The Cultural Power of a Bow Tie

bow-tiesx1500Using my own body as a canvas, I began in 2011 to exclusively wear bow ties. I work in an institute of higher learning, the kind of place where you might think the Roger Kimball quip, “There is something about the combination of denim and tenure that is inherently preposterous” might hold true. But mine’s not this kind of place.

Within my institution, male professors make an attempt to look as young as the students. T-shirts and jeans are preferred over jackets and ties because neckties are seen as a barrier—distancing the professor from the student. Conformity to the culture of the other male professors means creating a state of “eternal adolescence,” a wistful attempt to remain the same age as their students. Hence, me choosing to wear bow ties becomes a nonconformist act even though bow ties enjoyed a long-term tie to the academy, a tie severed by the casual look.


La Lucha for DACA before the Hopeless Christianity of Empire

Kids-at-DACA-rallyYou cannot be a person of faith – faith in a Deity, faith in humanity, or faith in oneself – and support in any way the callous act of tearing children and young adults from the only home they have ever known. But hatred and/or fear of brown bodies can turn any beating heart into stone. Repealing DACA follows the long immoral arch of this nation which genocided red bodies, enslaved black bodies, placed yellow bodies in concentration camps, and since the invasion of Florida and Mexico, have been decimating and pauperizing brown bodies. Mass killings, mass theft, and mass incarceration has historically been the norm faced by those falling short of white-constructed superiority because churches, specifically Christian churches have failed to know, much less implement, the teachings of Jesus.

You cannot be a Christian and remain silent as our young disappear. Silence is complicity. White privilege means embracing a deafening quietness that masks agreement with Trump’s racist stereotypes which were built on a campaign which called us drug dealers, crime procurers, and rapists. White privilege means that one can vote for Trump in spite of shameful tweets and comments because whiteness means protection from anti-Latinx legitimized death-dealing policies. You cannot be a Christian and support theses anti-Latinx immigration policies and the man calling for their implementation. The goats are relegated to the shepherd’s left because they specifically chose not to hear the cries of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and yes – the alien in our midst, even as they professed belief.

Do not deceive yourselves into thinking drug dealers, crime procurers and rapist are being deported to keep America safe. Dreamers are highly educated, tax payers, and entrepreneurs. They are serving their adopted country and shedding their blood on the fields of Afghanistan and Iraq. They have lost their lives rushing to save others in the midst of Harvey’s tempest anger.

Do not deceive yourself to think Trump is somehow protecting the rule of law to keep America fair. Law and order means our immigration policies are created to privilege white bodies at the expense of brown bodies. Making a specific group of people “illegal” means an entire demographic – regardless of documentation or not – will all be considered guilty until proven innocent. Occupying a Latinx body means we are all potential drug dealers, crime procurers and rapists, and thus outside the law where our rights are denied and our lives endangered by trigger-happy police and border agents.

Do not deceive yourself in believing this immigration policy is not rooted in racism to keep America white again. The only reason – the only reason there is a desire to tear these young people from their families and the only country they have ever known is because the majority of white people who count, those who vote, hate or are afraid of brown bodies, even if their disappearance economically hurts our entire society.

Some are saying this is a wake-up call for Christians. Some are saying Christians will rise up against this injustice. Some are saying this is the last straw. Forgive my hopelessness. The major problem to the oppression we face are the very Christians who become the apologists for racism – whether it be the goose-stepping white nationalists of Charlottesville, or those who support stripping our young of their human dignity. If U.S. history is any guide, I fear Christianity is more complicit with our oppression than our liberation. Since the conquistadores (Catholics) decimated the Taínos in the South while the Pilgrims (Protestants) massacred the Pequot in the North, white history – from global conquest to global colonialism – has been the most violent, the most blood-soaked series of human events that have plagued humanity. Why should I, or any of the world’s colonized, believe white Christianity would somehow “now” live up to what they profess to believe?

If this seems too harsh then prove me wrong. If you insist I should have hope, then do something more significant than posting a “like” on Facebook. Do more than signing another damn petition usually read only by the signers themselves in order to see who else added their name to the cause. If Jesus has again been captured, imprisoned, and crucified by the clerics of Empire, who for thirty pieces of silver, made a Faustus bargain to have a say in packing the Supreme Court, then it is up to us – those who believe and those who don’t, to wrestle Jesus from sulfurous hands.

To be a Christian – heck, to be a human being – requires us to turn over the tables of Homeland Security and the so-called Justice Department, which have set up shop in God’s Holy Temple. We must weave a whip and drive out from the Temple the anti-Latinx hymn singers who remain complicit with violence. Every church and seminary must become a sanctuary house – if not, they should be converted to tourist sites. Every religious organization must take in at least one undocumented individual facing deportation in open rebellion against the injustices of a racist government desire to crush us under their rhetoric of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Every minister who refuses to be thrown into the coliseum to face the lions along with the least of these should hang up their collars, for they are of no use to God or God’s creation. Every Latinx must register to vote and then vote against politicians who continue to see us, or our sisters and brothers of color, as less than human. Every white person who insists they are color-blind should go buy some glasses. Every white person who voted for Trump must repent before a Holy God for crying out before Pilate, “Caesar is lord.” Every white person who wants to be our allies should refuse to speak for us but instead assist us in amplifying our voices. Every Christian who refuses to stand in solidarity with Jesus incarnated as Jesús the Dreamer, who is trying to emerge from the shadows to which these policies will relegate him, should consider getting saved.


Keeping the White House White

It begins with a lie. A lie so outrageous, so preposterous it titillates simple minds andWhite House seduces those who should know better because they want to believe the lie. The lie is crucial because it serves an important purpose — to delegitimize. The lie can subvert and undermine legal authorities, as in, “The president was born in Kenya.” Regardless of birth certificates provided, the lie plays to racist fears of a black man being president. The lie keeps embers of hatred simmering while maintaining the father of the lie in the spotlight, gaslighting as the self-professed crusader for truth.



Can White People Teach Latinx Studies?

dc6ae-6a016301e4b359970d01b8d276f49b970c-150wiRemember the composition of religion departments back during the 1960s? They predominately and unapologetically consisted of white males – especially the so-called Ivies. Now imagine if one of these schools, realizing the need for different perspectives, decided that they wanted to have a feminist viewpoint taught in their department. A search committee would be formed, advertisements placed, interviews conducted, and after an academic year of deliberation, the most qualified candidate would be hired – probably a white man whose Ph.D. dissertation somewhat dealt with a few aspects concerning women’s issues. Even though several women steeped in feminist thought applied for the position, it would not be too surprising if a man would have been hired. So, allow me to rephrase my question: Can a man teach Women’s Studies?


Dear Trump Voter

Dear Trump Voter:

I fully understand many of you voted for Trump last year out of a profound dislike for trump votershis opponent Hilary Clinton. Others voted because they believed his promises of Making America Great Again or because he promised the country will tire of so much winning. Maybe you voted for Trump because you wanted to safeguard the chance of a conservative being appointed to the Supreme Court. And still others might have believed a pragmatic businessman in the Oval Office would be good for America. And while I may disagree with your reasoning, I not only respected your decision but defended it because of my commitment to the democratic process (even though he did lose the popular vote by 2.9 million). Still, I confess feeling somewhat disturbed by your failure to condemn his more egregious pronouncements such as his numerous misogynist comments culminating with grabbing them by the pussy, or his more racist pursuits like the birther movement. But especially his xenophobic, anti-Latinx campaign kick-off statement where he said those of us who came to this county as undocumented immigrants were bringing drugs, bringing crime, and are rapists.


But if you still support Trump after his failure to condemn Nazi and Klan activities in Charlottesville, I have to wonder if the real reason you voted for him was because you share his racist white nationalist viewpoint. To stand before the American people after a white man purposely drove his car into a group of peaceful protestors and say there is blame on many sides is to defend white terrorist groups who are fueled by hatred for people of color and their allies (both right and left of center) who stand with them. To say all sides are to blame ignores how one side were mainly carrying guns, while the other side were mainly wearing collars. The former chanted epithets toward Jews and Blacks, the other prayed for love and peace.

If the President, or you, cannot bring yourself to condemn the perpetrators of home-grown terrorism, then both the President and you are racist. I know you hate being called this, but honestly, there is no other term. Embrace who you are and repent, or simply prove me wrong in words, or more importantly, in deeds. There really is only one way to prove me wrong: strongly and without qualifiers condemn white supremacy in all its forms and manifestations, including in how they are currently prevalent in this administration. Your complicity in remaining silent as modern-day Brown Shirts terrorize Americans, or providing milquetoast responses that all sides are to blame (reminiscence with how Nazi blamed Jews for Kristallnacht) makes you an ally, a supporter, and an advocate of Nazis, the Klan, and skinheads.

I can’t imagine how the man who tweets against every minuscule slight can’t find 140 characters to condemn what even other conservative politicians with whom I normally disagree are condemning. A man who bombarded both Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton for their refusal to say the words “Islamic Terrorism” cannot find the will to say “White Terrorism” which, by the way, is less than 140 characters.  Is it because when a Muslim drives a vehicle into a crowd both you and the President are quick to call it terrorism but when a white person does the same thing, it’s just a civil disturbance? For the record, of the hundreds of Muslims whom I know and collaborate with, not one of them gives me any cause to fear. I cannot say the same about the white people I know.

In fairness, there does exist another group which still supports Trump who are not necessarily racist. They are religious fanatics, believers in the made-up exegesis they are calling the “Cyrus Effect” meaning that that God is using a nonbeliever like Trump, just like God used a nonbelieving Persian King in 539 BCE to bring about God’s purposes. Lord have mercy – the biblical gymnastics we do to justify our satanic beliefs. Considering nothing resembling Christian has yet to emerge from this administration leads me to conclude believers in this Cyrus interpretation are really worshipping a frail and feeble God. The only Christian advancement made under the Trump Administration thus far is the advancement of the Christianity held by those white men and women (yes – let’s not forget the white women) carrying Tiki Torches. What is sad about these Cyrus believers is how many of them are of color, a modern-day example of what Malcolm X once referred to as “house slaves” (grant you, X used stronger language).

So, dear Trump voter, allow me to speak plainly. Whatever reasons caused you to vote for Trump no longer matter. The mask has been ripped off to show the racism beneath it, in all of its vile glory. Our nation is divided between those promoting hate and those calling for justice. Neutrality and silence places you in the former camp – whether you like it or not. You can join the rest of humanity, liberals and conservatives, and condemn the alt-right white nationalist movement; or you can continue being an apologist. I know not what course you will take, but as to me: unless you repent for your continued support of racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, and transphobia, then please accept this letter as my symbolic gesture of dusting off the sand from my sandals and moving on without you. There can be no fellowship, no reconciliation until you repent.

No, I am not an angry Latino

Breaking BadOccupying a Latino male body in the academy is a continuous challenge where not a day goes by in which I am not reminded that I am an outsider, that this space I occupy within the ivory tower is a space never intended for me. To occupy this space, I am forced to be fluent in the way white folk think, philosophize and theorize. Any attempt to ground my theological view in my cultural context is dismissed as quaint, unscholarly or exotic. I would never have been granted a Ph.D. if I were not competent in Hegel, Barth or Moltmann. And yet, my white colleagues are deemed rigorous scholars without ever having to read Martí, Unamuno or Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.