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Dr. Cristobal Rodriguez and Maria Duran

As part of Latinx Heritage Month, the Carolina Latinx Collaborative (CLC) and the University Office for Diversity & Inclusion hosted a workshop and discussion with Cristóbal Rodríguez, Ph.D., director of Graduate Studies, School of Education, Howard University and associate professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. During the Oct. 8 breakfast event, Dr. Rodríguez addressed critical issues impacting Latinx students.

Dr. Rodriguez opened by defining Latina/o/x as Chicano being a reflection of political and cultural consciousness with Afro Mestizaje ancestral roots, particularly with indigenous ancestry but no tribal affiliation. “Latinx is a gender neutral concept in identifying the pan-ethnic identities across Latino America, transforming the use of gendered language in Spanish, yet with political disagreement,” he explained.

During the lively discussion, Dr. Rodriguez made a particularly strong point about student equity when he cited a passage from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s To Fulfill These Rights Howard University commencement address (June 4, 1965). Johnson  said, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.”

Addressing this quote, Dr. Rodriguez asserted that, to define true equity, one must consider current and critical aspects of equity. “Equity is not merely a leveling of the playing field of resources for all groups of students to arrive to the starting line (horizontal equity),” he noted, “but is best applied from a social justice perspective (vertical equity), as a reflection of unique needs, demands, and approaches for diverse populations. These populations require unique and greater resources in order to achieve an equality of outcomes that lead to equal opportunities towards college access and success, career readiness, and overall a participatory citizenship.”

He further cited faculty recruitment as a contributing factor to student success. Although African American and Latinx are highly recruited into the teaching profession, they also have the highest turnover rate. The cultural and linguistically rich assets that Latinx educators bring to the profession as “cultural guardians,” are an essential contribution to the development and growth of Latinx students. Recognizing the unique cultural and linguistic contributions, histories, and origins across the Latino diaspora that uniquely contribute to classrooms and schools as a distinct group of Teachers of Color is critically important, especially if schools, districts and systems are to provide retention efforts uniquely suited for Latinx educators. This is why it is important to Latinx and African American educators in schools.

Dr. Rodríguez’s lecture was followed by a moderated conversation with Maria Duran,doctoral student in English & Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill. Participants eagerly engaged with Dr. Rodríguez on a number of topics. Many shared stories of their own interactions with educators and systems that made assumptions about their capabilities based on their minority status rather than their capacity to excel. The impressive data led to riveting discussion that continued long after the workshop ended and will certainly bring continued attention to the issues affecting Latinx (and other minorities) at Carolina.

Written by Josmell Perez

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