Friday, May 1, 2015

May Day...Will Adjunct Faculty Become Human Rights Activists Working Together?

A while ago, I found a quote from our petition, "Better Pay for Adjuncts," that has been lurking in the back of my mind all these months. 

"I've decided to abandon any hope of being a college-level instructor because I do not want to trade in my blue-collar poverty for a poverty with airs of white-collar sensibilities."

So as I get ready to write something about May Day, and how this day of labor involves adjunct faculty, I also want to take stock of what this writer implies. It has haunted me for quite some time now. 

I have wanted to get all my dispersed thoughts together, a not-so-easy task. 

I began writing this particular piece after the City Hall meeting in Grapevine, Texas, concerning evidence of the fact that police will not release a video of them shooting an unarmed man on February 20, 2015, Rubén Garcia. Seeing all the brown on one side looking up at the white  sitting in their pedestals above  made me think there would never be any justice here in Texas.

The stark difference of the all-white "judges" sitting above listening
gave a somber note to proceedings...
© Ana M. Fores Tamayo

And sure enough, it is already May, and nothing yet is closer to releasing the official video. 

There is an unofficial passersby video released that directly conflicts with what the police are saying, but officers still hold fast to their own story...

So why do some folks want to taint the man?

News came out quickfire that Garcia had been drinking (it was a Friday evening after work), though anything pro about him is kept under tabs... But drinking has nothing to do with the fact that police shot an unarmed man with his hands up in the air.

Does it matter, though?

It's another dirty brown Latino wetback; he's better off dead, most TV Fox newswatchers would say, as they revel in the news flying by their TV screen...

And we know that's what many folks watch here in Texas... and in many outlier states too, in many right-to-work states, in many states where adjunct faculty have no right to form unions, or if they do, they have no right to any collective bargaining.

So that weakness makes it all worthless, we think.

Getting back to the proceedings of that particular evening, though  that night at City Hall where we argued for releasing the video tape that might help Garcia's family  yes, events were orderly.

But was the divide between black and brown ever made more real? The break between the haves and have-nots?

As I watched the very young widow of 4 children, ranging in ages from 1 to 10, I shuddered. 

The young mother with young children, one drinking from his bottle: what will they remember?
© Ana M. Fores Tamayo

The husband shot had been working at the same place of business for 12 years: NO criminal record. But the cop decided to stop him  because he was latino?

They still won't release the video: I wonder why.

Do you really believe it's because they do not want to taint the jury?

In the meantime, the cop gets paid administrative leave for killing a man, while the widow has 4 babies to bring up, to tell them their father has been shot, by justice?

Why does any other man (or woman) get put away if he or she shoots someone, but if it is a police officer, the same does not hold true? Why don't the laws run the same?

This happens all the time.

It just happened in the town next door to me, Grapevine, Texas. But this happened again, just last week, to a black man in Baltimore...

And then when we try to educate our youth (this murdered suspect's 4 children in a few years' time!), to bring them out of poverty by telling them that education is the ticket out, we charge them phenomenal amounts of tuition, we discourage them from going to school, and for many  the DREAMers  we try to take away their only chance of affording an education.

DREAMers waiting to testify against repeal of in-state tuition
©Austin American Statesman

Even though there were 176 people who testified for DREAMers, and only five against them, Texas is still trying to force DREAMers to pay out-of-state tuition, when for all intents and purposes, they are as American as you or me. Maybe today we are no longer immigrants, but a few generations ago our grandparents and great grandparents were, and some of us are part of that first generation...

Who are we to say no, you deserve no education?

Me, at Fordham University, as a first generation student.
Of course, we weren't called that then. We were just determined:
what's happened to us helping the next generation?

And then we wonder at the statistics that cripple our inner cities?

The other day, a colleague was mentioning the effect of adjunct faculty acting in solidarity with low wage workers, saying that this trend seemed promising. Adjunct faculty was at last seeing itself as part of a broader working class struggle, not exclusively academic, and not exclusively out of touch with the rest of the world, especially since our measly compensation puts us right in league with the rest of low wage workers.

He spoke of the South, and how getting poor white workers to join in with adjunct faculty could make a difference in organizing.

But aren't we looking at this backward?

What if we joined in with low wage workers instead? What if we joined in with them, with students of color, with DREAMers, with all the disenfranchised around us?

After all, aren't we the disenfranchised of academia?

In the south and outlier states, not only are low wage workers or people of color alienated by the white supremacy, but also, we as adjunct faculty are alienated and alone. 

But what we do not realize is that we alienate ourselves when we take no notice of other workers' actions, if we do not stand with them side by side. 

Thus, we further isolate ourselves by standing alone. 

When the Walmart workers strike in the south, there is not one among them who can say I am adjunct faculty.

When DREAMers hold a rally at any given school in the outlier states, and there are a dozen or so students (also a sad number!), they are all decidedly brown, but there is rarely one teacher among them.

When they hold a conference for the caravana 43 trying to get awareness for the disappearance of 43 Mexican students ready to educate their country as teachers to indigenous youth  and thousands more ordinary poor in countries to our south  the only people who show up are other brown faces, other poor Latinos who have taken the bus to find this grand auditorium in this grand university in some lovely arboretum in the South...

The Latino vote is an essential part of the future of this nation, and seen as such, especially here in Texas, legislators are presently fighting against the DREAM act, they are constantly gerrymandering so Latinos will not get the majority vote in any district, and they do so many other questionable actions so that the conservative power stays in place.

The conservative government is terrified that the minority is now actually the majority, all except in vote: so they want to keep it that way. The DREAM act will be repealed if they have anything to do with it. More and more for-profit prisons are cropping up, where the majority kept are women and children refugees coming in from Central and South America (Karnes Detention Center and Dilley, which will be the largest in the US, are the two that come to mind offhand). These women and children should legitimately have a right to asylum, but instead they are detained indefinitely or deported as fast as possible, so they get no legal representation or eventual status: God forbid they should swell the ranks against the typical reactionary future "vote."

So what do we do as adjunct faculty?

We do not stand with them.

We do not stand with DREAMers, with workers. We do not join together with our natural allies. We do not champion these students' goals, who are passionate and who need our help, just as much as we need them.

Indeed, we think that when I speak about DREAMers, refugees, undocumented, domestics, or low wage workers, I am talking about something alien, something other that has nothing to do with adjunct faculty. 

BUT this all fits together into different pieces of the same pie, alienating factors of that oppression, which is inequality. 

We are not so different, one group from another.

We are all parts of the same coin, the back downtrodden side... 

The orchestrated divisiveness then  the alienation between groups we may think have nothing to do with each other  is all part and parcel of this bigger picture meant to separate us, intended to keep us from uniting to become strong.

When I think of how we can join all these factors together on May Day, our real Labor Day  the day when the fruit of our work should flourish  I think the key to this should be "coming together." 

We should unite not only with low wage workers in places like the Walmarts or McDonalds of the world, but also we should join in with Latinos  students and workers alike  with all refugees from all over the world, with asylum seekers who are here looking for that dream that all immigrants  our parents and grandparents and great grandparents — looked for and sought for us, the fruit of their labor.

I had originally written this article about Texas DREAMers for CPFA. It was then published bilingually in Democracy Chronicles, about what adjunct faculty have in common with DREAMers, and how we should do something more together.

I have been trying to say this now for quite some time.

Why don't we begin pulling together, faculty and students, workers and DREAMers, all together as one? 

Why don't we prove that this beginning quote was a bit premature, and thus we make it not so true? Why don't we give up our "airs of white-collar sensibilities" and instead decide not to live in "blue-collar poverty"? Why don't we come together, and as human rights activists, struggle for a better world? 

How can we do this, you ask? 

As adjunct faculty, we need to fight with dignity among all blue collar and low wage workers and domestics and students and refugees and DREAMers and all who will stand beside us. 

But we also need to stand beside them. 

As adjunct faculty, we need to realize that the chances of a Rubén Garcia, a Freddy Gray, or a Michael Brown to succeed in life could very easily lie with us  in our classrooms, but outside them too  with us reaching out and giving our helping hand. 

This is a first step. 

Now wouldn't that make for one hell of a May Day? 

Bradford Pears in full bloom, for May Day
© Ana M. Fores Tamayo

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