My father-in-law was “woke” before it was cool to be woke. As a college student in the 1960s, he was heavily involved in the marches, protests and rallies that — at the time — called for equity and empowerment of the Mexican American community. In this neighborhood, one of the end goals of the Chicanx Movement was the creation of a student center meant to serve the needs of the University’s Chicanx population.
Mr. Rodriguez is no longer with us, though upon reading the article in the Feb. 13 issue of the Daily Trojan, I would venture to say that he would be the first to offer his voice in support of a more inclusive name for El Centro Chicano. Mr. Rodriguez would have argued, and some of his contemporaries would agree, that the Chicanx people of his day used their voices to benefit those who did not have voices of their own.
Here at USC, students learn about the inequality, inequity and discrimination that exists not only between, but also within members of different racial and ethnic groups. We learn — particularly in the Latinx community — that lighter skin is “better” than darker skin, and that your narrative is less valuable the farther your origins are from Mexico.
Mr. Rodriguez would have advocated against this notion that somehow the views and needs of one group of Latinx people are somehow more important than those of another. He would have argued that as Chicanx people, it was their responsibility to pull others up and not to push them down.
In recent months, as this country has seen an increase in hate and discrimination against certain groups, we have also learned that if we are to achieve change and make progress, the battles fought by one group cannot be theirs alone. When women march for equality, men must march with them. When immigrants protest callous immigration policies, citizens must be there to protest alongside them.
It’s difficult for me to believe that the individuals responsible for bringing the dream of El Centro to the grounds of this University would not recognize the need for inclusivity. I know about the politics of names and labels, but I doubt the Mexican American students who founded El Centro would tell their sisters and brothers from El Salvador or Honduras or Guatemala to get their own center.
The Latino Alumni Association long ago recognized the fault in creating the perception that their doors were open only to Mexican American alumni. In changing its name, the Latino Alumni Association managed to include the entire Latinx community while still honoring the legacy of the Mexican Americans who founded it. In 2018, when society recognizes that unity and inclusivity matter more than ever, it’s time for El Centro to recognize this as well.
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