Latino Academics, Activists Protest George P. Bush’s UT Honor

In response to UT’s Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) announcing that the inaugural Latino Leadership Award will be presented to Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Latino academics and activists are organizing a teach-in to protest. (Full disclosure: my father is an academic who is circulating some of these materials.)

One of these groups is calling itself  the Austin Committee for Mexican American and Latino Civil Rights, and issued a series of recommendations in direct response to the Bush announcement, you may read them after the two photos.

Here’s an email from CMAS about the event:

CMAS-MALS will hold a student town hall with Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the first Latina/o to hold this elected office since the Commission opened its doors in 1836.

The event and will take place in the Texas Union Ballroom, Monday March 30, 2015 at 4:30pm and is restricted to student ticket holders.

Here’s the formal invitation:

george p bush

Here’s the teach-in information:


Here are the recommendations from the Austin Committee for Mexican American and Latino Civil Rights:

-First and foremost we are requesting that the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts assume direct responsibility and a transparent posture in ensuring that the following recommendations are given due consideration and are executed.

-Recommend that we re-establish the activist scholarship conference sponsored by CMAS and MALS and that at the first conference, there be a thorough presentation and analysis of the Plan de Santa Barbara, the strategic plan for Chicano studies in higher education, and coverage of the history and development of Mexican American and Latino studies in the United States and at the University of Texas, including the role of grassroots communities in their development.

-Recommend completion of an equity report at the University of Texas, previously recommended but never undertaken, to determine the status of Mexican Americans and other Latinos employed at the University, and also of the Mexican American and Latino students at the University, (demographics, benefits, retention, graduation).

-Request that the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts in consultation with appropriate personnel appoint advisory committees for the Center for Mexican American Studies and for the Department of Mexican American and Latino Studies and that such committees include students, and appropriate representation of faculty members in different departments who teach courses for MALS, and also members from the Austin Mexican American and Latino community. There is a precedent for this in the creation of CMAS.

-Request that the Dean of Liberal Arts report that supporters of CMAS and MALS wish for the University of Texas to support continuation of the Top Ten Percent Program which has contributed to inclusion of greater numbers of minority and low-income students at the University.

-Request that the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts host a community forum promptly, including undergraduate and graduate students, members of the Austin community, in particular individuals involved with the creation of the Center for Mexican American Studies, to allow input designed to protect the identities of participants so that students and community members may offer constructive comments on the current operations of both the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Department of Mexican American and Latino Studies, and recommend processes for greater transparency and inclusion within UT. Provide a follow-up report on recommendations, and on processes for implementing the same.

-Request that a report be prepared and presented at a community forum of interested University of Texas personnel and of the academic and grassroots communities regarding the future of the Benson Latin American Collection, of UT’s commitment to its funding, and concerning also the acquisition activities for Mexican American archives.

-Request that a report be prepared and presented at a community forum of interested University of Texas personnel and of the academic and grassroots communities regarding the future of the various Mexican American and Latino book series published by the University of Texas Press, and concerning publication projects planned by CMAS and MALS.

-Request that future hires for CMAS and MALS, are both culturally competent and competent in feminist culture.

-Request that both CMAS and MALS desist from engaging in activities such as the granting leadership awards and similar recognitions on behalf of their institutions, until the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts institutes procedures for such activities, particularly with the advice of representative oversight personnel and/or advisory committees. This recommendation is made in good faith, as the reputation and future recruitment success of our two programs can be negatively impacted otherwise, to the detriment of the University and of the public it serves.

Larissa Davila, Coordinator
Austin Committee for Mexican American and Latino Civil Rights
at the University of Texas

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How Tinder Highlights Austin’s Racial Hierarchy

Dating seems to suck in general. No matter where I live or who I talk to, there’s always something: in LA everyone is self-centered, in Austin everyone is too busy, it’s hard to find people with no kids, it’s hard to find people you can talk to about anything but TV, etc.

Recently, though, I had a conversation with a handsome young friend of mine who outlined pretty blatantly what Austin’s dating world is like if you don’t happen to be a tall, white dude. My friend is an Asian man and this is a paraphrase of what he told me:

“Dating is hard. With Tinder, I dunno, it’s like as an Asian man you’re at the bottom of the list. First there’s white guys, then Hispanic guys, then black guys, then Asian guys.”

Mind you my friend is not a blogger or a social critic — he’s just a dude trying to get a date — but I thought his comments were particularly insightful and revealing of a place that I love and would like to see grow into its potential. I have heard or seen these preferences play out in bars and parties myself, but the “Tinder effect” struck me as particularly harsh.

Having been doing the dating thing myself here for a few months, I will admit that it’s hard out there for anyone, really, but can you imagine if through no fault of your own people were already inclined to not pursue you or “your type”? That would suck more, I think.

And it’s not that I think it’s racist to date people like yourself exclusively — I’ve written before about how I don’t think my preference for Latino men is racist. But a growing and increasingly diverse city with no or very little mixing? The “I don’t see race” attitude is really just a way of skipping over something that’s uncomfortable without understanding why. (Science: Most whites don’t have non-white friends, discussing race can help non-whites achieve more in the classroom, millennials think ignoring race is the same as dissolving racism).

Stereotypes exist. I just saw these caricatures of Chinese and Mexican people on candy at the HEB by my house last week. Someone on Facebook said they were no big deal, but the truth is I’ve never met a Chinese person with no actual eyes, I did recently meet a Chinese man with a heavy heart, though, and it really brought home how dehumanizing and other-ing stereotypical attitudes and beliefs can be.

Since I’ve been in town I’ve been on dates with Latinos and Asians, thought I’ve fended off creepsters from a variety of backgrounds, and I don’t know what the answer is. I grew up with an immigrant-rich community in LA where people from diverse backgrounds inter-marry all the time: Salvadorans married Philippinos, “blaxicans” are a thing, whites dated Vietnamese folks, and it just seemed normal to me.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I think it’s part of what I’ve been harping about on this blog since I started it: Texas, you’re not the way you used to be and you need to adjust accordingly. If you don’t, not only will you be acting like a douche, but you will be hurting yourself because change is already here, and you’re going to look like an idiot pitchin’ a fit by the time you realize it.

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The Price of Austin’s ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’? Critical Infrastructure Development

Recently I was telling a friend about Austin’s “Gentleman’s Agreement” to only allow one Latino and one black city council member to be elected at large at any given time and she exploded.

“What?! Sara you have to write about this, you have to expose this, people need to know!”

I laughed and I told her that everybody knows. It’s the way we do business here. It’s not a secret. And perhaps it was her LA sensibilities, or the fact that she’s never drunk Texas water, but she just didn’t get how we could live in a reality where that type of thing was blatant and yet acceptable.

Well, I told her, it’s about time for Austin to pay the piper for its bad choices.

As you probably know, Austin will be electing its first crop of candidates from districts (as opposed to at large) and many of them have never done this before. You know, perfect timing, given that 100 people are said to move to this town every day, and the roads, bridges, freeways, stop lights and parking haven’t kept pace.

What do you think it’s going to be like for a bunch of newbies to handle a growing city’s infrastructure? Think about that for a minute.

If this city had done the right thing a long time ago and included those who were helping the city grow in its governance, we would already have a seasoned group of local politicos who understand how to get things done, what needs to be done and the best options for doing it.

Instead, the reality that ignorance and exclusion hath wrought, is that, at a time when this city needs faster, better and more efficient infrastructure, we’ll be depending on a group of people who are learning as they go along. I’m not saying that the candidates aren’t smart, or professional, or worthy, or good — so hold your trolling right there.

Politics is tricky, it’s hard, it’s nuanced, it requires experience, and while we will most likely have some familiar faces back on council after this election, it’s more likely that we will have people who are inexperienced. I’ve built the plane while flying it plenty of times, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to run a city, let alone a city that’s growing at such a fast rate as Austin.

But that’s the consequence of the “Gentleman’s Agreement” Austin city leaders have maintained over the years, except it’s more likely that it will be us (as we sit stuck in traffic) that will feel the effects of it much more so than them.

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Austin’s Capital Metro Sign Massively Fails At Spanish

What’s diversity good for in a state like Texas? Perhaps not failing on an epic level at a simple translated sign? It’d be great if someone could give Capital Metro in Austin the memo because I spotted this sign earlier today on 4th & Congress and just about blew a gasket at how bad the translation is.

Now, I’m by no means a Spanish scholar, but when I first saw this sign I did a double take. Then I asked some native speakers to confirm my suspicions and we all just busted out laughing at how poorly Capital Metro translated this sign. It’s as though they aren’t even trying.

For example, the word “moved” was translated to “movada” — which is a word that doesn’t actually exist. Then later, in a longer explanation, Capital Metro changes it up and says “movado” instead of “moved” — but that’s not a word, either.

This is in addition to the fact that the translation is so clumsy and literal that it seems likely that it went through a Google translator and directly onto this sign. I know of at least two Hispanic marketing agencies in town that have tried to work with Capital Metro, and from the looks of it, they should be getting called back right about now.

I find it amazing not only that a translation this bad could get through an agency that serves a large Hispanic population, but that they’d proudly slap their logo on it for all of the world to see without double-checking to see if it’s correct. Isn’t that even protocol when you do stuff in English?

Please share this far and wide!

UPDATE from our friend Alexandra: Capital Metro’s CEO Linda Watson was honored July 15 with the 2014 Executive of the Year award during the 43rd National Meeting and Training Conference held by the Conference Of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) in Atlanta.



Sans Rackspace, Julián Castro, what’s the backup plan for SA?

San Antonio has been booming the past few years. You see the city on all of these lists — fastest growing, booming, etc. — and for me at least it’s a far cry from what people used to say about San Antonio when I went to high school there (“Keep San Antonio Lame,” etc.).

But now that San Antonio may be losing the celebrity of Mayor Julián Castro to the Administration and Rackspace to an acquisition, the city is going to have to ask itself some tough questions. What’s going to happen to all of those high-paying jobs, that reverberated in the community, helping everyone do a bit better? What about UTSA and other schools that began working to funnel high tech workers to Rackspace and its tech ecosystem?

It’s unlikely an Amazon or Google or Microsoft or whoever ends up buying Rackspace will keep most of these high-paying jobs in San Antonio in the even of an acquisition. But I’d argue that changes to San Antonio’s economy wouldn’t just affect the Alamo City — but Texas’ entire tech ecosystem.

One thing I always loved about Texas, as compared to California say, is that the state operates like an organism in the sense that every region is important to every other region in so many ways. Because most cities are a few hours’ drive away, you can live in San Antonio, jaunt up to Austin for a meeting, to Houston for the weekend, and Dallas for Christmas. Or whatever — the point is, there’s a flow of people, commerce and ideas between all of Texas’ cities.

And as the state has been growing in its tech potential in the past few years, hotspots of particular innovation have sprung up in each city — but no tech hub is an island. I firmly believe that San Antonio’s success as a tech city came in part because Dallas, Austin, Houston and even El Paso were also ramping up their tech economies in ways that benefitted everyone.

Business is business, and it would seem that Rackspace has matured as a company to the point where it has no choice but to sell out to a Goliath, now that everyone wants in on the Cloud. But what’s the Plan B, for San Antonio, for the rest of the state?

I think San Antonio is much more than a one-company town, but Rackspace has been instrumental in creating an environment there where startups and entrepreneurs can make it happen. These folks, in turn, find allies and collaborators in other Texas cities, which makes the Lone Star State a better cradle for tech all over the place.

Whatever happens with Rackspace, I hope that everyone in San Antonio is planning for the next big thing — and that everyone else in the state is doing the same.

Image via April


What’s Up Texas? Julián Castro in DC & GOP worries about immigrants, gays, Muslims

Hi there, what if you could get updates on Texas goings-on through a short video instead of hurting your brain by reading? I have the answer for you! My new “What’s up Texas?” video series on YouTube.

You can subscribe here, but first you have to login to your Gmail account. That way you can get email updates every time I publish a video.

Of course, you could also follow us on Twitter, follow me on Twitter. There’s always that.

Thanks for stopping by, see you soon! And as ever, please leave me your comments — either on here, Twitter or YouTube. Enjoy the video!


As Texas Gets More Diverse, Press Corps Stays Mostly White & Male

In 2009 I, like thousands of other journalists, was laid off from my job. It sucked on a very existential level, obviously an economic one, but I was fortunate in that I had the support of my family and friends and was able to bounce back after a time. In that sense, I had it way better than a lot of people who, during that same time, lost their jobs and fared (and continue to fare) much worse.

Looking back at losing my job, I realize that I was part of a trend during that layoff spree that continues to affect the news we consume in the U.S. — the fact that, due to cuts made largely by “seniority” — more women and minorities were let go from newsrooms than white dudes. This trend, if you look at the bylines of the people writing stories about Texas politics (largely centered around policies specifically affecting Latinos or women), is absolutely mortifying in the Lone Star State.

Think of it this way: as Texas becomes increasingly Latino, and issues of women’s rights and LGBT rights become more prominent, it’s going to be old, straight white guys explaining that importance, significance, and meaning of these policies to the affected communities.

What do you think about that? Anyway, statistics time! In bullet point form because, TL;DR:

  • In 2012 during the election, 93% of front page stories were written by white reporters. Only 4% were written by Asians, 2.1% by blacks/African Americans and .9% (yes less than 1%) by Latinos. LINK
  • Just 12.3% of newsrooms are made up of minorities but make up 37% of the U.S. population. LINK
  • Newsroom employment is down 2.4% in 2011, but 5.7% for non-whites. LINK
  • 2/3 of all newsrooms are male. LINK

It’s not just newspapers, but cable, online news outlets, and magazines, too.

Diversity is good for business, it’s been shown in studies (here, here, here, and here for example), and in Texas it’s kind of pathetic that we have mostly straight, middle class white dudes trying to talk about the impact of LGBT policies in Houston or DNA testing exonerating black inmates in Dallas or how single member districts in Austin will affect the Latino community.

Plus, I keep hearing all of these outlets talk about “reaching out to Hispanics.” It makes me want to barf on myself that they say they’ll do anything to get in with Hispanics — except hire any of them. What’s up with that? To them I just have to say, call me, I know plenty of qualified candidates who have what you need to penetrate the Latino community.

And don’t get me wrong — some of my best friends are old, white guys. My mentors in the industry were, more often than not, old, white guys and their kindness and support and encouragement was awesome. I wouldn’t have become the writer or thinker or journalist I am today without them, and the best of them would agree with this column.

If Texas outlets want to reach out to Hispanics, women or the LGBT community — or more concretely — reach into their pocketbooks, how about giving them an incentive by hiring some of them and thus making your product more relevant? Just my 2 cents…

Hit me up on the Tuiti @SaraChicaD.