be educated without any limitations based on their income or immigration status-as a matter of human rights.
(I had an article on this in  2010 in the OIJES on line publication.)
In addition, higher education partners should be involved in a more integrated manner –which would make the impact and connections to college more clear to our less privileged communities. TRIO programs (Upward Bounds and others) have been fulfilling this role for many years —and sadly some of these programs that have made a difference in recruitment and retention in our universities and colleges–are being defunded. They are models and have already demonstrated success ( Martinez 2003 in JLE). More incentives like Pell grants and non-loan related monies need to be provided.
Hector: I think it’s impossible to envision what a magic-wand solution might look like, because problems within the black and Latino schooling experience are a product of much deeper issues in America. The so-called “dropout factories” failing our young black and Latino students – who represent the future of their respective communities – are like the relatively minor symptoms of some great societal disease causing widespread internal damage.
So, therefore, to fix the schooling experience would only be to treat the symptoms of this disease – a dual disease, in fact, whose common names are institutionalized racism and class warfare, which have been such integral facets of American society since early history that the country seems unimaginable without them.
I’ve introduced the issues of racism and class warfare here because it would be farcical to discuss the failure of our school system in the inner cities without addressing its root causes. It’s often pointed out – and rightly so – that to talk about race in America is to talk about class in America, and vice versa. It’s no coincidence, then, that blacks and Latinos are disproportionately much poorer than whites, that they tend to live in decaying neighborhoods with fewer opportunities, that their schools tend to be underfunded and that their children tend to receive lesser educations.
If we really want to fix to the school system so that black and Latino children are given the same opportunity to achieve academically as their white counterparts, we’ll have to first tear down the columns upholding institutionalized racism and class warfare, and I don’t think there’s enough magic in the cosmos to do away with those issues in one flick of the wrist.
How does race & language (afro-Latinos, skin color and proficiency with Spanish) impact Latino identity and the development of a unified voice?
Hector:  Race (more appropriately, skin color) and language are the two main categorizations within the Latino community. Generally speaking, there are black Latinos (Afro-Latinos), white Latinos and “brown” (non-white, non-black) Latinos. Most Latinos are a combination of two or more of these three categories. In terms of language, there are, of course, Spanish-speakers and English speakers; and then there are bilingual (mixed-language) speakers. Again, most Latinos are bilingual to a greater or lesser degree. A majority of Latinos are of Mexican descent (61 percent, with Puerto Ricans following at a distant 9 percent), and because Mexican identity has been defined by the image of the noble Aztec – fueling the sectarian notion of “Brown Pride” – Latino-ness is mostly defined through the same paradigm.
Brownness and the Spanish language are seen as definitive factors of what it means to be Latino – brownness because the Aztec were dark, and Spanish because it’s the native tongue of Mexico (although, not the Native tongue.) White skin and the English language are viewed as scars of conquest (though again, ironically, Spanish was the language of conquest before English was.) And black skin is viewed as the scar of slavery. (The Spaniards brought slavery to North America; the British just perfected it.)
Skin color and language serve as markers for a sort of caste system within the Latino community. The browner you are and the better you speak the mother tongue, the more Latino you’re considered to be.
Mastery of the Spanish language, however, becomes less of a big deal as successive generations of American-born Latinos progress, since English is the main language of the United States and anyone who can’t speak it is viewed as at a disadvantage on various levels. Being bilingual is preferred in every generation (especially considering the direction in which the bilingual nature that the economy is trending toward), but to be a third-generation Latino American who hasn’t mastered English, for example, is deemed completely unacceptable.
Dr. Reyes: The divisiveness within the Latino community has had an impact on our inability to coalesce around issues. Intra-group dynamics are influenced by all of the factors mentioned:  language proficiency—in Spanish to claim “latinidad”; skin color to “fit” stereotypical images promoted by media; and class differences.  In studies conducted by my students in university settings, students admit that they pass as mainstream if their phenotype and English proficiency make that possible; and some Afro-Latinos feel more accepted among Blacks. The issue of citizenship creates other tensions between groups and so do the dynamics of the host community towards other groups.
So often American conversations center on Black-White politics and pundits still seem to reflect this dichotomy (especially in the North East). When Latino issues do come up in the media, I notice a focus on language (bilingualism, needing to learn English) followed by immigration/ illegal immigration. How are these topics potentially “divisive” in the Latino community? What other topics are equally relevant that can help us better understand why Latinos continue to struggle as a community (socio-economically speaking) and particularly with regards to 2nd & 3rd generation Latinos with strong “American/ assimilated traditions?”
Dr. Reyes:  The discourses on bilingualism have been politicized so that some misinformed individuals see the maintenance of native languages as divisive because they cling to old models of immigration where the minimal non-academic English was sufficient for the factory jobs of the time. In our modern and globally oriented society, more academic English is necessary for a more sophisticated job market.  Second Language learning is enhanced by stronger skills in the Native Language, in addition the development of bilingualism enhances intellectual development in the learner –research has shown that bilinguals test better and learn third (and more) languages more efficiently (Dr. Luis O. Reyes of Hunter is a “clearinghouse” of all of the research available on this issue—and others related to BE and ELs) 
There are different socio-political and socio-economic circumstances that have affected the host culture’s (U.S) reception of different groups historically in different eras—(*MacDonald 2004,  does a very good job deconstructing these historical circumstances and their impact on educational policy, in general, depending on the national goals at the time, and towards particular groups.) We need to know the histories of different waves of immigration and how policies related to these connect to possibilities for success and integration of groups into the economy. We also need to have discussions about how groups negotiate cross-cultural values, and learn to navigate and understand expectations of the host community while strengthening and enriching it with the diverse perspectives of newcomers. Changing a culture of fear and apprehension towards difference to a culture of reciprocity in intellectual and cultural sharing, needs to be a goal for all educators.   
These are the texts assigned in my Latinos and U.S. Education graduate course:
MacDonald, Victoria M .(2004)   Latino Education in the United States: A Narrated History from 1513-2000 Palgrave -MacMillan

Reyes, X.A. & Rios, D. (2003)  Eds. “Latinos, Education and Media” Special Issue of Journal of Latinos and Education, 2(1) Lawrence Erlbaum: Mahwah, NJ.

Darder, A. (2012). Culture and Power  in the Classroom: Educational Foundations for the Schooling  of Bicultural Students.   Paradigm Publishers. Boulder,CO.

Hector: The problem with attempting to pinpoint the problems facing the Latino community is that Latinos are not technically a community – and if we are, then we’re an extremely broad one. Politics and history alone have lumped us together. Being Latino, in its simplest form, only means that one’s genes can be traced to some mixing that occurred somewhere in Latin America, sometime in the past 500 years. If that’s true of you, then you are – at least in part – a Latino. Still, being Latino doesn’t tell us much else about a person. It doesn’t tell us what they look like, what language they speak, where they live or what obstacles they face. Sure, there are things we can say generally about Latinos that might apply to a majority of them, but the same can be done with women or men or children; yet, there’s no “child community.”
What Latinos share in common is Latin America and all that entails. But that still doesn’t mean that all Latinos will or should agree on U.S.-Latin American policy, immigration law, education reform, women’s rights, gay rights and so on. Latino political and social views run the gamut from Tea Party conservatives to socialist liberals. This being the case, it’s not altogether rare to come across two Latinos who have as little in common with one another as a cat has with a bird.
What personal or professional lived experience has impacted your own sense of agency as an educator or writer?
Hector: I have no sense of agency as a writer, especially as an Afro-Latino, second-generation American writer. Most of the time, I feel like I’m screaming into a howling wind. As a Latino writer, you have to write constantly if you hope to be heard once. I read a lot of what’s circulating in the media, watch TV shows, listen to music, but I almost never see or hear anything which I feel represents someone like me: a young, second-generation American – not fully Latino, not fully black, molding an identity out of spare bits.
Dr. Reyes: I have found that being an active part of the broader community is essential to being an effective educator—understanding the social context in which teaching and learning occurs is imperative to making education culturally responsive and transformative. My most important lessons in life have come from my parents—Jesus M. Reyes and Alicia Valentine—their sense of community was blended into our life experiences in a natural way –they helped neighbors, family and friends and had my sister and I do the same, since I can remember ( in P.R., in the mainland, and in Germany –where my dad was stationed  for 3 years). We were encouraged to help others and respect people regardless of backgrounds, appearances, and any socially constructed barriers—interest in diversity and interest in languages and other cultural traditions were always a part of our lives.  Our bilingualism was nurtured and we were expected to read and write in both English and Spanish and to value all cultural and life experiences from any person we encountered. In my eventual career path I was committed to making a difference and decided that teaching teachers would be the way I could try to open minds to possibilities and opportunities through embracing multicultural and diverse socio-economic settings and experiences. 
However, there are some other “moments” that are defining. Initially—in my early years — I had encounters with some students who would ask if it was the first time I taught at a University.  I understood this as doubt regarding my credentials/ ability to be their professor.  I would draw from my father’s sense of humor and say–“My-do I look that young? Well no–as a matter of fact I have taught at –and then give my extensive list and stop abruptly and say–“I’ll stop because the list would age me.”  On a more serious note, I would engage in difficult dialogues that were meant to unpack the misconceptions and stereotypes—often in writing (so the one-on-one helped)  but at times I had to respond to difficult statements in class:  questions about affirmative action, assumptions about welfare, phenotypes, “benefits” perceived as free rides for  PRs ( You don’t pay taxes do you?  And I’d respond –no we pay blood –my dad and many other Puerto Ricans fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.)  Latino students who met me around campus would ask if I worked in the library or if I taught Spanish…they had no expectation that I could be on the faculty or that if so it would be outside of foreign languages. In the Latino community nearby, when someone found out that I worked at UCONN, I was often asked what shift–since most of the staff they know there are custodians– (the community where I socialize is considered low-income with many generations of Puerto Ricans who had come to work at the now defunct American Thread–Recent immigrants come from Mexico and Guatemala)
Connecticut’s Latino/as are not as present in higher education as we would like –as students–and much less as faculty. So I have been told many times that I am the first Latina faculty students have had.  If they are phenotypically able to pass, some of my Latino students do not identify as such–when they do “come out,” I marvel at the fact that many colleagues had no idea that they were Latinos (although after so many years at this I shouldn’t be surprised).  Many of these behaviors and expectations are grounded in the perceptions of power and status. If students see one kind of person in the leadership and authority positions and published repeatedly in mainstream journals–why would they identify with the absent scholar? -The media perpetuates these images… think of all the “great” teachers in movies—and the one exception being Jaime Escalante….even in journalism in the political commentary shows there is a paucity of Latinos.
I took major risks a few years back before I got tenure here– trying to talk about these issues candidly and get published…I used the dialogical format seeking to tease out this conversation –I also wanted readers to think about these issues and their consequences because if we are truly serious in higher education, about changing the landscape to reflect our demographics and do justice to those that have been excluded–we need to understand the barriers. In the end, the problems persist because the topic seems to be of interest only ( or mostly) for those of us who have lived these experiences. They seem to be viewed as “whining” by our colleagues –if in fact they ever read about them.  
I have tried to channel my energy into mentoring others to access graduate school and eventually even position themselves as faculty and administrators.  I remember teaching an undergraduate course to a group of mostly Latino undergraduates recently and having them ask me very basic information on how a person becomes a professor and what a PhD entails and what faculty ranks mean –and tenure…and I decided that we need to be more deliberate and unveil the mysteries of participating in higher education at the most basic levels.  So I now regularly take time to talk about these elements that are part of the social capital shared by some and perpetuated as legacies among themselves…thus acting as gatekeepers (be it intentionally or not). 
I do believe that there is an admiration for those mainstream faculty that take on a diversity agenda (some are colleagues I respect) and I see more support for them from the mainstream students who feel they can identify with them— I am reminded of the book “White Teacher” that was a favorite in the day because our predominantly white pre-service teacher population identifies with it as they do with professors who look like them.  When we engage in advocacy as Latino faculty, it is perceived as –“well of course, it’s their issue”.   I have had some breakthroughs with my mainstream students when they are able to realize that there is a lived experience that I can relate to and share that will add authentic understanding of the dynamics they will face in the classroom.  I once said to an all mainstream class that I was the only person in the room that could claim overt “otherness”–I was challenged by another student who felt he was of a non-majority religion and my statement was defended by a gay female who stated the obvious –that one’s religion and sexual orientation are covert and do not lead to identification of any kind —while I, on the other hand might speak perfect English and yet based on my appearance continue to be asked where I’m from.
Reflection Questions & Implications for Educators

  1. What strategies can educators use to engage in discussions about the portrayal of Latinos in the media without devaluing service jobs? 
  2. What types of projects help students explore & value diversity within the Latino community?
  3. What can school leaders do to attract and retain diverse staff to act as role models of scholarship & success?
  4. How can we advocate for arts in education programs understanding that art is a vehicle to express voice and challenge mainstream media?
  5. What can teachers do to build rapport and engage effectively with Latino students? 
  6. How can teachers better understand the impact of poverty, immigration status and living conditions on student engagement?  What supports must schools provide?
  7. How can we challenge the notion of status based on skin color or language proficiency within the Latino community?
  8. How can educators collaborate across ethnic lines in order to broaden the diversity agenda towards impacting education policy and practice?
  9. What are the benefits of experiencing otherness or outsider-ness in the development of character and agency?
  10. How can we develop agency amongst ourselves as a community?  How can we support, encourage and open doors for each other—especially in the face of adversity and persistently low expectations?


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