Ask a Mexican

Chicano Studies Bites Back!

Dear Readers: Folks went loco following my September 7 column that blamed Chicano studies for spawning a generation of humorless activists and "corrupt[ing] the brains of young Mexicans with antiquated concepts like victimization, objectification and grade inflation." Too many letters and comments from professors, activists and Zach de la Rocha to publish here, though special recognition goes to the poster at who invited the Mexican to "decolonize" and "rehumanize"; to paraphrase Emma Goldman again, I don't want to be part of a revolution that has me speaking in jargon.

One professor thought I described her discipline perfectly:

I agree with your analysis of Chicano/a Studies. Something happens when we cross the border — we forget our sense of humor and become too literal. As a professor in the field, I try to teach my students to loosen up and stop being too damn uptight. I received my initial lesson from [syndicated cartoonista] Lalo Alcaraz, master at being politically incorrect while furthering the causa. — Second-Generation Feminista Chicana Profesora Keepin' It Real

On the opposite side of the 700-mile, double fence is Reynaldo F. Macias, a linguistics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and former chair of the National Association for Chicana & Chicano studies:

I enjoy your column because you often inject humor into serious topics; other times you try and don't make the grade, but we can't always bat a thousand. I found it curioso that that you would trash Chicana/o Studies — blaming it for the social malaise and racism that has existed and still exists against Mexicans. I agree that there can be self-righteous bores in Chicana/o studies (just like in journalism) that are too serious for their own good — but that's hardly Chicana/o studies as a whole. You need to revisit Chicana/o studies classrooms and programs to get an accurate picture of the field and the positive contributions being made by faculty and the graduates of these programs. My sense of these programs is the opposite of your inaccurate characterizations, which unfortunately reinforce the distorted and politicized right-wing and conservative views on Chicana/o studies, ethnic studies, and women's studies... There is hardly time for, or interest in, perpetuating victimization but a high priority in promoting individual agency and competence.

Gracias for the kind words, profe, but I never slurred Chicano studies in the way you imply. I agree Chicano studies is valuable in examining and documenting the Mexican-American experience, but my sense of the subject is that it's the scholastic equivalent of a group hug, where students learn mostly about past grievances caused by the ever-evil gabachos and become rhetoric-obsessed ideologues who can't see the tostada for the beaners. But maybe Chicano studies has become more Mexican — libertarian instead of blindly leftist — in the three years since I finished grad school at UCLA, so tell you what, Dr. Macias: I'll retract my charges if you use your position to stop the use of "Chicana/o," the silliest bit of political correctness since the term "herstory."

Why is it that when someone asks you a simple question, you reply with an essay? Just get to the point already. And if you're trying to look smart or funny, you're neither — you're simply as ignorant as any other Mexican. — Grinning Gringo

Dear Gabacho: Smart questions deserve thorough answers.

Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican at [email protected]. And those of you who do submit questions: include a hilarious pseudonym, por favor, or we'll make one up for you!

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano