Interview On Being a Chicano Intellectual: Sisyphus and the Fucking Boulder

Dr. Rudy Acuña

Dr. Rudy Acuña

Originally Posted in Notes from Aztlán

I just got back from Denver. So this week I am posting a copy of an interview that was taken last week. It will be published in a book by a New Mexico State university professor in yet another form.  The answers are candid and not acceptable in what we normally call intellectual discourse. My feeling is, however, when you strain something too much you often take the pulp out of the juice.

Questions for Professor Acuña

1-    Let me begin by pointing that that the main focus of the book is social justice. With that said, let me ask you the following question: How has social justice, broadly defined, informed your scholarly and activist work?

I have developed an intolerance of injustice and am easily moved to moral outrage. As a kid I would often root for the underdog. I came into the movement because of racism not because I was a Mexican — it was not just. Although I am an atheist I was educated by the Jesuits and have strong ideas of right and wrong. There is also right and wrong in history and it is wrong for a person to be born with millions of dollars while another is born with a crack habit. If you know something is wrong, you have a duty (not an obligation) to do something about it. A person should not separate his or her scholarship from his life – it is not intellectually honest.

2-    For the last 45 years or more, you have spoken and written extensively about a wide range of issues, such as structural racism, colonialism, neocolonialism, xenophobia, to which Chicano (as) and other historically marginalized groups have been subjected. How do you see your socio-political and intellectual activism, including your stance against these forms of oppression mentioned here, connected to social justice?

I am an activist and take the role of the praxis seriously. As a scholar I have the duty to do something about correcting society. The above topics were part of the activist/scholarly dialogue of the times and thus I addressed them. But going back in time – in studying theology I learned that if something is imperfect, it was logical to make it more perfect – indeed you have a moral duty to do so.

3-    All forms of oppression intersect. In your judgment, how do see these various forms of oppression interconnect noted above? Would you provide some concrete examples to illuminate such a connection?

Like Martin Luther King said injustice any place is injustice everywhere. World events and imperialism make that oppression pretty universal. It all comes down to domination and it is hard not to discuss the Palestinian cause along with what is happening to Mexican and Central American immigrants. Race is used to keep that oppression and system in place. From there you can go on and on. Right now the privatization of higher education, public education and the prisons is a good example of interconnection.  Also take the lives of average human beings and break them down to its lowest common denominator: you see cases of child abuse, spousal abuse, gender inequality and so on. There is an element of privilege, domination and inequality at every level. Carry this to the schools.

4-    In what ways and to what degree have US imperialism and white supremacy affected the educational, socioeconomic, and political conditions of Chicano (a) s and other minoritized groups here in the United States and abroad?

I was once criticized for using the internal colonial model. My reading has informed me and I have learned to digest works on imperialism.  When I read Camus I liked him, but found Frantz Fanon seemed to be speaking to the Chicana/o experience. The colonialization of the oppressed is not only physical but mental and that is what happens to minorities. It is a way to keep the middle class in line and thinking that at least they have it better than the spics. It is vicious and there are different levels of oppression. The problem for Chicanas/os is that until recently there was not an organized corpus of knowledge to fully appreciate that colonial relationship.  We’re now more fully able to make comparisons and draw on the rich literature on African Americans and colonized people throughout the world. Unfortunately Chicana/o and other scholars have not yet discovered a methodology, and they avoid thinking about issues such as neoliberalism that are at the crux of all oppression. CONTINUE READING

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