Los Angeles: The Ninth Circle of Liberal Racism
"Show, don't tell," is what writing instructors always tell pupils. So I will try to live by that ethos. Below are several emails that arrived in my inbox at CSU Northridge, which tell a revealing story.
First, an email that went from Latino artist Harry Gamboa, Jr. to Rudy Acuña, a Chicano Studies professor at CSU Northridge (where I work).
A writer for College Fix wrote a column about how several Latinos in California agreed with white veterans who had, in an earlier column in College Fix, stated their objections to a large mural in Jerome Richfield Hall. Said mural was painted by Chicano students in 1999 and includes, among its various colorful images, a fang-toothed white border patrol agent clubbing a helpless Mexican man, totemic portraits of famous people who played legendary roles in founding the Department of Chicano Studies (turning, in essence, a hallway into a shrine for individuals working in that building), an upside-down American flag, rows of marching militants looking like totalitarian shock troops, and a large sign saying, "REPRODUCTION RIGHTS NOT GENOCIDE, A CHICANO'S CHOICE" (an obvious celebration of abortion).
The main objections raised by white veterans were that the mural demonized white people, disrespected the flag, and seemed to glorify one side of the illegal immigration debate.
Seeing this controversy unfold around April 1, 2016, when the story was picked up on Fox News, I decided to record a podcast interviewing two Latino men. Like me, they didn't believe that the mural reflected the way all Latinos on campus thought. This was an important thing for us to do, because otherwise whatever ongoing debate might arise from the Fox News-inspired commentary could potentially become a false dichotomy of Monolithic Latino Radicals versus Monolithic White Veteran Trump Supporters, which I thought would be unhelpful.
The College Fix thought the podcast was interesting enough to run a second article about the mural controversy, this time focusing on what Latinos thought. So Gamboa forwarded the link to Rudy Acuña (though I have strong suspicions that someone put Gamboa up to this for malicious motives).
Then came this:
Why send such a reply merely to Gamboa when you can CC 20 of the top Latino professors on campus, too? That's what Rudy Acuña, author of Occupied America, saw fit to do. Because nothing elevates Latino humanity and fulfills the mission of Chicano Studies like telling the only Latino male on the English tenure track – a polyglot Yale graduate who gave up a career in New York to teach Virgil and Melville to first-generation Mexican college students in Los Angeles – that he "does not exist" and might as well hurry up and die.
The text of Prof. Acuña's thought-provoking reply speaks volumes without my having to translate the phrase referring to the fact that "even his own family does not know him." I would like to clarify for the reader who some of the people were on the distribution list: it was a who's who of radical Latino professors en la lucha. Noticeably absent is Dean Elizabeth Say, the white woman who has been the dean of humanities for as long as I have worked at CSU Northridge.
In the podcast I recorded with James Lopez and Carlos Flores, which prompted the article in College Fix, I should note that I stated the following:
It opens up the question of, you know, who really benefits from that representing Latinos on campus, and who's really pushing that to be the consensus about what Latinos think on campus. I don't want to jump and blame the Chicano Studies Department because I know oftentimes these ethnic studies departments are full of people who are in terror of the administration. I think the biggest responsibility would fall on the Dean of the College of Humanities, Elizabeth Say, who is a white woman who came from Gender and Women's Studies.
I explicitly stated that Chicano Studies itself was not what I had a problem with, because I knew, from a long history at CSUN, that white liberals were often eager to get Latinos fighting with each other to deflect attention from the structural racism in the hierarchy. One only needs to look at an article in the Los Angeles Times about the violent riots in Costa Mesa, California, in which Latinos senselessly destroyed property and beat people up over out-of-context Trump quotes. Who benefits from Mexicans stomping on cars and swinging their bare breasts before national news crews while 30,000 orderly Trump fans applaud The Donald in a nearby auditorium?
It would seem that Mexicans and/or Latinos in general do not benefit from anything of the sort. Hillary Clinton does. Who benefits when a Republican Latino with a Yale degree who can teach Virgil and Homer on a Hispanic-Serving Institution's campus gets driven out of his job? I don't think Mexicans and/or Latinos benefit from that, either. Wouldn't you know – Hillary Clinton would seem to benefit from that, too! Latinos riot, and Hillary Clinton wins. Latinos teach Virgil, get fired, hear that they might as well drop dead from aging Chicano militants, and bingo – Hillary Clinton wins again. Latinos end up being more heavily policed, more poorly educated, and making less money. But that's all in a day's work in L.A.
About that Chicano Studies mural and the podcast I recorded about it…in some senses, I was thinking like a good leftist and rather focusing on deep institutional structures, aiming at the elite 1% rather than the 99%. This point of clarification was so important that I reiterated it in a blog post, which went up on Friday, April 22, at 1:00 PM, over 24 hours before Rudy Acuña sent me his email:
My main objection to the wall mural in Jerome Richfield Hall is not some small detail but the entire false, even deceitful, premise that the mural somehow honors the Latino community and reflects an ongoing commitment by the College of Humanities and larger campus to racial justice. …
I am involved in ongoing efforts to diversify the literature curriculum to include more black and Latino writers, and part of this is motivated by a desire to get more black and Latino professors to come to CSUN to teach literature. I have been involved with these efforts for several years, and most resistance has come from white liberals who do not want to see that their own management of affairs can be and often is racist. …
My gripe is not with Chicano Studies, it is with the racist white managers who use Latinos as human shields and then divide and conquer us.
There are few conceivable ways that I could have been clearer that I did not seek a fight with Chicano Studies but did want to challenge the racist practices of "white deans and other administrators." My dean would be a prime issue.
As the years went by, it became clear to me that Dr. Say was influencing the College of Humanities in ways that harmed Latinos. The English Department's curriculum has a glaring lack of literature courses devoted to Latinos, which is unusual for a campus on which 42% of the 35,000 undergraduates are Latino and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. There was such ignorance and neglect of classics like Homer and Virgil that I inferred that everyone at CSUN assumed that Latinos weren't smart or curious enough to read the great books. I had made efforts to diversify the curriculum, but the bureaucracy kept blocking them, and meetings with the dean went nowhere. It is no surprise that undergraduates majoring in English dropped from 617 to 488, and the number of black/Latino English faculty fell from five to two (and if I leave, one). As dean, Dr. Say bears ultimate responsibility for that.
I wonder why Dean Say was not included on Rudy Acuña's distribution list. Those who were included people I have known and worked with; I organized readings of Latino poetry, art, and performance in the Chicano Studies house on campus. None of the more than twenty people on that distribution list came forward to ask Dr. Acuña to temper himself.
The next email was this one:
And then Rudy sent two more emails to Harry Gamboa, Jr.
From: Rudy Acuna
Date: Sat, Apr 23, 2016 at 6:16 PM
Subject: Re: Latinos blast controversial Chicano Studies campus mural: 'It doesn't represent us'
To: "Harry Gamboa Jr."
Blurb comes from the English Dept Bio section on Lopez:
Since receiving tenure in 2013, Dr. Lopez has been an active writer and commentator in conservative circles, publishing extensively in venues such as American Thinker, Public Discourse, Daily Caller, Ethika Politika, The Federalist, and most recently, the peer-reviewed publication Humanum Review. His focus shifted to concern for children's rights, a topic on which he wished to combine his personal experience as an early product of same-sex parenting and the broad interdisciplinary research he has conducted into the history of family structures.He has delivered numerous lectures on this topic, to groups at Stanford, Notre Dame, Princeton, UCLA, Catholic University, and others. He has also delivered lectures on such topics in the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, and Italy. Many of his speeches are accessible at English Manif. In 2014, he was appointed president of the International Children's Rights Institute.
... Dr. Lopez is an active member of the Southern Baptist Convention and has sought to give support to conservative Christian students struggling to reconcile their faith and the demands of university life. He speaks or reads eight languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Greek, and Latin.
It would almost seem as though Rudy Acuña had assumed from my name "Robert Lopez" that I was just a little nobody – a "lecturer" (sic) – who could be pushed around and curb-stomped with impunity. And then he read my bio and suddenly figured out that he was embarrassing himself by telling me I did not even exist, like a tree falling without a sound.
Strangely, I never replied to any of Prof. Acuña's emails, and I would have said nothing about them, even as they continued and became ever more abusive, until finally this one rolled in:
This why I respond. Received email.
My understanding of Bobby Lopez when I was there in the English department was that he was mostly suspected of being a CIA operative who once held a campus event where he invited and hosted the CIA for recruitment purposes. I figure everyone is already aware of the guy's background and history over there but just in case, I thought I should pass that along as well. Professor Rick Mitchell is a good point of reference who has been dealing with Lopez and his government backed agitation in the department for years.
from "Ruben Mendoza"
Yes, dear reader, you read the above correctly. In the minds of the Los Angeles progressives, a Latino man who flies around the world delivering speeches in many languages can't be a scholar; he must be a spy for the CIA. Hence, on Sunday, April 24, 2016, Prof. Rudy Acuña emailed about fifty people at CSUN to claim that according to Ruben Mendoza, who heard it from Rick Mitchell, I, Bobby Lopez, am a "CIA operative" sent to engage in "government backed agitation" such as proposing courses like "Homer to Dante" and "Literature of Racial Minorities."
I'll leave it at that, and you can draw your own conclusions.
Robert Oscar Lopez can be followed on Twitter @baptist4freedom.