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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:

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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
davilaly@live.com

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The Real Meaning of Julián Castro’s HUD Nomination

Over the weekend I received a text from one of my politics-obsessed friends: “NYT: Castro to get HUD.” As I was out and about, more interested in the conjunto festival in San Antonio than its political shakeup, it took a while for all of that political dust to settle on my distracted brain.

Once it did, however, the first thought that came to mind was not what Castro’s move meant for the 2016 election and whispers of a potential VP nomination from Hillary Clinton. No, my thoughts were much more local: too bad for San Antonio.

Julián and Joaquín Castro are among the most exciting rising political stars to come from Texas in a long time, replete with a rags-to-riches, against-the-odds story that had a happy ending. And as I recently explained to a friend from California, it’s not like there’s another dozen of them, or anyone similar to them, waiting in the wings in Texas somewhere to step in once they move onto bigger and better things.

If the Castro brothers both go to Washington, Texas is gonna have to do some soul searching to find the next batch of rising stars.

Why aren’t there more talented and experienced Latino politicos from Texas who have that most important quality, that je nais se quoi, that it? That’s a good question, unfortunately the answers aren’t particularly reassuring.

Let’s take the self-anointed bastion of liberalism in Texas as an example: Austin. This year the city elects council members from 10 districts for the first time, shattering an honored “gentleman’s agreement” that meant that only one Latino and only one African American could ever be on the city council at any given time — this at a time when the Latino population was growing like crazy.

How many liberals does it take for Latinos to receive fair representation?

And, as an illustration of how overdue these districts and this representation are, you need only look at who’s filing to run in these districts. There are several Latinos running in almost every one of these districts, even as councilman Mike Martinez vies for mayor. Latinos running for all these seats represents a political hunger that’s been repressed for decades in the name of this “gentleman’s agreement” (And, come on, would a real gentleman be that threatened by a little competition?). I don’t mean to give Austin a bad rap for Texas’ dearth of Latino political talent; I just use it as an example of a prevalent attitude in the state.

One that ranks so low when it comes to education, health insurance, health and housing stats, etcetera — and when those numbers focus almost squarely on Latinos, what do you expect? When you blatantly talk about non-existent voter fraud and barely hide the fact that you’re looking to disenfranchise Latinos, what do you expect? When the Democratic party counts on Latino votes, yet doesn’t invest in Latino leadership (the first Latino Chair was elected in 2011!), what do you expect? When you ignore decades’ worth of warnings from the likes of your own state demographer like some climate change naysayer, what do you expect? When you’re one of the most gerrymandered states in the country, what do you expect?

I have a hard time imagining San Antonio without Mayor Castro, since the media has covered the city’s growth in tandem with his political growth. What’s even harder for me to imagine is a Texas with only two political Latino superstars — where are the rest? In a state as awesome and rich as Texas, I know there are many other treasures to be found here. Castro’s rise is great for Texas — imagine if we had five more talented people like him, Texas would be unstoppable!

As Mayor Castro is wont to point out, Latinos are part of America’s future; they are the future of Texas, too. But if that’s the case, Texas sure has a funny way of showing it.

Photo Via Pocho.com

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