I write this not to destroy the precious collations, friendships and allies that we have in our Labor Unions, but instead to increase the dialogue for understanding among teacher labor unionist.
I just came home from yet another United Teachers of Los Angeles Local meeting (House of Reps). It never stops to amaze me the amount of white male speakers that quickly line up on the microphones. Women and people of color, while in attendance, hardly spoke at this important meeting.
This is not a rarity in UTLA. I have been to several UTLA meetings where it is dominated by white male voices. Moreover, if there where women to speak, more often than not, it was white women who would speak while women of color remain silent.
It amazes me that this happens in LOS ANGELES, a city in the heart of Aztlan. Los Angeles is the city with the second largest population of Salvadorians, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans outside of the capital cities of those respective countries. Moreover 30 percent of the teachers in LAUSD are Raza and over 73 percent of students are.
Unfortunately, the reality is that in UTLA we have a chorus of older white men debate educational policy that would mostly affect young Latino students.
Is something wrong with this picture? What is the cause of this? What are we doing to address this issue?
Now I know that most of the people who stood up and spoke tonight are not racist, however, the subtlety of institutional racism can often be felt and seen by the targets of racism and not by the institutions that perpetuate such violence.
How can we address this issue WITHOUT tokenizing women and people of color? What strategies can we use to build leadership, public speaking skills, and involvement among people of color in our teacher unions?
Now I write this not to create adversity or to silent the much-needed voices of our white male allies and fellow unionist. However, I do humbly write this the remind us that even though we have elected our first black U.S. president, institutional racism/sexism still exists in even the most progressive of places. Moreover, it is going to take all of us, regardless of sex, gender, color, religion, physical ability etcÔÇªto work together to ensure that ALL our voices are heard, valued, and accepted.
Social Justice Educator
UTLA Raza Education Committee
Santee Education Complex H.S.
Jose is a Social Justice Educator and a proud member of the United Teachers of Los Angeles. He also is the Chair of the UTLA Raza Education Committee and is saving lives and freedom fighting at Santee Education Complex H.S. Email the author