Sacramento -- Protesting California's anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 and the general anti-Latino and anti-immigrant mood of the state and the country, the twenty-fourth annual National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) conference kicked off with a rally here late last month at the base of the state capitol.
Activism has long been a part of NACCS. Last year, for example, hundreds of members took to the streets to protest comments made by the late newspaper columnist Mike Royko of the Chicago Tribune. Royko had written that Mexico had contributed nothing of value to this country this century except for tequila.
Additionally each year NACCS struggles to ensure that there is a connection between scholarship and activism, according to Teresa Cordova, professor of community and regional planning at the University of New Mexico.
Part of the activism is reflected in the workshops or plenaries at the conference, which range from issues such as alcoholism and its effect on communities of color to environmental racism.
But many of the younger scholars are from a middle class background, notes Cordova. Because they're not working class, they don't know what working class struggles are, she says.
Desiree Sandoval, a doctoral student in cultural studies at the Claremont Graduate School, agrees that many scholars can become detached from their communities. According to her, some of the younger scholars subscribe to new theories such as post-modernism, post-structuralism and essentialism.
"The criticism is valid," Sandoval admits.
But some of the older scholars still do not recognize their sexism or the sexist language they use in putting forth their ideas, complains Sandoval. She cited a workshop which featured some of the older scholars as an example. At that workshop, according to Sandoval, one of the older scholars said, "The federal [teat] was drying up," at which point, many of the women and some men walked out.
A Question of Unity
One of the main problems for many of the younger scholars is that many of the older scholars still see unity between Chicanos (those of Central American, primarily Mexican, descent) and Latinos (those with descendants from the rest of Latin America) as a prerequisite to action, says Sandoval., Many of the younger scholars don't agree. They believe that they should be able to organize with African Americans, women, the poor or whomever without first having to achieve Chicano-Latino unity, she says.
Dr. Paula Moya, a young Stanford scholar who received her doctorate earlier this year from Cornell University, says that there is a difference in scholarship and believes it is a product of the times. She says that because of affirmative action -- despite the current backlash -- more young scholars have more individual opportunities within their fields. In the past, Chicano and Chicana scholars tended to be concentrated in the social sciences and education.
"There's a glut in those fields and everything else gets neglected," says Soraya Cardenas, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
Cardenas says that many of the younger scholars have seen older scholars having problems getting tenure. As a result, the younger scholars try and not follow the same path, she says. As a young scholar, she is active in her community and says she does feel as if she should be doing more. But if she wants to advance academically, her first job is to publish and get tenure.
"I have to safeguard my future. Once I have tenure, I can do more," she explains.
According to Cardenas, there are younger scholars who do much more community organizing and are much more active. But, she notes, they are not published and, she claims, they accept that.
She says that many of the younger scholars are made to feel that unless they grew up in a barrio gang they are not really Chicano. …