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César Vargas Headshot

The Brown Invasion and the Mistrust of Academia

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The mistrust of academia and intellectuals is pretty rampant within our communities. You have every right to be mistrustful because not everyone (including our own people) has our best interest at heart. Even after insurmountable evidence that they collect themselves on human behavior, albeit from certain fields such as neuroscience and the social sciences, the good folks running the board of ed still treat us like we're incapable of grasping abstract concepts; that we're inherently lazy, entitled, unstable and that our work is subpar. Keep in mind that this doesn't happen to all of us and most manifestations of maltreatment are either subtle and/or with subconsciously malicious intent, but the impact is still pretty malefic and damnable.

As liberal as these institutions (colleges and universities -- and Hollywood) claim to be, there are still real (not imaginary, lest we risk falling into the traps of delusions of persecution and grandeur) glass ceilings we have yet to break, elite tables at which we're not allowed to sit at. Even when one of our own manages to attain (rarely) a managerial or authoritative position, it doesn't benefit the collective (us) but the individual (that person). We are so eager to prove to those above and next to us that we won't employ any form of cronyism and nepotism that we indubitably hurt our own people, for fear of others calling us out for any signs of favoritism; political correctness runs amok and is used against us by us. Meta level: Super Saiyan.

So we embrace the Socratic method, false narratives, the gospel of prosperity, positivity and every imaginable feel-good Eastern philosophy that are nothing more than excuses for not helping our own; we jump through every imaginable hoop to not be labeled a sociopath, so we can seem like altruistic individuals. You can't be. Not while juggling conflicting cognitions. That's why real social scientists and empathetic intellectuals are rarely on your television or are social media mavericks: because the cognitive dissonance their truth provokes is just too much for the majority of people to handle. Plus, they tend to not be charming psychopaths selling books on how to get rich or how to live without suffering.

Thus come the lower grades, the recommendation that never comes, the networking event you weren't invited to, and the many opportunities overlooked or dismissed for fear of bringing an influx of our people (the "brown invasion," as some aptly call it) and being culpable and the catalyst of an exodus of the preferred and supposedly better qualified "other." Keep in mind that in all industries, even in academia (and that includes Ivy League schools), the majority thrives not much on meritocracy, but on something much more insidious: who you know.

With the hope of repelling the stereotype of the perpetually cantankerous (hotheaded) Latino, this I leave with you, my brothers and sisters: do not skip higher education no matter how absurd, economically crippling, mentally challenging, systemically oppressive or "uncool" you think it is. Don't let charming talking mouths dissuade you and your children with false narratives from reaching a higher plateau. Trust that they most likely have never experienced systemic oppression or are trying to find excuses for their own shortcomings. Again, some people have legitimate reasons for skipping it altogether, and systemic oppression as well as the culture of defeatism is most likely to blame so hold your judgment. Education should not solely be used to attain a good job: it opens our minds. That is the best way to break our real and imaginary shackles: mental, physical and spiritual.

And to you, the ones who've made it out, don't forget who birthed, nourished, cradled you and wiped your butt. It wasn't just your mother. It was an entire community that deserves your never-ending gratitude. Through actions. Not just pretty words. Don't talk about it. Be about it. Paying it forward will undoubtedly boomerang to your loved ones. Especially to your kids. However, only caring about you and yours does not make you any different than the beasts in the fields.

We are our brothers' keepers. Let's act like it.

As previously published on the UPLIFTT (United People for Latinos in Film TV and Theater) blog.