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Culture War Puts Latino Professors in Difficult Positions

Some Latinos in academia are assessing the impact of the increasing attacks on and measures against diversity initiatives amid low numbers of tenured Latino professors and a difficult career path. 

This past semester, Maria Chávez didn’t think her assignment for her Latino politics course was controversial. Chávez asked her students to write an op-ed on an issue facing the Latino community. As the class wrapped up, one extra copy of the assignment was accidentally left behind. The next day, Chávez found the spare copy of the homework defaced with rants about “illegal aliens” and “Stop teaching victimization!” The paper was unsigned.

“These are the kinds of actions that people are emboldened to do now,” said Chávez, professor of political science at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. “The racialization and stigmatization that Latinos experience in the U.S. are often replicated in the classroom.”

Chávez is part of the relatively small group of Latinos in the academic world. Achieving academic tenure, professors say, is a difficult and challenging process. Now, they're also grappling with how to navigate the increased politicization of education as states like Florida limit diversity initiatives and place controls on educational content and courses, particularly those on race and ethnicity.

“The direct attack on the knowledge about the experiences about people of color is something that is very antidemocratic, and it is very personally harmful to students in a way that impacts who they are as people, as academics, and as future academics,” Chávez said.

“The political debates about so-called wokeness and critical race theory are just an attempt to silence people of color and our experiences,” Chávez said. “When academics of color start using theories to understand the experiences that marginalized communities have, it’s construed as illegitimate, that it shouldn’t be taught.”

Chávez said she would not “in good conscience” advise her Latino students to pursue a career in academia in the social sciences. “You have to constantly balance your personal and professional identity.”

To Chávez, it's a treacherous time to be teaching American history and politics. “There is this backlash against diversity, and my undergrad students are aware of it; there is backlash against any kind of anti-racist education, and that makes it hard for everybody.”

Read entire article at NBC News