I participated in an education townhall at the National Opportunity to Learn Summit. I was slotted because Dr. Isabel Castillo was unavailable and the event took place right after my Federal Income Tax final! Needless to say, I was brain-fried but did manage to tell the story of Joaquin Luna, an undocumented youth who killed himself due to his lack of legal status, and how making sure that this doesn’t happen to every undocumented youth was a moral imperative.
Which movie will alleviate your white guilt? Hat tip from Jose Antonio Vargas, if you are really into movies like “The Help,” check out A Better Life. After all, it is undocumented immigrant workers that are “the help” today and maybe we are the ones who should be telling our own stories.
I often have allies and well-intentioned people asking me what they should be reading and watching and while I am not interested in serving as a “portal” for anyone, I don’t think it hurts to list some of the things that catch my attention during a week. You are always free to send me your recommendations as well.
“I am A Terrorist” has to be the most powerful piece of writing I have read this year.
Nativists blame it on ‘dirty illegal immigrants.’ Economists are quick to point out the crash as part of a larger recessionary period that the global economy is undergoing. Politicians groan that California’s budget crisis is really Prop 13, an anti-tax measure that not only put a cap on property taxes but also requires 66% of the legislature approval to pass a budget.
It’s a little bit more complicated than that when Mark Yudof, the President of the failing University of California system, is compensated over $800K per year while students are forced to pay 33% in fee increases and thousands of teachers lose their jobs. It is a smart play: make a good public education almost unaffordable for the majority of people so when things go from bad to worse, only a few labeled as ‘Marxists’ can really explain why things are so terrible.
Supply-side economics–a neo-liberal experiment now extending to three decades–only works for the supply-side of the equation. Deregulation and privatization of public goods while making deep cuts into the social sector has led us down this path. Corporate tax loopholes are increasing while cuts to the public sector are deepening. Not everyone is suffering equally.
Konrad and Nicol claim that their purpose is “not to attempt a comprehensive history in a book devoted largely to contemporary border issues…[but to] entice readers to search beyond the national narratives…” (64). While the last chapter on transnationalism provides some narratives of people living in the borderlands, it leaves out much of the complications from the new security border. For example, the border fence between Canada and the United States in Derby Line, Vermont is spreading hatred and discontent among residents as they can no longer see long-time neighbors.
Additionally, while recognizing that it is futile to talk about the border without talking about immigration issues (210), the authors shy away from delving into this homeland security imperative, which has completely transformed the cultural landscape. The fact that Canada and the United States do not dub each other as ‘foreign’ is worth further historical examination than the book provides.
Since the evolving borderlands are not cloaked by violence and anguish of power struggle and the changes are aligned in the interests if both countries, Konrad and Nicol conclude that the Canada-United States border offers a model of future borderlands.
This week I had the opportunity to give what little insight I had on a gaming project for the documentary Sands of Silence, produced by activist film-maker Chelo Alvarez-Stehle.
It is a first-person role-playing game where the gamer assumes the character of a girl from either Africa, Nepal or Mexico and is taken through the whole experience of trafficking. The point is to engage the gamer beyond just empathy and encourage action from a community—high school and university students—that may otherwise not know much about the issue.
Going into the project, my primary concern was with trivializing the experiences of sexual trafficking victims. There is absolutely no way to ever simulate the lived experiences of these young adolescents so I am quite ambivalent about the prospects of building genuine empathy through ‘gaming.’
There’s Fashion Wars and then there is Fashion the movie. Fashion Wars is all about seeing whose pose has more style, getting the biatches to gain more cash, and expanding a fashion empire. Fashion the movie takes one behind the camera to see the ugliness of glitz and glamour, into a world that demarcates women as cheap objects for show and sale. They were certainly not meant to be complimentary but how can we bridge the gap between the two platforms in a manner that is both sensitive and engaging?
The concern was somewhat alleviated with knowledge that the producer was an activist film-maker and that the stories in the gameplay were based on real life experiences. And then there was the voice in the back of my head saying if I could excuse and actually appreciate BreakThrough for ICED that simulated the experiences of undocumented immigrants in this country, I had no right to place objections over something I had not experienced or undergone.
The next problem I had was with the complete absence of boys from the gameplay. All the major characters were women. For the first time, I was irked by the absence of men and that awareness came from a queer perspective. We cannot ignore that boys are also sexually trafficked and that there is yet another community that we can reach by including that particular narrative. In our efforts to make women’s experiences more mainstream, let us not marginalize a population that is already afraid to speak out about abuse. De-stigmatize. Make relevant to as many people as possible.
My third concern dealt with how to draw attention to this game. Why would a teenager or university student play this game? I was told that inner-city youth in New York could relate to the project and could react with empathy that these horrendous things happened with their peers. Yet, it simply is not enough of a selling point for me as a gamer. We mostly play games to escape reality; not relive our pains and misfortunes. There has to be a ‘oh cool!’ factor to attract youth to this game and I hope whoever is given charge to market it can come up with the right catchphrase.
“Someone told me I should have put English as my first language when I registered for school,” Phanachone said. “But I refused. I will not deny who I am. And I will not disrespect my culture or my mother.”
An Iowa high school student who speaks and understands English perfectly has been declared ‘illiterate’ as she refuses to take the English proficiency test at her school. The Sioux City Journal reports:
Lori Phanachone is a member of the National Honor Society, has a 3.9 grade point average and ranks seventh in the senior class of about 119 at Storm Lake High School.
But school officials have told her she is considered to be illiterate based on her refusal to satisfactorily complete the English Language Development Assessment, a test she says is demeaning and racist.
Well, of course it is demeaning and racist. Phanachone was born and bred in the United States. She is being targeted to sit the ELDA because she indicated on a form that English was not the first language spoken in her household and her parents spoke very little English.
Obviously, English is not the first language spoken in most immigrant households but that does not correlate with an inability to speak English. There are white American kids who can barely spell, let alone speak English. Maybe the wrong person is being asked to sit an ELDA.